Sunday, November 30, 2003
Injuries contribute to goal-line failure
By John Clayton
In retrospect, maybe being first-and-goal at the Patriots 2-yard line with 40 seconds left was the worst place the Colts could have been Sunday. What looked to be a sure game-winning touchdown drive failed on four attempts, resulting in a 38-34 loss to the Patriots.
Peyton Manning thought he had all the time and all the tools he needed to punch over the game-winning touchdown. He had a time out at hand. He had 40 seconds. He needed only two yards for a score.
"We got down to the one and I called the timeout thinking going over to the sideline that we were going to get into our goal-line offense," Manning aid. "But when I got there, we didn't have goal line because the whole team is hurt. We had no fullback and no tight end. That's what it came down to. We had no personnel options."
Tight end Dallas Clark suffered a season-ending broken fibula in the first half. Fullback Detron Smith was out with a knee injury, and fullback James Mungro was also injured. Manning tried two quick running plays out of his no huddle, hoping to get a quick score, thinking he'd have two plays in the final 18 seconds to win the game. He was wrong.
Sometimes, when you no-huddle, you don't have the full chance to assess your options.
"We lost James Mungro, we lost Dallas Clark, so we didn't really have our goal line offense to go," Coach Tony Dungy said. "We tried to punch the ball and keep them spread out. We weren't able to quite get it in."
So for the final two plays of the game, the Colts had to use a more finesse approach.
With no more time out left, the Colts threw on third down. But Aaron Moorehead couldn't get to Manning's throw at the side of the end zone, setting up fourth down.
Out of the three receiver set, the Colts ended up with an Edgerrin James run that was stopped for a 1-yard loss by Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest. The game was over and the Patriots had won.
"We ran plays that we run down there," Dungy said of his four failed attempts inside the Patriots 2. "They executed a little bit better than we did, and they made the plays to win it. We called the plays we liked to call down there, and got the ball to the 1-yard line. We just couldn't get it in."
It wasn't just the final drive. With just over four minutes left, the Colts were at the Patriots 11 and the whole offense seemed disjointed on what turned out to be three plays for no yards. Packages weren't as readily available because of injuries at fullback and tight end.
"We just didn't have much for them," Manning said of the stalled drive that resulted in a field goal to cut the Patriots lead to 38-34.
Without question, the Colts took this loss hard. Now they have to bounce back next Sunday against the Titans in Nashville.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.