Sam Ehlinger’s first start was ruined by the Colts defense

The Indianapolis Colts dropped another game, losing to the Washington Commanders in Week 8, and Indy’s defense is to blame.

On Sunday, Indianapolis Colts fans may have been having the most fun they had all year as the team took on the Washington Commanders. With Sam Ehlinger now starting, the second-year quarterback was using his legs to extend plays and showing off his arm getting the ball to Indy’s playmakers. Shaquille Leonard was also back on the field forcing a trademark turnover, and coming away with an interception. For most of the fourth quarter, it looked like Indianapolis was going to get back in the win column. However, the Colts were uncharacteristically let down by their defense, losing the game 17-16.

All season, the defense has been the best and most consistent unit in Indianapolis. It’s the defense that essentially won Indianapolis two of its three wins. With Grover Stewart having a career year, an elite linebacker group, and Stephon Gilmore leading the secondary, Indy has been able to rely on the defense for most of the year. But, the defensive unit wasn’t able to come through clutch on Sunday.

Leading 16-10 with 2:39 left, the defense allowed the Commanders to drive 89 yards in nine plays in two minutes and 17 seconds to score the game-winning touchdown. During the drive, Washington faced a 4th-and-1 where Taylor Heinicke was able to escape the pocket and connect with Curtis Samuel on a 12-yard pass. It was ultimately Heinicke’s 33-yard heave to Terry McLaurin that put the Commanders on the one-yard line and in position to win the game, setting up a storybook ending for the Indianapolis native, McLaurin.

The defense let the Colts down

On the play, Stephon Gilmore got caught snoozing for one second as Heinicke was scrambling and that ended up being the difference in the game. It’s unfortunate for Gilmore because he’s been so great for the Colts all year. While that’s a mistake that he cannot make, the loss isn’t just on him but the defense as a whole. Even though they played well for about 58 minutes of the game, they’ll feel terrible when watching the last drive on film.

Sports are all about going to your best players in the most important moments and putting your trust in them to come through. That’s what Indianapolis did on Sunday. The offense had an opportunity to go for it on 4th-and-inches and possibly drain the clock out if successful but Reich put faith in his defense which had been good all Sunday. Unfortunately, they couldn’t come through when it mattered.

The defense could not effectively rush the passer on the last drive, which is especially concerning. Closing out games is all about getting pressure on the QB in high-leverage moments and that’s why a guy like Yannick Ngakoue was brought in. Additionally, the back half couldn’t stick with their men, allowing several open completions on the biggest drive of the game.

Now, the Colts fall to 3-4-1 as they’ll try to turn things around next week. Although their record isn’t that bad yet, and Indy is still in the race, things will only get harder from here on out, especially when the team is dropping games they’re in a position to win.