Frank Reich stared down a third and 14 with the Colts' offense looking to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter.
The ball was on the Miami Dolphins' 34-yard line, but with that much yardage to the sticks, Reich's thought was to give quarterback Carson Wentz a shot at making play – but telling him to quickly get down if the play wasn't there. The call was for Wentz to run a play-action bootleg to his right, and if defensive lineman Zach Sieler didn't crash toward running back Marlon Mack on the fake, Wentz was instructed to give himself up.
"If it's not there right now, take a short sack, right?" Reich told Wentz. "We'll let the clock run, punt it."
Sieler blew up the boot action and was right there in Wentz's face shortly after the fake. But Wentz — two weeks out from suffering sprains in both his ankles — didn't take the sack. He instead deftly evaded Sieler and ripped a throw to Michael Pittman Jr. for a 20-yard gain, one which sent the Colts coasting to their first win of the season, a 27-17 victory over the Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
"I had a few words with him over the headset," Reich said. "I said, hey, what happened to the short sack? He said, well, I wasn't down. I was prepared to go down, but he knew he could get away.
"Those are the kinds of plays that he can make that really help lead clutch ball games. It's plays like that when you're playing good teams like the Dolphins, those are the kinds of plays you need to win games. So that was a good indication, I think, of what he's capable of."
It was a fitting cap to Wentz's afternoon in south Florida. He completed 24 of 32 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions while completing passes to 10 different teammates. And in there were some big-time throws in crucial situations.
Wentz completed five passes for 15 or more yards, and each one of them was critically important.
A 28-yard strike to Mo Alie-Cox sparked the Colts' first touchdown drive. A 17-yarder to Ashton Dulin built on a Jonathan Taylor explosive run to open the second half on a drive that ended with a touchdown. A 41-yard shot to Zach Pascal quickly counter-punched a Miami touchdown and led to another touchdown drive. And passes of 24 yards to Jack Doyle and that 20-yarder to Pittman converted third downs as the Colts took the air out of the ball and ran out the clock late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts, too, were pleased not only with Wentz hitting those big-time throws, but in when he decided to take his shots.
"Coach talked about taking some of the simple sets out there instead of just waiting to try to get the big play, and you saw some of that today," Alie-Cox said. "If we just continue to keep that going, that's going to open up a whole lot of stuff in our offense."
It helped, too, that Taylor ripped off 103 yards on 16 carries. That success on the ground opened up more opportunities for Wentz. But he still had to execute on those opportunities, all while dealing with a sprained ankle/sprained ankles that, while improving, limited him in practice every day last week.
"I don't know percentage. Definitely much better than last week," Wentz said. "Not quite 100 percent, but getting there for sure."
Wentz's mobility certainly looked better than it did in Week 3, which was one of two games in the quarterback's career in which he did not have a rushing attempt. And it showed on that game-sealing strike to Pittman.
He was supposed to take a sack on that play, after all.
"(Reich) said take a short sack other than throw it away. I said, I made the guy miss and I got a first down instead," Wentz said. "So we chuckled about it, that's for sure."