Well, the first preseason game of 2013 is in the books (You can check out Kyle Rodriguez’s initial reactions article by clicking here), and it wasn’t especially pretty. The Goal for next week? According to Reggie Wayne: “Win. Let’s start with that. Let’s win and like I said, we are going to watch the film, correct these mistakes and hopefully we won’t make the same ones next week.”
That’s a good place to start. But for now, we’ll take a quick look at what happened on Sunday and get a few players’, as well as Coach Pagano’s takes on the game. (continued below)
The Colts appeared rusty and discordant, and the Buffalo Bills pounced on the opportunity to the tune of a 44-20 drubbing. Andrew Luck went 4/6 for 51 yards, his last pass a high one over the middle to TE Coby Fleener, who turned it into a 24-yard gain before fumbling.
Two plays later, the Bills fumbled the ball right back. The teams traded field goals, tying the score at 3, before Colts backup QB Matt Hasselbeck (4/8, 75 yds, 1/1) threw a highlight reel 45-yard strike to a sprinting T.Y. Hilton. Hilton laid out for a diving circus catch – the kind he might not have pulled off last year – then slid and bounced into the end zone.
From there, the game quickly evolved into extended player tryouts. They traded field goals again in the second quarter before Buffalo scored two straight touchdowns, one on a 107-yard kick return by Marquise Goodwin, making it 20-13, Bills.
Indianapolis would score one last time early in the fourth quarter, when former AFL LB Caesar Rayford sacked Bills QB Jeff Tuel, knocking the ball to the ground with a monstrous swat. Reserve defensive back Dax Swanson scooped up the ball and raced 72 yards to the end zone.
Overall, it was a good day to see some young guys try out for the team, but not a great day on the scoreboard. Chuck Pagano, who was visibly frustrated on the sidelines, said after the game, “Obviously everybody top to bottom is disappointed. You never envision going out and playing a football game and having the outcome that we had. That’s not what we came in here to do today, obviously. Like I told the guys, it’s never as bad as you think it is. It’s never good as you think it is. Somewhere in between is where reality lies.”
Pagano on the offense: “The positive things, we had some positive things in the first half with our first offense. I think (Andrew) Luck was driving the team and then you shoot yourself in the foot. We’re off late on a communication thing with a snap and we have a sack. You get a false start and you’re first-and-15. Get a big play to (Coby) Fleener and give Buffalo credit, they come up and smack him pretty good, and he puts the ball on the carpet. We got a chance to have a great drive going there and then we have an opportunity for a big play in the back of the end zone right back to Coby. He’s been making those plays all through training camp. He’ll bounce back from that.
And the defense, Chuck? “Defensively,” Pagano began “(C.J.) Spiller again, great back. Couple big runs there to start against our defense early on. We got things calmed down for the most part but we got to look at that and address that, obviously, that’s a major point of emphasis for us. Two red zone stops for the defense. One was a sudden change after a turnover, so that was a positive. Again, give Buffalo credit. They did a great job. They went up-tempo on their offense the whole time. Defensively they put good pressure on us up front and put pressure on our quarterback.”
Pagano on the Special Teams Performance: “Special teams-wise, you’re not going to win any football games or give yourself a chance to win football games by giving up big plays on special teams. And we make no excuses, but we give up a big punt return and then obviously a kickoff return for a touchdown. We’ve got to address that and make the necessary adjustments and corrections and we will do that.”
Where Was Bjoern?
The first preseason game, absent of much significant pass rush from the defense, was also lacking rookie pass rusher Bjoern Werner. Fans everywhere were looking forward to seeing the young linebacker in his first NFL game action but in the end were left asking, “Was Bjoern even in the gjame?” No, superfluous use of the letter “j” aside, he was not. Pagano said he should be back in practice this week, however.
“We knew that a couple days ago his knee was sore and we held him out of practice,” Pagano said. “He got treatment on it and he felt better Saturday, but then we brought him out and worked him out this morning prior to the game and put him through some stuff. He just wasn’t 100 percent. So rather than just throw him out there at 75 percent or 80 or whatever he is, it just wasn’t worth it. We aired on the side of caution and held him out. He should be back at practice by Tuesday.”
Take note, future free agents who might consider playing in the Circle City someday: The Colts are cautious and responsible on the matters injuries and player health. It would be silly to think that no one plays in the regular season at less than 100%. However, this team isn’t going to risk anything in a game that doesn’t matter, and they seem to have players’ long-term health in mind year round.
Well, no one likes to keep talking about a loss, but here are a few highlights from the player postgame interviews.
Andrew Luck taking the blame for the miscommunication on his sack: “Yeah the sack was my fault. It was a cadence mishap. (Anthony) Castonzo is pissed at me (laughs). He said ‘Do you want to get hurt, Andrew?’ So, I told him I’d publicly take that one on me. He’s in the clear for that.”
Chandler Harnish, 3rd string QB and unabashed Hoosier, on the importance of the preseason for a player in his position: “Huge. It’s my Super Bowl. I need to go out and perform like it’s my last game every single afternoon and this is a tough one to take on the chin but sometimes you have your bad days and you need to learn from it and see what you can do better next time.”
T.Y. Hilton, who just keeps looking better and better, deflecting the praise for his 45 yard touchdown: “Oh yeah, yeah. It was very exciting, Matt (Hasselbeck) threw a wonderful ball, O-line held up, and I was able to go ahead and make a play.”
Hilton again, on what kinds of things he asks Reggie Wayne in his relentless quest for improvement: “Just things like what he sees in the defense. There’s no defense that he hasn’t seen, so whenever I get a chance to ask him a question, whether it’s on the field or off the field, I make sure I do that.”
Reggie Wayne on getting the first preseason game under wraps (He was not pleased): “You saw the score, right? We didn’t play good Colts football today. We have to do better. We had some good plays but we had a ton of bad plays so hopefully we can correct those and get better for next week.”
Bills QB E. J. Manuel on getting to talk with Andrew Luck, who he’s known since high school: “He said I looked comfortable. He said I looked good. Obviously, I said the same to him. He came out there and did what he does, but getting the props from him was really nice.”
Let’s put this one behind us, Colts fans. Be sure to check out Kyle Rodriguez’s article with notes on the good, bad and ugly – which players stood out, whether in a positive or negative light in yesterday’s preseason game.
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.
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