When the Indianapolis Colts fell to 1-4, their playoff hopes looked dim at best. And while their Christmas wishes were not answered officially on Saturday night, beating the Arizona Cardinals, 22-16, put them one step closer to making the postseason at 9-6, with their sixth victory in their past seven games.
Jonathan Taylor notched his ninth 100-yard game of his brilliant season, keeping him in the MVP discussion, and Carson Wentz overcame some rocky patches in the game to make a brilliant TD pass to Dezmon Patmon midway through the fourth quarter to go up two scores.
They remain in the AFC South division hunt, even if the Tennessee Titans are still the heavy favorites to win it following their victory on Thursday.
Wentz finished 18 of 28 passing for 225 yards and two TD passes. And after this game, he's now played enough snaps to automatically guarantee that the Philadelphia Eagles will receive the Colts' first-round pick in 2022. The trade required Wentz to play 75 percent of Indianapolis' snaps in 2021, but even if he were to sit out the final two games, that plateau has been reached.
Taylor — behind a patchwork offensive line missing four regulars — ran for 108 yards, bringing his 15-game season total to 1,626 yards. He's now only 83 yards shy of tying Edgerrin James' franchise record for rush yards in a season with 1,709 yards in the 2000 season, and Taylor has two games remaining to break the mark.
But the Cardinals' litany of mistakes helped contribute to the Colts' win and lead to Arizona's third straight loss after a 10-2 start to the season.
The Cardinals missed two field goals and an extra points — using two backup holders, Colts McCoy and Ryan Winslow — and had multiple bad snaps, one that led to a Colts safety that put them up 9-6 in the second quarter. Arizona also committed several costly penalties.
The Colts added a field goal just before the half to make it a six-point lead. Arizona would take their first lead after Kyler Murray audibled and hit Antoine Wesley on a gorgeous fade for Wesley's first career touchdown. The TD was set up by a pretty 48-yard punt return by Byron Murphy after the Cardinals' special teams faked out the Colts' entire coverage unit into thinking the return was actually happening on the other side of the field.
The lead wouldn't last long. Colts kicker Michael Badgley hit his second field goal of the game at the end of the third quarter. The drive was extended following a Chandler Jones roughing-the-passer penalty, one of 11 flags called against the Cardinals on the sloppy night.
Then, after the Cardinals missed their second field-goal try of the game, the Colts drove 69 yards for what would be the game-winning score. Wentz hit T.Y. Hilton for 39 yards, then scrambled and found Dezmon Patmon for a gorgeous TD connection to make it 22-13, Colts, with 6:37 left in the game.
Murray got the Cardinals in scoring range, and Matt Prater finally connected on a field goal to make it a one-score game. But the Colts' Michael Pittman — who also had a big night as a receiver with eight catches for 82 yards and a pass-interference call drawn — fell on the onsides kick to end the game.
Murray ran for 74 yards and threw for 225 more yards and two TDs. But it wasn't enough to prevent the Cardinals from dropping to 3-3 at home this season.