INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich stood there and watched what at some level he knew was unwatchable.
As his Indianapolis Colts were slogging through their 12-9 overtime win at Denver Thursday night, he was aware it lacked anything resembling offensive aesthetics. And both teams were culpable.
Remember, he’s an offensive guy. Former long-time NFL backup quarterback, receivers and quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, etc.
“That thought crossed my mind during the game,’’ Reich said Friday. “It goes in and out pretty quick.
“You stay focused, but you’re like ‘My goodness, this is . . .’ You look at the scoreboard and I think I have not been in many games like that.’’
It was the first NFL game this season without at least one touchdown. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the seven field goals were an NFL record in a game in which both teams scored only by field goals.
The game also was the 12th in Colts’ history when they won without a TD. The most recent: their 15-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens in a 2006 AFC Divisional round game that turned on Adam Vinatieri’s five field goals.
Reich was offering no apologies after the game even though his offense was held under 20 points for a seventh consecutive game and has scored only 69 in the first five. That’s the fewest in five games to start a season since Peyton Manning’s 1998 rookie season (57 points).
“Isn’t it awesome that you can have a game like that and still win? It really is,’’ he said after the game. “We didn’t play good offense, (but) I’m not going to be critical of the offense right now.
“We know we need to get better. We won the game. These are hard to win, on the road on Thursday night.’’
Reich wasn’t certain how to feel after a critical victory during which a stingy, opportunistic defense and consequential special teams compensated for an erratic offense. That offense finished with 306 total yards, converted just 4-of-16 third downs, punted seven times and allowed six more sacks of Matt Ryan, running his five-game total to 21.
And Ryan’s careless play continued with two more interceptions (seven on the season, matching Carson Wentz’s total last season) and another pair of fumbles (11, the most in league in the first five games since the 1970 merger).
Reich compared his post-game demeanor to the season-opening overtime tie at Houston.
“It was almost like that Houston game when we came back and it ended in a tie and didn’t know how to feel,’’ he said. “It was like a little bit after that game last night.
“I literally didn’t know how to feel. I knew it was bad. I knew it was not a good game to watch or entertaining . . . a low-scoring game.’’
Amazon Prime’s announcing crew didn’t try to disguise what a national audience was watching.
You know, zero touchdowns, seven field goals, 12 punts, 0-of-6 efficiency in the red zone, 6-of-32 conversions on third/fourth down, six fumbles, four interceptions and 10 sacks.
As odd as Thursday night’s game was, Reich had been there before.
He was an offensive assistant in 2008 when the Colts traveled to Cleveland in late November. An offense that featured Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai was held to 215 total yards, 14 first downs and Vinatieri’s 30-yard field goal.
But the Colts won 10-6 thanks to their defense. It limited the Browns to 193 yards and was the difference when Dwight Freeney sacked Derek Anderson and Robert Mathis returned the fumble 37 yards for a fourth-quarter TD.
“That’s the NFL,’’ Reich said. “It was ugly but it was (10-6) and we won the game. You’ve got to take those.’’
Thursday night’s overtime win was made possible as the defense limited Denver to three field goals, sacked Russell Wilson four times and intercepted him twice. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had one of the interceptions in the fourth quarter in the end zone, and clinched the game by deflecting a 4th-and-1 Wilson pass at the Indy 5-yard line that was directed at Courtland Sutton.
Running back Nyheim Hines’ competitive juices were flowing at halftime Thursday night. He wanted to play in the second half.
Trouble is, on the third play of the game, Hines suffered a concussion and automatically entered the NFL’s concussion protocol. After being hit from behind by linebacker Nik Bonitto, Hines went to the turf and hit his head. He got to his feet, but staggered and nearly fell.
“Yeah, we saw him wobble right away,’’ Reich said. “All the coaches simultaneously were on the sideline, ‘He’s out. He’s out.’’’
Hines surprised Reich when they met briefly at halftime.
“Nyheim is apologizing to me,’’ Reich said. “He wanted to come back in and play. He said, ‘I feel fine. I’ve been hit way harder than that.’ That’s the kind of competitor and warrior he is.’’
That never was an option.
Reich said there’s been a lot of discussion among his coaching colleagues that “we have to do the right thing because you have to protect players from themselves at times.
“That’s a perfect example of an instance where you see him take a hit like he does, you know what kind of competitor he is and he wants to get back in the game and he certainly seemed fine talking to him. Seemed totally normally, but you have to do the right thing.’’
Kwity Paye was taken off the field on a cart after he injured his right ankle in the fourth quarter. The initial concern was the second-year defensive end had suffered a season-ending injury, but a source with knowledge of the situation said the team is confident that is not the case.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Paye suffered a high sprain to the ankle, which Reich would not confirm.
“X-rays on Kwity’s ankle are negative,’’ he said, “but still evaluating the severity of that.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.