In every storied comeback like the 31-25 overtime win engineered by Lamar Jackson on Monday night, there are pivot points in the game when the collapsing team can't stop sinking further into the quicksand, getting swallowed up by mistake after mistake opening the door for an improbable loss.
One of those moments came after the Baltimore Ravens cut the Indianapolis Colts' lead to 25-17 in the fourth quarter. Carson Wentz drove Indy right back into scoring range against a Baltimore D that couldn't slow a snail on this night. After Jonathan Taylor leaped over the pile to generate a first down at the Baltimore 17-yard line with 6:08 left, Colts head coach Frank Reich got conservative, calling three straight runs that lost two total yards, and set up a blocked Rodrigo Blankenship field goal.
"I wish I had that call back," Reich said of not throwing on third down. "That was a conservative call."
Given that Wentz ripped apart the Ravens' secondary all game, surely Reich had a safe-ish pass play that could have had a chance to convert the third-and-8. Taylor getting swallowed for a 4-yard loss highlights that even a run in that sort of spot can lead to negative plays.
"We were running the ball well, they were burning their timeouts, so I felt good about that," Reich said, via The Athletic. "In hindsight, because it didn't work, do I wish I would've called a pass? Probably. The reason I didn't, I knew they were pressuring. I didn't wanna get sacked. I didn't want anything crazy to happen. I felt good about the opportunity to gain some yards and get the kick.
"In hindsight, it wasn't the right call."
In hindsight, the Colts did more than miss one call to allow the Ravens to overcome a 19-point second-half deficit.
After forcing four punts to open the game, the Indy defense became a sieve. A banged-up secondary got picked apart by Jackson, and the front provided no pressure. Jackson rattled off four straight touchdown drives of at least 68 yards to end the game in overtime. If not for Julian Blackmon forcing a Jackson fumble near the goal line, it probably could have been five straight TD drives for Baltimore.
On this night, Wentz played his best game in four years, staying calm in the pocket, finding open receivers, and rarely missing throws. The career-high 402 passing yards kept the Colts offense churning until Reich got conservative late. According to Next Gen Stats, Wentz was 10 of 10 for 208 passing yards, with a TD on passes of 10-plus air yards, underscoring the ability to pick up chunk gains.
Indy matched Jackson's scoring splurge early in the second half, leading two straight TD drives and a field goal march. Then came the blocked kick and Blankenship's never-had-a-chance shank to close out regulation.
"I talked to everybody after the game: we gotta have a killer instinct," Wentz said later. "That goes for me, that goes for all of us. We've gotta be able to finish games and finish teams when we've got them on the ropes like that.
"You can't let up. You can never relax. You can never rest."
Fittingly, the Colts best unit didn't touch the ball in overtime, with the defense unable to slow Baltimore.
The offense finally exploded for Indy, but with the other two phases imploding, there was only heartbreak and a 1-4 record.
"Not good enough in this league to make progress and lose to good teams on the road," Reich said.
Indy played about 48 minutes of good football. It wasn't enough in a 60-minute game.