Game 3: Colts-Titans Recap, 0-for-3 Edition

AnvilHI, I’M SPORTS TALKER Derek Schultz (Query & Schultz, Schultz Star Show podcast). Joining me is Michael Rubino, editor-in-chief of Indianapolis Monthly. Nate Miller is at a Robert Shapiro attorney fantasy camp where they reenact the O.J. Simpson trial; he’ll return next week.

So, it’s the first game of the season and I’m excited to talk some Colt *checks earpiece* wait, it’s Week 3 and the Colts are already 0–2?

Well, today is the first *division* game of the season, so at least things can get back on track with a win. Since we’ve been adding some in-game thoughts to these #expert recaps, let me contribute this one. These Colts-Titans games in Nashville always follow these three steps:

  1. Colts get severely outplayed.
  2. Colts stay alive thanks to several OMGLOL Titans mistakes.
  3. Colts win.

That’s basically what today has been through three quarters. Colts have a 3–0 turnover margin and still trail—that’s extremely hard to do! I have no idea how these last 15 minutes will go, but that’s the script that most of the 2010–present games in Tennessee have gone for Indy.

RUBINO: I would have watched that movie. Instead, the Colts lost one of the best offensive linemen in the league during the first half when All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson got carted off with a probable high-ankle sprain, and what’s been a really bad offensive line to this point got somehow … worse??? That group gave quarterback Carson Wentz nothing all day. How many times did he just say ‘screw it’ and throw it in the dirt? I don’t know if he shut up all of those ridiculous tough guys who questioned his resolve last week when he was just too beat up to go in the fourth, but I hope he did. I was actually kind of surprised he started. I get that this is a huge divisional game and it sounds dumb saying that in Week 3, yet here we are. Was a hobbled Wentz the best option, Derek?

SCHULTZ: A hobbled Wentz was the best option because a hobbled Wentz was the only option. Brett Hundley, who hasn’t started in four years, hasn’t played in two, and didn’t have a job on July 4, wasn’t an option, and neither was Jacob Eason. With the obvious qualifier of the fact he didn’t have functioning ankles, Wentz was bad today. He missed on an easy touchdown throw to Michael Pittman that would’ve given the Colts the lead and looked completely rattled. Maybe that’s what you expect from a guy that relies on mobility and had zero mobility. I don’t know! But, while he may not have hurt their chances today, he certainly didn’t help.

The question now is: Where do they go from here? Even with 17 games, the season barely feels salvageable. Because, if it’s not, we need to direct our attention on what the Colts have to do to save this year’s first-round draft pick from being sent to Philly.

RUBINO: That’s a great point about Wentz, but also a sobering one. Zero mobility with a crap O-line isn’t a good combo. Plus, there’s no one coming to save the day.

I get that you want to win every game, but the Colts really wanted to want this one. It felt … make or break. Irsay has thrown down the gauntlet twice in the first three games with very public statements. He’s made a really painful video rocking out a Dylan cover. I mean, what more can he do (aside from hiring a voice coach)? Seriously, though, everything surrounding this game felt desperate to me. I guess 0-3 isn’t a death sentence, and most people, including yourself (I think) kind of expected a slow start. Which is “fine” in the meme sense of the word, but I don’t even know what they build on. After the game, DeForest Buckner told the media, “We are right there, a couple plays away.” Does it feel that way to you?

SCHULTZ: I really like DeForest Buckner and his leadership and his vaccination status … but that’s bullshit. All crappy teams are “a couple of plays away.” A couple of plays have separated every 7–9 team from every 11–5 team in history. That’s life in the NFL where the margins between winning and losing are razor-thin. Even if you buy that statement, were the Colts really “a couple of plays away” in Nashville? That was a game the Titans completely controlled, and if not for a ton of their own mistakes, would’ve won handily. I spent the whole game wondering, How the hell are the Colts even in this game??? And even with an -3 turnover margin, Tennessee still won by two scores! It’s hard to win by two scores when you’ve vomited all over yourself three different times! Colts had a million chances to make it interesting but the Titans also squandered a million chances to make that thing a complete laugher.

It’s still September, so I don’t want to go all “OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!!!” here. Sane/rational fans knew this schedule was earmarked for a rocky start, but it’s not that they’ve lost, it’s how they’ve looked in those losses. Outside of a good quarter and a half against an excellent Rams team, they’ve ranged from outplayed to overwhelmed. I thought my bar was reasonable: 9–10 wins, Wild Card (which would even be a step back from last year), but they don’t look like anything even close to that team so far.

RUBINO: To your point, the season is young. The NFL added a 17th game, so there’s a bit more time to get healthy/on the right track. All of that aside, these first three games have exposed some fault lines that most thought existed, but now we have confirmation. Until the Colts get those things figured out, Indy fans will just have to tune into the “Manning Cast” of Monday Night Football and relive the glory years.