The Colts beleaguered offensive line was playing one of its best games of the season and helping put the team in position for a potential upset of the Baltimore Ravens.
The linemen kept quarterback Jacoby Brissett upright for much of the day, allowing him to make several key plays against the Ravens’ tenacious defense.
After linebacker Anthony Walker blocked a punt with 2:36 left in the game, the Colts (3-12) had the ball on the Ravens’ 27-yard line with a chance to take the lead. From there, the offensive line resorted to some of its bad habits with breakdowns in protection and an inability to create holes for the running backs.
On third-and-6 from the Ravens’ 13, Brissett was sacked by linebacker Za’Darius Smith for a 4-yard loss. Then, on the fourth-and-10, Brissett’s desperation pass to T.Y. Hilton was broken up Baltimore’ second-year cornerback Maurice Canady, who ran almost the length of the field in celebration.
The Colts, who have lost six consecutive games, were left to ponder another devastating loss and wonder how the team will look next season.
“They played their hearts out,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I’ve never been around a group quite like this. In my 33 years of coaching and six years here, this group is as high on football character guys that I’ve been around … just the way they keep coming back, working and competing. It just speaks volumes to the men they are.”
Few people would question the Colts’ heart. Their Luck (pun intended) is a different matter.
Brissett was thrust into the starting role because of the injury to Andrew Luck. Brissett has been forced to play behind an offensive line decimated with injuries. As a result, he has been sacked a league-high 51 times.
However, a patchwork offensive line has been a common theme in the Chuck Pagano era. Under his guidance, the Colts have used 45 different lines, with injuries playing a key role with that staggering amount of turnover.
Saturday, right guard Le’Raven Clark was having one of his best games before the late breakdown. Center Mike Person appeared to have solid timing with Brissett. And left guard Jeremy Vujnovich did an admirable job helping contain Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who leads his team with 11 sacks.
The end result, though, was disappointing once again,
“There are no moral victories,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “That’s a game we could have won. There have been so many games this year that have been that close. It just gets old.”
Kicker Adam Vinatieri was also looking for silver lining after the loss. Vinatieri did his part by making three field goals. However, he did miss a 60-yard attempt at the end of the first half.
“It’s frustrating,” Vinatieri said. “We seem to be playing well enough to stay in games. We’ve played some good teams very tough, but we haven’t been able to win. This may sound off, but this might be the best 3-12 team I’ve even known of.”