For Eric Ebron, Colts, it was a lost Sunday versus Raiders


INDIANAPOLIS, IN – SEPTEMBER 29: Head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts calls a play from the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 29, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – On any other play and any other day, there would have been something more.

There was Eric Ebron in the end zone after splitting a pair of Oakland defenders, securing a Jacoby Brissett pass and sprinting down the right sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.

But this wasn’t any other day. This was one of those days.

Instead of showcasing his latest dance move, Ebron ever-so-briefly held the football in the air in his left hand, shifted it to his right, then casually flipped it away.

Window dressing is all it was on an otherwise lost Sunday afternoon for Ebron the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Prior to the big-time catch, the veteran tight end was part of a team-wide meltdown in a 31-24 loss to the Raiders.

Ebron’s pre-TD stat line: four targets, three drops, zero catches. The fourth pass from Brissett sailed too far in front of Ebron.

Frequently as the second half unfolded and the Colts were in serious chase mode, Ebron was not part of the offense. That included in red-zone situations, which is his sweet spot.

Frank Reich mentioned his position coaches often determine who plays and when, unless the head coach specifically requests a certain player for a certain situation.

Ebron was asked about his limited participation.

“They should have benched me,’’ he said. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t contribute. I didn’t help my teammates. I was (terrible) today and it sucked.

“It sucked to watch. It sucked to be a part of.’’

Ebron was one of the Colts’ most significant free-agent acquisitions during the 2018 offseason. He was released by the Detroit Lions following four erratic seasons that included too many dropped passes.

His first season in Indy? Thirteen receiving TDs, a Colts’ record for a tight end, and a first Pro Bowl appearance. There were occasional drops – six in all – but they were overshadowed by his overall productivity.

And then Sunday.

“I really pride myself on being a very consistent, very, very prideful person,’’ he said. “When these mistakes happen, they hurt cause it’s not something I want to do. It’s not something that I try to do. They just happen.

“Being a professional, I’ve got to learn how to let it go and move on and help my team. Today I didn’t do that and that sucked.’’

After one of his drops, Ebron plopped down on the bench. He was by himself and alone with his thoughts. Occasionally a teammate – Darius Leonard, others – offered support.

“You encourage him,’’ tight end Jack Doyle said. “I’ve had those days. Everyone has those days.

“Just a little encouragement, pound butt, ‘We’ve got your back, buddy.’ He knows I love him and have his back. He’ll be fine.’’

Apparently Ebron sensed there was a lack of energy from the outset. He’s normally one of the more boisterous players who takes it upon himself to crank up the pre-game intensity.

“We just came out lackadaisical,’’ Ebron said. “I try to pump myself up before a game, which I felt like we were lacking in energy going into this game. I felt that as a team and it showed.’’

The offense opened with a pair of three-and-outs, and drops by Ebron and Chester Rogers helped sabotage the second possession.

Meanwhile, a reeling defense yielded touchdowns on three of the Raiders’ first four possessions, including a 60-yard end around by wideout Trevor Davis and a pair of Derek Carr TD passes.

With 14:13 remaining in the second quarter, it was Raiders 21, Colts 7. Oakland had run 24 plays for 211 yards and 11 first downs. Indy had 15 yards and two first downs on nine plays.

“We could not have gotten off to a much worse start than we did today,’’ Reich said. “We were three-and-out and they were scoring touchdowns.

“We all have to own that, and that starts with me.’’

Added Ebron: “We didn’t try to do things until it was already hard on ourselves, and it’s hard to dig yourself out of a hole, especially in the National Football League.’’

Especially when you do so much wrong along the way. That included:

  • five dropped passes. Ebron had three and Rogers and Deon Cain one each.

Brissett insisted he never considered steering clear of Ebron because of the mounting drops.

“Ebron went to the Pro Bowl last year,’’ he said. “It’s no reason why I shouldn’t come back to him. I mean he made a big play close to the end of the game where he still gave us an opportunity to be in it. So he shouldn’t take all the blame.’’

  • only five penalties for 35 yards, but each seemed to be a killer. Twice late in the second quarter the Colts were driving and looking to cut into a 21-10 deficit, only to get in their own way.

The first one reached a second-and-10 at the Raiders 21, but went Poof! thanks to an illegal block by rookie wideout Parris Campbell, an Ebron drop on second-and-20 and Campbell’s lost fumble.

The second started at the Oakland 47 but was immediately impeded by a holding penalty on right tackle Braden Smith that wiped out a Doyle reception/first down. On second-and-9 at the 34, Cain suffered his drop. Nyheim Hines converted the third-and-9, but that was negated when guard Mark Glowinski was flagged for being downfield on the pass.

The drive ended when Adam Vinatieri’s 57-yard field goal drifted wide left.

  • Brissett’s second interception of the season essentially serving as the dagger. It came with 2:17 to play and the Colts trailing 24-17 and looking for late magic. Brissett stared down Zach Pascal to his left, safety Erik Harris read the play and jumped the route and returned the interception 30 yards for a TD.

“He made a good play,’’ Brissett said. “It was a dumb decision on my part, uncharacteristic on my part.’’

  • The defense once again having too few answers. The Raiders averaged 5.9 yards per play and 5.9 per rush. Carr was careful but efficient (21-of-31, 189 yards, two TDs) and the Oakland ground game was relentless (188 yards).

For three weeks, the Colts were all about taking care of their business and not offering the opposition a helping hand.

Sunday, they kept imploding.

“It’s hard to explain,’’ Reich said. “That has not been indicative of our offense; had very few drops, very few penalties.

“Today is hard to swallow.’’

Ebron insisted it started with him.

“We dug ourselves a hole and we buried ourselves today,’’ he said. “Offensively and especially me, we all did that.’’

The lack of energy going into the game, he reiterated, “was because of me. The energy on offense is usually boosted by a lot of things that I do and I feel like I didn’t do that today.’’

An immediate bounce-back must come against the unbeaten and high-powered Chiefs Sunday night in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

Ebron insisted he’ll have a short memory.

“Next week is next week and nothing that happened today will bother me next week,’’ he said. “But what happened today bothers me today.

“I have to go back to busting my tail like I usually do and hopefully next week put on a better performance.’’

Missing, and missed

No one was making excuses, but let’s not kid ourselves: the Colts missed the contributions of three front-line players: Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton (quad), All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) and free safety Malik Hooker (knee).

Brissett passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns, but passing game was too constricted, especially early. The defense allowed touchdowns on three of the Raiders’ first four possessions and yielded 217 yards and 11 first downs in the first half.

Hilton missed just the fifth game of his eight-year career. It’s worth noting the Colts are 0-5 without him.

“Until you just said that,’’ Reich said of the missing players, “that thought never even crossed my mind.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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