Colts Rally from Early Deficit for First Victory of 2008 Preseason
ATLANTA, Ga. – The way Colts quarterback Jim Sorgi saw it, things weren't perfect.
But they could have been worse. Much worse.
The Colts didn't play perfectly on Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons in their third preseason game, and they didn't get the consistency of which they spoke throughout the week. And there were mistakes that Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said must be corrected.
The Colts didn't score an offensive touchdown. They committed double-digit penalties. And they allowed two long runs early.
Still, the Colts won.
And for Sorgi and the Colts that mattered on Saturday not a little.
"It's nice, actually," Sorgi said after the Colts rallied from an early deficit for a 16-9 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason game in front of 59,693 at the Georgia Dome.
"I'll lose in the preseason as long we have the regular seasons we've had the last couple of years, but it's going to be a better plane ride than it would be if we lost."
The Colts, 1-2 in the 2008 preseason, entered Saturday's game with a 2-13 record in the last four preseasons, a record that included records of 0-5 in 2005 and 1-3 each of the past two seasons.
The Colts have won the last five AFC South titles and have started 5-0 or better in four of the last five seasons.
"I don't think you can take winning for granted in this league," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "Obviously, we had a lot of mistakes on the defensive side of the ball, but getting a win in this league – we got that accomplished.
"Things we did wrong can be corrected. Guys fought hard, so I think it's something we can build on."
The Colts, after falling behind 6-0 largely because of two long runs by Falcons running back Michael Turner, rallied with three field goals by Adam Vinatieri and Adam Crossett and a second-quarter interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Kelvin Hayden.
After Hayden's touchdown late in the second quarter, the Colts never trailed again.
Throughout this past week, the Colts spoke often of wanting consistency against the Falcons from the first-team offense and defense.
"We didn't get that consistency because of the long runs we're giving up," Brackett said. "But I think we're getting there. Guys are learning how we do things. They're getting to the sidelines, communicating with our defensive coordinator and getting things ironed out.
"The biggest thing we take from tonight is we didn't let them get into the end zone."
The Falcons' early lead came largely as a result of their biggest offseason free-agent signing.
Turner, who signed with the Falcons as an unrestricted free agent from the San Diego Chargers in the offseason, got free for two long runs in the first quarter, helping the Falcons take a 6-0 lead after first quarter.
On the Falcons' first series, Turner broke loose through the middle for a 52-yard gain on 1st-and-10 from the Falcons 22. The play led to a 25-yard field goal by Falcons kicker Jason Elam.
One series later, Turner again got free, this time for a 63-yard gain from the Falcons 15. Elam's 35-yard field goal made it 6-0, Falcons, with 4:56 remaining in the period.
"That was the most imant part," Brackett said. "When they get into the red zone, you've got to prevent them from getting touchdowns and keep the game in striking distance. We came up with a victory."
Said Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, "Right now, it's preseason. It's really a test. We're trying to see what happens. That's really a scenario that can happen during the regular season where we give up a long play, let them get down in the red zone and we have to bounce back and recover from that play and stop them.
"We did that. I look at it like that's a scenario we went through. We did a good job. It happened. We learned from it. We have to watch the tape and we'll learn from it. Guys will come back.
"Better it happens now than in September."
In the second quarter, the Indianapolis defense not only erased the deficit, it gave the Colts the lead.
Hayden, who two seasons ago returned an interception for a Super Bowl-clinching touchdown, returned a second-quarter interception 67 yards for a touchdown that gave the Colts a 10-6 lead with 33 seconds remaining in the half.
Hayden, a fourth-year veteran cornerback and the Colts' second-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, cut in front of Falcons wide receiver Brian Finneran at the Colts 33-yard line.
He snatched the pass from rookie quarterback Matt Ryan – the third overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft – off Finneran's fingertips, then raced untouched to turn a 6-3 Colts deficit into a four-point lead.
The Colts earlier in the quarter cut a 6-0 first-quarter deficit in half when Vinatieri converted a 24-yard field goal. That capped an 85-yard, 17-play drive that consumed 8:30.
The Falcons cut the lead to one with a 40-yard field goal by Elam with 11:06 remaining in the third quarter.
The Colts then extended the lead to four again with a 20-yard field goal by Crossett with 3:55 remaining in the quarter. The field goal capped a nine-play, 85-yard drive, with rookie tight end Jacob Tamme giving the Colts a first down with a 47-yard reception from quarterback Quinn Gray on 3rd-and-11 from the Colts 12.
Crossett's 33-yard field goal with 1:45 remaining extended the Colts' lead to seven points.
"It was the kind of night where we could be happy about a lot of individual performances, especially from some of our younger guys," Dungy said. "We still didn't get the sharpness we were looking for from our first units offensively and defensively. Offensively, we're still having a little trouble in the red zone punching the ball in when we get down there. Defensively, we had some breakdowns and screwups on the run game early.
"We did keep them out of the end zone and forced five turnovers. We kicked very well and covered well. There were some things to build on.
"The big thing is we just have to be a lot sharper with our first offense and defense."