The Indianapolis Colts were really close to pulling off the upset in the Wild Card weekend's first game. They had some moments of brilliance, but ultimately, they fell 27-24 against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday afternoon.
Indy had several opportunities. Before halftime, quarterback Philip Rivers led the offense to the Buffalo one-yard line. They called an outside the numbers run play, which knocked them back three yards. Head coach Frank Reich was aggressive and went for it. Rivers barely missed receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and they turned it over.
Rivers said last Tuesday that their plan was clear.
"It's going to be situational football, scored touchdowns in the red zone, converted third down and taken care of the football," explained Rivers. "Well, we took care of the football. We were 53% on third down, which is a win, but we didn't score in the red zone. That was obviously the difference in the game."
After that missed opportunity, the Bills went on a 17-0 run. The Colts missed a chip shot field goal in between that would later cost them. It wasn't until early in the fourth quarter that the Colts got back into the end zone with a Rivers pass to Zach Pascal.
Indy moved quickly, racking up yards after a Bills field goal. Rivers hit a wide-open Jack Doyle for the 27-yard touchdown. The Colts would get the ball back, but the game would end with a Rivers failed Hail Mary.
The Colts are now out of the playoffs. So, the real question is, what does the future hold for Philip Rivers?
"It's not that easy," said the veteran quarterback. "I don't go this route with an answer often, but I think this probably sums it up. Whatever God's will is for me and my family, if it's here, in Indy playing another year, then we'll be here. If it's not, I'll be on a sideline somewhere. I know where I'll be on the sidelines ballcap coaching the heck out of a high school football team down in South Alabama."
Once Rivers' professional career is over, he will take over as the head coach of St. Michael's football program in South Alabama. Since playing quarterback for the Chargers, his dream is to coach his son, Gunner, in high school football. He is still a couple of years from entering high school.
Rivers knows that the pain of the missed opportunities from Sunday will hurt for the next few weeks.
"It just feels weird," said Rivers. "Then when next Saturday and Sunday rolls around, it kind of reopens the wound. Then when the next Saturday or next Sunday championship weekend rolls around and reopens it. Then when the Super Bowl rolls around, it reopens it. I always look forward to the Monday after the Super Bowl when, if I am playing again, everybody's going 0-0 again."
"If I am playing."
It seems like Rivers wants to play. It seems like he only wants to play for the Colts.
"I think under these circumstances I know personally for me to develop the type of bond and camaraderie that we had it was pretty special for sure," said Rivers with tears in his eyes. "All the protocols and not being here till August it was a heck of a team to be a part of so certainly disappointing finish like this when you just believe is the year. I think that's the competitor in me I've never not believed it was the year."
Yes, this year has been challenging for many reasons, but for the veteran quarterback, it was truly strange. He was on a new team, with new teammates, and during a pandemic. All that adversity, and he was able to get his team to an 11-5 record and was neck in neck against one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league.
Rivers will turn 40 by the time next season starts. They have some free agents they need to take care of, like receiver T.Y Hilton, linebacker Darius Leonard (final year of his contract), and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. They have some cap space and are a team that drafts well.
All they need is a quarterback.
Why not bring back a quarterback who bounced back last season by completing 68 percent of his passes, threw for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. Saturday showed the veteran quarterback has something left in the tank. He may have to take a pay cut, but why not?
His head coach, Frank Reich, wants him back.
“As I sit here today right now, yes, I want Philip Rivers to be my starting quarterback next year,’’ he said on a Sunday Zoom conference call.
It is simple. Run it back.
For now, the veteran quarterback will sit down with his family and talk things over while waiting to see if his new team wants to run it back.
"Is it more emotional cause it's your 17th year, and you're about to be 40, and you're not sure if you walked up your last tunnel? Yeah, it's more," said Rivers. "But it was a heck of a fun season. There's zero regret and moving to Indiana. Shoot, to play for this franchise and having a chance to meet a bunch of new guys that I'll keep a relationship with. We fell short today, but I'll walk out of here with my head held high."