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Wentzday: Colts’ QB Lights Up Texans’ Defense

It wasn’t his most efficient day, but Carson Wentz showed off his ability to throw it deep on a day filled with explosive plays for the Colts’ offense. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)

Since the day he was hired to be the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Reich has preached about his desire to have an explosive offense.

Having the ability to generate long gains on the ground or through the air takes the pressure off of the offense, not having to rely on 10-play plus drives to get scores. It also puts pressure on opposing defenses, knowing that at any point a big play can happen.

The Colts have playmakers at running back in Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines that can break out long runs at any time. However, the Colts have been looking for a quarterback to bring back the explosive element in the passing game since Andrew Luck retired.

Enter Carson Wentz. The Colts quarterback finished Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans 11-of-20 (55%) for 223 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t his most efficient game, but the explosiveness was on full display as Wentz averaged 20.3 yards(!) per completion and 11.15 yards per attempt.

Wentzday is back on Horseshoe Huddle as we look at Wentz’s Week 6 performance, leading to a 31-3 win over a divisional opponent. The film revealed exactly why the Colts were so excited to get a quarterback with Wentz’s strengths and big-play ability back in February.

T.Y. Hilton’s Spark

Week 6 marked the return of T.Y. Hilton to the Colts’ offense, and the wide receiver’s impact was felt right away. We said before the season that Hilton could be in line for a big year as his strengths matched that of Wentz. Looks like we could be right.

The first clip shows all of the plays from Wentz to Hilton on Sunday, starting with the very first play of the game. The Colts used Hilton all over the field and on various routes, having success on all of them.

The highlight is obviously the 52-yard bomb from Wentz to Hilton on the deep post. The Texans gave a Cover-2 look (two deep safeties each covering half of the field), and Hilton streaks right by them. Colts fans can be very encouraged by what is already transpiring between #2 and #13.

Explosive Touchdowns

Through the first four weeks of the season, the deep ball and explosive passing game that we were expecting from this offense just weren’t there. Over the last two weeks, however, we are starting to see the offense the Colts envisioned when they traded for Wentz.

Both of Wentz’s touchdowns on Sunday came on plays longer than 25 yards. This first clip is a fantastic high-low concept with wide receivers Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. Campbell runs a deep post and Pittman a deep crosser, leaving the safety to choose who to follow. The safety starts to follow Pittman for just a second, and Wentz pounces by dropping it right into the bucket to Campbell.

Unfortunately, due to Campbell’s injury on the play, this may be the last time we see the Wentz to Campbell connection this season.

The second touchdown is a perfectly placed ball by Wentz to tight end Mo Alie-Cox. The Texans are in Cover-2 once again, leaving an open patch of field between the cornerback in the flat and the deep safety. Alie-Cox runs right to the open spot and gets the easy touchdown.

We’re also seeing more play-action from the Colts. Both of Wentz’s touchdowns came off play-action fakes. With Taylor running the ball as he has been lately, defenses have to play honest and Wentz is making them pay.

More Chunk Plays

The chunk plays didn’t stop with the touchdown throws. Wentz has been getting more time to throw and thus has hit some of the longer developing routes. Credit to the offensive line for stepping up their level of play from earlier in the season.

This clip shows a couple of nice sideline throws by Wentz to Pittman and Alie-Cox. Wentz drops and takes his time, stays in rhythm, and delivers accurate balls on all of these. The last throw to Alie-Cox is a dime right into his hands, but he just flat out drops the would-be touchdown.

The fact that the Colts are incorporating more chunk plays into their game plan is three-fold.

First, as mentioned previously, the Colts’ offensive line is playing better and not giving up as much pressure. Second, Wentz is getting healthier and it is allowing him to deliver the ball down the field more. Third, the success of Taylor over the last few weeks (now fifth in the NFL with 472 yards rushing) cannot be ignored by defenses.

The evolution of the Colts’ offense is happening right before our eyes.

Getting Rid of the Ball

Wentz was sacked another two times by the Texans, bringing his season total to 14. This was probably his worst flaw in this game, as the film revealed they probably could have been avoided.

The next clip shows both sacks from Sunday. Wentz sees the first one coming quickly, but chooses not to throw the ball away or to his check down in the flat. The second sack is a long-developing play, so it isn’t surprising to see Wentz go down here. However, the All-22 clip at the end shows that he has Alie-Cox as a check down but holds on too long trying to hit the big play.

This is going to be a weekly issue with Wentz. He’s a guy that will always be looking to hit the big play, leading to the ball being held onto for too long at times. The key is to find a balance where trying to hit the big play doesn’t turn into taking unnecessary hits and sacks.

Final Assessment

This is the second week in a row where we have seen Wentz have a very good game. Pro Football Focus gave Wentz a grade of 94.1, making him the highest-graded offensive player for Week 6 and also the highest single-game grade they have ever given him.

Now that Wentz is fully healthy, we needed to see him start stacking good performances on top of each other. He is doing that now, and the Colts’ offense is starting to transform into one that can produce explosive plays at any time. As Wentz gets more acclimated with his teammates, especially Hilton, this could become the norm and something the Colts hope to see much more of as the season rolls along.

Week 7 brings about the San Francisco 49ers as the Colts travel to Levi’s Stadium to play on Sunday Night Football. The 49ers boast a very formidable defensive line with the likes of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, as well as linebacker Fred Warner roaming the middle.

For the Colts, there is a chance that All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith could return from injury this week, giving Wentz more reinforcements up front. For Wentz, he will need to continue to show poise in the pocket and make quick and decisive reads. If the offensive line can give him time, the explosive plays could continue next week for Wentz and this Colts offense.

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