Seahawks take advantage of slow-starting Colts in season-opening victory

Jim Ayello
Indianapolis Star
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INDIANAPOLIS -- For the eighth straight season, the Indianapolis Colts began their season with a loss. Their latest failure came Sunday, a 28-16 drubbing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. 

The loss was a total team effort. On offense, it started with an abysmal effort by the offensive line, which failed to adequately protect Carson Wentz. The team also came up short in just about every clutch situation, failing to convert two critical fourth downs in the second half. On the first, a fourth-and-short at the Seattle 31-yard-line, Wentz never got the snap from center Ryan Kelly and the Seahawks dove on the fumble. 

A few minutes later, still down by 11 and at the Seahawks' 18, Wentz was sacked on fourth down after right tackle Braden Smith was bowled over by outside linebacker Darrell Taylor. Wentz was sacked three times for 28 yards and was harassed nearly the entire game. 

On defense, the Colts weren't much better. They came out of the gates agonizingly slow, allowing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to shred them for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Tyler Lockett. Each time, safety Khari Willis looked to be the guilty party in coverage. The first, he was in one-on-one coverage with the Colts sending an all-out blitz, and Lockett made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch for the score. On the second, Lockett slipped behind Willis on a 69-yard bomb that put Seattle up 21-10 at the end of the first half. 

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Benson Mayowa (10) Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, during the regular season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

In the second half, the defense finally got back into rhythm, holding up for a quarter and a half before allowing Wilson to put the final nail in the coffin with a 15-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf, who easily shed Kenny Moore in coverage. Wilson finished 18-of-23 for 254 yards and four touchdowns. 

Meanwhile, Wentz's Colts debut was somewhat nondescript. He didn't play exceedingly well or poorly, though he did get off to a fast start, going 9-of-10 for 97 and yards and a touchdown. 

In large parts because of a line that couldn't protect him, Wentz finished just 25-of-38 for 251 yards and two touchdown passes — both to Zach Pascal.  

Defeated defense

The Colts defense followed up its opening day stinker in 2020 with ... another opening-day stinker. Wilson finished with just five incomplete passes and an incredible passer rating of 152.3 — just 6.0 point shy of a perfect day by that metric. 

On the ground, Seattle rushed for 143 yards on just 26 carries (5.5 yards per attempt), with Chris Carson going for 91 yards on 16 carries to lead the way. 

Willis and Kenny Moore each suffered defensive lapses, but among the Colts' biggest offenders on defense was superstar linebacker Darius Leonard. The richest inside linebacker in the NFL didn't record his first tackle Sunday until there were three minutes left in the first half. And it came 13 yards down the field.

Earlier in the half, Leonard found himself getting bullied by tight ends in the running game and out of place in coverage against Wilson. Later, the Seahawks quarterback found Gerald Everett streaking across Leonard's face for Seattle's first touchdown of the game. 

Leonard (five tackles) deserves credit for coming up with a forced fumble, an impact play typical of his resume. But his overall game came up well short of his standards. The same can be said of the rest of this defense. 

The beginning of the Carson Wentz era

Given the lackluster protection he was handed and the lack of a consistent rushing attack (3.6 yards per attempt), it's hard to hang much of this loss on the shoulders of Wentz. 

Going for more than 250 passing yards and two touchdowns is more than a decent day. Especially after you remember that he didn't play in the preseason, barely practiced over the past two month a half and was playing without one his best receivers (T.Y. Hilton) and starting left tackle (Eric Fisher). 

If this is what Wentz can do in the face of so much adversity, Colts fans should be excited to see what he's capable off once he's actually had a chance to get in rhythm with the offense and the offensive gets its act together. 

Angry owner

For months, the Colts team owner stressed to his team the importance of winning the season-opener, something his team hasn't accomplished since 2013. Their failure to do so surely won't go over well. 

It certainly didn't last year. Irsay revealed in November of last year that he had a long talk with Reich after the Colts fell to the Jaguars in Jacksonville

"He had some insightful things about how the play of the game goes," Reich revealed later. "He had some insightful things to say about how to manage the team. He’s seen a lot over the course of his career as the owner of this team.

"I took it to heart.”

Earlier this week, Irsay texted Leonard at nearly 2 in the morning in the hopes of motivating his superstar linebacker and his teammates. When training camp began, Irsay gave an impassioned speech to his organization about the importance of winning in Week 1

“When we had that opening meeting basically coming into training camp, that’s when Jim Irsay told us, ‘You’ve got to win the opener, you’ve got to win the opener.’" linebacker Bobby Okereke said this week. "So, that was the emphasis there.”

"We all know the opener is a big deal, especially when it’s a home opener, especially when your owner it letting you know that it’s a big deal," Reich laughed this week. "So I think we’ve all got that message. For sure I would like to deliver him one of these here before too long.”

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