Carson Wentz took a shotgun snap backed up against his own end zone, waited for the screen pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox to open, but then watched as two Tennessee Titans defenders hovered around Alie-Cox — anticipating the pass — as another four barreled toward the Indianapolis Colts quarterback.
There were only 90 seconds left in regulation, with the Colts and Titans both tied at 24, and Wentz tried to find a way to “dirt it,” he said postgame. He switched the ball from his right hand to the left as Bud Dupree grabbed onto his jersey, and flipped a wobbly off-hand pass into the air that fluttered right into the hands of Tennessee cornerback Elijah Molden. Molden walked into the end zone, giving the Titans a seven-point lead.
“Didn’t think they would ever be thinking that at that point in the game, and I’ve been around too long to know that you don’t call a screen backed up in that situation,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said of the pick-six, adding that he told Wentz and the offensive line back on the sideline that it was “100% my fault” and a poor play call.
Wentz hadn’t thrown an interception since Week 2 until that pass, compiling a 12:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season and adding two more touchdowns to that number in the first quarter of Sunday’s game — extending a trend that resembled the complete opposite of the 15 interceptions in 12 games that defined his final year with the Philadelphia Eagles. He hadn’t thrown an interception in 212 pass attempts, according to USA Today, which was the longest streak in Colts franchise history.
But in a matter of three possessions across the final two minutes of regulation and overtime against the Titans, Wentz’s stretch of mistake-free football came crashing down to reality.
He led a game-tying drive in the final seconds after his pick-six, largely aided by a defensive pass interference that put the Colts on Tennessee’s 1-yard line, but threw another costly interception in overtime that set the Titans up for a winning field goal.
Wentz has still only thrown three interceptions this year, but said after the 34-31 defeat: “I feel like I beat us today at the end of the game with those turnovers.”
The Colts acquired Wentz from the Eagles in March for a third-round pick in 2021 and a conditional second-round pick in 2022. Jalen Hurts — then a rookie — had taken over the starting job for the Eagles, and Wentz threw an interception in nine of the 12 games he appeared in during the 2020 season. He also dealt with injuries to his skill-position players and threw for more than 300 yards just once, while leading Philadelphia to only three wins and a tie that year.
A move to Indianapolis provided optimism on paper, as the trade reunited Wentz with Reich, the offensive coordinator during his best years with the Eagles. Injuries threatened to derail his season once again, as Wentz suffered sprains to both of his ankles in Week 2 and had preseason foot surgery.
But when he returned to the lineup for the season-opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Wentz demonstrated an ability to lead the Colts’ offense efficiently, even if the wins didn’t surface at first. He limited the interceptions too, at least until the first one at the end of regulation on Sunday.
The second, and perhaps the more costly, interception came with just under six minutes remaining in overtime. Indianapolis and Tennessee had traded punts to begin the extra frame, and Wentz had pushed the Colts to a first down — and closer to field-goal range — with a short pass to Michael Pittman Jr. and a scramble past the chains. Then he faked a handoff to running back Jonathan Taylor, scanned the field, and tried to hit Pittman cutting toward the sideline. But Kevin Byard dropped down from his spot above the play, stepped in front of Pittman’s route and started running in the other direction.
“Probably tried to do too much,” Wentz said. “Tried to force that one there to (Pittman).”
Four plays later, after an illegal blocking penalty pushed the Titans back 10 yards, Randy Bullock made a 44-yard field goal to win the game, snap Indianapolis’ two-game winning streak and increase their divisional lead in the AFC South.
The Colts have four days off before hosting the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football – Wentz’s first chance to prevent what’s now an outlier of a game from starting to become another trend.
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