INDIANAPOLIS – They’ll wait until wearing out the videotape before piling on the offensive line.
There’s a lot that goes into pass protection, insisted Frank Reich. It’s complicated and occasionally miscommunication blows up a play and results in the quarterback getting blown up.
Maybe, offered Carson Wentz, the quarterback could have checked to a better protection scheme on a certain play. Wentz, you understand, is that quarterback who made his first career start for the Indianapolis Colts after a preseason interrupted by foot surgery and a stint on the COVID-19 list.
Blah, blah, blah.
The bottom line: one of the Colts’ unquestioned strengths was an undeniable liability in Sunday’s 28-16 loss to Seattle at Lucas Oil Stadium that extended the NFL’s longest opening-day streak for futility to eight seasons.
Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly also wanted to watch the tape before offering a truly educated opinion – it won’t be pleasant viewing – but also was willing to rely on the good ol’ eye test in the aftermath of the Colts’ latest opening-day misstep.
“One of the biggest things is to keep the quarterback safe and we gave up way too many hits,’’ he said.
Wentz was sacked three times and, according to the official box score, hit another seven times on 41 drop-back attempts. Yes, it seemed like the Seahawks were much more abusive.
“Unfortunately you saw how tough he was today,’’ Kelly said. “Doesn’t feel really good as an offensive line. Put it on our shoulders and that’s not a standard we hold ourselves to.’’
Only Wentz’s mobility kept the sack total from climbing. He finished with 23 yards on four escape-the-pocket runs.
“First and foremost is that we’re a pocket-protection team, so obviously if he’s scrambling if he’s that many times, it’s not the safest in the pocket,’’ Kelly said. “That’s on us.
“We’ll go back and watch this as an entire offense and I’m sure everybody’s got something they need to get better at. I think everybody wishes they had one or two plays back. When you take every single person that has one of those, it adds up pretty quickly.’’
Here’s where we remind you the Colts’ offensive line allowed Philip Rivers – arguably the NFL’s most immobile QB a year ago – to be sacked 19 times in 2020. The 21 it gave up all season were the third-fewest in the NFL.
That was a distant memory Sunday. Smith yielded one sack and left tackle Julién Davenport, filling in until Eric Fisher is cleared to play – that might occur week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams – gave up two.
More concerning, several of the hits to Wentz could have been knockout shots. There was one by defensive tackle Bryan Moore. Another by defensive end Carlos Dunlap II.
On one of the game’s bigger plays – fourth-and-2 at the Seattle 18, 10 minutes to play, Indy trailing 21-10 – Wentz was in the shotgun, looked to his left and immediately was driven into the ground by defensive end Darrell Taylor. Right tackle Braden Smith got bull-rushed to the ground, leaving Wentz exposed.
Reich indicated there was a miscommunication on the play.
“Once we got it under (fourth-and-) 5, we just thought we had a good play,’’ he said, adding Wentz’s intended pass, “didn’t come out the way it was supposed to. We had a check on and we had a miscommunication or something and we didn’t get to where we needed to get to.
“We just have to go back and look at it.’’
Perhaps, but any protection scheme can’t succeed when one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL – Smith signed a four-year, $70 million extension in July – gives up instant pressure.
Taylor added to Smith’s long day and added more body trauma to Wentz in the closing seconds when he again whipped Smith and whacked Wentz as he was throwing.
“That’s not our standard of play,’’ Kelly said, who was pushed back into the middle of the passing pocket on more than one occasion. “It’s a good realization of where we are and where we need to go.’’
There was concern how Wentz would handle his Colts’ debut, especially considering his lack of practice time during the preseason. He wasn’t one of the problems. Wentz completed 25-of-38 passes for 251 yards and 10- and 11-yard touchdowns to Zach Pascal.
“I thought there was a lot of good,’’ Reich said. “I thought he seemed comfortable. The operation seemed fine.’’
The Seahawks apparently did nothing defensively the Colts hadn’t prepared for.
“It didn’t feel like they were doing anything abnormal from what they showed on film,’’ Wentz said. “They do a good job of mixing it up, but they don’t do like crazy, exotic stuff.
“We just didn’t make enough plays.’’
That started with the offensive line. Reviewing the video should reveal the level of ineffectiveness.
“I’m not ready to just dump this thing and say the offensive line played bad. So forgive me for that,’’ Reich said. “I need to see the film. I understand what it looked like. I also understand there’s a lot that goes into it.
“The reason I saw that is there were one or two times where, there are things I felt like aren’t the o-line’s fault. Before we go that route, I just need to digest the whole tape.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.