Last week, the Colts had an embarrassing showing against the Buffalo Bills in a 44-20 loss. But, of course, it was absolutely imperitive to remember that it was just a preseason game. My message last week was not to overreact to what we saw last week.
That's still my message tonight, although it might be much harder to do so after this game. Tonight, the Colts had a very impressive showing on national TV. They beat the Giants 20-12, and the game was full of numerous players impressing.
Below, we'll go over the many positives from tonight, as well as the negatives, in my game notes.
- Well, I don't really know where to start other than Andrew Luck. I mean, just wow. It doesn't really matter a lot of the negatives the offense still has, Luck masks them very well. He did last year, and he did tonight too. The interior offensive line still wasn't very good, but Luck didn't look phased at all. He started the day 0 for 3, but with all 3 passes being close - one being slightly overthrown to T.Y. Hilton on a deep pass that might have gone for 6 and another a drop by Coby Fleener. After that, he finished 9 for 10, with some tremendous play calling by Pep Hamilton and some tremendous plays by Luck, Hilton, and Reggie Wayne. Luck was about as good as he has ever been tonight, and he only made one throw that I thought was clearly bad - and it was caught for a touchdown. He was very impressive, and his second touchdown pass of the night, to T.Y. Hilton in the end zone, was an absolutely PERFECT pass right over the defender's reach and Hilton leaped and grabbed it. Luck was tremendous and had local and national fans and media alike remarking about how good he really is. And it was clearly on display today. I'll start my (soon to be) weekly look at Andrew Luck's game this Tuesday morning, as I think that he had enough plays to warrant an in-depth look. I'll definitely be doing it after each regular season game, too.
- That touchdown I mentioned that was Luck's only clear bad throw of the night? Yeah, that was just a sick play by Reggie Wayne. Luck threw a really bad pass (he was falling backwards as he threw it) that was right in the hands of Aaron Ross, but he dropped it and the pass went up in the air. Reggie Wayne then adjusted and managed to tip the pass back up and then he dove to catch it, getting his feet in for the touchdown. It was a remarkable play by Reggie.
- That same drive, Reggie caught a screen pass one handed that easily could have been caught with two. He's just showing off, and he makes one handed catches seem so ridiculously easy. Overall for the night Reggie caught 3 passes for 37 yards and a score, showing that he will definitely play a major role in this Colts' offense, in case anybody was worried.
- Coby Fleener? Yeah, he had another really bad game. The first pass of the game was a tremendous play by Luck, escaping pressure and rolling left, then throwing on the run and threading the needle perfectly to Fleener, who dropped it. It would have been a sure first down and probably more, but he dropped it. And it didn't end there, either. A little later in the game, playing with Matt Hasselbeck this time, Fleener wasn't even looking while running across the field and the pass hit him in the back. Really? Come on, man - pay attention! He then left the game with a sprained knee and it was a coaches decision on whether he would return, but really, nobody returns in the preseason, we all know that. So far, in two games (and less than 4 quarters of actual playing time, I'd estimate), Fleener has two big drops, a fumble, a pass that hit him in the back after he wasn't paying attention, a concussion, and a sprained knee. Yeah, he really needs to step it up BIG TIME. He has been a real disappointment so far this preseason. He had such a good camp and has so much talent, but for whatever reason it hasn't translated to the field yet this preseason.
- Speaking of the play calling, I love Pep Hamilton's play calls, especially when Luck was in there. After Luck started 0 for 3, Pep went to screen passes to get his quarterback's confidence back, something which was very smart. And then just from every pass play, it seemed like it was the right call - although Luck could mask a bad call anyway. And his run game emphasis? I think a lot of it has to do with protecting a lead, as I think the Colts want to get a lead and then be able to run to protect it. Also, I think the screen passes are being overlooked as an extension of the run game. And really, they were BALANCED tonight. They ran the ball 33 times and dropped back to pass 29 (that includes a sack). That's as balanced as they are ever going to get. But still, I feel people misunderstand what Pep Hamilton really wants. I'll have an article up trying to explain the Colts' run game emphasis sometime this week too.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey had a nice game too. He caught 4 passes for 42 yards (ending as the team's leading receiver) and didn't drop one. The Colts got him involved with a couple of screen passes and he looked good tonight.
- T.Y. Hilton needs to be in as much as possible. He's such a playmaker and so dynamic and brings a whole new level to this offense. He will definitely get plenty of chances this season, and I'm 100% in favor of him getting even more.
- Mike McGlynn stunk again tonight. I wish there was a setting where I could get this to appear on every one of my game recaps, because I'm pretty sure that as long as he's playing I'll be writing that. And it was definitely true again tonight.
- Bjoern Werner had a very impressive NFL debut tonight. He ended up getting some good pressure on the quarterback and also did a solid job in other areas too. In fact, his best play of the night came against the run, where the Giants had an outside run to the right and Werner got off his block and stopped the back for a loss of 4.
