It was as clear as day on the face of quarterback
"Disappointed," Stafford said with dejected look on his face. "I mean, obviously you show up every Sunday expecting to win and played a lot of parts of this game well enough to do that. Just for some reason … one reason or another it didn't happen."
The Colts converted a 14-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with no time left on the clock to secure a 35-33 come-from-behind victory that all but ends the Lions' playoff chances.
It was the same story, just a different week for the Lions (4-8), who have struggled all season to win close games.
In nine contests decided by a single score, the Lions entered Sunday's game vs. Indianapolis with a 3-6 record.
It's a couple plays here or there in those close games that ultimately decide the outcome and the Lions simply haven't found ways to make enough plays in those games.
It was the same story Sunday.
"We had a chance to make two interceptions to get off the field on that last drive - we had the ball in our hand twice," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "We have to make those. It's the NFL and you have to make it and you don't have very many opportunities to make it if you don't."
Following a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck to receiver LaVon Brazill with 2:39 left in the game that trimmed the Lions lead to 33-28, the Lions offense had a chance to ice the game with a first down and could not. That gave the ball back to Luck and his heroics ensued.
Schwartz decided to run the ball on third down to take 40 seconds off the clock instead of going for the win on 3rd-and-5. Running back
"They're out of timeouts, we can burn the clock all the way down to a minute and 20 in that situation," Schwartz said. "You saw the way the time was at the end of that game. We did a poor job of managing it after that, but that was the right decision at that point.
"We were still trying to get a first down. They were loading up pressure inside, we were trying to get on the outside of it. That had nothing to do with it. That's the right decision to make right there. It's after that that we didn't get the job done."
The Lions followed that up with a poor punt and the defense couldn't make a stop.
The defense then allowed an 11-play, 75-yard drive in the final possession of the game that was capped off by that 14-yard touchdown pass from Luck to Donnie Avery with no time left on the clock. Luck scrambled right on the game's final play and found a wide-open Avery on a crossing route. The Lions simply lost track of Avery.
"You have to do the little things as a team and you have to carry that to the field," cornerback
Yet again, the Lions also couldn't take advantage of another good performance from receiver
Johnson continued his torrid pace at the record books with 13 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. He tied an NFL record set by former Lions Pat Studstill in 1966 with his fifth-consecutive game of at least 125 yards receiving.
He is now ahead of Jerry Rice's pace through 12 games when he set the single-season record with 1,848 receiving yards in 1995. Johnson has 1,428 yards this season.
Stafford was sharp, too, completing 27-of-46 passes for 313 yards with two touchdowns, to Johnson and tight end
The stunning loss is the fourth-straight for the Lions and all but likely ends their playoff chances.
"It comes down to what we've been saying after all of our losses," center
Running back Mikel Leshoure scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season and
Luck looked like a rookie at times, but made the plays he needed to in the end. The Colts are 7-1 in one-possession games this season and Luck finished 24-of-54 for 391 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Lions now look to snap a four-game skid in the NFC North when they travel to Green Bay to play the Packers in prime time Sunday night.
Even in defeat, players showed a united front in the locker room. With the playoffs now out of reach, we'll get a good look at the character of both players and coaches over this final month.