NFL: Cardinals vs. Colts, Carson Wentz propels Indy to Christmas win in Arizona

The Colts were simply able to capitalize on a number of mistakes made by the Cardinals and avoid any crucial mistakes themselves.

The Indianapolis Colts, Image credit: Twitter/Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts gave themselves a late Christmas present in the form of their ninth win of the season as they were able to head into Arizona and defeat the Cardinals, 22-16. These playoff hopefuls were tightly knotted throughout the bulk of this game until midway through the fourth quarter. That was when Indy was able to drive 69-yards down the field and build upon its two-point lead with Carson Wentz completing a 14-yard touchdown to Dezmon Patmon. That opened the contest wide open as the Colts jumped up by two scores and Frank Reich’s team was able to remain in control for the rest of regulation. 

It was an overall choppy day for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals as poor execution on special teams and penalties consistently had them moving uphill. Prior to that back-breaking touchdown drive by the Colts, Matt Prater missed a 41-yard field goal that would have given Arizona the lead. On the day, Prater missed two field-goal attempts and a PAT as his typical holder, punter Andy Lee, was unable to play in this game as he landed on the COVID-19 list. 

Why the Colts won

The Colts were simply able to capitalize on a number of mistakes made by the Cardinals and avoid any crucial mistakes themselves. Following two missed field goals by Arizona, Indy would answer immediately with touchdown drives. They’d also tack on a total of five points courtesy of a safety and a subsequent field goal, which helped keep them above Arizona for most of this game.  

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While the Cardinals did do a solid job defending the Colts offense for stretches, both Carson Wentz and Jonathan Taylor were able to make plays when the moment required for them to do so. On his first touch of the game, Taylor exploded for a 43-yard run that immediately put Indianapolis in the red zone and eventually go up, 7-0. As for Wentz, there were moments where he was a bit off target, but then made one of his most clutch throws of the season when he connected with Dezmon Patmon on a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter (more on that score below). 

Why the Cardinals lost

As has been the case for the last few weeks, the Cardinals look off-kilter. The kicking game was an issue from the jump as punter Andy Lee, who ordinarily serves as the holder, was held out due to COVID-19 protocols. His absence was apparent on the opening drive as Prater missed a 51-yard field goal and later missed on a PAT following Arizona’s first touchdown of the evening. However, the Cardinals issues in this game stretched beyond the kicking game. 

Penalties were continuously keeping Kliff Kingsbury’s team from taking a commanding lead. In all, the Cardinals were called for 11 penalties that cost them 85 yards. In the first half, a false start penalty turned what was set to be a fourth-and-1 attempt by the offense at the Indy 29 into a much more difficult try. That changed the play-call completely and while Zach Ertz made an impressive effort trying to make the reception, Kyler Murray’s pass fell incomplete, which turned the ball over on downs. Another situation where penalties kept shooting Arizona in the foot came on the ensuing defensive possession. An illegal contact penalty on Byron Murphy erased a strip-sack by Chandler Jones that would have given the Cardinals the ball already in Colts territory. 

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