In their final tune up before opening the season in Chicago, the Indianapolis Colts were anything but sharp. To this point, Chuck Pagano's patchwork squad had played with a precision that belied their inexperience. Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, they looked lost.
Andrew Luck's night would be a short one and he would get to work right away after the Colts won the opening coin toss. Aside from a defensive penalty against the Bengals which gave the Colts a first down, not much went well. Donald Brown was stopped for a loss and Coby Fleener dropped a pass over the middle and the Colts were quickly three and out.
The Bengals meanwhile took yardage in chunks, both through the air and on the ground and quickly reached Colts territory. On a first down play from the Colts 41, Robert Mathis and Jerry Hughes converged on Dalton in the backfield. Dalton's arm hit Mathis' helmet and his night was done.
Cincinnati RB Brian Leonard remained in the game though, and continued to pick up large gains on the perimeter of the Colts' defense, an area that's been weak throughout this preseason. The Colts held though as the Bengals approached the red zone and forced a 37 yard field goal from Mike Nugent.
Perhaps seeing Andy Dalton go down hastened the end of Andrew Luck's evening. Drew Stanton took over for the Colts on their second series of the night. Stanton found TE Dwayne Allen on a crossing route for a 23 yard gain, the first positive play for the Colts of the night. After Lavon Brazill lost seven yards on a reverse, Vick Ballard broke a long run deep into Bengals' territory, but a holding call against Jeff Linkenbach negated the gain and kept the Colts going in reverse.
Drew Stanton's night would be brief as well, lasting only one series. Chandler Harnish replaced him with a little over two minutes left in the first quarter. The Colts continued to march toward their own goal posts when the interior of the Colts line was caved in by the Bengals' defensive line, forcing Harnish's pass to go backward and be counted as a lateral. Despite a 50 yard punt by Pat McAfee, the Bengals were still almost in Colts' territory to begin their next drive.
After Bruce Gradkowski completed a pass to a an uncovered Cedric Peerman to pick up 17 yards on third and long, one of the worst quarters of football in the history of the Colts' franchise was mercifully finished. The Colts managed only one first down not by penalty and gained only 49 total yards. They were penalized three times for 25 yards in the quarter. They rushed for -2 yards on five carries.
Not the way you want to head into the regular season.
Steven will have the wrap up of the rest of tonight's game and we'll have full coverage of all this weekend's roster moves.
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