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Colts continue uneven pursuit of playoff berth with one-sided loss to Falcons

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By BILL TROCCHI Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — After blowing out the Pittsburgh Steelers last week to move into a tie for first place in the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts were feeling good about themselves as they tried to chase down a playoff spot in AFC.

One week later, the Colts seemed at a loss for answers after a dispiriting 29-10 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“It is a week-to-week league. The wins don’t carry over and neither do the losses,” said Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew.

Indianapolis Colts QB during a football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) slides down after a big gain during an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts on December 24, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta,GA. (Photo/Jeff Brown)

The Colts had won four in a row before a 20-point loss to the Bengals on Dec. 10 halted momentum. But the Colts bounced back with a 30-13 rout of the Steelers, giving themselves optimism they would return to the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
The solid play from the Steelers win carried over into the first possession of the game against the Falcons.

The Colts went 75 yards in 13 plays, capping the drive with a 1-yard run from Jonathan Taylor. The Colts’ No. 1 back had missed three games with a thumb injury and appeared poised to lead the Indianapolis offense to a big day against the Falcons. It was the first touchdown allowed by the Falcons on the opening drive all season and the first rushing touchdown allowed from a running back for Atlanta.

The momentum, however, proved to be short-lived, as the Colts punted on their final four possessions of the first half and never again found the end zone.

Related: Colts at Bengals gameday photos

Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons 2023 NFL Football game in Atlanta Georgia.
Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) celebrate his sack of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) during an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts on December 24, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta,GA. (Photo/Jeff Brown)

What happened after the opening possession?

“Great question. If I had the answer, I’d give the perfect answer,” said Colts coach Shane Steichen. “Credit to the Falcons. They did a good job up front with some things they were doing.”

The Falcons managed to pressure Minshew into six sacks, including one on the opening possession of the third quarter that halted a productive Colts drive.

“I took a sack in the red zone that was 10 yards back and then you are looking at instead of a chance to go for seven, you are looking at three,” Minshew said. “It is plays like that that really hurt you.”

A kicker during an NFL football game between Atlanta and Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts place kicker Matt Gay (7) connects on the field goal attempt during an NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts on December 24, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo/Jeff Brown)

Defensively, the Colts gave up four consecutive scoring drives starting in the second quarter, did not force a turnover and were never able to help out an offense that was out of sync with leading receiver Michael Pittman Jr. sidelined because of concussion symptoms. The Colts started all 10 of their offensive possessions either at or inside their 25-yard-line.

Minshew completed 20 of 37 passes for 201 yards and one interception.

Related: Steelers at Colts gameday photos

Taylor finished with just 43 yards on 18 carries, and Colts running backs averaged 2.9 yards per carry. That led to several passing situations for the Colts, and Minshew was under constant pressure.

“It starts when you can’t run the ball,” Minshew said. “Those guys can pin their ears back. We put ourselves in a lot of tough situations.”

The Colts (8-7) know they are still firmly in position to make the playoffs with two regular-season games remaining. Next week, they host the Raiders before ending the season at home against the Texans.

“We play Sunday to Sunday,” linebacker E.J. Speed said. “Different game plans and different situations we are put in, we just need to execute. Today, we did not execute to our standard. Luckily, we get next week to prove ourselves again.”

Via Associated Press. For more Indianapolis Colts and sports news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here. You can also check out the Indiana Minority Business Magazine by clicking here.

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