Leave it to the Colts’ reserve players to blow an 8 point lead with less than 3:00 to play…in regulation. Thanks in large part to Chip Vaughn (more on him later), the Packers marched 73 yards for a TD and 2-point conversion to tie the game at 21. They followed the score with a successful onside kick, leading to a game-winning 50 yard FG as time expired. Don’t let the results fool you though – the Colts played extremely well, and it was very encouraging to see our starters build a 14-10 halftime lead against the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Here are my thoughts:
- Curtis Painter looked much, much better. He finished the game 11-21, 171 yards and 2 TD’s, and even those numbers don’t tell the full story. In the 1st quarter, both Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon dropped passes (albeit difficult catches), and the referees once again blew a pass-interference call. Painter stepped up in the pocket a few times, and was quick to get rid of the football – overall he just looked like a much more confident QB. Reggie Wayne backed up his talk, and finished with 6 catches for 105 yards, highlighted by a 57-yard TD pass. Both Wayne and Painter deserve credit for the TD, but it was a direct result from a blown coverage by Green Bay – no Packer was within 15 yards of Wayne. Painter also ran a successful 2:00 drill – He connected with Pierre Garcon on a 9-route for 36 yards, and followed it up with a 7 yard TD pass to Chris Brooks, which even drew a smile from Peyton Manning.
- There isn’t much to report on Dan Orlovsky. I wrote earlier that another solid performance could help him leapfrog Curtis Painter on the depth chart, but that isn’t going to happen with Painter’s solid outing. Orlovsky was just 4-9 for 30 yards, but he did hook up with David Gilreath for a 3-yard TD pass.
- Jerry Hughes was once again disappointing. He played almost the entire game, and didn’t register a tackle. I think he lacks the strength to play defensive end in the NFL. He clearly lacks a bull rush (unless he’s saving it for the regular season), and offensive tackles are willing to just push him to the outside, rendering him useless. Dwight Freeney put on a bull-rushing clinic, and it resulted in 2 sacks (both on 3rd down) and consistent pressure. Hughes looked absolutely lost on Green Bay’s 4th and 8 play, and Rodgers had all day to throw the ball, eventually finding Donald Driver for a 10-yard completion. On the positive side, Hughes did beat the Packers’ RT, nearly for a sack, but Rodgers stepped up for a 5 yard rush. He also beat Derrick Sherrod (Packers’ 1st-round draft pick) badly on Philip Wheeler’s sack, but again was just a step late to the QB.
- Jacob Lacey sucks. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. I don’t know if it’s the coaching, the play-calling, or Jacob Lacey’s natural instinct – but you cannot give a 10-yard cushion to an NFL wide receiver. Yet Lacey repeatedly played off his man, and gave up 5 catches in the 1st quarter (I lost count after that). He had 10 tackles, which should give you an indication of how often Aaron Rodgers threw his way.
- Oddly enough, Jerraud Powers played almost exclusively out of the slot, as a nickel CB. Again, I don’t know if the Colts were trying something new, or if they’ve really demoted him to 3rd on the depth chart, but it was the first time I’ve seen him play there. Results were pretty typical – he looked like the best CB on the Colts’ roster, but also gave up a few completions, including Driver’s 4th down catch.
- I wrote yesterday to keep an eye on Joe Lefeged, the undrafted free agent safety, who was expected to start in place of injured Antoine Bethea. There wasn’t much to see, at least early on as David Caldwell got the start ahead of Lefeged. However, Lefeged was the full time kick returner, and looked pretty natural in his returns (4 returns, 103 yards). When he did see time at safety, he was very effective in stopping the run – he’s very quick to meet the RB at the 2nd level, which can turn a big gain into an average gain.
- Tommie Harris was very impressive in limited snaps. He nearly picked off a screen pass, which showed great recognition and above average athleticism. Harris also beat the Packers’ RG on a 3rd and 7 for a sack. It was a great play design, and one that I’ll breakdown a little bit for you: We showed blitz from a 4-2-5 defensive lineup, with both of our linebackers (Angerer and Sims) at the line of scrimmage. However, Sims dropped into coverage after the snap, and Angerer blanketed the RB James Starks out of the backfield. The last part was important because the RB had already caught 5 passes, and appeared to be Rodgers’ security blanket. The defensive call caused Rodgers to hesitate just long enough for Harris to make the sack. Great play design; great execution by Sims, Angerer, and Harris.
- Jamaal Anderson lived up to his reputation as a run-stuffing defensive end. He saw plenty of action early in the game, mostly on early downs, and held up pretty well. He did a great job keeping outside contain on a PlayAction bootleg, and even stayed with Rodgers as the QB attempted a few juke moves. Fili Moala also looked pretty good against the run. He was credited with 3 tackles, one of which stopped a run play for a 2 yard loss. Tyler Brayton was quiet all night.
