ATLANTA – The Indianapolis Colts had everything ahead of them heading into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
They had momentum — and promising playoff chances — after last week’s three-point win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which gave the Colts five wins in the last six games.
But a listless, lackadaisical 29-10 loss to the Falcons on Sunday leaves Indianapolis with little room for error as it strives to reach the playoffs.
The disappointing effort prompted some honest locker room talk from quarterback Gardner Minshew, who tried to sound a wake-up call to his teammates after they perhaps took Atlanta too lightly.
“You start counting wins and you start doing schedule calculations and you look around, it’s like, ‘Well, they lost to Carolina; we beat the Steelers,'” said Minshew later. “Well, you know what? You have to go win it now. And if you take this lightly, you might not get another (chance).”
The message was well received.
“I feel like Gardner said it perfectly,” linebacker and defensive captain Zaire Franklin said. “Don’t take it for granted. Being in a situation in December where you could be fighting for a playoff spot and playing meaningful football, don’t take it for granted. Don’t feel like you’re beating a team on paper just because (“We are supposed to be better. It’s hard to win in this league. Unfortunately, today was a lesson.”
This is a lesson many players on the roster should already know. The Colts were infamously eliminated from the playoffs in 2021 after losing a Week 18 game to the Jaguars, who entered the game with two wins, had lost their previous eight games and were coming off a 40-point loss to New England.
On Sunday, the Colts showed shades of their performance on that fateful day. After an effortless touchdown drive on their first possession, the Colts were outscored 29-3.
Few of the Colts’ strengths showed up against Atlanta. Defensively, they entered the game with 25 sacks over their last six games and have recorded a takedown in 19 consecutive games (the longest active streak in the NFL). The day ended with no turnovers and just one sack from the Falcons’ new starting quarterback, Taylor Heinicke.
Offensively, the ground game fizzled after the first drive, despite the return of star running back Jonathan Taylor, limited to 43 yards on 18 carries. And without No. 1 receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (concussion), the passing game was anemic.
Minshew completed just 20 of 37 attempts under constant pressure.
The more the game progressed, the more the Colts collapsed.
“It wasn’t us,” coach Shane Steichen said. “You don’t want to see it. You need to stop the bleeding. It starts with myself. We need to fix this.”
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