KRAVITZ: Another day, another Colts’ second-half implosion; what, you were expecting something new?

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) is tackled by the Tennessee Titans defense during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - By now, the Colts are more scripted than a professional wrestling match. Among life’s eternal verities, there are these: Death, taxes and a Colts’ blown lead in the second half, or more specifically, in the fourth quarter. They’ve had five fourth-quarter leads this season; they’ve lost them all, adding to the litany of woe Sunday by finding a way to lose to the Tennessee Titans, 20-16.

Here’s the only mind-numbing statistic you need to know: The going-nowhere Colts have been outscored 117-28 in fourth quarters this season. The minute they grab a lead, and they almost always grab a lead, a cloud of impending doom envelopes this mentally-fragile collection of players, an internal sense that what can go wrong, will go wrong.

Oh, I lied. Here’s another statistic for your perusal: The Colts have led by double digits in the second half seven times this season. They’ve won just three of those times.


“It’s kind of the same thing over and over and over; it’s on us,’’ safety Darius Butler said. “I can think of two games where a team came in and just kicked our ass. But outside of that, it’s been things that we have let happen, usually in the second half…It’s one thing if you’re a team where you’re just not good enough to win; you don’t have the players, you don’t have the coaches, you don’t have the scheme. That’s one thing. But we’re obviously good enough to play with any team…’’

And lose to any team.

This particular Sunday, the now-inevitable mistake came when Marlon Mack fumbled a basic pitchout from Jacoby Brissett with the Colts leading 16-6 and playing extraordinary defensive football. He exacerbated the problem by failing to fully commit to the recovery – I’m being nice here -- making way for Titans defenders who eventually grabbed the ball and, not shockingly, grabbed control of the game. (Note to fans: The play call was fine. It was a pitchout, for crying out loud, not a flea flicker).

“I just took my eye off it (the pitchout) for a second,’’ Mack said quietly. “It’s a tough pill to swallow.’’

It’s always something, isn’t it? One play later, Marcus Mariota found Delanie Walker from two yards out and the inevitable collapse was on.

Thing is, with a good team, this doesn’t have to turn into a full-scale collapse. A good team recovers. A good team is resilient. A good team gets the ball back and manages some first downs and re-asserts itself. The Colts, well, are not a good team. And we see it week after brain-crushing week. Why are they so awful in the fourth quarter? It’s not a lack of desire, or fitness, or coaching acumen. It’s this: The longer a game goes on, the more a team’s flaws are revealed.

And these Colts, man, they have some flaws. Not to mention the fact they turn to mental mush at the first sign of adversity. Game after game after game…it’s Groundhog Day, same script, same movie, same ending. I want to see a new movie. Desperately.

“You’ve got to be able to overcome it (the Mack fumble),’’ Chuck Pagano said. “It’s a (crappy) thing for that kid; excuse my language. The kid works really hard and it’s unfortunate. They go in and score and it stinks for him. But you’ve got to be able to overcome. You still have the lead. You’ve got to be able to answer and fight through adversity.’’

Once again, the offense went stagnant after an early-third-quarter field goal that gave them the uncomfortable 16-3 lead. After that…fumble. Punt. Punt. Punt. Ballgame. Yeah, it hurt losing center Ryan Kelly to a concussion. But good teams overcome. Good teams know how to pick up and take advantage of the blitz, which has confounded this team for six years now. Good teams overcome truly awful officiating calls, like T.Y. Hilton’s patty-cake block in the back in the third quarter. Good teams get production from people like Donte Moncrief, who made one amazing catch early and then disappeared, making a less-than-Herculean effort on at least one throw, then seizing up on a would-be touchdown throw when appeared to have been held. Good teams don’t end up like a puddle on the floor.

This just in off the news ticker: The Colts are not a good team.

“Same old song,’’ Butler said. “It’s just frustrating.’’

And Brissett, yes, he’s been a revelation, establishing himself as a very capable backup in the 10 games he’s started for the Colts. But that’s the thing: He’s a backup. Not a starter…a backup. And he’s a backup who isn’t getting a whole lot of help, specifically from his offensive line, which surrendered eight sacks – some of which were his fault, to be fair. The good news is, general manager Chris Ballard is watching all of this, and Ballard generally seems like a pretty sharp executive. He knows – please, he has to know – that building this offensive line must be Job One this offseason. Through the draft, through free agency, whatever.

Andrew Luck cannot return to the lineup and be subjected to an offensive line that still leads in the NFL in sacks allowed. We’ve played that game before, and it’s darned near gotten Luck killed.

Meanwhile, the defense, which played lights-out football for most of the game and grabbed two interceptions, began reeling. Fatigue? Maybe, although at least one player, Al Woods, looked at me disapprovingly when I wondered if fatigue was a problem given the offensive brownout. “Just a matter of finishing,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what matters.’’ After two-plus quarters of excellence – Tennessee ran for nine yards on 11 first-half carries – running back Derrick Henry began the onslaught, the Titans driving 77 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Then, when the Titans got the ball back after yet another Colts punt, they played keep-away, finishing the game in the Victory formation down at the Indy 11-yard line.

Close games like these, they come down to mistakes and they come down to the red zone. Again, the Colts, the worst red-zone team in the league, failed miserably the closer they got to the end zone, finishing 1-of-4 in red-zone efficiency.

“It’s killing us. It’s killing us,’’ Pagano said. “…Let people hang around and see what happens.’’

With about five, six minutes left, the stands emptied out, a diaspora of impending doom. Why should they have any faith at this point? The Colts get up, the Colts get down, and then they stay down like a fighter with a glass jaw. The score was just 20-16. But you knew – they knew – it was a fait accompli.

So it goes, and keeps going, in what has been, from start to finish, a lost season.

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