In a stunning turn of events, the Colts will not be participating in this year’s postseason after losing a heartbreaker to the Jaguars—owners of the NFL’s worst record for the second straight season—in Week 18.
The Colts entered their finale as overwhelming 14-point favorites over Jacksonville (who had lost eight straight prior to Sunday), but couldn’t stop from self-destructing, unraveling in a meltdown no one could have seen coming. That paved the way for an unlikely Steelers playoff berth, extending Ben Roethlisberger’s career by at least another game.
In their loss to Jacksonville, the Colts looked nothing like the team that steamrolled the Patriots and Buffalo weeks earlier, folding like a house of cards as Carson Wentz faltered to the tune of two turnovers including his first interception away from Lucas Oil Stadium. The loss was made more demoralizing by the fact Indy could have punched its playoff ticket a week earlier against the Raiders, who overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Colts on a walk-off field goal courtesy of Daniel Carlson.
There will be ample time for self-loathing in the weeks ahead as the Colts come to grips with their catastrophic collapse, squandering a roster flush with talent (their seven Pro Bowlers were the most of any team) including NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor (franchise-record 1,811 rushing yards). But rather than dwell on the disappointment, coach Frank Reich struck a decidedly hopeful tone in addressing his team after the game, choosing to focus on the positives while contending that maybe, this just wasn’t the Colts’ year.
“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Did I take something from this year that will help us next year get back to where we want to get?’ I know everybody in here can say, ‘Yes.’ We’ll get there, men. Believe that,” said Reich in a clip from Wednesday night’s season finale of Hard Knocks: In Season on HBO. “It’s tough climbing mountains. It’s a journey that’s tough, right? But we got the right stuff to do it. Just might not have been our year this year.”
That’s a remarkably grounded way to approach failure and a testament to Reich’s leadership qualities, embracing defeat as a learning opportunity instead of lashing out or assigning blame. Time will tell if the Colts have what it takes to eventually win a Lombardi Trophy, but you have to admire Reich’s optimism, warranted or not, in the face of adversity.