MINNEAPOLIS — Zaire Franklin stood in the midst of a stunned locker room and tried to make sense of an unprecedented situation.
Despite his best efforts, the Colts linebacker failed.
“You give it literally everything you have, you’ve been through a whole lot of adversity,” he said. “We’ve been hearing everybody talk about us like we’re a punchline and we took that very personal … For the game to go the way it did at the end, it’s definitely a tough, tough pill to swallow.”
That was Franklin trying to put the biggest blown lead in NFL history into perspective as the Colts suffered yet another historic loss in what’s becoming a pattern for the struggling team.
Indianapolis blew a 33-0 halftime lead before losing 39-36 in overtime in one the most inexplicable defeats the NFL has seen. The loss was the Colts’ seventh in eight games, dropping a team that started the season 3-2-1 to 4-9-1.
This felt like rock bottom for a team that has been struggling for most of the season.
“A heartbreaking loss,” interim coach Jeff Saturday called it.
The Vikings finished on a 36-3 run with the Colts failing to mount an offensive threat throughout the second half, when they crossed midfield just once in nine possessions spanning the 40 minutes between the third and fourth quarters and overtime.
“I’ve played in this league a long time to know that a lot of different things can happen,” said Colts quarterback Matt Ryan, who also was on the wrong end of a 28-3 comeback in the Patriots’ win over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. “Anything can happen. You just have to keep your head down and keep going and find ways to make plays when they present themselves. It’s not much. It’s a handful of plays in a game. It’s three or four plays from an offensive perspective that we’ve got to find ways to execute, and it’s a win. We just didn’t make them.”
All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson kept it simple, lamenting the Colts’ inability to generate any sustainable offense for most of the game. The team scored just one offensive touchdown, settling for five field goals while getting touchdowns via a blocked punt and an interception return.
“It’s bad,” Nelson said. “I mean, we all need to be a lot better. Just one drive, score one touchdown and help put the game away when they’re scoring touchdowns and coming back. If we march down the field and a score touchdown, that changes the game.”
But the Colts defense played a role, too, with Vikings running back Dalvin Cook rumbling to a 64-yard game-tying touchdown. That was one of four plays by Minnesota of 35 yards or longer.
The loss was the latest bit of history made by the Colts. In their previous game, the Colts yielded a club-record 33 points in the fourth quarter — just the third time in NFL history a team has scored that many points in a fourth quarter.
In Week 9, the Colts produced one of the worst offensive performances in team history, their 121 total yards the team’s fewest since 1997. The Colts went 0 for 14 on third downs in that game and coach Frank Reich was fired the following day.