HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2021: Best Colts Storylines, Moments, Reaction for Episode 7

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 30, 2021

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

The goal was simple for the Indianapolis Colts: Have a merry Christmas by defeating the Arizona Cardinals.

The showdown against the NFC West playoff contender was the primary storyline of Wednesday's episode of Hard Knocks in Season: The Indianapolis Colts. A victory would mean three straight wins for the Colts and a step closer to a playoff berth, while a loss would have cemented their space in the middle of the pack in a crowded AFC wild-card race.

Quarterback Carson Wentz was under the spotlight after throwing for just 57 yards in the previous win over the New England Patriots, and much of the early portion of the episode focused on his preparation as he looked to bounce back against the Cardinals.

All the work eventually paid off during the 22-16 victory over the Cardinals. The Jonathan Taylor Show continued, as the running back went over the century mark on the ground for the ninth time in 12 games with 108 rushing yards to remain in the MVP discussion. 

Even the Cardinals were impressed:


"Impressive as hell to watch."<br><br>"MVP for real."<br><br>"2,000. I wanna see you do it."<br><br>Jonathan Taylor is garnering ultimate respect around the league ๐Ÿ”ฅ (via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLFilms?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLFilms</a>) <a href="https://twitter.com/JayT23?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JayT23</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> In Season: The <a href="https://twitter.com/Colts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Colts</a> | Wednesday 10pm on <a href="https://twitter.com/hbomax?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@hbomax</a> <a href="https://t.co/hAdbRl0w6d">pic.twitter.com/hAdbRl0w6d</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Starting the game off with a bang ๐Ÿ’ช <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/JayT23?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JayT23</a> <a href="https://t.co/XPJXixHWq3">pic.twitter.com/XPJXixHWq3</a>

However, it wasn't just a one-man show this time around like it was against the Patriots. Wentz threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns that went to T.Y. Hilton and Dezmon Patmon without turning it over.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Carson came up clutch on Christmas. ๐Ÿ’ช<br><br>New <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> TONIGHT 10pm on <a href="https://twitter.com/hbomax?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@hbomax</a>. <a href="https://t.co/h4uGRcIxrZ">pic.twitter.com/h4uGRcIxrZ</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Still not over this arm angle ๐Ÿคฏ<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/cj_wentz?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CJ_wentz</a> <a href="https://t.co/itXdj7djbF">pic.twitter.com/itXdj7djbF</a>

The defense also kept a star-studded Arizona squad led by Kyler Murray in relative check. While Murray made his plays, including with his legs on the way to 74 rushing yards, the defense held him to just one touchdown pass.

Indianapolis is now 9-6, which is a long way from its 1-4 start. Chances are, the Colts wouldn't be on a three-game winning streak if they were playing basketball:

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Santa better gift these guys some skills this Christmas ๐Ÿ˜‚<a href="https://twitter.com/Colts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Colts</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/IxsohVOlQ3">pic.twitter.com/IxsohVOlQ3</a>

An impressive turnaround has its rewards, as the team learned it features an NFL-best seven Pro Bowlers in Taylor, center Ryan Kelly, guard Quenton Nelson, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard, cornerback Kenny Moore II and long snapper Luke Rhodes.

The team was particularly fired up when head coach Frank Reich revealed Moore as a Pro Bowler:

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Finally a Pro Bowler ๐Ÿ‘ <br><br> <a href="https://twitter.com/KennyKennyMoe3?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KennyKennyMoe3</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/qAmC0YSnWJ">pic.twitter.com/qAmC0YSnWJ</a>

Those Pro Bowlers have the Colts at the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture and one game ahead of the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders in the postseason race.

They finish with the Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars, which are two winnable games on paper. Still, they are facing a new challenge because Wentz was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list even though he is not yet ruled out for the Raiders game.

If he is sidelined, the team will turn toward its next-man-up attitude:

NFL Films @NFLFilms

The <a href="https://twitter.com/Colts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Colts</a> next-man-up attitude runs deep.<br><br>A behind-the-scenes look at how they overcame missing starters last week due to COVID.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> returns tonight 10pm on <a href="https://twitter.com/hbomax?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HBOMax</a>. <a href="https://t.co/8MsLgSzxzM">pic.twitter.com/8MsLgSzxzM</a>

The reality of the omicron variant was apparent during Wednesday's episode with the offensive line in particular dealing with depth issues, but there were also some of the patented light-hearted moments that define Hard Knocks.

Whether it was director of football research John Park rapping, a rather chaotic secret Santa exchange involving Hilton or Buckner gifting his fellow defensive linemen with motorcycles, there was no shortage of positive energy in the building for the Colts.


"Second steal, baby!"<br><br>Pure chaos over <a href="https://twitter.com/TYHilton13?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TYHilton13</a>'s secret santa gift ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePitt_Jr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MikePitt_Jr</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/dadpat7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dadpat7</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Mike_Playmaker?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Mike_Playmaker</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/Colts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Colts</a> <a href="https://t.co/32hISTd3gk">pic.twitter.com/32hISTd3gk</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Well, one of us is gonna have to change...<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/uqz7Jwl6cw">pic.twitter.com/uqz7Jwl6cw</a>

As long as the wins keep coming, that energy figures to remain high right into the playoffs.