Game 8: Titans-Colts, All Souls Crushed Edition

AnvilUGH! Would you rather rewatch the overtime period of that game or watch Nugenix commercials for the same amount of time? Colts lose in another overtime soul-crusher, 34-31. I’m deflated. All of the Sexy Ted Lasso costumes in the world can’t make me “believe” again. At what point did you guys die on the inside on Sunday?

MILLER: Carson Wentz’s end-of-regulation interception—the one where he snorted an 8-ball of vertigo pre-snap, then tripped all over his QB1 costume as he tried to shot-put the ball into the Titans’ candy bag left-handed—so perfectly personifies this 2021 Colts team that it hurts my brain. That play does its own research on screen plays and virus antibodies, I bet. It was poorly designed and even more poorly executed, yes, but at least that play suffered a foot-leukemia injury and is out for six to eight weeks, because the stupidest plays always die young. But before it hit the IR, that ill-advised heave summarized this Colts season in a way that words or cerebral infarcts never could, and football historians will be studying it for eons. 

**Colts immediately re-sign that play to a three-year, $112 million contract extension**

SCHULTZ: Now that I’ve self-medicated my Indiana pro sports depression by consuming 5,428 Kit Kats, I am ready to recap. Sort of like The Baltimore Collapse, it’s not just that the Colts lost—it’s how they lost: crippling penalties, defensive breakdowns, poor playcalls at critical times, and Wentz’s hidden demon, supreme recklessness, rearing its ugly head for the first time as a Colt, just in time for Halloween. The Colts, unlike the Pacers, occasionally tease you into believing this could be a very good team, but that’s all it ends up being: a tease. Yes, there are nine games left, but kind of like this picked-through candy bowl full of Mounds Bars, Good & Plenty, and the other shit no person with functioning taste buds wants to eat, their season isn’t looking very appetizing.

RUBINO: This is going to be unpopular given the way the Colts lost, but, overall, Wentz has exceeded my expectations. He’s a good quarterback. But when he panics, he panics in a way that I’ve rarely seen from a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. It is reckless, Derek is right.  I want him to have to sit through hours of aversion therapy Clockwork Orange–style so Colts fans never, ever have to see another push pass or unplanned shovel toss. (They can go ahead and ban planned shovel passes, too.) I don’t quite understand why the Colts weren’t willing to take what the Titans were giving during that awful overtime series. It was their second overtime possession, but they were playing like it was their first.

So what happens from here?

SCHULTZ: The chance of the Colts making a run at the playoffs relied very heavily on beating the Titans—one site had it as a 30-percent playoff odds swing game!—and at least giving themselves a shot at a second-entry door into the postseason. Now, the AFC South door (basically four games back of the Titans because of the head-to-head tiebreaker), even with the Derrick Henry injury, is pretty much shut. The Wild Card is still in play because the middle of the AFC stinks, but falling just short of that would be the absolute worst-case scenario. Imagine 8-9 with no playoffs and Wentz playing enough to lose their first-round pick to Philly. That’s a disaster scenario, and it’s still very much on the table. I remain convinced that this team is good, or at least capable of being good, but if it’s going to lose every 50/50 game late, in the most soul-crushing way possible, it’s not going to matter if—

Miller intercepts discussion, starts to run with it, immediately falls down a volcano/fumbles the discussion.

MILLER: Never mind, Derek. Go on.

SCHULTZ: Is it just me or are you guys aggressively tired of the Colts and Pacers mehhhh-ness? If you really look at the 2015-to-present arcs for both teams, they’re around the same, mediocre to pretty good, but not good enough to be a real contender. If this season falls apart—or worse, stays in the middle—I wonder if the frustration will be amplified because fans here have to be tired of watching this city’s most prominent sports teams spin their wheels year after year.

RUBINO: Absolutely. I used to have a “no NBA before Christmas” rule. I’ve already broken that four or five times because I want something to look forward to from one of the teams that represent this city. I want some hope. Chris Duarte averaging 17.7 points per game as a rookie is wonderful, but I’m going to need a bigger dose of whatever to get me through.

MILLER: Being a fan of the Colts or Pacers is like being a fan of aspirin. They both exist! They both are readily available! Neither have much recreational value, of course, but neither will lead to addiction issues or crushing, life-altering loss, either. You know what you’re getting with them both, is what I’m saying. They are very consistent! In fact, in extremely small doses, both can provide vague, minimal health benefits! (“75 MILLIGRAMS PER WEEK OF ASHTON DULIN OR TORREY CRAIG HAS PROVEN TO REDUCE GIVING A F–K BY 35 PERCENT!”)

The Colts and the Pacers are forever stuck in sports purgatory: too ineffectual to be really good, too established to be really bad, and continuously flirting with relevance but never sealing the deal. They’ve just sped up the inevitable this year is all, which isn’t terrible. It’s considerate! It is good manners. Winter is already here, gang, as the slow death march to the No. 10 seed has merely picked up its pace. Dress warmly.   

RUBINO: We can all snuggle up in our re-mixed Flo-Jos. I mean, they are OK, but a little too small-c conservative for me. That city edition jersey should have said BOOM BABY across the chest in the loudest, most swinging 1970s font possible. Maybe we don’t deserve excellence because we don’t know how to recognize it.