There are many ways one could describe the Colts Week 2 performance vs. the Rams. Inconsistent. Gutsy. Stressful. Hopeful. All words I could use validly to describe the game. Regardless of your view of the game in hindsight, witnessing it in real-time was sure to raise the blood pressure of many a Colts fan.
The Colts played one of the best rosters in the NFL and *nearly* won. On a week where many, including myself, were very doubtful in their chances. With a Friday injury report longer than some Target receipts, many felt betting against the Colts was a safe bet. But Carson Wentz had other plans. Wentz led the Colts throughout the game, despite the odds against him. And he looked excellent doing so. In his 1st quarter performance, he had no incomplete throws but was sacked twice. His Red Zone efficiency was not great, but the blame should go to the OL unable to open holes at the goal line or protect Wentz in key situations, causing him to run for his life and pull some miracles off for success. Play-calling was also underwhelming in key situations for the offense, most notably the three straight runs up the A gap that were stuffed at the goal line for the first drive of the game, as well and Wentz’s INT being a poorly called shovel pass to Doyle in the middle (where no receivers were open for the play in the congested area of the field).
The theme of the game was Wentz getting constantly harassed by Rams defenders. Aaron Donald rightfully took advantage of mismatches all along the line (except for Nelson at LG), especially bullying Julien Davenport at RT, who was in for the injured Braden Smith. The lack of chip blocking to help Davenport on key plays allowed Wentz to see the Rams’ horns charge him, but Wentz was able to showcase some insane elusiveness despite this. Most notably, an insane two-dodge play of Leonard Floyd and Sebastian Joseph-Day in the red zone for a 1-yard scramble. As I said in my pregame article: Wentz would need to play some hero ball if the Colts had any shot to win. Wentz put the offense on his back and delivered some phenomenal plays under pressure to lead the Colts to a tied 24-24 game in the 4th Quarter.
However, while playing hero can lead to some of the most incredible NFL performances, it isn’t without risks. Wentz was asked to pull miracles off to avoid the rush but asking him to do that much led to issues. After one such hit, Wentz walked back to the sideline with a noticeable limp. While he could do some dropbacks on the sideline after getting his ankle taped up, the Colts decided to be cautious with their starting QB and let Jacob Eason go out for the Colts 2 minute drill drive down 3 in the 4th quarter. One incompletion and an INT to Jalen Ramsey later, and the game is effectively over.
The Colts were wise to keep Wentz out. While he *could* have won the game, he would have been at risk for further aggravating his injury, thus costing him more games and likely costing the Colts more losses. While in the past, the Colts would have allowed their QBs to play through a significant injury, they have learned from some of the errors of yesteryear. In a game that wasn’t supposed to be close, Wentz showed a lot of talent & guts, but the protection clearly wasn’t there and would have nearly guaranteed a longer term injury had he played. No early regular season game, especially vs. a non-conference opponent, is worth that risk.
Beyond that, the defense had definitive flashes, namely a three series stretch in the 2nd half where the Colts D allowed -8 yards combined. However, too often, when Stafford had time, he was able to carve up the Colts zone defense with Cooper Kupp down the field or in the short game. Kupp was an absolute weapon, taking advantage of the shorthanded Colts secondary. While the Colts did capitalize on a few series of strong pressure (namely that three series stretch + the INT by Khari Willis thanks to Tyquan Lewis’s QB hit), Kupp was able to beat the secondary far too often. The Colts run defense had flashes, but Darrell Henderson managed a strong performance against the vaunted Colts run Defense, which has not lived up to its 2nd ranking from 2020 so far in 2021. The linebackers continued to look lost and were unable to make much of a difference, save for a Darius Leonard TFL on a 3rd down reverse in the red zone to force a FG.
Going forward, all eyes will be on Wentz’s recovery. The ankle will receive an MRI that could make or break the Colts early season. Should he be out for an extended period, Eason has yet to show he can lead the team to victory in his stead. Elsewhere on the injury front, the Colts could get reinforcements soon with Braden Smith finally pushing Julien Davenport to the bench (with Eric Fisher making his Colts debut today also taking a starting spot). Xavier Rhodes also is getting closer to returning to beef up the Colts secondary at CB. Parris Campbell might return soon as well, and Kemoko Turay is inching closer to making his much anticipated return in the Colts pass rush rotation. If healthy, expect the Colts pass Defense and pass protection to improve from the previous two weeks. However, these improvements could be moot without Wentz under center.
THE BLUE STABLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CARSON WENTZ
Was there any doubt? My pregame MVP was the MVP for the game also, in hindsight for the exact reason I predicted: Wentz needed to be a hero to give the Colts a chance in this game. Wentz certainly did provide the Colts that chance, which is more than many of us expected from him. He was the most valuable player on the field on either side of the ball, and for either team, as without him, the Colts would have had absolutely 0 chance to win this one against the vaunted Rams Defense. While the diagnosis is looming on many fans’ minds, if it ends up being minor Colts fans have to be very encouraged from what they saw from their QB going forward. After that game, I’m sure many fans just want to hug Wentz for all he went through this Sunday; just please be gentle with it.