This was such a weird game, from start to finish, so it seems impossible now to properly dissect the decisions Reich made and categorize them into “good” and “bad” decisions. After the improbable win last week against the Cardinals, where Reich coached an absolute masterclass, I thought we were going to roll over our two remaining opponents. Now the Raiders are definitely not a bad football team by any means, it’s just that the Colts are better than them at almost everything.
It is very hard to criticize the offensive game-plan when the quarterback just fails to execute every single play. The running game worked with Taylor, as he had over 100 yards and a score, and the defense played well enough to win, forcing two turnovers while holding the Raiders to just 23 points, so what exactly went wrong in this one?
Even though I have been one of Reich’s biggest critics this season, I just can’t place the blame for this loss on him. A lot of the blame for yesterday’s loss lies with Carson Wentz. Special teams were a surprising liability, allowing several big returns. Hunter Renfrow cooked Kenny Moore II several times during the game. The final completion that killed the Colts came on a play where Eberflus dialed up a perfect blitz that gave Darius Leonard a free shot at Carr.
This time, the players just failed to execute. Take away the lucky tipped touchdown to T.Y. Hilton (that honestly should have been an interception), and Carson Wentz is 15/26 for 103 yards and no touchdowns.
We are in the final stages of the season, so now we can look back and see how Wentz performed in must-win games over the past 6 weeks. Against the Bills, Bucs, Patriots, Cardinals, and Raiders, Carson Wentz has 8 touchdowns, 4 turnovers, averaging a poor 168 yards per game, while completing just 58.7% of his passes. Those numbers just will not do, not for a team that is trying to compete for a Super Bowl spot.
Reich has proved this season that he is a wonderful head coach, that he knows how to get the most out of every single player he has, that he is a creative play-caller and that he can surround himself with quality assistant coaches (Bubba Ventrone, Matt Eberflus), but it might be time to start considering the possibility that he made a mistake with the selection of the quarterback for this team.
In this era, teams will go as far as their quarterback can take them, and while there are some exceptions here and there, look at the teams that make deep runs in the playoff and more than 3⁄4 of them have an above-average quarterback. The teams that don’t have that luxury have to compensate with an elite running game, which the Colts definitely have, and an elite defense, which I am not sure the Colts have yet, but the potential is certainly there.
My feelings about this team right now are that they are three players away at key positions from being the best team in the NFL. Put those players in and Wentz could very possibly lead this team to a deep playoff run, but I am not comfortable with a quarterback that needs perfect conditions to play, as rarely ever in the NFL can a team provide that. The final game against the Jags and the eventual playoff game if the Colts manage to win in Duval will say a lot about this team, let’s just hope that Reich and the coaching staff can reach the proper conclusions.