A lot of others flew through my mind, many it would be wildly inappropriate to share, in the immediate aftermath of the Colts’ 44-20 loss to Buffalo Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in the preseason debut for both teams.
When the best thing that can be said about a game is that none of the key players was injured, there’s not a whole lot to feel good about for Colts fans.
“Obviously, everybody top to bottom is disappointed,” said Coach Chuck Pagano. “Never envisioned going out and playing a football game and having he outcome we had. That’s not what we came in here to do, obviously.”
Andrew Luck looked OK, playing two series, completing 4-of-6 for 51 yards. He was sacked once in 10 snaps, when Mario Williams did a blow-by of Anthony Castonzo. Luck later took the blame because he made a mistake on the snap cadence. “Castonzo’s pissed at me,” Luck said. “He said, ‘Do you want to get hurt?’ I publicly take that one.”
T.Y. Hilton continued to show signs of taking another step forward with three receptions for 61 yards, including a diving 45-yarder for a touchdown from Matt Hasselbeck that put the Colts up 10-3 at the end of the first quarter. “He’s going to do something special when he’s on the field,” Luck said. “He has that factor to him.”
Most everything thereafter.
Special teams were especially egregious. Buffalo’s Marquise Goodwin had two long kickoff returns — including a 107-yarder for a touchdown that tied it at 13-all in the second quarter. The Colts’ return men, on the other hand, were lucky to make it to the 20. In fact, seven Colts kickoff returns barely covered more turf (119 yards) than Goodwin’s TD burst. “You’re not going to give yourself a chance to win any football games by giving up big plays on special teams,” Pagano said. “We’ve got to address that and make the necessary adjustments and corrections.”
Coby Fleener had two major mistakes, fumbling at the end of a 23-yard reception inside the Bills’ 25-yard line, and then dropping one in the end zone on the next possession. “He’s been making those plays in training camp,” Pagano said. “He’ll bounce back.”
The first unit defense settled down nicely after surrendering 32 yards to C.J. Spiller on his first two carries, but then again they were playing against an offense directed by a rookie (E.J. Manuel) running a no-huddle in his very first NFL game.
Manuel made like Joe Montana against the backups, completing all nine of his attempts for 68 yards in directing a 92-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the half to put the Bills ahead for good.
HOT READS>> There was little indication of a commitment to more run-pass balance. The Colts produced 72 rushing yards on 16 attempts, compared to 49 pass plays. And they can’t play the “we fell behind and had to throw to catch up” card. Of the first 10 plays with Luck at the helm, they ran it just three times. The leading rusher was rookie Kerywnn Williams with 21 yards on four attempts. Vick Ballard carried three times for 18 yards.
>> Matt Hasselbeck was actually more productive than Luck, producing 10 points (which would’ve been 14 had Fleener held on in the end zone) on his first two series, including the well-timed throw on the 45-yard score to Hilton. He also was picked off once, but that was the result of a tipped ball by an unblocked defender.
>> Chandler Harnish did not make much of a case for keeping three quarterbacks, going 14 of 33 for 109 yards and an interception, playing the entire second half and part of the second quarter. He did make what had to be some sort of history when he completed a pass to Justice Cunningham, which just might be the first-ever connection between consecutive Mr. Irrelevants.
>> We’re still not sure what precisely is the issue with Dwayne Allen’s sore foot – the Colts have yet to define the injury – but he was on crutches wearing a hard boot when he arrived at the stadium. “He’s going to be out for a couple weeks,” Pagano said. “We’re going to keep him off his feet. …They don’t want any weight on that foot for a couple weeks. Nothing major. We expect him back sooner than later.” Allen offered this on his Twitter account before the game: “Have to sit this one out but Im confident Ill be back out on the field very soon! Excited to watch the new additions perform & hopefully win a job!”
>> If one of the primary goals of any preseason game is to avoid injuries, that was an unticked box. The Colts lost ILB Justin Hickman (foot), OLB Quinton Spears (hamstring), CB Cassius Vaughn (wrist) and DT Montori Hughes (burner) during the course of the game.
>> Allen was one of five projected starters who did not play. The others: safety LaRon Landry (knee), running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman (shoulder) and Pat Angerer (foot). Justin Hickman and Kavell Conner started at the inside linebacker spots, Fleener took Allen’s place and Delano Howell filled in for Landry.
>> First-round pick Bjoern Werner was not listed among the inactives but clearly had no designs on playing. He was on the sidelines in street clothes. Werner missed practice Friday with a sore knee.
>> With Landry, Joe Lefeged (calf), Sergio Brown (hamstring) and John Boyett (knees) all out, the Colts had just three safeties available: Antoine Bethea, Howell and recently signed undrafted rookie Ashante Williams.