Well, that went as well as it could have gone. The Colts tangled with the Bills today, but were blown out in Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bills walked out of LOS with a 44-20 victory. The Colts just seemed unable to answer the Bills in all facets of the game. Now, was this a good measuring stick for how the season could go? No. Was this a good measuring stick for some of the on-the-fence players? Absolutely. The Colts’ starting lineup did not see much playing time today, which is understandable. When you have close to 90 men on a roster, you have to find the time to see how they react to a game situation. As I said in the game preview, this was the game for the 3rd and 4th string players to really shine- some of them did, and some didn’t do much to help themselves. In my mind, there were a few players that did help themselves with this game, but they did not surprise me with their performance.
The Colts’ offense seemed to sputter starting out, but hit their stride with one big play. Back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit T.Y. Hilton on a long pass, and Hilton made a great adjustment to make the catch and get into the end zone. That is about it out of the Colts offense. Now, the first team offense didn’t see much time, and what they did see wasn’t spectacular. At one point, Castonzo was blown past and Luck ended up on his back after a solid hit. The Bills’ defense played pretty well for the first preseason game, though. They were not playing lightly today. They were bringing the load to the Colts almost the entire game. They were blitzing and had a pretty good pass rush all afternoon. They were putting a good amount of pressure on the Colts’ quarterbacks, and making them take chances they wouldn’t normally take. The Colts’ running game was almost non-existent most of the afternoon with the exception of a few runs. Kerwynn Williams showed that he can play in the NFL today. He did a fairly good job at returning kicks; and when he was handed the ball, he ran with purpose and would not go down easily.
T.Y. Hilton was pretty spectacular all afternoon. Whenever he was targeted with a pass, he would haul it in. When he was returning kicks, he was explosive and put the Colts’ offense in good field position. One player that I was looking forward to seeing didn’t impress me much. Coby Fleener has been very good through most of training camp. Today he sort of regressed back to last season’s version of Fleener. He made some good catches, and in one instance he fought off a few defenders and was able to advance the ball up field. The only bad thing about this was that he took a hit and fumbled the ball. Now, you may say if I were to take that hit would I fumble the ball, and more than likely I would. Or you may say that most receivers would have fumbled the ball also- you may be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that he did it. Shortly after the fumble, Fleener was targeted in the back of the end zone and dropped a potential touchdown. While I am aware this was the first preseason game and these games do not make or break someone’s season, I was hoping to see Fleener do more with the ball- especially with Allen out for this game. On the same position, Cunningham and Jones both made some very good catches and may have opened a few eyes on the Colts’ sidelines.
The Colts’ defense played pretty well for the first half. They got a decent pass rush and held the run as well as they could with the three-headed monster they have in the Bills’ backfield. Guys like Hickman, Connor, and Sheppard got to see more time than usual with Freeman and Angerer out for today. The defensive backfield played fast and kept the Bills’ offense at bay. Once the 3rd and 4th string defensive players came out, the Bills’ offense came alive. EJ Manuel played pretty well, led a very good drive for the Bills by going 9-9, and took them 92 yards- where he capped it off with an impressive touchdown throw. As the game wore on, the Colts’ defense looked more and more lost as the Bills continued to rack up the yardage and the points.
The biggest blunder by the Colts’ special teams was a 106-yard kickoff return by the Bills. Rookie Marquise Goodwin busted out of the pack and outran every Colts’ defender on his way to the end zone. However, there were some bright spots on the Colts’ special teams, and they mainly came from Pat McAfee. Mr. Boomstick pinned the Bills deep in the territory almost all afternoon. He made some great punts and definitely made the Bills’ offense have to work harder for their yards.
As I said before, I understand this is the first preseason game. I also am aware that very few, if any, players will be cut as a result of this game. I will say, though, that the coaches have a lot on their hands to fix before they meet up with the New York Giants next weekend. I have all the faith in the world that this coaching staff and the veteran players will make the adjustments necessary to turn things around. We will all be watching next week to see if the guys we were all hoping would do good things can actually do them. I hope Fleener will bring his confidence from training camp to New York next week. New York will be another good test for the Colts, and I look forward to that match-up.