CINCINNATI --With the Colts' No. 1 players seeing little or no action in Thursday night's last preseason game, it cleared the way for some young and hungry backups to make a final impression and perhaps lock in a roster position.
Running back Kerwynn Williams capitalized, emerging as the game's leading rusher with 92 yards in 18 attempts against the Cincinnati Bengals. Safety Larry Asante took advantage, too, making 13 tackles with a fumble recovery and a sack.
Williams and Asante provided some highlights, but the Colts struggled in numerous other areas in a 27-10 defeat against the Bengals.
"Credit Cincinnati," Colts Coach Chuck Pagano said afterward. "In all three phases, (the Bengals) played much better football than we played.
"We're disappointed about the outcome," Pagano added. "But I think, certainly, we can see some individual performances."
Williams, who Pagano said has "the heart of a lion," turned in some of his best work on the Colts' lone touchdown drive. He carried eight times for 42 yards on a 16-play march that culminated in Chandler Harnish's 7-yard scoring pass to Dominique Jones with 11:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Asante's big plays began early and continued late. He recovered a Cincinnati fumble early in the second quarter. His sack against Josh Johnson short-circuited a Bengals drive just before halftime. He recorded eight first-half tackles with five more after halftime.
The Colts must trim their roster to 53 players by Saturday evening. It's a troublesome chore for Pagano every time he's forced to make a cut.
He talked Thursday night about the respect and admiration he has for players "who are fighting tooth and nail to try to make a case for themselves." Sending them to the waiver wire isn't easy.
Quarterback Andrew Luck and many of the Colts' other top players didn't make an appearance in the game as the team completed the preseason with a 2-2 record. The Bengals, who played quarterback Andy Dalton and their other starters for a series, finished 3-1.
"For a fourth game, I was pleased with our effort tonight," Cincinnati Coach Marvin Lewis said. "Sometimes, it's a difficult situation going into the fourth preseason game, but I thought our players came out and responded.
"I thought our (front-line) guys played well with limited exposure. Get in, get out and then it was really a good night to watch the other guys play and compete."
FIRST QUARTER (10:25 remaining)
With Andrew Luck taking a seat for the final preseason game, Matt Hasselbeck started for the Colts at quarterback. The Indy offense received the opening kickoff and, thanks largely to Hasselbeck's 5-of-8 passing for 49 yards, quickly got into field goal position. Adam Vinatieri's 43-yard field goal gave the Colts the lead.Colts 3, Bengals 0.
FIRST QUARTER (6:40 remaining)
The Bengals used their running game to push the ball downfield for a touchdown. Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis did most of the ball-carrying on a seven-play, 49-yard drive. The TD march was started with a 51-yard kickoff return by Brandon Tate. Mike Nugent booted the extra point.Bengals 7, Colts 3.
FIRST QUARTER (1:07 remaining)
Cedric Peerman set up Cincinnati's next score with a nifty 22-yard run, which he started to the left side before reversing his field and heading to the right. The Colts' defense stiffened, powered by sacks from Bjoern Werner and Ricardo Mathews, forcing a 42-yard field goal by Nugent.Bengals 10, Colts 3.
SECOND QUARTER (7:54 remaining)
Credit this Bengals score to quarterback Josh Johnson, who scrambled twice for a total of 38 yards and finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones. Nugent kicked the extra point. Bengals 17, Colts 3.
THIRD QUARTER (10:30 remaining)
Indy's defense helped Cincinnati's cause with four penalties on the drive, including a 31-yard interference call against Sergio Brown. The big play for the Bengals' offense was a 26-yard pass completion, John Skelton to Bryce Davis. Nugent extended the Bengals' lead with a 33-yard field goal.Bengals 20, Colts 3.
THIRD QUARTER (5:27 remaining)
Cincinnati linebacker J.K. Schaffer picked off a Chandler Harnish pass to give the Bengals possession at the Colts' 25-yard line. From there, a key fourth-down run for two yards by Rex Burkhead and a 10-yard pass from Skelton to Burkhead were the key plays. Appropriately, Burkhead scored the touchdown on a 2-yard burst. Nugent added the extra point.Bengals 27, Colts 3.
FOURTH QUARTER (11:41 remaining)
The Colts' offense scored its first touchdown of the game as Kerwynn Williams performed yeoman's duty, carrying eight times in the drive for 42 yards. The 16-play, 82-yard march was finished with a Harnish pass to Dominique Jones for a 7-yard score. Vinatieri added the extra point. Bengals 27, Colts 10.