INDIANAPOLIS – Nyheim Hines still was a bit dumb-founded by what he’d seen more than 30 minutes after Sunday’s 31-17 loss against the Tennessee Titans.
The Indianapolis Colts’ second-year running back looked back on the two-minute stretch that determined the game in the fourth quarter with a sense of awe.
From the time Adam Vinatieri lined up to attempt a go-ahead field goal with 5:12 remaining until Titans wide receiver Kalif Raymond pulled in a 40-yard touchdown catch with 3:02 to play, it seemed Indianapolis lost the game in the blink of an eye.
“That was absolutely crazy,” Hines said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. But some days, it’s how the momentum goes. Honestly, as an offense, we’ve gotta score more points. We left points out there. So, even if those same situations happened, if we didn’t let those points get away, it’s a different game.
“Honestly, it was absolutely crazy. But that’s football, and football is a momentum game sometimes.”
When Dane Cruikshank broke through the Colts’ protection to block Vinatieri’s 46-yard attempt, he changed the course of the season for two franchises. Tye Smith caught the loose ball in the air and returned it 63 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Moments later Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett was intercepted by Tennesse cornerback Logan Ryan, and Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw the touchdown pass that provided the dagger.
Just like that, Tennessee (7-5) kept its playoff hopes alive and put the Colts’ dwindling chances on life support.
It was the latest hit of adversity for a franchise that has become far too acquainted with it this fall.
But Indianapolis (6-6) vows to get up off the mat again.
“It gets harder if you let it get harder,” wide receiver Zach Pascal said after catching seven passes for 109 yards. “At the end of the day, we’re all grown men, and when adversity hits, it shows the type of man you are. People get knocked down. Are you willing to get back up? Get knocked down again, are you willing to get back up? Get knocked down again, are you willing to get back up?
“We had to fight to get where we’re at today. So I know the guys in this locker room are ready and locked in, gonna get ready for Tampa Bay (on Monday) and get focused.”
Pascal is one of several undrafted free agents currently making contributions to the Colts’ battered lineup, and he sees the battles he and his teammates have fought just to get to the NFL as a strength moving forward.
In many ways, Indianapolis is counting on it.
The Colts play three of their final four games on the road and don’t own any tie breakers in a tight AFC wild-card chase.
So players accustomed to beating the odds should feel right at home.
“That’s our mindset. That’s literally like our mindset,” linebacker Anthony Walker said. “That’s what our roster is made up of – guys who have had that hard road, who come from humble beginnings and always fight. So we know that.
“We know what we have in this locker room. We know the men. I know my teammates, (and) I love them. I love going to war with them, and I know they’re going to be with me all the way until the end.”
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
One of the loudest crowd reactions Sunday came with 11:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and was directed at referee Carl Cheffers and his crew.
A pass from Tannehill to wide receiver A.J. Brown initially was ruled incomplete as Colts safety Clayton Geathers recovered the loose ball near the sideline.
Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich challenged the ruling, and the play was reviewed. The pass was ruled a completion, but NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron determined there was no conclusive evidence Geathers’ recovery was made inbounds.
So the incompletion stood. Indianapolis fans were angry because their team did not gain possession, and the Titans were mad because the ball was placed back at the original line of scrimmage and they did not get credit for the yardage gained before Brown’s fumble.
“First, the ruling on the field was incomplete,” Riveron told a pool reporter. “Then we have to look at a couple of things. No. 1, is it a completed pass? It was. However, we do not have a clear recovery by either team by the sideline.
“So, by rule, if there is no clear recovery, the ruling on the field stands even if the ball was clearly caught.”
Cornerback Kenny Moore II (ankle) and wide receiver Chester Rogers (knee) left the game early and will be further evaluated Monday.
Reich also confirmed after the game that wide receiver Devin Funchess, who has been out since breaking his clavicle in Week 1, will not be activated from injured reserve.
“Late in the week last week, he had a scan – a scan, they can see it all – and there’s just not enough healing where you’d like it to be to be able to put him back in there in time,” Reich said. “So he’ll be done for the year.”