Mistakes and Opunities the Difference in 18-17 Preseason Loss to Detroit, Caldwell Says
The way Jim Caldwell sees it, the type of game doesn't matter.
First preseason game or third . . .
Regular-season game, postseason or preseason . . .
Whenever you play, Caldwell said late-game mistakes at critical times make it difficult to win, and the Colts' first-year head coach said therein was much of the story of an 18-17 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions in front of 37,011 at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich., Saturday afternoon.
The Colts led much of the second half.
They committed a turnover late in the fourth quarter.
And the result was their second loss in three 2009 preseason games.
"It came down to the same thing it always comes down to," Caldwell told the Colts' radio broadcast following the game. "Obviously mistakes and opportunities – they capitalized on them."
Despite the outcome, Colts four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney said the Colts played solidly through much of the game.
"We started off a little bit slow on both sides of the ball," Freeney told the Colts' television broadcast, "but the offense went down and scored (early in the third quarter) and they didn't score a point in the (third) quarter, so I think defensively we (did) a great job."
The Lions' opportunity came late in the fourth quarter, Saturday.
The Colts, who a week ago beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 23-15, in the second preseason game, led 17-10 with just under seven minutes remaining. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and most Colts starters were out of the game, having played two and a half quarters.
On 2nd-and-6 from the Colts 30, reserve quarterback Curtis Painter threw to rookie wide receiver John Matthews.
The ball caromed into the air.
Lions veteran safety Marquand Manuel intercepted it, and after a short return, Detroit faced 1st-and-10 at the Colts 43 with 5:31 remaining.
One play after reserve quarterback Drew Stanton threw 14 yards to former Colts wide receiver John Standeford, Stanton threw 21 yards to tight end Dan Grankowski.
He fought through a tackle at the goal line to pull the Lions to within one, 17-16.
And Standeford's two-point conversion reception gave the Lions the lead.
"We had a chance to make a reception – tipped ball into the air," Caldwell said. "They get an interception and they score."
Until the final minutes, Caldwell said he was more pleased with the second half than the first.
"It was kind of a tale of two halves for us," Caldwell said.
The Colts took a 7-0 lead on their first possession when Manning passed six yards to tight end Dallas Clark, who was wide open over the middle in the back of the end zone. Manning completed five-of-five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown on the drive, with a key play coming on 36-yard interference penalty against Detroit cornerback William James covering wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.
That gave the Colts possession at the Lions 6, and Clark's touchdown came on the ensuing play.
"We just need to keep trying to get better," Manning said.
The Lions, after moving effectively on the opening drive, tied it on their second, with wide receiver Bryant Johnson catching a three-yard pass from quarterback Daunte Culpepper to cap a 71-yard, 12-play drive. Culpepper left the game afterward and finished completing 7-of-12 passes for 67 yards.
Detroit then took a 10-7 lead on a 14-play, 79-yard drive, with kicker Billy Cundiff converting a 20-yard field goal with 3:21 remaining. Rookie Matthew Stafford replaced Culpepper at quarterback on the drive and completed 3-of-5 passes for 57 yards.
"The thing that happened with us is we had a problem with missed tackles," Caldwell said of the Colts, who allowed 103 first-half yards rushing on 22 carries. "They controlled the line of scrimmage on us and we didn't get our offense enough possessions. . . .
"The first half, Detroit did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They ran the ball extremely well. We just couldn't get off the field on third down. That was an issue for us. Our offense only had 14 or 15 snaps in the first half."
The Colts, who allowed Detroit to convert 6-of-8 third downs in the first half, re-took the lead, 14-10, on the first drive of the second, with running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown keying an 86-yard, 11-play drive.
Brown's 2-yard run gave Indianapolis the lead after Addai's 21-yard reception on a screen pass on the first play and 11-yard run on the second.
"If you look at the second half, we played much better," Caldwell said. "We came out with a good scoring drive. The offense did a good job moving the ball. The defense got a couple of stops."
Manning left the game after the touchdown having completed 12-of-15 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The Lions had outgained Indianapolis 322-186 through three quarters, but when kicker Shane Andrus kicked a 29-yard field goal with 7:31 remaining, the Colts led by a touchdown.
Andrus' field goal had been set up by a 10-play, 88-yard drive that started at the Colts 1 after a goal-line stand by the Indianapolis defense stopped Detroit on downs.
"That was huge," Caldwell said. "Typically when you're backed up that far, that turns into points for the opposition."
The Colts' defense then forced a punt before the turnover gave the Lions a late opportunity.
Indianapolis will visit the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday in the final preseason game, and Caldwell said the team hasn't decided who will play and for how long.
"A lot of the younger players will get a lot of playing time in that game," Caldwell said. "It's going to give us an opportunity to look at them very, very closely, particularly where we have some very, very tight races in terms of the competitiveness of the position.
"We're going to have a lot of guys in there working. It's going to be meaningful work, because certainly, it's going to make a determination of whether or not they make the team."