Saturday now wishes I had used the late timeout

Saturday now wishes I had used the late timeout

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday, reversing his Monday night postgame comments, said Tuesday he regretted the team’s handling of a late-game scenario during a 24-17 loss to the Steelers.

Saturday refused to call a timeout before a key third play, opting to stick with a pre-determined play call the team had dialed. The Colts hoped to catch up with the Steelers in a group of suboptimal personnel who would have given themselves an advantage.

In the end, the Colts struggled to line up quickly, allowing the clock to tick and giving the Steelers a chance to regroup. Pittsburgh stuffed running back Jonathan Taylor scoreless on third and third plays from the 26-yard line with 30 seconds left.

“I would have liked to have had that third down and, in all honesty, I would have liked to use the time out,” Saturday said. “Just watching it on film…timewise, I felt good. But you could tell we were in total disarray. I just didn’t have a good feeling.”

Part of that disarray, Saturday said, was the reality that the third play call was forcing wide receivers to line up in different spots than the previous game. By the time this was settled, the game clock was ticking.

The whole situation put Saturday and newcomer Parks Frazier under a microscope as both men entered their third games in their new roles. Former coach Frank Reich, who was fired last month, was previously the Colts’ point guard.

“It’s a learning experience,” said Saturday.

The Colts still had their three timeouts before the third down. With the Colts trailing by seven, the ball was snapped with 34 seconds left. That means 25 seconds passed between the previous snap and when the Colts moved to break the ball on third down. This was not what the team had in mind. The intention, said on Saturday, was to play with a faster pace in this situation to take advantage of the possibly off guard defense.

“It’s on me [not] understanding, what personnel are in the game, what formations we were in and the guys returning to their natural positions where they’re going to line up.

“I was like, ‘Man, let’s go real quick. Keep ’em on their heels with no substitutions.’ … I thought we had the advantage, but unfortunately we should have hit time out, given us our best game, the best opportunity.”

“I wish I had that third back and, in all honesty, I wish I had used the time out. Just watching it on film…timewise, I felt good. But we I could tell we were in complete disarray. I just didn’t have a good feeling.”

jeff saturday

Among the Colts’ concerns was that the Steelers risked moving to a heavier personnel group for the short-range situation. On the previous game, a second and 17, the Steelers were in a pass defense posture, dropping six men in coverage.

But the long delay between snaps allowed the Steelers to regroup and, it seems, get a good read of the Colts’ intentions. Pittsburgh outside linebacker Alex Highsmith said he could sense from the Colts’ lineup that the play was likely to be a run. As soon as the ball was broken, Highsmith rushed inside, never trying to dash around the edge. The unexpected inside move surprised rookie tight end Jelani Woods, allowing Highsmith to easily tackle Taylor.

The Colts attempted a pass to Parris Campbell on incomplete fourth down, and the Steelers took possession and ran out of time.

Other factors apart from a failed timeout appeal also affected the situation. Quarterback Matt Ryan’s decision to surrender on second down didn’t help. Ryan ingeniously escaped the pocket and rushed for 14 yards. But he dived before the first down rather than face two defenders in front of him. If the Colts had completed a first down on the game, they almost certainly would have called a timeout and proceeded differently.

The Colts players themselves could also have used more of a sense of urgency on final possession. A lack of focus may have contributed to the “disarray” Saturday observed while watching the film.

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