If their long-term future was on display in the form of Andrew Luck on Sunday in Chicago, the Colts’ more immediate prospects were apparent the same afternoon in Minneapolis.
The Vikings, who come to Lucas Oil Stadium for the home opener Sunday, beat the Jaguars, who visit the following week, 26-23 in overtime. It was a matchup of two superstar running backs on the rebound and both will provide a major test for a Colts run defense that has struggled mightily.
Chicago’s Matt Forte and Michael Bush combined for 122 rushing yards in the Bears’ 41-21 victory in Soldier Field.
If Forte and Bush were the frying pan, Adrian Peterson is the fire.
In his first game since reconstructive knee surgery eight months ago, Peterson produced 84 yards on 17 carries, including gains of 10 and 20 yards in overtime to set up the winning field goal.
“I just watched him briefly, took a quick peek at him against Jacksonville and he looks as good as he’s ever looked,” said coach Chuck Pagano. “The saying that we have around here is ‘no edge, no chance.’ If you don’t put an edge on the defense this week, it was at a premium last week with Forte but this week this guy can take it the distance. The backside, he does a great job of cutting the thing back, putting a foot in the ground and getting north and south.
“There were times that we looked really good as far as the run defense goes but all it takes is one guy gets hooked, one guy gets out of his gap, a mis-read at the second level by a linebacker and you’ve got a seam in your defense. With the new fronts, different calls, things like that there’s going to be times, there’s going to be growing pains as we move forward.”
After facing Peterson and the Vikings, the Jaguars bring Maurice Jones-Drew, who recently ended a lengthy holdout. He did not start but racked up 77 yards on 19 carries.
FREENEY, JUSTICE TOP INJURY LIST
Dwight Freeney’s status will be one of the key issues of the week as the Colts prepare for the Vikings. The veteran rush linebacker left early in Chicago with a sprained left ankle and Pagano described his status as “day-to-day.”
If Freeney can’t play, the Colts would likely turn to Jerry Hughes or Mario Addison. Hughes played 73 percent of the defensive snaps against the Bears and was not credited with a tackle. Addison was shut out while playing 27 percent of the snaps.
“We’ve got enough guys, thank God, at the outside backer position,” Pagano said. “We’ve got a ton of options and a bunch of guys got a lot of reps obviously in the preseason, the Jerry Hugheses, the Addisons and the (Justin) Hickmans of the world, those guys have got to step up in case he is out or if he’s out for an extended period of time.
“I hear Dwight’s a fast healer, he’s got all kinds of medical people that he surrounds himself, between hyperbaric chambers and all that kind of thing I anticipate him getting back sooner rather than later.”
Right tackle Winston Justice (concussion) will have his progress monitored closely by the medical staff this week, while Pagano said he expected left guard Joe Reitz (knee) to miss at least one more game. The status of wide receiver Austin Collie (concussion) is uncertain.
COLTS SIGN TWO O-LINEMEN
The Colts added much-needed experience to the offensive line by signing former Pittsburgh free agent Trai Essex.
A native of Fort Wayne, the 6-5, 324-pound Essex has 76 appearances including 28 starts and picked up two Super Bowl rings while with the Steelers. A third-round pick in 2005, Essex was the starter at right guard the entire 2009 season and also has started at left tackle. Last season he played all five positions, starting three games.
They also signed tackle Bradley Sowell from the Buccaneers’ practice squad. An undrafted rookie, the 6-7, 320-pound Sowell started 36 games at Mississippi.
The Colts waived two offensive linemen, tackle Mike Person and center A.Q. Shipley.
>>Pagano acknowledged the need to generate a more balanced offensive attack. The Colts had 48 pass plays (three resulted in sacks) and just 15 runs in Chicago. “We don’t go into any ballgame scripting 45 throws,” he said. “You get behind and you’re forced to do some things to get back into the game.”
>>Though Luck threw three interceptions in his debut, Pagano called his a “gritty, gritty performance.” Luck passed for 309 yards and one touchdown but was under constant pressure. “I try to view the film as a learning experience, be critical of yourself, not wallow in ‘we lost, terrible, woe is me,’ ” Luck said. “I think a lot of plays out there you wish you could’ve done differently and some throws, some interception throws, to take back. We had some opportunities to maybe flip the script and get ahead early but didn’t take advantage of those.”
>>Pagano on the Colts’ turnover problems in Chicago: “I told ‘em today, any time you’re minus-four you won’t beat Carmel High School or Zionsville. I don’t care who you’re playing. At the end of the day if you’re minus-four in the turnover stat it’s really hard to overcome.”
>>Pagano on his message to rookie LaVon Brazill, who fumbled on a kickoff return. “I told him it’s better to die a young man than to fumble,” he said. “I don’t know if that hit home but I’ll probably get a phone call from his folks after this is over.”
>>The Colts announced Sunday’s game is sold out and thus will be televised locally on WXIN-59. It also will be broadcast on 1070 the Fan and Hank 97.1 FM and the Vectren Radio Network.