Welp, here we are once again with the Indianapolis Colts being on the wrong side of NFL history in their loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
In typical fashion in how it has been this season for this team, it was another game that was the tale of two different halves. Indy jumped out to a 33-0 lead heading into halftime and it looked like they were a different team coming out of the bye week.
But, that was far from the case. The Vikings would go on to have the greatest comeback in NFL history to become NFC North champs and clinch their spot in the playoffs with the 39-36 win in overtime.
The mixture of not finishing drives with touchdowns, an untimely turnover, and the defense not getting off the field in the second half is what ended up costing Indianapolis the upset over Minnesota.
Here are my five takeaways from the second-half collapse by the Colts:
Not finishing drives
One of the many issues that have plagued the Colts this season has been their inability to put the ball in the endzone when they have the opportunity. In the end, it was their settling for field goals that gave just enough hope to the Vikings to continue their comeback throughout the second half.
It kicked off when Indianapolis was able to take the opening drive of the game all the way down to the one-yard line but a simple handoff to Zack Moss got blown up so they had to call the field goal unit in. The next stumble happened after Minnesota elected to go for it in their own territory but the Colts got the stop to force the turnover on downs.
Despite having the ball at the Vikings’ 31-yard line, the Colts were only able to one first down and had to settle for another Chase McLaughlin field goal. On the very next drive, Minnesota called a fake punt and failed, which gave Indy the ball at the 31-yard line again. But, the offense went three-and-out, and it was another field goal for the team.
The fourth missed opportunity came before halftime when Indianapolis was able to get the ball all the way to the Vikings’ 11-yard line but once again failed to find a way to punch it in for a touchdown and had to settle for another McLaughlin field goal.
The last one came in the second half when the offense was able to get to the Minnesota 34-yard line but ended up having to settle for a field goal. You can’t always be perfect but the inability to finish one of those drives with a touchdown gave the Vikings just enough room to make the comeback happen. Especially the ones coming off a turnover on downs.
This has been one of the many problems with the Colts’ offense and it yet again causes them to lose a game that they should have won.
No answer for Dalvin Cook
The Colts defense was playing on fire in the first half but in the second half, it was a different story. The Vikings’ offense was sparked by a few players but it was Dalvin Cook that was keeping drives alive and creating explosive plays that ended in the endzone. The game didn’t start well for Cook. On the second drive of the game for Minnesota, he fumbled the ball away right after breaking off a 40-yard run.
He was able to shake off that error with a great performance to cap off the game in the second half. His biggest play of the game came late in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback. After the Colts turned the ball over on downs, on the first play of the drive for the Vikings, Cook took a screen to the house for a 64-yard touchdown.
Came back @KirkCousins8 @dalvincook
📺: @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/H7UX39X1BI
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 17, 2022
Cook ended the game with 190 total yards and a touchdown. He averaged 5.6 YPC. The Colts’ defense failed to bottle up him and he was able to take advantage when they got gassed in the second half.
Bubba Ventrone's unit delivered
As it has been this season for the Colts, it has been hard to talk about the positives when everything else seems to be going wrong for this team. If there was one unit that did its job for the entire game, it was the special teams. They got off to a great start when Dallis Flowers was able to take the opening kickoff for a 49-yard return to give the offense the ball at the Indy 48-yard line.
The first quarter was very kind to Bubba Ventrone’s unit when they blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to end the Vikings’ first drive of the game.
BLOCKED PUNT TD ‼️ @Colts
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) December 17, 2022
Then later on in the second quarter, Minnesota elected to run a fake punt but the Indy special teams were ready and forced the incompletion to get off the field and give the offense some great field goal position. The return game from Flowers made its appearance in the second half. After the Vikings scored their first touchdown, he took a kick return 48 yards to give the offense the ball at the Indianapolis 40-yard line.
Flowers averaged 35.0 yards on his five kick returns. It was also a good day for the kicking department as well. Matt Haack ended up having an average of 43.6 yards on his seven punts and placed three of them inside the 20-yard line.
While the Colts needed to score more touchdowns than field goals, Chase McLaughlin delivered when his name was called. He made all five of his field goal attempts and three PATs. He had a long of 52 yards and scored 18 of the 36 points for the Colts.
I’m not sure what will happen with Bubba Ventrone but I sure hope whoever is the next coach does keep him around for the forseeable future.
Two 2021 Draft Picks Shine
Keeping with the positive theme, one other good thing from the loss was seeing the first two selections of the 2021 NFL draft performing on the field at the same time. Kwity Paye continued his strong Year 2 and is looking like an anchor piece for this defense going forward. He finished with five tackles (five solo), two TFLs, two QB hits, and one sack.
Paye has been great against the run this season. His nine TFLs are tied for the most for the Colts despite him only playing in nine games. One thing that Indianapolis has been waiting for has been the breakout game from Dayo Odeyingbo. The second-year defensive lineman finally had a game that fans have been waiting for.
In his best performance as a pro, Odeyingbo ended the game with five tackles (four solo), one TFL, two QB hits, and two sacks. The disappointing thing is that he should have capped off his breakout game with a game-sealing sack but the offense was unable to run the clock out after this fourth down stop.
.@dodeyingbo takes down Kirk on 4th and 15!
📺: #INDvsMIN on @NFLNetwork
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— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2022
The future is murky in Indianapolis but if there is one thing that is looking promising heading into the offseason is that they have two key young players on the defensive line for the 2023 season.
Winning the turnover battle wasn't enough
For the majority of this season, the Colts have found themselves on the losing side of the turnover battle which is attributed to their 4-9-1 record. For once, things went their way in creating turnovers that should have helped them walk away with a victory.
It was kicked off with the blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. That set up some good vibes for the Colts throughout the first half. The second turnover helped push the lead to 30-0 for Indianapolis and it looked like the day was going to end in their favor.
Julian Blackmon jumped on a ball in the middle of the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown. It was his first interception this year.
PICK SIX. JULIAN BLACKMON ‼️
📺: NFLN pic.twitter.com/Ux3k8XQvYB
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 17, 2022
The final turnover should have helped Indy close out the game in the fourth quarter. The Vikings were driving and got past midfield but Kirk Cousins and Jalen Reagor weren’t on the same page which led to Rodney Thomas II tracking down the ball for the interception.
Colts stop the Vikings momentum with a pick!
📺: #INDvsMIN on @NFLNetwork
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/NLM9jAlP4R pic.twitter.com/oXoOAl7NTD
— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2022
The Colts would go on and go three-and-out on offense and give the ball right back to Minnesota. The defense was far from perfect in the second half but they made a couple of plays in the fourth quarter to help close out the win but the offense failed to do its part to keep the Vikings offense on the sideline.
Even when Indianapolis does the right things they still seem to can’t get out of their own way. This team is desperate for a hard reset and we are three weeks away from seeing how it will begin.