Dropped 4th-down pass costly as Colts squander playoff chance with 23-19 loss to Texans

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew tried to console Tyler Goodson after the running back dropped a fourth-down pass with 1:06 seconds left in a win-or-go home game against Houston on Saturday night.

Heck, Minshew even said he should have made a better throw.

Regardless of who was to blame, Goodson, Minshew and the Colts had no choice but to accept the cold, hard reality — their season is over because on a night they converted only one of third-down chance, they also blew their only fourth-down attempt of the game.

“Obviously, we called timeout there, it was on fourth-and-1, we saw the front we were in and we liked the look of that play,” coach Shane Steichen said following the 23-19, playoff-eliminating loss to the Texans. “Obviously, if it doesn’t work, you’re going to second guess it.”

The play wasn’t the problem.

Goodson, who was activated off the practice squad earlier this season, was wide open. And had they connected, Goodson had blockers and a possible lane to the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown.

Instead, Goodson appeared to stumble or perhaps it was a touch too hard. Either way, the ball bounced off Goodson’s chest and hit the ground, sealing the Colts’ fate in what was an entertaining, high-stakes game.

“That (drop) helped us punch our ticket,” defensive end Will Anderson Jr. said after the Texans (10-7) secured their first playoff berth since 2019. “We have grit, we train relentlessly, and everyone knew what it was going to take. That is what you dream about even as a little kid. To see everyone’s dream come true in these types of games, man, I’m so hyped.”

For Goodson and the Colts, though, it was a nightmare ending.

On a night they started slow and fought back into position, just like they had after going 3-5 and finding themselves in the AFC South basement in late October, the NFL’s second-best team in one-possession games was on the precipice of capping its season with yet another remarkable chapter.

And in the blink of an eye it all went awry.

“I worked too hard to drop a ball like that, but I have to accept it,” a frustrated and emotional Goodson said despite it being a tough catch., “It still touched my hands. But next year, I won’t ever be in that position, ever again.”

The bigger question for Steichen was why Goodson was even in the game?

Indy (9-8) relied almost exclusively on Jonathan Taylor, who carried 30 times for a season-best 188 yards and had a 49-yard TD run before hurting his foot and ankle in the second half. His return was initially listed as questionable then was downgraded to doubtful.

So with Taylor out, Zack Moss filled in. But after running six times for 30 yards, Taylor suddenly and surprisingly returned for Indy’s final series.

Despite appearing to struggle at times with planting for cuts, the 2021 NFL rushing champ still carried the ball on seven straight plays leading up to the fourth-down call, taking the Colts down the field and inside Houston 20-yard line with a little more than one minute to play.

That’s when Goodson went into the game, and it seemed like a no-brainer to Indy. Steichen said the play was designed for Goodson, and Minshew explained he and Goodson practiced it many times.

But when the play didn’t work, Goodson’s teammates rallied to his defense.

“We all have plays that we want back. Just because it’s the last one makes it that much more significant,” Minshew said. “I told him (Goodson) I’d throw that ball every time. I trust him.”

And all Goodson could ask for was do-over — next season.

“I happened to fail today, but I’m standing tall,” he said. “It’s over. A lot guys came up to me and said ‘Keep your head up, never lose your confidence, just keep being me, keep being myself’ and that’s what I’m going to do.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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