CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Jacoby Brissett’s cool, collected performance in the season opener showed why the Indianapolis Colts are confident they can thrive without Andrew Luck.
Brissett only lamented his meager mistakes and the fact he never got a chance to make up for them in overtime.
The loss had little to do with Brissett, who executed almost every assignment in coach Frank Reich’s game plan splendidly.
“He was in complete control,” Reich said of his quarterback. “He was poised. He knew what he wanted, and he made it work.”
Brissett went 21 of 27 and didn’t make a turnover while leading the Indy offense to 376 yards and rallying it back from a 15-point deficit. He managed the Colts’ 16-play, 80-yard tying drive in the fourth quarter, going 4 of 5 and notably hitting Devin Funchess with a fourth-and-3 pass near midfield to keep the march alive.
Brissett eventually hit T.Y. Hilton with a short pass that the receiver turned into a 19-yard touchdown with 38 seconds to play. Brissett then handed off on the successful 2-point conversion to Marlon Mack, whose 174 yards rushing were the most by an Indianapolis player in 15 years.
“He was great,” Reich said of Brissett in the final drive. “He had no heartbeat. It was steady. Very poised.”
But Brissett, Mack and Hilton never got back on the field. The Chargers won the overtime coin toss and drove 80 yards for a clinching touchdown.
“What did we (call), heads?” Brissett said with a grin. “We wanted it to be heads. We had the momentum. And unfortunately we didn’t get another chance.”
Brissett credited his cool in this high-profile start to “meditation,” saying he does it “on the bus, the bathroom, wherever I can.”
The Colts had already thought long and hard about Brissett’s ability to replace one of the best quarterbacks of the past decade, and they’re even more confident they’ll be fine.
Indianapolis’ plans for the franchise changed abruptly when Luck announced his retirement last month, unable to continue his comeback from a succession of injuries. The four-time Pro Bowl selection walked away and left the team to Brissett, who started 15 straight games for Indianapolis during the miserable 2017 season while Luck was out with a shoulder injury.
Brissett also started two games for New England as a rookie in 2016. This loss dropped him to 5-13 as an NFL starter, but these Colts are much better than the 2017 version. His teammates are confident he’ll start adding to his win column shortly.
“It’s nothing that I didn’t expect from him,” tight end Eric Ebron said. “He should have that confidence. He should have that swagger, because he played great. The cast around him made some mistakes, but we’ll continue to grow with him.”
Brissett showed his own determination to win the job that’s been handed to him when he agreed to a reported two-year, $30 million deal last week to stay with the Colts. Brissett said he negotiated his own deal, which could turn out to be quite cost-effective for the Colts if Brissett remains as good as he looked Sunday.
Although Brissett was determined to deflect any personal praise after a loss, he struggled to find faults in his game. He lamented his fumble when he mishandled a first-down snap in the second quarter, even though he recovered it himself.
One of his prettiest throws was an incompletion: Brissett threw a beautiful fade to Funchess in the corner of the end zone with 48 seconds left, but Funchess landed out of bounds and injured himself.
Brissett attempted just four passes last season behind Luck, but he jumped right back into the regular-season flow. He hit Hilton for his first TD pass since December 2017 in the second quarter.
“We did (things) to ourselves to put ourselves in that situation,” Brissett said. “Toward the end, we cleaned a lot of that up, and you saw the results. … Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great team, but we did it to ourselves.”