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Wentzday: Colts’ QB Starts Fast, Ends Tragically in Loss to Titans

Carson Wentz was on his way to a signature win early but couldn’t make the plays when they mattered most as the Colts dropped to 3-5. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)

Sunday was an absolute rollercoaster for the Indianapolis Colts, and not in a fun way.

After going up 14-0 over the rival Tennessee Titans, it looked like the Colts were on their way to winning their most important game of the season. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long.

The Titans eventually climbed back into it, and a back and forth game filled with incredible highs and deep lows came to a catastrophic end for the Colts. Titans’ kicker Randy Bullock drilled a 44-yard field goal in overtime to give the Titans the win, 34-31. The loss brings the Colts to 3-5, shattering the hopes of a division title and drastically hurting the chances of a playoff berth.

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons for this loss sits on the shoulders of quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz’s final stat line was a pedestrian 27-of-51 (52.9%) for 231 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Wentz also ran it three times for 11 yards in the loss.

“Wentzday” on Horseshoe Huddle is a day early this week due to the Colts playing on Thursday night – and to get the bad taste out of our mouths from the excruciating loss. We’ll take a look at the encouraging start from Wentz, to the terrible interceptions that helped lead to the Colts’ demise and everything in between. Buckle up.

Hot Start

The Colts quickly got out to a 14-0 lead on Sunday, and the offense was rolling. Wentz tried to get the ball into the hands of running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. early, and it led to great success.

The first clip today is from the first touchdown from Wentz to Pittman. Wentz does a good job here of going through his reads, subtly sliding to the left when he feels pressure from the right, and then delivers a beautiful sidearm throw to Pittman in the back of the end zone on fourth down. Not many people have that type of accuracy while sliding left and throwing sidearm.

The second touchdown below is an easy one. The Colts get the ball back inside the 10-yard line after cornerback Kenny Moore II’s interception. Wentz has all day to throw because of the great protection from the Colts’ offensive line and hits Pittman in stride. The pass protection by the offensive line was very good for most of the game and gave Wentz the chance to make plays.

The fast start from the Colts’ offense made it seem like the Colts were on their way to a convincing win. Unfortunately, that did not last.

Short Game Success

Wentz once again had success on short routes where he could make quick decisions and get the ball into his playmakers’ hands quickly.

The Colts had plenty of success with running back screens throughout the game. When you have Taylor and running back Nyheim Hines in the backfield, you have two dangerous weapons in the passing game that can take short throws for huge gains. It would be nice to see Wentz look their way more often.

The RPO game continued to be effective this week as well. This was something I thought Wentz could excel at coming into this season, and the Colts are gradually making it a more prevalent part of their offense. Wentz’s ball-handling and execution on RPO’s have generated a lot of yards and conversions for Indy.

These types of plays just make it simple for the offense to execute and pick up yards, or in the case of tight end Jack Doyle, walk-in touchdowns. It also helps Wentz get into a rhythm and keep the confidence of the offense up as a whole.

The Lone Sack

Each week we look at the sacks on Wentz as one of his biggest criticisms coming into the year was he takes unnecessary sacks. That has been the case some weeks, but this is not one of them.

Wentz was only sacked once by the Titans, bringing his season total to 16 through eight games. The clip below shows that right guard Mark Glowinski completely misses the stunt run by the Titans’ defensive line, and it allows edge rusher, Harold Landry, a free lane to Wentz.

Glowinski has been the starter at right guard since 2018 but only played four snaps on Sunday due to the emergence of Chris Reed. With Glow in a contract year, and Reed playing great ball, it seems his days in the starting lineup are numbered as the Colts look to the future.

The Collapse

We’re now to the ugly part of the film review.

Once the fourth quarter began, it was as if a switch flipped, and we started seeing the worst version of Carson Wentz. Wentz began to hold onto the ball too long, sail his throws high, and make bad decisions with the football. And we’re going to look at the two worst decisions.

Wentz’s first interception is on a tight end screen to the right, where Mo Alie-Cox starts to block but then turns for the ball. However, Landry sees the play developing and doesn’t continue his rush. At this point, Wentz thinks about throwing it in the dirt but pulls it back as two Titans defenders converge. Hero-ball Wentz takes over and tries to launch it with his left hand, but it’s intercepted by cornerback Elijah Molden for the touchdown.

A lot of things wrong with this play. Head coach Frank Reich should not be calling a tight end screen backed up against his own goal line. Wentz also needs to kill the play before it ever gets to the point where he has to try and switch hands. It looks like he starts to do so, but pulls back when he sees center Ryan Kelly walk in front of Alie-Cox. Poor play call, poor execution.

The next interception is just as bad. The Colts are at their own 27-yard line on first down. Wentz has Taylor and Alie-Cox as checkdowns, but he is locked on Pittman from the start. He telegraphs where he is going with the ball and it is intercepted by safety Kevin Byard.

Wentz is a veteran quarterback who knows not to lock onto his receivers. If he goes through his reads as he did earlier in the game, he probably dumps it off to Taylor, who has space to pick up at least 15 yards. Poor execution, and ultimately the dagger for the Colts.

Final Assessment

This was by far Wentz’s worst game of 2021. He started out hot and looked like he was going to lead the Colts back into the race for the division. By the game’s end, he was receiving the most criticism since he came to Indy.

Sunday was a roller coaster for Wentz and the Colts. We saw what the offense could look like when Wentz is playing winning football. We also saw what happens when the hero-ball mentality takes over for Wentz and he tries to do too much with the football.

The decision-making Wentz displayed in crunch time was very disappointing, especially in such a big game. The questions surrounding Wentz and his long-term future in Indianapolis will continue to swirl until he proves he can lead the Colts to victory against the upper echelon of teams

Thankfully, the Colts have a quick turnaround as they play the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. The Jets rank 27th in the NFL against the pass, so Wentz will have a great opportunity to bounce back. I’d expect a focused and determined Wentz on Thursday night as he looks to correct the horrific mistakes he made to end the game Sunday.

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Have thoughts on the overall assessment of Carson Wentz coming out of the Week 8 matchup against the Titans? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!

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