Eagles 20, Colts 16: What caught our eye

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye in the Indianapolis Colts’ 20-16 loss to the Eagles Sunday at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

  • Red-zone failures: Sometimes the NFL isn’t all that complicated. The Colts found themselves inside the Eagles’ 20-yard line five times. They were 1-for-5 on scoring touchdowns. Be a tad more efficient in the red zone and, well, you do the math.

“One-for-5 is unacceptable,’’ coach Frank Reich said in his post-game press conference. “We had some good opportunities. We’ve just got to finish those drives.’’

Luck finished the first one with a 5-yard touchdown to wideout Ryan Grant. But the next three stalled, forcing Adam Vinatieri to clean up with 35-, 31-, and 28-yard field goals. The fifth red-zone excursion came with less than 2 minutes remaining and the Colts looking to overcome a 20-16 deficit.

After a 7-yard completion to Erik Swoope and a failed fade to T.Y. Hilton, Luck faced a fourth-and-3 at the Philly 4. Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett blew up the play by whipping left tackle Le’Raven Clark with outside speed and getting to Luck for a sack.

The Colts had one more shot, but that, too, failed when backup Jacoby Brissett’s Hail Mary from the Colts’ 46 went unanswered as time expired.

The Eagles’ defense never allowed Luck to find his rhythm or receivers down the field (4.1 yards per attempt, 6.56 yards per completion), but the upset nonetheless was right there.

Credit an overworked defense that bent, bent and bent some more, but kept making plays. And blame the offense’s 1-for-5 red-zone performance. Vinatieri’s three field goals were needed because Eric Ebron was unable to come up with a pair of contested passes in the end zone, and another Luck pass went through Chester Rogers’ hands.

The defense, Luck insisted, “put us in some great situations and we didn’t capitalize on those. We needed touchdowns and we had our chances. Had some bad throws, a drop here and there.

“It’s a situational game, football, and tell you what . . . our defense did a great job of putting us in some awesome situations and we didn’t get enough out of them.’’

  • Offensive struggles: The Eagles reduced Luck to a dink-and-dunk quarterback, in part with their ability to apply pressure in the pocket. Luck finished with 164 yards, the fourth-lowest total of his career.

With 3 minutes remaining in the game, he was 16-of-27 for 80 yards.

“Definitely wasn’t anticipating that was going to be the case,’’ Reich said. “That’s the way the game went. They’re a good defense, especially in this stadium. Everybody knows that.’’

Luck conceded it was “uphill sloggin’ early. I was running into halftime and was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s 7-to-10. OK. Good.’ For us as an offense, I don’t think it felt that close.’’

At halftime, Luck 10-of-16 for 35 yards, including the 5-yard TD to Grant. The offense had 67 total yards, and 33 came on a Luck scramble.

  • Defense highs: After being on its heels as Carson Wentz made his first appearance of the season and led the Eagles on a too-easy 79-yard touchdown drive to open the game, the defense played winning football.

Linebacker Anthony Walker came up with his first career interception and lineman Margus Hunt continued to play at a Pro Bowl level with a trifecta against Wentz: a sack/strip/fumble recovery. The Colts also got to Wentz for five sacks; rookie linebacker Darius Leonard had 2 and rookie end Kemoko Turay added 1.5. The Colts were credited with nine tackles for loss.

While Wentz started and ended the game by directing TD drives, the Colts defense forced the Eagles to settle for a pair of Jake Elliott field goals on two other red-zone trips.

“Our guys gave us a chance at the end and what else can you ask on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs in a great atmosphere?’’ Luck said.

  • More on Leonard: What type of encore did Leonard provide after his 19-tackle outing against Washington earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors? The second-round draft pick finished with 13 tackles, including nine solos, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries and 1 defended pass.

Not impressed? Since 1994, only Leonard and Pat Angerer have had 41 total tackles for the Colts after three games. In NFL history, that total ties him for fourth-most behind Ray Lewis (44), London Fletcher (43) and Zack Thomas (43).

  • Defensive lows: We’re not hanging this loss on the defense. Not a chance. But at the same time, it’s impossible not to point out the shortcomings. And there were more than a few.

The Eagles dominated time of possession – 40:20-19:40 – because the Colts couldn’t get them off the field. Philly’s run game was more than effective with 152 yards on 35 attempts. Indy also had few answers as Wentz leaned heavily on his tight ends. He was 13-of-21 for 156 yards and one TD when targeting rookie Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz and Joshua Perkins.

After Vinatieri gave the Colts a 16-13 lead with a 28-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter, Wentz countered with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up – brace yourself – 11 minutes, 18 seconds.

“I thought we had them stopped,’’ Reich said, “but we’ve got to finish it.’’

Wentz faced a second-and-13, a second-and-26 and a third-and-12. The defense aided him with four penalties; a fifth was declined. Two were killers: a holding against Nate Hairston that wiped out the second-and-26 and a rare holding call against end Jabaal Sheard on fourth-and-5 at the Indy 42. Wentz’s fourth-down pass had fallen incomplete with just over 6 minutes remaining.

“The penalties made the drive,’’ cornerback Pierre Desir said. “We killed ourselves.’’

  • Hail Mary from Brissett: The Colts were in no mood to second guess themselves after Reich had backup Jacoby Brissett replace Luck and launch a Hail Mary from his own 46-yard line on the game’s final play.

“He can throw it a mile,’’ Reich said of Brissett. “We knew Jacoby had the arm to get it into the end zone. We would have kept Andrew in if we would have got it up another 10 or 15 yards.’’

Luck insisted he supported the decision “100 percent. Jacoby made a heckuva throw. Bought some time and got the ball there.’’

Was there a concern Luck couldn’t throw it that far considering the January 2017 surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder?

“Look, Jacoby has a stronger arm than I do,’’ Luck said. “That’s what I see in practice and coach Reich obviously thinks so as well. And I’ll keep working on getting my arm to where maybe I can hit on an 80-yard throw. No qualms with that decision.’’

Could Luck throw it that deep prior to the surgery?

“I’ll be honest. I don’t know,’’ he said. “I was never in a situation to go out there and do it. I haven’t run around and scrambled and stuck a foot in the ground and try to chunk it x-amount of yards.’’

  • Vinatieri Watch: Vinatieri’s three field goals pushed his career total to 565, tying Morten Andersen for the most in NFL history. He also appeared in his 340th game, fourth-most in league history. Vinatieri needs 34 points to eclipse Andersen’s NFL record of 2,544.
  • Medical update: Right tackle Joe Haeg suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Denzelle Good. Haeg returned later in the quarter, but was forced from the game in the third quarter.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.