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Wentzday: Hobbled Colts’ QB Struggles vs. Titans

Carson Wentz gave it his all to play against Tennessee, but he obviously was not himself as the Colts fell to 0-3.

The biggest question all last week for the Indianapolis Colts was whether or not quarterback Carson Wentz would be able to take the field.

With a crucial AFC South matchup against the Tennessee Titans looming, Wentz “threw the kitchen sink” at not one but two sprained ankles. He worked tirelessly throughout the week and was finally cleared by team doctors before pregame warmups Sunday.

Unfortunately, Wentz was not able to play at his best as the Colts lost 25-16. And honestly, it was to be expected.

Wentz put up a pedestrian stat line of 19-for-37 (51.4%) for 194 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. While you have to respect Wentz’s toughness, the quarterback was a shell of himself and could not make the winning plays necessary.

This is Week Three of Wentzday, where each week on Horseshoe Huddle we take a look back at the Colts’ quarterback’s performance and what he can do to be successful next week. Let’s take a look at his hobbled performance in Nashville.

Quick Throws and Protection

With Wentz’s mobility very limited, head coach Frank Reich knew that he needed to call plays to get the ball out of his quarterback’s hands quickly. This is where the Colts saw the most success in the passing game on Sunday.

One way Reich and the Colts’ offense incorporated this was with quick slant routes, as shown in the first clip. The slants allowed Wentz to take a quick drop and rifle throws to his receivers for easy gains. Even when Wentz is back to full health, the Colts should keep this as a staple in their offense.

Wentz stayed poised and delivered the ball to his receivers when he had adequate protection around him. These throws to tight end Jack Doyle and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. are perfect examples.

The best play of the game came when Wentz rolled to his left and delivered a strike to wide receiver Zach Pascal. This looked like vintage Wentz, and it went for a big gain.

Quick throws and adequate protection allowed Wentz to thrive at times on Sunday. Until his ankles can fully heal and be at 100%, this will have to be the recipe for success.

Pressure and Taking Sacks

On the flip side of things, Wentz struggled greatly anytime there was pressure. Whenever the Titans brought blitzes or the Colts’ offensive line couldn’t hold up, there was very little chance for success.

This next set of clips show just how immobile Wentz was in the pocket. Whenever pressure got in his face, he would get rid of the ball as fast as he could, even when there were players open downfield. This is certainly the case on the last play, as Wentz has Pittman wide open over the middle and instead throws the ball into the dirt.

Wentz was also sacked two more times by the Titans, bringing his total to eight sacks taken in three games. While the offensive line was not perfect, they probably played their best game of the season and are hopefully trending in the right direction. The biggest problem on the sacks was Wentz holding onto the ball too long.

On the first sack, Wentz has Doyle wide open on the crosser for a VERY long time and misses him completely. The second sack is a little tougher because of the angle, but Pittman is open on the crosser and should be hit in stride as well. Crossers are a huge part of Reich’s offense, and Wentz will certainly need to be looking for these more often.

One of the main criticisms of Wentz in Philadelphia was that he held onto the ball too long. For the most part this year, I think he has done a good job of getting rid of it and finding the open receiver. Hopefully Sunday’s game becomes an outlier in this department with the Colts.

Red Zone Failures

There’s no sugarcoating it: This Colts offense has been atrocious in the red zone. The Colts currently stand at 4-for-11 (36.36%) this season scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They must start capitalizing on their opportunities down there.

This is a perfect example. Pittman has a step on his defender, and it should be an easy touchdown. However, the ball is overthrown and out of the reach of Pittman’s outstretched arms. Wentz is not pressured either, just delivers a poorly thrown ball.

The two ensuing plays fall incomplete, including a third-down drop by Pascal that probably would have been a touchdown. Plain and simple, the Colts must be better in the red zone if they want to have success. This falls on the entire offense to step up and execute at a higher level.

Final Assessment

There is little doubt that this was Wentz’s worst performance of the season. But playing on two sprained ankles, one on each leg, it’s not hard to see why.

A huge part of Wentz’s game is his ability to extend plays with his legs and deliver shots down the field when the play breaks down. He was not able to do that on Sunday and the Titans feasted whenever they could generate pressure.

Up next is the Miami Dolphins, where head coach Brian Flores will be looking to get as much pressure on Wentz as he can. Reich believes that Wentz can be back to full strength in a week or two, but there are no guarantees as to what his mobility will look like come Sunday.

For Wentz to have success, the Colts must continue to incorporate quick passes and make sure the protection holds up. Wentz also needs to utilize the crossing routes more and get the ball out of his hands at a much quicker rate.

If he can do that and the units around him take a step forward, the Colts have a good chance of getting their first win of 2021. 

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Have thoughts on the overall assessment of Carson Wentz coming out of the Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel! 

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