INDIANAPOLIS – A Blame Game broke out Sunday evening at Lucas Oil Stadium.
First, it was Frank Reich.
Next up, Carson Wentz.
It’s in the eye of the beholder who deserved the nastier look.
Our vote goes to Carson Wentz.
In a game the Indianapolis Colts absolutely, positively had to have to remain a viable contender for the AFC South and a playoff berth, they threw it away against the Tennessee Titans.
Well, Wentz threw it away. Twice in fact, in a crushing 34-31 overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
On an afternoon that saw him push the franchise record to 212 passes without an interception – move aside, Jeff George – Wentz had two on his final nine attempts.
“I felt like I beat us today at the end of the game,’’ he said. “It was just the turnovers.’’
The first was an improvisational left-handed, under-heavy-duress flip out of his own end zone with 1:26 remaining in a 24-all game. Instead of hooking up with tight end Mo Alie-Cox on a screen, Wentz found Titans cornerback Elijah Moden for a 2-yard interception/touchdown.
“They had it covered up pretty good, obviously,’’ Wentz said. “Terrible play.
“Terrible play one-on-one trying to find a way to just get rid of the ball and next thing you know I’m about to go down.’’
It’s worth noting the pick-6 actually was the better of two bad options. A safety would have ended the game.
“One I definitely want back,’’ Wentz said. “Just dirt it. Just dirt it, don’t force it. That’s what I was trying to do. That one, still mad at myself.’’
Incredibly, the Colts overcame that mistake and forced overtime on Jonathan Taylor’s 1-yard run with 22 seconds remaining. It took a 38-yard completion to Michael Pittman Jr. on third-and-6 and a 31-yard interference penalty against safety Kevin Byrad for a first-and-goal at the 1.
But Wentz’s second interception of the game and just the third of the season was a dagger. It set up Randy Bullock’s game-winning 44-yard field goal and dropped the Colts into a 3-5 hole that makes reaching the playoffs for a second straight season not impossible, but awfully difficult.
After a pair of three-and-outs to open overtime and on first-and-10 at the Indy 27, Wentz saw Michael Pittman Jr. crossing toward the left sideline.
“Tried to force that one there to Pitt,’’ he said. “He had a step on the underneath coverage, but Byard came out of the sky and made a heckuva play.
“I’m sure in hindsight I probably had the check-down wide open, but I thought I had Pitt.’’
Right, and wrong.
It appeared Taylor was indeed open for a check-down, and with room to run. And even if Pittman had a step on his defender, Byard had time to move in for the interception.
Four plays later, Bullock’s 44-yard field goal made Wentz pay dearly for his second interception. And he knew instantly that would the case.
“As a competitor and my harshest critic, you feel that,’’ he said. “You definitely feel you let your team down. Even though I have the utmost confidence in our defense . . . (the Titans are) already in field goal range. I put them in a bad situation.
“Yeah, as a competitor, I definitely try not to beat myself up too much over that, but I’ve got to learn from it. Beating myself up over those ones at the end of the game.’’
Wentz delivered a season-high 51 passes and finished with 231 yards – a poor 4.6 yards per attempt – with the two interceptions. He had a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to Pittman (2 and 7 yards) and a third to tight end Jack Doyle (5 yards).
But too often he was off target, and the interceptions were killers.
As much as Wentz insisted on carrying the weight of the loss on his shoulders, Reich demanded to share the load. He took total blame for Wentz’s pick-6, even though it was Wentz’s decision to try to make something out of nothing.
“That was 100% my fault,’’ Reich said. “It was a bad call.’’
The Colts hadn’t dialed up a screen to Alie-Cox up to that point, and Reich didn’t believe the Titans would be expecting it.
In hindsight, he should have called anything else.
“I’ve been around too long to know you don’t call a screen backed up in that situation,’’ Reich said. “It’s too risky. There’s too many bad things that can happen.
“It’s too risky. It’s a bad call.’’
He met Wentz as he came off the field.
That’s 100% my fault. That’s a terrible call. Now, just go make it right.
Reich also had a brief conversation with the offensive line.
Guys, I screwed that up. I screwed it up. That’s on me.
Hypothetically, had Wentz not suffered the pick-6, Taylor’s 1-yard TD with 22 seconds remaining would seal a win, not forced overtime. But a lot of other things also would have had to happen.
The careless finish capped an overall uneven afternoon by the Colts.
Offensively, Reich leaned heavily on Wentz (51 attempts) while giving Taylor, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, just 16 attempts for 70 yards. Pittman set career highs with 10 receptions and two TDs to go along with 86 yards, but no other receiver had more than 52 yards (by Taylor).
Defensively, the Colts limited league-rushing leader Derrick Henry to 68 yards on 28 attempts – that’s 2.4 yards per attempt, with a long of 9 — but it allowed the Titans to convert 8-of-17 third-down situations and a pair of fourth downs. Also, cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ missed tackle resulted in A.J. Brown’s 57-yard touchdown.
“I thought the will to win was unreal, was unreal,’’ Reich said. “Just the way we fought, the determination that our players had. It was good.
“We’ve got good players. We’ve got a good team. We need to start winning some games and I think we’ll do that.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.