Game 12: Bucs-Colts, Blue In The Face Edition

AnvilGood day, Colts Nation!Wow! Derek Schultz here with editor-in-chief Michael Rubino and erratic-in-chief Nate Miller to recap an incredible victory over the defending champs and Tom Brady in (likely) his final game in Indianapolis! The Colts defense once again suffocated their opponent, the offense was amazing/not collapse-y with the lead, and Indy played mistake-fr–Wait, what’s that? *holds earpiece* Oh, come on! This shit again?For the third time this season, the Colts puked up a double-digit lead, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in a mind-numbing 38-31 loss to Brady & the Bucs. They uncharacteristically let an opposing running back overpower them (remember Leonard Fournette?!) while being unable to overcome a ton of shoot-your-entire-foot-off mistakes in the loss.Guys, where do we even start with this team that is somehow .500 entering December?RUBINO: I know why the Colts lost this game, but why does the team lose these games? Close ones. Titans. Ravens. Something off the menu from the 0-3 September. Until someone figures that out, nothing is going to change. They underachieve.MILLER: I am embarrassed to say that my faith wavered. It was tested and it failed as the Colts rained down hellfire and skinny posts upon the Bucs in the first half. My Tom-Brady-bloodlust consumed me. Blinded me. For you see, I strayed from the principles of Bluddhism. Principle. Singular. Namely, never believe. It is the rock upon which this religion is built. The Colts ARE suffering, in the end, which leads to the Second Noble Truth: The suffering can only be stopped by stopping expectations. To put it another way, I do not wish outright ill on the Colts … but I do expect it. Or I should. History tells us that. Because in the past, various sects of Bluddhism have branched off in an attempt to live their own version of the Good Word—an interpretation predicated on positivity, lol. Their versions were built upon SAND, of course, all shaky and susceptible to the Vanderjagt-ian winds of remorse. Cups of lukewarm realism don’t taste as good as cups of Kool-Aid. But they won’t murder your eternal soul either.Never again. Never again will I believe. I vow to return to where I  never should have left: expecting to expect nothing.SCHULTZ: I really wish I had an answer for this, but I just … don’t. The Colts have now blown double-digit leads in half of their losses. In all three of those, they’ve looked “OMG UNSTOPPABLE L.A. HERE WE COME!” good at times and “2021 Indiana University Football” incompetent at others. It’s a bit reminiscent of the back half of the Chuck Pagano era, but this team has (or at least, should have) better talent and coaching than those teams. In a way, it kind of mirrors Carson Wentz’s career with the high peaks and low valleys (OK, done with analogies). The Colts have lived all season on turning the opponent over and not making a bunch of mistakes themselves, but that formula obviously didn’t hold today. You used the word “underachieve” and I can’t argue against that, and normally, that falls primarily on the head coach. This team is better than 6-6. All of the metrics suggest they’re better than 6-6. But, they’re 6-6.RUBINO: Let’s talk about that, because this is why I’m not a Frank Reich Believer. I can’t point to any one thing he did or didn’t do, but I know this team a) cannot hold onto a lead and b) is maddeningly inconsistent. It’s not fair, but he’s the guy in charge. MILLER: Before you start spouting your “sports” stuff, Derek—your “statistics” and “facts” and “general knowledge about ‘football’”—understand this: I don’t care. I like Frank Reich well enough. More specifically, I like Frank Reich as much as my limited bandwidth allows. My newfound Awareness Jurisdiction begins and ends at truly catastrophic shit. ER visits and eighth grade social dynamics and what have you. I like Frank Reich because he isn’t actively trying to melt Democracy in a cauldron of ivermectin, for example. He isn’t demanding from me a “gap year” to, and I quote, “explore the world and get out of P.E.” (THEY HAVE TIMED SHUTTLE RUNS IN SAO PAULO TOO, KAITLYYN!) He isn’t running fake kickoffs that have a negative-infinity percent chance of success. He’s a likable, stately gent who may or may not be an adequate NFL coach. Considering the lack of alternative options—and the fact that he is not actively trying to give me stress-induced shingles—I say Reich has done good by us, by and large. Right?! All in favor!?[a distant, single cough echos through the silent stillness]Alright then!! COACH STAYS!!!![rips up court summons in regards to my 4-year-old’s narcotics distribution case, tosses the pieces in the air joyously]Where is everyone going?SCHULTZ: *Laughs nervously* To highlight your point—there was a good one in there—I think Reich is also good, by and large, and certainly superior to his predecessor (low bar). Regardless, when you turn it over four times (the fifth was a desperation play to end the game, so I’m not going to count that one), the storyline should be about mistakes/sloppiness and not playcalling. Fans are so laser-focused on Jonathan Taylor’s touches that they choose to ignore everything else that happened! Should the Colts have called more specific runs (not just RPOs, which Wentz kept checking out of)? Yes. No argument there. You shouldn’t ever go 26 straight plays (!) without Taylor getting a carry, even if you’re playing the 2000 Ravens or ’85 Bears. But, the Colts lost today because they gave the ball away four times and it led to 24 of Tampa Bay’s 38 points. Nyheim Hines not being able to catch a punt, Zach Pascal not being able to hold onto the ball, Eric Fisher not being able to block, and Michael Pittman not being able to do, well, anything in that game has nothing to do with Reich. Coaches have to trust their players to make plays and the Colts’ players yesterday were Kevin from The Office with the gigantic pot of chili.It’s troubling that the Colts keep blowing leads and it sucks they can’t be consistent—you can absolutely give Reich a healthy share of blame for that—but, at the same time, we can’t blame Reich for every bad thing that happens to them. Even if they had avoided *one* of those first four turnovers, there’s no doubt in my mind they win that game.RUBINO: Nate, I’d like to produce a reality show based on your family life. I think you’d really shine in a confessional.Your points are all fair, Derek. But my critique isn’t about running the ball more or RPOs or trying to take advantage of a crappy Bucs secondary. I’m talking about end results, not how you get there. Bottom-line stuff. If I owned this franchise and employed Frank Reich to lead my football team, I’d want to know why Reich’s group can’t protect a lead or win close games. I certainly understand why people like Reich: He’s a good guy and believes in the same things that they do. And all of that goes a really long way in this town we love that shall henceforth be known as Wild Card City.SCHULTZ: I can’t counter this, because you’re 100 percent right—it’s a results business. And, as of right now, the result is 6-6. Whether that’s on the playcalling, defensive lapses, inconsistent QB play, or the 2021 Colts having the shittiest luck in NFL history, that’s the result. As good (and handsome) as I may believe Frank Reich to be, he, like any highly paid NFL employee, has to wear whatever that result is.So, after a holiday weekend–ruining loss (or any Colts loss for that matter), what’s the best cure for Colts fans? Wrapping yourself up in a heated blanket, turning on a Selling Sunset marathon, and slurping down a hot, steamy bowl of AFC South Bottom-Feeder Soup in the Texans! The Playoff Train is still alive! Destination: Wild Card City! Stay warm out there, folks!