INDIANAPOLIS — There are players who possess the rare ability to make all things possible.
Even digging out of a 23-0 hole late in the third quarter.
Even after the offense he’s directing managed just 114 yards and a lost fumble — his last fumble — on 25 plays in its first five possessions.
Anthony Richardson has proven to be one of those rare players, with a caveat.
While the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback of the future helped lift his team off the mat — from down 23-0 at the 7:17 mark of the third quarter to 23-all with 1:56 remaining in the game — the rookie couldn’t complete what would have been the greatest regular-season comeback in franchise history and the second-biggest in the NFL.
“We’ve got to finish games, and it begins with me,’’ Shane Steichen said after the Colts dropped an exhaustive 29-23 overtime decision to the Los Angeles Rams Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It marked the Colts’ seventh straight loss at home, one shy of tying the Indy-era record.
Steichen appropriately pointed out the collective slow start by the Colts. While the offense was getting nothing done, the defense was getting worked over by veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Rams.
In building a 20-0 halftime cushion, Los Angeles piled up huge edges in total yards (272-110), first downs (17-5) and time of possession (19:57-10:03).
There was no panic at the break — although that would have been understandable.
“It was, ‘Hey, we’ve got 30 more minutes. Let’s go fight. Shoot, let’s go find out what we’re about and let’s go see where we’re at as a football team and go make plays.’’’
Done, and done.
The defense began making the required plays, including Kenny Moore II who cut in front of Tutu Atwell for his first interception of the season. And Rams’ placekicker Brett Maher aided the comeback with errant 46 and 48-yard field goals.
But Richardson was the catalyst of the near-miss. Like a few Colts quarterbacks before him, he made things possible.
“I agree,’’ wideout Alec Pierce said with a smile.
In the first round of the 2013 playoffs, it was Andrew Luck pulling the Colts from a 38-10 third-quarter hole and leading them to a 45-44 victory.
In 2003, it was Peyton Manning, down 35-14 with 5 minutes to play, making play after play after play until the Colts had a 38-35 overtime win at Tampa Bay.
Special players do special things, even when they aren’t enough.
Special? Richardson is:
*the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with four rushing touchdowns in his first three games. His 1-yard TD on a delayed draw early in the fourth quarter brought the Colts to within 23-15.
*the first quarterback in franchise history with a rushing TD in three straight games.
*the youngest player in the Super Bowl era (21 years old) with multiple passing TDs and a rushing TD in a game, according to NFL Research.
During a four-possession stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters — roughly 19 minutes — Richardson orchestrated quick-strike TD drives covering 75, 62 and 83 yards. Along with his 1-yard TD, he connected with Mo Alie-Cox on a 35-yard TD that saw the veteran tight end run through a couple of Rams defenders and a 5-yarder to Drew Ogletree that completed the comeback at 23-all after Richardson hit Michael Pittman Jr. on a two-point conversion.
“I did feel I was clickin’ a little bit,’’ he said. “I just let it flow. I try not to get too high on myself because everything can be going good in one minute, and it just flips on you.’’
That was an on-point summarization of Richardson’s performance. He completed just 11-of-25 passes for 200 yards and the two TDs, and rushed 10 times for 56 yards and one TD.
After the lackluster start, Richardson caught fire, went white-hot, then cooled at the most inopportune time.
The defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Colts a first-and-10 at their 35. One minute, 32 seconds remained.
Richardson needed roughly 30 yards to get kicker Matt Gay in position for a long, potential game-winning field-goal attempt. Remember, Gay set an NFL record in last week’s overtime win at Baltimore with four 50-plus yard field goals.
Instead, Richardson misfired to Pittman twice — one was deflected — and failed to connect with tight end Kylen Granson on a back-shoulder attempt on third-and-10.
The Rams won the coin toss for overtime, took the football, and the Colts never had a shot.
Stafford shredded Indy’s defense during regulation — 23-of-35, 259 yards —and kept it up. He was 4-of-5 for 60 yards in an overtime that began with a 20-yard completion to Puka Nacua and ended with a 22-yard touchdown to the rookie wideout.
On the walk-off TD, Nacua was so open on the right side it was difficult to determine who should have been covering him.
“I’ve got to go back and look at the tape,’’ Steichen said. “Obviously, there was a coverage deal right there that we’ve got to get cleaned up.
“Credit to Matt Stafford and the Rams. He’s an elite quarterback in this league. He’s super accurate. He makes all the throws. He made a ton of throws that were contested, that were right where they needed to be.’’
Richardson, meanwhile, is a rookie who continues to provide highlight material and hope for the future.
“Obviously, with any young player, you’re learning things and you’re seeing new looks and different things,’’ Steichen said. “But once he gets rollin’, he gets rollin’.’’
Until Richardson began heating up in the pass game late, he let his legs do the damage.
“I think that’s a huge part of my game,’’ he said. “I guess there is a whole bunch of studies out there that shows if a quarterback is able to extend the play, most of the time it’s going to work out.
“I just try to make it work. If it doesn’t work the right way that we hope it would work and designed it to work, I just try to improvise and make things work in a certain way. My teammates, they knew where to go whenever I did leave the pocket, and I just get them the ball so they can make plays.’’
Despite the overtime loss, the Colts find themselves in a four-way tie atop the AFC South at 2-2.
The Colts played back-to-back overtime games for the first time since weeks 5 and 6 of 2003. They defeated Tampa Bay, 38-35, then lost at Carolina, 23-20.
Depth was an issue in the loss to the Rams. The Colts were without left tackle Bernhard Raimann (concussion) and center Ryan Kelly (concussion) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (groin/back) was on a pitch count.
Rookie Blake Freeland made his first career start at left tackle and struggled with Donald, who finished with four tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit and two tackles for loss.
After piling up 25 receptions in the first three games, Pittman was limited to one catch for 15 yards on five targets.
Ogletree led the Colts with three catches for 48 yards and one TD.
The Rams entered the game averaging 84 rushing yards. They gouged the Colts for 164 on 36 attempts.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.