Colts’ red-zone troubles continue

Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) is sacked by Los Angeles Rams’ Sebastian Joseph-Day during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS – Sometimes, it’s not complicated.

Sunday wasn’t that complicated.

As Frank Reich digested the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium, his eyes focused on one stat: red-zone efficiency.

“I just look at this thing right here,’’ Reich said. “We’re 1-for-4 in the red zone. That’s basically the story.

“Every other area was pretty equal. We’ve just got to play better in the red zone.’’

In last week’s 26-18 loss to Seattle, the Carson Wentz-led offense was 2-for-4.

Sunday, it actually took a step backward in that area because it couldn’t move the football a few yards forward. On two damning occasions.

A crisp opening drive – Wentz was 4-for-4 for 38 yards and Jonathan Taylor rushed three times for 20 yards – led to a first-and-goal at the 1.

Then, Pffft!!

Three Taylor runs netted nothing and Wentz was sacked for a 9-yard loss by Leonard Floyd on fourth-and-goal.

“We have to trust in our offense and run the football,’’ Reich said. “Very disappointing. We didn’t do a good job on offense . . . collectively. We’ve got the ball on the 1-yard line and we didn’t get in it.

“That hurt us. I didn’t call the right play and we didn’t execute well enough, so that’s on all of us.’’

Quenton Nelson didn’t mince words.

“It’s unacceptable,’’ the All-Pro left guard said. “We, I think, ran the ball three times out of the four times. You’ve got four downs to, shoot, get 1 yard and we weren’t successful.

“It’s unacceptable and we need to be better in that situation. We’ve got to block them better and just get in there and punch it in.’’

After safety Khari Willis intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass early in the second quarter, Wentz and the offense responded by driving to a first-and-goal at the 10. A 7-yard completion to Michael Pittman Jr. and no gain by Taylor set up a third-and-goal at the 3.

Then, Aaron Donald happened.

“Aaron Donald made a great play,’’ Reich said.

The Rams’ All-World defensive tackle blew up what was to be a shovel pass to tight end Jack Doyle. Donald got quick penetration, Doyle was jarred off his route behind the line of scrimmage and Wentz’s flip went to linebacker Troy Reeder.

“Yeah, it’s a bad feeling,’’ Wentz said. “I thought when I went to flip it, I thought we had a walk-in touchdown and (Doyle) just ran into the guy.

“I don’t really even know what happened. I just know that it didn’t end up in Jack’s hands. Wrong guy, so bad, bad feeling for sure.’’

To recap, first-and-goals. Seven snaps inside the Rams’ 10-yard line, including six inside the 3. Total net yards: minus-2 yards.

Most damaging: 0 points.

A third red-zone trip in the fourth quarter resulted in Rodrigo Blankenship’s 35-yard field goal when Wentz was pressured on third-and-5 and suffered the injury to his right ankle.

The remedy for what’s ailing the Colts in the red zone?

“Yeah, score more points,’’ center Ryan Kelly said. “Instead of taking three, you get seven. That stings.

“It’s on all of us. Certainly don’t fault Frank for going for it on fourth-and-1. That’s putting the rock in the backfield and all the confidence in the guys up front to do it.’’

There were some bright spots

One of the bright spots in a second straight loss was Pittman finishing with eight catches for 123 yards, both career highs. It was the second career 100-yard game for the Colts’ 2020 second-round draft pick.

Also, wideout Zach Pascal had five catches for 38 yards and his third touchdown on the season. He’s the third Colts’ wideout since 1976 with three TD catches in the first two games of a season, joining Marvin Harrison (five in 1999 and three in 2001) and T.Y. Hilton (three in ’19).

Jack Doyle had five catches for 64 yards and became the Colts’ fifth tight end with at least 2,500 yards in his career (2,512).

Special moment

Special teams provided a highlight, or lowlight if you were on the Rams’ sideline.

In the fourth quarter and backed up at his own 11-yard line, Rams’ punter Johnny Hekker never had a chance to do what he does. His protector, safety Nick Scott, shifted to his left just prior to the snap. That put him in the line of long-snapper Matt Ozrech’s snap.

The snap ricocheted off of Scott and when Hekker couldn’t scoop it up at the goal line, Colts’ wideout Ashton Dulin covered the football in the end zone for a touchdown and a brief 21-17 Colts’ lead.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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