CINCINNATI -- Kerry Collins wasted little time making his presence felt.
On his first snap as a member of the Colts, the veteran quarterback unleashed a bomb that sailed at least 50 yards on target to streaking wide receiver David Gilreath that resulted in a pass interference penalty. The dramatic play set up Indianapolis' first field goal in a 17-13 preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday in Paul Brown Stadium.
"I guess they wanted to see how far I could throw it still, I guess, I don't know," Collins said with a smile in the locker room afterward. "But it worked out great. It was a big play for us the first play out of the game. I wish we would've scored a touchdown on that drive, but it was good to start off that way."
Eight days after the 38-year-old veteran signed as a free agent, with four practices under his belt and without most of the team's front-line receivers, Collins played four possessions, completing five-of-10 passes for 45 yards. He was generally on target but under steady pressure that resulted in a sack and a fumble, a near interception and two tipped passes.
"It's like you would expect," said Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "It isn't perfect but if we had protected him a little better it would have been better overall. There was the sack and a few drops that stalled some of the drives. In terms of managing things at the line of scrimmage and how he managed himself in those situations, I think he did well."
Curtis Painter, who started the first three preseason games, completing 19-of-37 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, did not play. Dan Orlovsky took over in the final possession of the first half and played the rest of the way, completing 10-of-18 for 178 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass, a seven-yarder to wide receiver Taj Smith with 1:08 remaining.
Just exactly who will start at quarterback when the Colts open the regular season on September 11 at Houston remains to be seen but if it is not Peyton Manning, Collins certainly is a strong option. Despite his relatively brief tenure with the team, he has 16 seasons of experience, 177 career starts and 40,441 passing yards (11th in NFL history) on his extensive resume.
"Obviously, the first time out there running the offense my main focus was to run it efficiently, try to make good decisions, good reads, all those things and for the most part I did that," Collins said. "A couple of operational things came up that I'll learn from but other than that, a lot of positive things happened."
A number of starters took the night off on the final preseason game: wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, tight end Dallas Clark and running back Joseph Addai. Backup receivers Austin Collie (foot) and Anthony Gonzalez (hamstring) missed the game with injuries.
Collins, therefore, did not have anything close to the usual complement of offensive weapons, though he did play behind the projected starting offensive line.
"Obviously, they're all great players but I had confidence with the guys going in," he said. "I worked with a lot of the guys I was in there with a lot during the week since I've been there. There were plays out there to be made and I thought we certainly missed a couple that could've resulted in a little better plays for us, but I thought all in all the guys did a good job."
The defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, giving Collins and the offense excellent field position at the Indianapolis 46. Gilreath got behind the defense as Collins lofted the long pass. Bengals safety Taylor Mays gave up 44 yards on the interference penalty but ultimately saved a touchdown.
The drive stalled there as Collins' arm was hit by defensive tackle Michael Johnson on second down, forcing an incompletion, and his third-down toss to Smith netted just three to the five-yard line.
Collins had mixed results on his second drive. He threw a dart to smith on a slant that netted 22 yards to convert a third-and-14, putting the Colts at midfield.
A short pass to Gilreath originally was ruled an interception but the Colts challenged the call and the review reversed the ruling. Replays showed the ball hit the ground before cornerback Jonathan Wade took possession.
Collins was sacked by defensive tackle Michael Johnson on the next play, who hit his arm and knocked the ball loose, with defensive end Frostee Rucker recovering at the Colts' 46-yard line.
Another near-miss came on Collins' final drive, when he threaded the needle on a nice sideline pass that Brooks juggled and could not control before going out of bounds in Cincinnati territory.
"Kerry hasn't played 16, 17 years in this league because he's not a good player," said Orlovsky. "First time out there in a game situation, I'm sure he's going to be pleased with what he did. He'll get himself ready for this team for week one if needed and we'll go from there. He's a pro."