Matt Ryan, who is back, and new coach Jeff Saturday help the Colts win
Jeff Saturday began with phone calls to his wife and kid in Georgia, followed by a webcast of his regular church service before he sorted through the numerous texts of support he had received.
The newly appointed Indianapolis Colts interim head coach experienced an odd sense of peace about his debut by the time he left for Allegiant Stadium in the middle of the morning on Sunday.
In all honesty and sincerity, he admitted, “I felt really at ease.”
With Saturday resigned to accept any outcome, the Colts went out and made him 1-0 as a head coach with a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders that brought them to 4-5-1 and gave Saturday some much-needed credibility with a locker room full of players and a coaching staff that had been completely taken by surprise by his stunning hiring six days earlier.
Saturday assumed the position despite never having held a coaching position beyond high school football after owner Jim Irsay sacked Frank Reich on Monday. It was a risky move that was widely condemned.
The victory also provided the Colts with some relief after a trying few days, even though they still have seven games left, including one against the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.
Afterward, Saturday stated, “I told the boys just all three phases was a fantastic team effort.” These folks have experienced it. I spoke with the staff, the coaches, and the players about the tenacity they displayed and the manner in which they performed today. Today, they laid everything out there. And I simply cannot express how much I appreciate those men and the way they played.
“Everyone on offense, defense, and obviously the special teams came together, and it’s a tremendous moment for all of those guys,” said one of the players. And I gave each of them a hearty tip. Just being a part of it is an honor.
A late play would determine the game, as Saturday pleaded with his new players to be prepared. His prediction came to pass.
Cornerback With 52 seconds remaining, Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, stopped Raiders All-Pro receiver Davante Adams in the end zone on a fourth-down pass to secure the victory.
They needed to keep going, I just kept telling them, guy,” Saturday added. “The final play will decide the outcome, I continued. The NFL has a history of this. And finally, the one who puts forth the most effort prevails. And there, in the final moments, we made a couple of magnificent plays.”
This week, the Colts had to quickly restructure their coaching staff, with Saturday giving the offensive assistants, including first-time play-caller Parks Frazier, the most of the intricate work. The unexpected return of quarterback Matt Ryan, who the team had previously announced would be benched for the rest of the season, provided perhaps the largest boost.
Ryan took over for Sam Ehlinger at the beginning of the game and completed 21 of his 28 passes for 222 yards. In his first game after a three-week absence, he also scored on the ground.
Regarding the decision to reinstall Ryan as the starter, Saturday claimed that his observations from practice this past week had persuaded him that it was the appropriate decision.
In regards to the adjustment, he remarked, “I wanted to speak with the employees on Friday afternoon, but I knew what I was going to do.” “Matt provided us the best chance to win, in my opinion, and I knew that everyone was on board. The talk I had with Sam, a true professional, made me realize how much respect I have for the young man, his conduct, and the kind of teammate he is.”
Jonathan Taylor, an All-Pro running back who recovered from an ankle injury to rush for 147 yards and score a 66-yard touchdown, was an extra bonus. Taylor’s previous longest carry was 67 yards in Week 15 of the 2021 campaign.