Controversial penalty costly as Colts fall to Bills in OT

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Nathan Peterman #2 of the Buffalo Bills is tackled by Margus Hunt #92 of the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter on December 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A game for the ages – the Ice Age, that is – was almost over.

Then it wasn’t. And the Indianapolis Colts were none-too-happy about it. They were officially eliminated from the playoffs – we know, that’s been a given – in large part by a controversial penalty on a clutch 2-point conversion attempt.

Jack Doyle was clutching the football on the left side of the end zone on a snowy Sunday at New Era Field with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining. He was about to be engulfed by jubilant teammates after securing the 2-point pass from Jacoby Brissett.

Brissett was trotting back to the Indianapolis Colts’ bench after orchestrating a monster 19-play, 77-yard drive that consumed nearly 10 minutes and punctuating it with the required 2-point exclamation mark.

The Colts, seemingly with a snowball’s chance in you-know-where about a half-hour earlier, led 8-7.

Go ahead, celebrate like it was Christmas morning.

But . . .

Seconds, maybe a half-minute elapsed. Brissett stopped in his tracks.

The officials, after a delay, huddled. Referee Brad Allen announced “there was offensive pass interference, blocking downfield’’ on wideout Kamar Aiken. The go-ahead conversion was wiped out.

Adam Vinatieri went on to convert what was undoubtedly the most demanding PAT of his career, a 43-yarder that tried to stray to the right of the uprights, but finally curved inside the right post.

The game went into overtime, where the Colts would lose 13-7 when LeSean McCoy, who clearly wore the proper snow tires, squirted through the heart of Indy’s offense for a 21-yard touchdown with 1:33 remaining.

The run was the last of 32 for McCoy, who gashed the Colts for 156 yards.

But he never really should have had the opportunity.

The game could have been – should have been? – over with Doyle’s 2-pointer.

Receivers are allowed to block within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage on pass plays.

“He can. He can,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said after the game. “Until I see the tape . . . we’re on the 2-yard line and nobody can see any yard lines. I couldn’t tell where the ball was the whole day.’’

It didn’t help with the optics that the officials waited several seconds before a yellow penalty flag stood out on the white landscape.

“It was delayed, so I thought we had it,’’ Brissett said. “But that’s the ref’s call. They get paid, too.’’

The 2-point attempt was a thing of beauty, until it wasn’t.

Doyle was lined up to the left of the offensive line, a yard back. Aiken was split out several yards to his left. Brissett offered a solid play-fake to running back Marlon Mack, and then looked to his left.

Aiken had taken one step forward, turned to his right and shielded off safety Micah Hyde. That allowed Doyle to slip to the left side of the end zone with no one within 5 yards of him.

Stadium employees had shoveled off the goal line and Aiken didn’t approach the cleaned-off area.

According to reporters in the locker room, Aiken said the officials told him he blocked Hyde into the end zone. A look at the replay refutes that. Hyde’s feet never touched the shoveled area.

Aiken insisted his block was legal. The Colts most certainly will send in that play to the NFL office for review, and the reply won’t matter.

Hyde insisted the officials made the proper call. In fact, he believed a flag should have been thrown on the previous play, Brissett’s 3-yard TD to Doyle. The play went to the right and Aiken got a piece of Hyde at or slightly behind the line of scrimmage which freed up Doyle.

“Never want to give up a touchdown,’’ Hyde said. “If you get beat, that’s one thing. But those pick plays just are, as a defensive player, to me it’s cheating. It’s like, ‘Come on, man,’ but that’s football.

“They ran a good play on the first one and it wasn’t called, so they tried to come back again and they didn’t get away with the second one.

“The second one, he screened me and I just stood there and they talked about it and decided on the flag.’’

Incredibly, the Colts had another opportunity to win in regulation. On the second play of Buffalo’s ensuing possession, safety Matthias Farley undercut a route by tight end Charles Clay. He intercepted Joe Webb’s pass and returned it 9 yards to the Bills’ 28-yard line.

With 52 seconds remaining and no timeouts, the Colts got a 3-yard run from Frank Gore. They allowed 45 seconds to elapse before Brissett’s spike stopped the clock with 6 seconds remaining.

On third-and-7 from the 25, Pagano asked Vinatieri to duplicate his 43-yard PAT with a game-winning field goal. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t move the football to the right hashmark so Vinatieri could kick from the spot his teammates had cleared off a few minutes earlier.

Vinatieri’s attempt was wide left.

“I screwed it up. It’s on me,’’ Pagano said. “We wanted to get the ball to the right hash for Vinny. We didn’t accomplish that.

“I would have loved to get closer, and we wanted the ball on the right hash. We called a play to the right and Frank cut back. But we had time to get another play called. I screwed it up. It’s on me. That’s the bottom line. We had to kick from the middle and try to move a bunch of snow from the spot.

“That’s not on Vinny. That’s on me.’’

The loss dropped the Colts to 3-10, their first double-digit losing season since 2011 and second in 17 years.

“They played their butts off. They played their hearts out,’’ Pagano said. “They deserved better.

“We had our chances (but) they deserved better.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.