Reich’s late decision proves costly in loss to Texans

Frank Reich made it perfectly clear to everyone he would be aggressive when the Indianapolis Colts hired him in February.

Posted: Sep 30, 2018 8:57 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Frank Reich made it perfectly clear to everyone he would be aggressive when the Indianapolis Colts hired him in February.

On Sunday, his boldness proved costly.

Instead of punting on fourth-and-4 from his own 43-yard line and settling for a tie, Reich called for a short, seemingly safe pass from Andrew Luck to Chester Rogers. But Luck’s pass bounced short, the Texans got a 24-yard completion on the next play and Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Houston Texans a 37-34 overtime victory.

Nobody in the Colts’ locker room was second-guessing the decision, though.

“I loved it,” Luck said. “We had a discussion before the play and I agreed, so it had my stamp of approval. We did not execute well enough. I did not get the ball to Chester to make the play and I’m sick about it. After all the mistakes we made, we still had a chance to make the play and we didn’t get it done.”

The Colts (1-3) certainly had chances all afternoon.

After a mostly dismal first half, Luck couldn’t convert on a 2-point conversion attempt with 7:41 left in regulation, on the Hail Mary attempt on the final play of regulation or on a third-down play that forced Indy to settle for a go-ahead field with 6 minutes left in overtime.

The defense couldn’t prevent the Texans from setting up a 40-yard field goal with 2:58 left in regulation, a 59-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds of regulation, a 29-yard field goal to tie the score at 34 with 1:50 left in overtime or, of course, the winning kick as time expired.

Yes, Reich would have changed one thing if he had to do it over again — he wouldn’t have asked Luck to line up and attempt to draw the Texans (1-3) offside before calling a timeout. He would have gone for it right away.

But the failed fourth-down call wasn’t the only problem Sunday.

Houston’s first score came on Jadeveon Clowney’s fumble recovery in the end zone when center Ryan Kelly appeared to think Luck was under center rather than in the shotgun, and Fairbairn actually missed the first attempt at the winning kick — but right after Reich called timeout.

The Texans (1-3) took advantage of it. But Reich gained the respect of players on both sides for his unconventional move.

“I respect their decision to go for the win, not a tie,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. “You play to win, you don’t play to tie.”

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri concurred.

After becoming the league’s career leader on a 42-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the first half and giving Indy a 34-31 lead with a 44-yarder in overtime for No. 567, he wanted one more shot to win the milestone game. He never got another chance after the incompletion, spoiling the celebration.

“I love the call,” Vinatieri said. “I love the fourth-down call to go for the win, I really do — I love it. We just have to make the play. The teams that win games make those plays.”

This season, the Colts have not made those plays.

They lost to Cincinnati in the season opener when Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle fumbled as the Colts were driving for a go-ahead score with less than 2 minutes left. They lost last week at Super Bowl champion Philadelphia when Luck was sacked on fourth-and-goal in the final 2 minutes. On Sunday, with their top receiver T.Y. Hilton on the sideline with an injured hamstring, Reich made the call and came up short when the defense allowed Houston to move into scoring position on its fourth consecutive series.

But the confidence Reich showed in both his offense and by defense by going for it just might produce some long-term wins.

“We are not going to be shy, we aren’t going to be afraid to go for it,” Kelly said. “I think it just goes to show you he has the trust in the playmakers on this team, and no matter who is in there they need to do their job. I got to give it to him.”

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