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Did the Colts' Frank Reich make the right call to go for it on fourth-and-goal?

Frank Schwab
·2-min read

Frank Reich is aggressive. He always has been since taking the job as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

He might have been too aggressive in one key moment on Saturday.

With the Colts leading the Buffalo Bills 10-7 late in the second quarter of a wild-card playoff matchup, Indianapolis marched down to the Bills’ 1-yard line. On third-and-goal, it started to unravel.

The Colts called a pitch play to Jonathan Taylor. It is certainly questionable why the Colts would call an outside pitch and risk losing yards, which Taylor did. He was dropped for a 3-yard loss.

It seemed Reich made up his mind to go for it on fourth down before seeing what happened on third down, because the offense stayed on the field for fourth-and-goal from the 4. They dropped back, had Michael Pittman Jr. run a route crossing the end zone that was slow to develop, the pass rush got to Philip Rivers and he threw one to the corner. Pittman got his hands on it as he dove but couldn’t haul it in. The Bills took over on downs.

Even the analytics gave a slight edge to kicking the field goal, via Ben Baldwin of The Athletic.

Even worse for the Colts, the Bills went on a 96-yard drive after Reich’s decision and scored with 14 seconds left in the half to take a 14-10 lead. The missed points were big late in the game when the Colts lost 27-24.

Reich said his analytics indicated the Colts should go for it.

There are many arguments to be made that NFL coaches are too conservative when going for it, though that is changing due to coaches like Reich. Short field goals don’t often win NFL games. But the Colts gave up 3 points in that situation, and it seemed like an unnecessary gamble.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) threw incomplete on a key fourth down in Saturday's wild-card game. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) threw incomplete on a key fourth down in Saturday's wild-card game. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

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