The Indianapolis Colts lost 36-10 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday's preseason opener, and there was plenty of poor play to go around for Indy in the lopsided preseason contest. Let's take a look at some of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the game.
The game ball goes to the rookie running back, who provided the only real spark of the day for the Colts' offense. He led the Colts in rushing yards with 44, averaging 4.4 yards per rush and scoring the team's lone touchdown of the day on a play in which he made a number of defenders miss. He also added one catch for 11 yards, finishing with 55 yards total on the day. He's an exciting running back to watch and should continue to see more playing time as he was the star of an otherwise disappointing day for the Colts.
It's probably not a good thing when your punter is one of the standouts from the day, but Pat McAfee had a large role on Sunday. He punted eight times (which is more than he'll get in a few games combined during parts of the regular season) and averaged a terrific 56 yards per punt (including a long of 65) that included two touchbacks and one punt pinned inside the 20 yard line. McAfee was really booting the football today and was near the top of his game, even if the rest of the Colts (and the rest of the Colts' special teams coverage units) were not.
I get the fact that the rookie wide receiver lost a fumble today (more on that in a moment), but otherwise he had an impressive NFL debut. He tied for the team lead with four catches (on eight targets) while also leading the team with 51 receiving yards, averaging 12.8 yards per catch. The impressive part of Dorsett's game was that he showed a good ability to get open and good route running, proving to be a more well-rounded wideout than may have initially been assumed, since everyone talked about how fast he was. He's more than just a deep threat, however, and he showed today that he is able to run good routes and get open in other areas. He also did a decent job as a punt returner - mainly compared to Josh Cribbs last year, as Dorsett called for a fair catch on one of his return opportunities.
Vontae Davis and Darius Butler didn't play today as they recover from groin injuries, while the team's number four cornerback, rookie D'Joun Smith, left early with a concussion. That left plenty of opportunities for some of the depth players at the position, and it's safe to say they didn't really impress. The Eagles quarterbacks didn't even look particularly good (making some good throws but being inconsistent overall) yet they still racked up 285 yards passing and made several plays on the Colts' secondary. We need to keep in mind that Davis, Butler, and Smith really didn't see much action so it's not as big of a reason to be concerned, but we saw that the depth at cornerback is not very good.
If I were to evaluate the starting offensive line's pass protection, it would likely end up much more in "the good" category than in this one. But their run blocking? That really stood out, and not in a good way. Todd Herremans whiffed on a number of plays and the interior of the line appeared to be pretty weak (though I thought Khaled Holmes seemed to do a solid job at center). Zurlon Tipton didn't do much to help himself out like Josh Robinson did, but Tipton didn't really stand much of a chance while playing behind the Colts' first and second team offensive lines - units that did well in pass protection but struggled in run blocking. Hopefully Frank Gore will help make them look better, while hopefully they actually improve in the area as well.
Andrew Luck, of course, looked great, completing 5/6 passes for 43 yards and with his only incompletion coming via a drop from a wide open Coby Fleener. But the quarterbacks after him? That's a different story. Matt Hasselbeck and Bryan Bennett both struggled, combining to complete just 12 of 33 passes (36.4%) for 107 yards (3.24 yards per attempt) with no touchdowns and two interceptions, good for a passer rating of just 20.6. That's a horrendous stat line, and while Bennett did have a few flashes, overall it was a very rough game for the two backups. That probably goes without being said when you complete just 36.4% of passes for 3.24 yards per attempt with two turnovers, but regardless, the backup quarterback play perhaps came closer to "the ugly" category than "the bad."
The Colts' tackling was absolutely awful. Just terrible. There was the missed tackle by Jerrell Freeman that allowed the Eagles to get a first down and, later, a touchdown. There was the awful play in which Greg Toler massively misplayed the screen pass that ended up going for a touchdown. There was the play in which Winston Guy had the punt returner wrapped up but then didn't finish the tackle, allowing him to return the punt for a 92-yard score. And there were many others as well. The Colts' tackling was one of the more embarrassing parts of the game, as that's inexcusable no matter what the circumstances. Even if it's just the first preseason game and even if they didn't do much game planning for the Eagles, they still should make the tackles - something they didn't do with any consistency on Sunday.
Protecting the Football
The Colts turned the ball over four times on Sunday, and it could have been more. Phillip Dorsett and Bryan Bennett both lost fumbles, while Quan Bray and Zurlon Tipton both also fumbled the football but the Colts recovered and retained possession. There were also two interceptions thrown by Bennett, one of which in particular was an especially bad read and throw. You expect preseason football to be sloppy. But four turnovers, and two other fumbles that were recovered by the Colts? That's more than sloppy - it's flat out ugly.