When the Colts were ousted from the 2008 playoffs, their inability to convert a third-and-short was the root cause. Had they converted it in San Diego, they could have iced the game and advanced.
Super Bowl XLIV included a similar play, though not at such a crucial or obvious time.
Superb in the last two minutes of the first half all season, the Colts went a little conservative -- uncharacteristically -- on Sunday night.
On a third-and-1 from their own 10-yard line, they ran Mike Hart up the middle for no gain and punted. The Saints managed a field goal before the half, cutting Indy’s lead at intermission to 10-6.
Bill Polian ranked the failed run conversion with the onside kick as the moments that turned the game.
"The onside kick was the turning point, and along with that, not being able to get a yard on third-and-1 is what really cost us. Polian told Peter King. "Those were two plays in our control, and we didn't make them. Today, they were the better team. They deserved to win.''
Two years, two third-and-shorts, two failed conversions.
This leads to a somewhat obvious conclusion:
As the Howard Mudd era ends, the Colts need to rethink their offensive line approach as Pete Metzelaars takes over as the line coach. Smart pass protectors will still be at a premium, but there needs to be more physical play, particularly on the edges. Charlie Johnson did admirable work as the left tackle once the team gave up on Tony Ugoh, and Ryan Diem is a solid guy and quality player at right tackle, but could the Colts upgrade?
The need to draft offensive linemen, allow for training camp competition and be better at the run efficiency they like to talk about. Joseph Addai showed in the Super Bowl he can still run quite well. Donald Brown is promising.
In 2010, when the Colts face the crucial third-and-short, they’ve got to convert it.