The big third preseason game. Why is the third preseason game a big deal? Is it because it’s the most similar to regular season action in that the starters play the longest, or is it because we all yearn for a football game that actually means something? Probably a little of both.
In starter versus starter action, the Colts struggled on defense and looked discombobulated at times on offense, but down 14-7 in the first quarter, they were within striking distance. The problem came when the Saints backups extended the lead to 20-7 against mostly starters for Indianapolis, eventually leading to a ho-hum 23-17 final score.
The loss matters in a sense, but only for player evaluation and preparation for the regular season.
There certainly are some concerns, but anyone ringing the alarm bells and predicting a 2014 season of doom is overreacting. It’s one game, and not even a real one at that. In 2005, for example, Indianapolis lost the slightly-less-unimportant-than-the-rest third preseason game 24-37 (part of an 0-5 preseason) and went 14-2 when it mattered. I could name past preseason losses all day, but the point is that while they give us some idea, they aren’t a true measuring stick for the regular season.
On to the scoring summary: The Saints got things started early with an efficient, 80-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown from Drew Brees to Shayne Graham. After both teams punted once, the Colts answered with a quick drive ending in a 21-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener.
It didn’t stay tied for long, as Drew Brees took his team 80 yards in 7 plays and scored on a 13-yard pass to Shane Graham. The Saints pushed it to 20-7 with a pair of second quarter field goals.
After a dull third quarter, the Colts backups went 65-yards in two plays as Dan Herron ran for 43 yards, and wide receiver Josh Lenz caught a 22-yarder from Chandler Harnish in stride, making it 20-17. It was one of Harnish’s better throws as a pro. (edited 8/24)
The Saints went on to tack on a field goal from Derek Dimke late in the fourth to make it 23-17, and Colts couldn’t convert in the closing seconds. In fact, Harnish was sacked twice by the prevent defense. All in all, it was a preseason game. Luck struggled early but had a nice touchdown drive, the backups looked like backups, and there were a few bright spots to think about as we move closer to the real thing.
– The Saints were penalized 10 times for 84 yards, while Indy had just 3 accepted penalties (14 yards). The Colts also had 24 first downs to New Orleans’s 22. It pays to make big plays.
– DT/NT Zach Kerr should make the final roster. He’s been an absolute monster. NT Josh Chapman has been playing better, despite the defense as a whole having a rough night against the Saints starters.
– Dan Herron ran 8 times for 68 yards and 8.5 ypc. He averaged 3.57 yards outside of his 43-yard gain in the second half, but the second year back certainly made a case for himself overall. He hit the holes as though he were running from something awful. It would be nice to see how he does against some starters.
– Coby Fleener could be such a great asset in the red zone. Here’s hoping he’ll get more looks inside the 20.
– The Saints are very good. The Jets and Giants are not. It felt as though execution, not talent, was keeping Indy’s starters out of the game early.
– Andrew Luck seemed to be off at times. When your best player isn’t playing well, generally it’s not going to be pretty.
– The Saints QBs seemed to like picking on D’Qwell Jackson (though Jackson did knock down a pass).
– Mike Adams got plenty of time at safety with the starting unit. He finished with 6 tackles
– ILB Henoc Muamba didn’t see the field much, but he made the most of it with 2 tackles and a sack.
Now, can we just skip next week’s annual preseason loss to the Bengals and move on to the real thing?