Reich’s late decision proves costly in loss to Texans

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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