Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts collapse out of the playoff picture

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  • Indianapolis Colts
    Indianapolis Colts
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Carson Wentz
    Carson Wentz
    American football quarterback

Coming out of their Week 14 bye, the Indianapolis Colts put together two of their more impressive wins of the season to improve to 9-6 on the year. In Week 15, their defense led the way in a 10-point win over the New England Patriots — who came into that game as the hot team in the AFC — and then in Week 16 the Colts pulled out a road win on Christmas night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Sitting at 9-6 with two weeks to go, Indianapolis was all but assured of a playoff spot and remained within striking distance of the Tennessee Titans atop the AFC South.

But in the final two weeks of the season, with everything to play for, the Colts might played themselves out of the postseason picture thanks to a stunning two-week collapse.

In Week 17, the Colts welcomed the Las Vegas Raiders to town with a simple task ahead of them: Win and they’re in. Instead, the Colts gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter, blowing a four-point lead, and lost on the final play of the game.

Oh well, on to Week 18. After all, Indianapolis still just needed a win to ensure themselves a playoff berth. Yes, they would be on the road, but they were taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. A team on the cusp of locking up yet another top overall draft pick. A team that had fired its coach earlier in the year after reports surfaced that he kicked the former kicker. A team that was facing a protest from its fanbase replete with clown face emojis.

A team that was facing a lawsuit from a sponsor as a result of that protest.

Indianapolis entered Week 18 as 15.5-point favorites. Win and get in. Easy enough, right?

Perhaps someone forgot to tell Carson Wentz.

The quarterback turned in a brutal performance, throwing an interception and losing a fumble, and the Colts found themselves on the losing end, 26-11.

His first turnover came on this strip-sack early in the third quarter, with Jacksonville enjoying a 10-point lead:

The interception came later in the third quarter as Wentz was trying to bring the Colts back from a 13-point deficit:

Wentz did get the Colts into the end zone, connecting with Michael Pittman Jr. on this touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to cut into the Jacksonville lead:

But the home team was able to run out the clock. That left the Colts to just watch the scoreboard — they could still get into the playoffs depending on other results around the league. The most critical one, for their purposes, was taking place in Baltimore, with the Ravens hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a tie in that game or a loss by Pittsburgh, the Colts would still have a chance.

The game went to overtime.

Baltimore got the football first, but the Steelers defense forced a punt, giving Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense a chance to keep their season alive with a victory. In the chilly Maryland rain, Roethlisberger and the Steelers put together a drive complete with two big conversions, a 3rd-and-9 throw from the quarterback to Diontae Johnson, and a fourth-down conversion with Roethlisberger hitting Ray-Ray McCloud. The final big play on the drive was a run by rookie running back Najee Harris deep into Baltimore territory, setting the stage for Chris Boswell’s game-winning field goal.

That kick officially ended the Colts’ playoff hopes.

After the game, Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich faced the question he knew was coming, and his answer was definitive:

The curse of the quarterback position is simple. When you win, you often get more credit than you deserve. When you lose, you usually get the bulk of the blame. On this day in Jacksonville, there was plenty of blame to go around. But the lion’s share will end up in Wentz’s lap, and with reason. The turnovers, the inability to string together scoring drives and the knowledge that the Colts have lost out on a first-round draft pick, traded away for Wentz, and have a winter at home to show for it.

Ultimately, Wentz’s performance might have been summed up best like this: