His decision to go for a fourth down late in overtime backfired on Sunday, but Colts coach Frank Reich isn't going to change his mindset moving forward. This shouldn't come as a surprise given Reich just won a Super Bowl as the offensive coordinator of the ultra-aggressive Eagles, but Reich's not going to get gun-shy after one failed result.
After the Colts' 37-34 overtime loss to the Texans, Reich defended his decision to keep his offense on the field for a fourth down on their own side of the 50, which resulted in a turnover on downs that preceded the Texans' game-winning field goal. If he had a chance to do it over again, he'd go for it again.
"I'll address it now: I'm not playing to tie," Reich said, per ESPN. "I'll do that 10 times out of 10. That's just the way it's got to roll."
"I think that's who we're going to be as a team; we're going to be aggressive," Reich added. "That's a mindset that we have. That's the only way to win in this league I think."
With 27 seconds remaining in overtime, the Colts faced a fourth-and-4 from their own 43-yard line. If they punted the ball away, they would've practically guaranteed themselves a tie. If they went for the first down and got it, they would've had a chance to go win the game with the perpetually reliable Adam Vinatieri. If they didn't get it, they would set up the Texans with a chance of their own to win the game.
Reich went for it.
Andrew Luck's low pass fell incomplete. Deshaun Watson hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 24-yard completion that moved the Texans into field-goal range. And Ka'imi Fairbairn drilled the field goal to drop the Colts to 1-3.
Despite the result, the Colts' locker room backed the decision.
"Love it. Love it," Luck said. "We're not going to play for a tie, and I think everybody in that locker room loves that. I love that. Now we have to execute. I have to throw a better ball. We all know where we have to improve. That attitude we can get behind that."
"Great playcall," T.Y. Hilton said. "I liked it all. Frank has trust in us, and I have trust in him. We're playing for a win. That's what you play for."
It's not impossible to understand why the Colts went for it. They entered the game at 1-2. A tie really wouldn't have helped them make a move in the playoff race. A win, though, would've pushed their record to 2-2 and only a game behind the Jaguars and Titans in the AFC South. It's easy to criticize a coach's decision after it fails. But if the Colts had picked up that first down and kicked a game-winning field goal, the story would've been how Reich's aggressive decision-making led to the Colts' surprising 2-2 start. It didn't work, but for a rebuilding team without real playoff aspirations, the risk was slim.
On the other hand, one particular problem with the call is that even if the Colts had converted that fourth down play, they still would've been a ways away from field-goal range. Say Luck's completion had been caught near midfield. The Colts likely would've had to burn their final timeout. Then, they would've had around 20 seconds to get into field-goal range. It wouldn't have been impossible, but it's not like converting the fourth down guaranteed the Colts a shot at the win. They still would've needed to move the ball another 15 or so yards without any timeouts.
Part of my thought process here... with 27 seconds left, there's no guarantee the Colts get it into their own field goal range even if they do manage to convert the fourth-and-4. If the punt, though, the odds that Houston gets back into field goal range are tiny. https://t.co/yC2Udk1PJL— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) September 30, 2018
What's important is that Reich stays true to his word and maintains his aggressive mindset moving forward. We kill coaches over and over again for punting and kicking field goals on fourth-and-short.that helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl. We can't have it both ways, where we criticize coaches for coaching scared and then blame them for losing games when their gutsy calls don't work out.