INDIANAPOLIS – As if making his first career start for a team on a six-game losing streak wasn't enough of a hill to climb for Will Grier, the rookie quarterback was handed another challenge after just six plays Sunday. DJ Moore, who led the NFL with 711 receiving yards over the Panthers' past seven games, was lost after the second drive with a concussion.
"That wasn't ideal," Grier said afterward.
No, no, it wasn't.
"Once DJ went out of the game, obviously, that's one of your playmakers, one of your weapons," interim head coach Perry Fewell said. "So the timing and the rhythm of the offense, the person he's been throwing to all week, that's now gone, so you've got to replace that. That's tough for a young quarterback."
So Grier locked in even more on the part of the game plan labeled, "Make sure to use No. 22 a lot."
Grier targeted Christian McCaffrey 15 times. He caught all 15 passes, setting a franchise record for most receptions in a game. Of Grier's 224 passing yards, 119 went to McCaffrey. When targeting anyone other than McCaffrey, Grier went 12-for-29 for 105 yards and three interceptions.
The first pick came with the Colts ahead, 21-3, late in the first half. On third-and-18 from the Carolina 27-yard line, Grier rolled to his right and threw across his body toward Jarius Wright. As the ball arrived, so did linebacker Anthony Walker, who ripped the ball away.
"That was a really good play. I thought Jarius caught it and that guy made an incredible play," Grier said. "They're allowed to make plays, too. They're good players and that's part of it. I don't necessarily want the throw back."
Grier also wasn't regretting the pair of picks he threw in the fourth quarter of what was clearly a lost game. Both were downfield to DeAndrew White. Each instead landed in the hands of cornerback Pierre Desir. The first was an overthrow. The second was a great effort by Desir, who beat White to the pass.
"I was trying to set a spark," Grier said. "I don't necessarily want them back. The last one I probably could've put it out in front of him a little bit more. That's part of the game. We were playing from behind, they were playing really soft and playing to intercept the ball when I pushed it downfield, but we had to go. We had to get something going.
"I'm trying to be aggressive, trying to make something happen."
While it's likely Grier will get another chance to make something happen in next week's season finale against the Saints, Fewell wasn't ready to publicly commit.
"We'll evaluate the tape, we'll talk as an organization and we'll make a decision," he said.
That tape will confirm most of what we all saw Sunday. Grier did some good things when moving around to extend plays, but he struggled to connect with anyone other than McCaffrey. Grier also had to deal with a defense that could pin its ears back after the Panthers' punt team allowed the Colts to jump out to an early lead. And then there was the loss of Moore.
Very little of it was ideal.
"He was thrown into an impossible situation," tight end Greg Olsen said. "Two games left in a season where there's been countless issues and now throw him out there and play incompetent football around him — it's impossible to get any sort of judgment based on his performance today.
"So I hope no one passes any judgment on Will's abilities as a player going forward. I think there were a lot of things in play that he had to suffer the consequences of."