Frank Reich isn’t willing to blame the Colts’ failure to reach the postseason on Carson Wentz, nor is he ready to give up on the veteran quarterback.
Reich told reporters after the Colts’ 26-11 loss to the Jaguars that Wentz “did a lot” during the season and that he expected Wentz to be the team’s starter moving forward.
“I think he’s our quarterback,” Reich said in his postgame news conference. “I think we’re all going to learn and grow from this year. You know, how to utilize every player that we have to the fullest. I think there were a lot of bright moments for Carson.”
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Those “bright moments” were few and far between in Week 18. Wentz and the Indy offense couldn’t get going, scoring just three points on their first eight drives. He committed two critical turnovers, a fumble and an interception, that led to 10 Jaguars points.
Wentz finished the day 17 for 29 for 185 yards, one touchdown and the two turnovers. He was also sacked a season-high six times against a Jaguars defense that averaged the third-fewest sacks per game in the NFL.
“Sucked, honestly. I’m kind of in disbelief,” Wentz said after the loss, per Taylor Tannebaum of Indianapolis TV station WTHR. “Hard to fully reflect on everything right now, it happened so fast. It hurts right now. A lot of reflection to come.”
Wentz figures to get the time to reflect. According to Spotrac.com, he will count $28.3 million against the Colts’ salary cap ($15 million in dead money) next season under the $128 million contract extension he signed in 2019.
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The Colts were expected to have no trouble beating the Jaguars. Jacksonville entered the game 2-14, worst in the NFL, and many of their fans planned to wear clown suits to protest the direction of the team under owner Shad Khan. The Jaguars were also on an eight-game losing streak and had an interim head coach, Darrell Bevell, leading them.
Instead, the Colts (9-8) failed to take the simplest path they had to the postseason and were eliminated after the Steelers beat the Ravens in overtime.
“It’s a bad feeling when you know you were in complete control,” Wentz said of missing the playoffs. “It’s a bad, bad feeling.”
The Colts have had that feeling before in Jacksonville. They haven’t beaten the Jaguars away from Indy since 2014. They are 0-5 in Jacksonville and 0-1 in London against their divisional rival. Perhaps more incredibly, the Jaguars have won just five of their last 34 games; they are 3-2 against the Colts and 2-27 against all other teams.
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As painful as this loss is for the Colts, Reich is hoping that the team will be able to learn from it in 2022.
“You got to have the maturity to understand that even though there could be a finality to this season, you can’t just let [this loss] be in vain,” he said. “You got to learn from it and got to figure out, ‘OK, why did we finish the way we did this year?’ And then let’s not let that happen next year.”