- Anthony Castonzo will be our opening day Left Tackle, and I’m not even nervous about it. He is the prototypical left tackle – 6’7″, 310 LB’s, and athletic enough to deal with speed rushers on the outside. He held up exceptionally well in pass protection, but still needs to work on his run blocking.
- Our starting offensive line played as expected – good, but not great. They were very impressive in the run game, as Joseph Addai rushed for 44 yards on 8 carries, including a 19 yard run on the 2nd play from scrimmage. Ryan Diem made a great block to spring Addai’s long run, but also got called for a false start (surprise, surprise). I didn’t get a chance to watch Joe Reitz closely, but he was beaten a few times trying to run block. Jeff Linkenbach simply doesn’t have the talent to be a starting tackle in the NFL. He’ll make a solid backup, but he isn’t athletic enough to deal with elite pass-rushers. He was beaten badly by Clay Matthews on 3rd & 4 for a sack. Unfortunately, our future RT Ben Ijalana wasn’t impressive either. He didn’t get any snaps with the 1st team, which looks like an indication that he won’t be starting against the Houston Texans week 1. When he did play, he looked ½ step slow, and was beaten outside for a 3rd down sack.
- Last week, I predicted that John Chick would make the 53-man roster because of his energy and non-stop motor, and he didn’t disappoint Friday night. He drew a holding penalty that negated a Green Bay touchdown, otherwise he would’ve had an easy sack. He also stopped a 3rd and 2 running play, albeit against 2nd stringers in the 4th quarter. Chick was involved in a few special teams plays, and was credited with 4 total tackles on the night.
- WR David Gilreath is making a strong case for a roster spot. He was the full-time punt returner, and made a few nice moves on a 30-yard return. He also caught 2 passes for 13 yards, including a 3-yard TD late in the game. With Blair White’s injury, Gilreath may make the team as the Colts’ 5th WR – or dare I say it – as the 4th WR because of Anthony Gonzalez’ hamstring injury.
- Chip Vaughn: pack your bags. The safety will be cut at some point this week after committing a 15-yard, late-hit penalty on the Packers’ game-tying drive. He followed the mistake up with another 15-yard taunting penalty on the very next play – which got Jim Caldwell pretty heated. Cameras showed Caldwell with his headset and hat off, screaming at Vaughn from the sideline. I’m no lip-reader, but he appeared to yell, “Chip, get off the field!”
- Reggie Wayne dropped the 1st pass of the game, but later redeemed himself with a 1-handed catch for a 1st down.
- Robert Mathis left the game with a hamstring injury. He did not return, but the injury didn’t appear to be serious.
- Donald Brown looked much improved in pass protection.
- Delone Carter converted a 3rd & 1 late in the 3rd quarter after being hit a few yards behind the line of scrimmage…Exactly what he was drafted to do. A few plays later, he made a great cut for a 15-yard run. I predict he’d become the primary ball-carrier if Addai gets injured.
- Pat Angerer played pretty well. He was beaten by JerMichael Finley on an 18-yard TD, but it was pretty good coverage. Rodgers threw a perfect pass, Finley with a great catch. He finished with 5 tackles and a sack.
- Pat McAfee continues his impressive preseason, averaging 51 yards on his 8 punts. Let’s hope he
playskicks this well during the regular season.
- Peyton Manning was interviewed shortly after halftime, and he seemed very positive. I remained very optimistic that Manning would start week 1 all offseason, until the team signed Kerry Collins. After the signing, I thought there was virtually no chance #18 would be active week 1. However, this interview gave me some renewed hope. Manning spent the entire interview with a slight grin on his face, and I have no doubt that he’ll return with a chip on his shoulder, whenever that will be. When asked whether he’d be ready for week 1:
“I sure hope so. I’ve never missed a game in my football career because of an injury since I was 13 years old. I sure don’t want to start week 1 of this season. That’s my goal – is to be out there to play, and not just play but play competitively…That’s my goal. I want to help the team win. If I’m able to do that, I’ll be out there”
Overall, it was a very good night for Colts fans. The team’s 1st string offense put up 14 points without Peyton Manning. While Aaron Rodgers shredded our secondary, there were plenty of positives to take away from our defense (GB rushed 19 times for 45 yards, 2.4 average). While the team lost it’s 9th straight preseason game, the Colts should be able to ride some momentum into the start of the regular season. Let’s just hope Peyton Manning’s ready to play.