There was a new starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 8, but it was the same story. Turnovers and lack of big plays in key moments cost the Colts in a 17-16 loss to the Washington Commanders on October 30. The loss dropped Indianapolis to 3-4-1.
If there was any silver lining, it was quarterback Sam Ehlinger playing well in his first NFL start.
Despite the disappointing finish that saw Washington drive 89 yards in the final three minutes to score the game-winning touchdown, Colts head coach Frank Reich was complimentary of Ehlinger in his postgame press conference.
“I thought [Sam Ehlinger] played well … He gave us a chance,” said Reich.
Colts media also praised Ehlinger after his first NFL start. Ehlinger completed 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards. He also rushed for 15 yards on six carries.
Ehlinger’s Mobility, Deep Passes Spark Colts
As Colts fans know, the biggest problem with the Indianapolis offense this season has been up front with the offensive line. But Ehlinger used his mobility to help his line and avoid Washington’s rush.
He extended a few plays that might have been sacks with Matt Ryan in the pocket. Ehlinger was also able to scramble to move the chains a couple times.
In the second half, Ehlinger worked to get the ball down field through the air as well. He completed two passes that went for more than 20 yards after halftime and had another attempt that drew a 30-yard defensive pass interference penalty.
Ehlinger also had a wide receiver screen that Parris Campbell turned into a 38-yard gain.
Those are solid plays for a quarterback making his first start. In his postgame press conference, Reich talked about building off of this performance from Ehlinger the rest of the year.
“I felt today that we can put something together and continue to get better,” said Reich.
Media Reacts to Ehlinger Playing Well in 2022 Debut
Ultimately, Ehlinger didn’t do enough to win his first start, as the Colts lost by a point. But the media still liked what they saw from the young signal caller.
Ehlinger averaged 8.7 yards per pass, which is a very healthy number for a quarterback starting his first game. Only five quarterbacks have averaged more than 8.0 yards per pass this season.
That average could have been higher too if not for a Michael Pittman Jr. drop late in the fourth quarter. A catch on a pass down field from Pittman on the final drive also could have given the Colts an opportunity for a last-second field goal.
Former Colts punter Pat McAfee lamented the loss on Twitter but still had good things to say about Ehlinger.
Ehlinger’s worst play of the game was a fumble late in the second quarter. The Colts were in the red zone and facing a second-and-14 when Ehlinger scrambled to his left. But he lost control of the ball as he tried to tuck it away before a Washington defender hit him.
The Colts turned to the second-year quarterback in large part because Matt Ryan couldn’t stop fumbling and turning the ball over. Indianapolis quarterbacks have now fumbled 12 times, losing 4 of them this season.
To win more games this season, Ehlinger must avoid turnovers like Ryan was not able to.
Ehlinger will get his next opportunity to win his first game as an NFL starter on the road in Week 9 against the New England Patriots.