The Indianapolis Colts' decision to bench Matt Ryan in favor of second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger provided a semi-spark. Still, the same issues plagued Frank Reich's club in Sunday's 17-16 home loss to the Washington Commanders.
"I thought he threw the ball well, I thought he looked poised, made good decisions, gave us a chance," Reich said of Ehlinger after the game. "We'll look at the film more closely, but my first impression was that he played well."
Ehlinger made a few splash plays, completing 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards for a 100.1 passer rating. He displayed good pocket awareness and helped open up creativity on offense. But the rookie fumbled in the red zone as the Colts marched in the second quarter.
Jonathan Taylor also fumbled with Indy in scoring range in a tight contest.
As it has much of the season, the Colts' struggling offensive line opened few holes in the run game. And Indianapolis once again struggled in the red zone, going 1-of-3 and failing to punch it in from the half-yard line.
"I thought as an offense, we had a lot of opportunities. We just shot ourselves in the foot," Ehlinger said. "Two turnovers, got down to the inch-yard line and came away with three points and that's not good enough in this league. It's frustrating, but we showed we could be an explosive offense, we had explosive plays and we've got to keep building from here."
Behind a sieve of an offensive line, Ehlinger's mobility made a difference Sunday, as he was able to avoid sacks by stepping through the muck. But multiple holds also wiped out a couple of good QB scrambles from the greenhorn signal-caller.
The defense continued to play solid for much of the contest before collapsing late and allowing the Commanders to escape with the win following a big play from Indianapolis native Terry McLaurin.
Ehlinger generated a few big plays that were mostly missing from the Colts' offense, hitting rookie Alec Pierce for 47 yards, Parris Campbell for 38, and Nyheim Hines for 22. But it's a club that lives on the razor's edge and again hamstrung itself with errors.
With the loss, Colts QBs making their first career NFL start fell to 1-16 since the 1970 merger -- the lone winner was rookie third-round pick Chris Chandler in Week 4, 1988.
Now it's on Reich to get more out of Ehlinger moving forward for the 3-4-1 Colts.
"I thought that to be out there against a good defense, they brought a lot of different stuff. They threw some mixed coverages in there," Ehlinger said. "To be able to get in that first regular-season experience was important. Obviously, hate the outcome, and need to grow."