Titans Colts Football

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) tries to cut around Tennessee Titans cornerback Janoris Jenkins (20) Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich can take the heat. It comes with the territory.

Still, the criticism has reached a fever pitch in the wake of the Indianapolis Colts’ 34-31 overtime loss against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The main issue concerns play distribution.

In a game that saw the Colts score the first 14 points and never trail by more than seven, Reich called 52 passes and just 20 runs. After deferring comment until he watched the tape, the head coach stood behind most of his decision making Monday.

“Believe me, I want to get (running back Jonathan Taylor) as many rushing attempts as we can,” Reich said at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, “but the flow of that game as I look back on it, three times now … there were six more runs that were called to him that ended up being passes or else (quarterback) Carson (Wentz) keeping, that are called runs to him.

“So I feel pretty comfortable with the way the game was called as far as that was concerned yesterday, just evaluating. I’m pretty hard on myself, as you guys know, in that regard. I looked back on it three or four times, and I feel like the way the flow was, what was there, what wasn’t there, I’m comfortable with it.”

Circumstances are unique from week to week, but Reich has repeatedly said ideally Taylor will get 20 touches per game. The second-year running back is averaging just 15.1 carries per game, but he also has been a factor in the passing game with 21 catches for 265 yards and one score.

On the first snap against Tennessee, Taylor took a swing pass 37 yards to jump start a touchdown drive. While he carried the ball just 16 times for 70 yards, he added three catches for 52 yards to finish with 122 yards from scrimmage.

“He had 50 yards receiving yesterday,” Reich said. “So when we throw it to him in a screen or a checkdown or on a swing pass like we started the game, those are massive plays. I’m not interested in just getting his rushing total. That’s certainly a big deal. He’s a dynamic player in the pass game as well.”

Hidden lost yardage also was a factor in the final numbers.

Taylor had 52 yards erased by a pair of holding penalties on consecutive drives in the second quarter. The first was a 20-yard run that would have given the Colts a first down at Tennessee’s 48-yard line leading 14-7 with more than 12 minutes remaining in the half. The second was a 32-yard gain to the Titans’ 35-yard line with the score tied at 14 and a little more than three minutes left in the half.

Both flags involved players on the backside of the run who were unlikely to affect the outcome of the play, but Reich said the calls were “legitimate.”

The flags took away more than raw yardage. It also put the offense behind the chains and changed likely runs later in the drive to passes.

None of which is to suggest Reich came out of the game without regrets. He beat himself up repeatedly for calling a tight end screen from his own 8-yard line that resulted in a Pick-6. And he was critical of a third-down deep ball for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton that set up a failed fourth-and-3 near midfield with Indianapolis leading 14-0 in the first quarter.

Taken together, it all added up to another close loss against a good team in a season with ever building frustration.

“You have to be able to beat those good teams,” Reich said. “You have to find ways to win, to close it out at the end. That’s a combination of coaching and playing. So we have to find a way to make that breakthrough. We talked this year at the beginning, as a team, about having a breakthrough moment. Well, that’s a big part of having a breakthrough moment – winning a game like that.

“Making the right calls, making the right plays when the game is on the line. You guys all said it, we all said that felt like a playoff game yesterday. We need to win those games. I believe we have the players and the coaches to do that. We haven’t been doing it, so that’s on me.”


The Colts elevated safety Josh Jones and running back Deon Jackson from the practice squad Monday.

Defensive end Tyquan Lewis was placed on injured reserve after tearing his patella tendon during an interception return against Tennessee. His season is over.

Indianapolis also released quarterback Brett Hundley from the active roster before re-signing him to the practice squad.


Monday’s practice was a walkthrough, so the injury report was estimated.

Three players were listed as not participating. Hilton (concussion) will not be able to clear the league protocol before Thursday’s game against the New York Jets. Safety Khari Willis (calf) is still being evaluated, and cornerback BoPete Keyes (hamstring) has missed the last two games.

Left guard Quenton Nelson (toe) was listed as limited.

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THB sports editor George Bremer has covered the Indianapolis Colts since 2010. He occasionally sports a beard that can rival Andrew Luck's, but he lacks arm strength and durability.