There seems to always be one team that does it. One team that just needed to win and clinch a playoff spot without any help needed to accomplish the task. This year it fell to the Indianapolis Colts who needed to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their playoff spot was served to them on a silver platter. Never mind how much of an underdog the Jaguars were. The Colts just needed to win the game. Yet, from the outset the Jaguars weren’t going to lay down. One of the worst teams in the league, who had already fired their head coach a few weeks prior, weren’t going to give Indy the game. The Colts couldn’t run the ball with their MVP candidate in RB Jonathan Taylor and had to adjust their gameplan. That meant QB Carson Wentz needed to step up and take charge. It didn’t work. Aside from a late touchdown pass, Wentz threw an interception, fumbled once and was sacked 6 times. The offensive line which is among the best in the league had their worst performance in recent memory. The entire team failed and this falls on the head coach Frank Reich. You would think the Colts would have come out of halftime playing with an invigorated spirit being down only 13-3. This team ended up allowing 13 unanswered points to Jacksonville in the second half. That falls on Reich and his capabilities as a coach. Wentz is probably done as a capable quarterback, but I’m not putting this loss all on him. For me it’s with the head coach. All you had to do was win and you were in. Now you’re not.
Ignore for a moment that I am a San Francisco 49ers fan. Would you rather have them or the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs? I’m not knocking the Saints efforts in getting a chance to clinch a playoff spot with everything that has happened to them on the injury front this season. But you can’t say that they wouldn’t have been a one-and-done participant in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams could have helped out the Saints playoff chances if they had held onto their early 17-0 lead against the 49ers. Alas, Frisco rallied and tied the game at 17 before the end of the 3rd quarter. The Rams retook the lead with 2:34 left in the game, but 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the Rams defense allowed the Niners to tie it at 24. The Niners kicked a field goal to start overtime and their defense intercepted Rams QB Matthew Stafford for the second time of the game to seal the victory. This could be short lived as San Francisco will be playing on the road for the playoffs, but most teams would have rather played New Orleans than the 49ers.
The Season Finale
I’m not gonna focus on the timeout called by Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley in overtime. Watching that Chargers team from the entirety of the 4th quarter to the conclusion in overtime, they were gassed. He certainly made a mistake by allowing the Raiders to change their offensive approach going from the shotgun formation to a running formation. To me his dumbest mistake was going for it on 4th and 1 from his own 20 when they were down 17-14. They didn’t covert and the Raiders ended up kicking a field goal. The end of this game would have been a whole lot different if the Chargers didn’t gift Las Vegas an extra 3 points. This won’t take anything away from QB Justin Herbert’s performance and how many 3rd and 4th down conversions he made for the Chargers final two drives in regulation. Observers and fans will note that this was a wasted opportunity for them. They were clearly the better team, but we also should note that this win-and-clinch scenario wouldn’t have come down to this Sunday night game. All the Chargers had to do was beat the worst team in the league in the Houston Texans two weeks prior and this wouldn’t have even mattered.