Carson Wentz is a playmaker at heart, but risks could cost Indianapolis Colts' playoff push

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) throws an interception while being pressured by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa in Week 7. AP Photo/Tony Avelar

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s something Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has been doing for as long as he can remember. Breaking the pocket to scramble and then attempting to make a throw because he believes he can make any pass or simply avoid taking a sack.

Toeing the line when it comes to pushing the limits on trying to make a play is engrained in Wentz’s head. He also knows he wouldn’t be the quarterback he is without crossing those lines at times.

Colts coach Frank Reich knows it too. He saw Wentz play that way when he reviewed his game film from North Dakota State during the draft process in 2016. Reich saw it during his two seasons as the quarterback’s offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles. And he’s seen it several times this season in Indianapolis.

Does Reich always like it?


But he also knows those types of head-scratching plays at times are part of Wentz's DNA at quarterback.

“I’ve told Carson the story many times of what my dad used to say to me,” Reich said. “He said, ‘If you’re going to improvise and go out on your own and do your own thing, just make sure you get it right. Otherwise, you better stand up at the podium and take all the heat for it.’

"That’s pretty much what the conversation is. He’s a talented guy. He can do stuff like that. Every now and then, it’s going to come back to haunt you, right? We want a filter on it, we don’t want it happening too much, but we also have to trust the player.”

Wentz, who has three interceptions this season, is on pace for the fewest interceptions in his career. He’ll have to continue to protect the ball down the stretch, as the Colts (5-5) try to stay in playoff contention. Four of Indianapolis' final seven games are against teams that are currently ranked in the top 10 in turnovers forced in the NFL.

On Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), the Colts hit the road to face the Buffalo Bills, the only team in the league that has forced more turnovers than the Colts this season. The Bills have forced 24 turnovers, including 15 interceptions.

“We’re going up there and playing the No. 1-ranked defense in the league at a place that’s tough to play,” Reich said. “Can’t wait to get up there, love the challenge, love our team, and our focus is on getting prepared, going up there and playing our best game of the year this week.”

Wentz has found his comfort zone after a slow start, partially because of a foot injury suffered in training camp. He's on pace to throw for a career high in touchdowns while having the second-best completion percentage of his career.


There have been a couple of plays that have caused some uneasiness -- where you've either disliked it or you just realized that Wentz is simply being Wentz.

For instance, in Week 7, Wentz, who had the San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa about to drag him down, attempted to flip the ball to an open Zach Pascal in the end zone only to have the ball slip out of his hand and be intercepted.

The following week, Wentz, who was about to be sacked in the end zone, switched the ball to his left hand and attempted a pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox instead of throwing it to the ground. The Tennessee Titans intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the Colts' overtime loss.

There's more.

On Sunday, Wentz again attempted a left-handed pass that fortunately for the Colts was completed to running back Jonathan Taylor against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“My thought is just getting it to my guy anyway I can [laughs]. I don’t go out there saying, ‘Hey, if I’m getting drug down this way, I’m going to … ’ I don’t think that that’s my reaction," Wentz said. "The one to [Taylor], honestly, we had the first down, I thought, and so I was pretty fired up thinking we got it, and we were still short. I have to be smart in all of those, but at the same time, if there’s a play to be made, I’m usually going to try to make that play.”

Reich wasn't a fan of the pass attempt to Taylor by Wentz.

"I didn’t like it," the coach said. "That’s what’s going through my mind. Just make the play, make the play. If it’s a first down and you make the play, you’re a hero, but like I said, we need to protect the football, and he’s doing that. He deserves credit for that. He’s made a conscious effort, just a resolve I know that he’s had from what he’s told me from -- just his own personal resolve."

The reality is there's little chance Wentz is going to completely change his game. It's part of the reason why he was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft. The Colts have to hope there are more positives than negatives when it comes to their starting quarterback making those risky plays.

"You’ve got to put some parameters, some guidelines on him, but you’ve got to trust the player at the end of the day and his instincts," Reich said. "It doesn’t mean you can’t coach him, it doesn’t mean you can tell him what you like and what you don’t like, but he still has to feel like you believe in him. Carson’s got to know that we have his back and that we’re not going to jump ship, and that we’re not going to question what kind of a playmaker he is the first time he goes off the reservation when something like that happens."