INDIANAPOLIS – Less than 24 hours after the Colts lost to the Steelers on Monday Night Football, interim coach Jeff Saturday had an admission to make: The final minute didn't go as he was hoping for either.
And he's pointing the finger at himself for the third-and-3 play where Jonathan Taylor was stuffed in the backfield.
"I wish I had that third down back, in all honesty," Saturday said. "I wish I'd used a timeout."
The Colts lost 24-17 in another game they attempted to win with a fourth-quarter comeback drive. They had a chance after Matt Ryan turned a second-and-17 into a third-and-3 on a scramble up the middle with 51 seconds left. As he was sprinting up the field, Saturday and offensive coordinator Parks Frazier had talked through a third-and-short call that would play on tempo and try to catch the Steelers off-guard with an inside-zone handoff to Taylor.
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They could afford the maneuver because they had three timeouts left and were in more of a battle with downs than the clock. The hurry-up formation forced the Steelers to remain in their dime personnel, but it also limited the formations the Colts could choose. The one they did tipped off Steelers defensive end Alex Highsmith, who had time to get set with Parris Campbell flipping to the opposite side of the formation, allowing 17 seconds to run off the clock. Highsmith shot inside a Jelani Woods block to slam Taylor down in the backfield.
"We had had several tempo runs throughout the game that we felt had been successful," Frazier said. "Because of the personnel on second-and-long, we had some miscommunication in there and we lost the element of surprise in getting lined up."
After the game ended with a Matt Ryan heave into double coverage on fourth down, Saturday reviewed the film and realized he could have used the timeouts as a pause for the offense. He finished the game with two unused timeouts.
"From a time perspective, I felt good, but you could tell we were in disarray," Saturday said. "I just didn't have a great feel. Parks made a great call. I still like the call. I told him to have one ready, and as soon as he went down, we had the call in place. But then we had the formation with personnel, guys running across.
"Looking back, it was a learning experience. I didn't meet my expectations. I hold the guys accountable. I'm accountable for that. That's the one that's going to stick with me. ... You hate to say it, but it's execution, and that one's on me."
Saturday and Frazier are in new roles, thrown into them in the middle of the season. Saturday had never been a college or NFL coach until the Colts brought him in as the interim head coach to replace a fired Frank Reich. Frazier had never called plays at any level until Saturday offered him the job that week.
They've had a mixed bag in three games together, with one successful game-winning drive to beat the 4-7 Raiders, a one-point loss to the 10-1 Eagles and then Monday night's loss to the 4-7 Steelers.
A former 13-year center for the Colts, Saturday said he learned accountability from his coaches, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, and it's something he's leaning on as he grows in the interim role.
"I'm not concerned about what goes on outside. But inside, I want to make sure that everybody feels that you own whatever your portion is," Saturday said. "Everybody has a role. In that moment and in that role, I just feel that I should have done something different. I'm going to always say that. Hopefully, that's part of earning the trust of this football team and earning the trust of this organization as a whole."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday on missed timeout against Steelers