- Kavell Conner had another solid showing tonight, and Kelvin Sheppard had another bad one. I don't really know why Sheppard is still being considered as a starting candidate, if indeed he actually is. Conner has clearly outplayed him this preseason. The most concerning part of Sheppard's game is the fact that he looks really bad tackling. Conner should definitely get the nod at inside linebacker next to Jerrell Freeman, just as he did to begin last season.
- Cassius Vaughn fumbled a kick return on one that he definitely shouldn't have taken out of the end zone, as he was backed up pretty deep. The Colts recovered the fumble, but Vaughn absolutely has to hang on to that and also, it seems that the Colts are taking a lot of kick returns from deep in the end zone. Is that what special teams' coach Tom McMahon is teaching them? Then that's really dumb. Is it just a preseason thing to get opportunities to return kicks? Then I'm all for it. But in the regular season? No. Just no.
- Greg Toler had a nice interception on a play where he had great coverage and made an over the shoulder catch on a pass from Eli Manning that was less than stellar. Still, it was a very nice interception by Toler, who played much better than he did a week ago.
- Erik Walden had a very good night tonight as well. He even recorded a sack! He beat Giants' right tackle David Diehl easily for a sack, and he did a good job setting the edge for the team as well, which is exactly what the Colts brought him in for. If the defense plays like it did tonight, Walden and Werner can work very well together and this could end up being pretty good. But again, let's wait and see if it's consistent.
- Adam Vinatieri has still got quite a leg. He nailed a 52-yard kick tonight with plenty of room. I was really impressed with him in camp and was impressed to see that he still has quite a leg.
- Matt Hasselbeck had a really bad interception. He was falling backwards due to pressure from a guy right on top of him, but he waaaayyyy overthrew Donald Brown and it was picked off. It was a bad throw no matter how you look at it. He wasn't bad tonight overall, however, but he didn't do anything to really stand out either.
- Caesar Rayford had a very impressive night. He got a lot of pressure on the Giants' quarterbacks and notched 2 sacks to show for it in the record books. It was his third sack of the preseason (the other being a strip/sack last week) and he had a lot more pressure tonight that won't show in the stats. He had a really good night and he's a guy who is a very intriguing option for the Colts.
- Drake Nevis also had a very good night, also notching 2 sacks. He played really well. It's good to see, as he keeps improving this year right where he left off last year - he was improving a lot before going on season ending injured reserve mid-season. He has really impressed, and his effort to improve shouldn't be overlooked either. He showed tonight that he has a lot to offer the Colts.
- Pat McAfee punted really well tonight. Could I just put this one in each game recap too? Because that's true pretty much every game as well.
- Kerwynn Williams' stats wont show it (10 carries for 19 yards) but I was impressed with the rookie running back's quickness and ability to change directions. He had a nice play where he cut it back and ran across the field out side to get a first down. He is a guy with potential, and I think that he has definitely shown enough to warrant a spot on the roster, regardless of whether the stat book shows it or not.
- Brandon McManus has also been impressive in camp and preseason, but he doesn't have a shot at this roster at all. What he's doing is auditioning for a spot on another team, and a 50-yard field goal tonight should help. It hit the left upright and bounced in, but still, he has had an impressive camp and preseason in my opinion.
- Marshay Green had a really good play where he blitzed from the slot corner spot to the left and chased quarterback David Carr across the whole field before finally brining him down for a sack. It was a great play.
- Allen Chapman had a pass interference called on him in the 4th quarter. That won't really help his chances...
- So the Giants had a video tribute to current Colts' and former Giants' running back Ahmad Bradshaw before the game. But what about the video for former Giant and current Colts' PR boss Avis Roper? Nothing? Why not? Avis has done a good job for the Colts so far? Oh well, I might be nit-picking here.
- Injury updates: Coby Fleener left the game with a sprained knee and Monte Simmons limped off the field in the 4th quarter. No word on the extent of his injury yet. As far as the inactives went, Griff Whalen (groin), LaRon Landry (knee), Joe Lefeged (calf), Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), Dan Moore (shoulder/waived-injured), Josh McNary (hamstring), Khaled Holmes (ankle), Hugh Thornton (ankle), Dwayne Allen (foot), and Fili Moala (knee/PUP). Though inactive, it was announced before the game that Teddy Williams, Pat Angerer, and Montori Hughes would not play either.
Three weeks from today, the Colts will welcome the Oakland Raiders to Lucas Oil Stadium for the regular season opener. If the starters play as well as they did tonight, it will be a great season for Colts fans. And I truly believe that they can play that way. But it's also incredibly important to remember that, just like we said after the loss, IT'S JUST PRESEASON. Yeah, the games matter because guys are trying to make the team. But it doesn't count, and there's a pretty big difference there. And until the games begin to count, we absolutely must resist the urge to overreact - win or lose.
I'm very happy with the showing tonight by the Indianapolis Colts, and I think that they can continue to play this way. Right now, we need to see consistency, and hopefully we will get a good look at that next Saturday night when the Colts' play their third preseason game against the Cleveland Browns in the game where the starters play a while.