INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Indianapolis Colts coach Shane Steichen pointed the finger at himself.
He accepted the blame for the play-calling when Indy was backed up, his gamble on a 60-yard field goal in the first half, even the sudden litany of turnovers that have derailed the Colts each of the last two weeks. And yet, he believes a 39-38 loss to Cleveland on Sunday can still help this team.
“I think, honestly, stuff like this makes you stronger,” Steichen said. “It stings, there’s no doubt about it. Everyone’s frustrated when games happen like that, but I think this is what builds character in your football team. We’ve got a lot of football left. We’re not even at the halfway point.”
What happens next will be determined by how the Colts respond to all those miscues – and the questionable penalties in the final 40 seconds that bailed out Cleveland (4-2) twice.
Both calls came against cornerback Darrel Baker Jr., who wasn’t complaining. Neither was Steichen, at least not until he reviews the game tape.
“I just come back tomorrow and work,” Baker said. “I look at the film tonight, watch the game. See what I did good, and see what I can do better.”
For Indy (3-4), it’s yet another chapter in a stretch that included its annual debacle at Jacksonville, the loss of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson to season-ending shoulder surgery and the suspension of defensive tackle Grover Stewart for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy.
Despite all of those things, though, Indy managed to generate 456 yards and 38 points against the league’s stingiest defense in both categories.
Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss each had 18 carries for a combined 132 yards and Taylor, the 2021 NFL rushing champ, scored for the first time this season.
But quarterback Gardner Minshew lost three fumbles on strip-sacks, one of which Cleveland recovered for a touchdown, and an interception even on day he ran for a career-best two scores and threw TD passes of 59 yards to Josh Downs and 75 yards to Michael Pittman Jr.
The result: Cleveland scored 20 points off turnovers and a blocked field goal, closing out the win with one final fumble recovery.
“We’re already having conversations in the locker room just about trying to drill that and work that more,” Minshew said when asked about reducing the turnovers. “That’s not something I want to be a part of us and something that can’t be a part of our game.”
Perhaps the hardest part was that the creator of Sunday’s chaos was no surprise at all.
Two-time All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett dominated the first half by forcing fumbles on both of his sacks and then leapt over Indy long snapper Luke Rhodes to bat Matt Gay’s long field goal attempt backward.
“We’re relentless – as a team, as a defense, as individuals,” Garrett said. “Nothing is going to hold us back. We’re ready for every moment. We will fight for the entire 60 minutes.”
Even after the Colts positioned themselves for victory when Pittman caught the pass near midfield, broke a tackle and sprinted to end zone for a 38-33 lead with 5:38 to play.
But the Browns got the needed stop, backup quarterback P.J. Walker made a couple big plays on the final drive and took advantage of the illegal contact call and the pass interference call that gave Cleveland four shots from the 1-yard line in the final minute to win it. Kareem Hunt did just on fourth-and-goal with 15 seconds left, leaving Steichen and the Colts to ponder how this one got away.
“It shows what we’re capable of, but, again, all it comes down to winning the turnover battle,” Steichen said. “We’re 3-0 when we win the turnover battle. When we don’t, obviously, we’ve lost four. We’ve got to be better taking care of the football.”
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