In 2010, the Colts finished the season ranked No. 5 in the NFL in converting third downs at a 44.6% clip. On Saturday night against the Rams the Colts did not approach that number as they finished the game 2-of-9 on third downs, including missing their first seven attempts.
The inability to sustain drives had much to do with the Colts lack of success on offense. Of the 12 drives Indianapolis had against the Rams only two of those lasted longer than four plays.
The Rams offense had six drives of at least six plays and were 8-of-17 on third down despite only having a 33.2% conversion rate in 2010.
The problems on third down began in the opening series for the Colts as Curtis Painter was picked off by Rams safety Quintin Mikell on a third-and-eight from the Indianapolis 25-yard line.
The Rams then capitalized on the Colts turnover when quarterback Sam Bradford found rookie tight end Lance Kendricks on third-and-goal from the six-yard line for the first score of the game.
Painter put the interception behind him, leading the Colts on a 10-play 80-yard drive on the following series. Indianapolis moved to the St. Louis five, and kicker Adam Vinateri hit a 23-yard field goal.
The second touchdown drive for the Rams also ended on a third-down conversion when newly- acquired running back Cadillac Williams punched in a third-and-goal from the one-yard line to make the score 17-3 early in the second quarter.
Last season, the Colts' low in a game for third down conversions was a 3-of-12 performance in a 36-14 loss against San Diego
WHEELER AND THOMAS BRIGHT SPOTS
A pair of defenders fighting for starting jobs delivered on Saturday night.
Fourth-year linebacker Philip Wheeler finished second on the team with six tackles and made his presence felt from his first snap on defense.
After a Dan Orlovsky interception gave the St. Louis a short field to work with, the Colts second- team defense came onto the field during the Rams third offensive series.
Wheeler recorded back-to-back tackles to start the series and the defense held the Rams to only three points.
Second-year linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner have taken the first-team reps at outside linebacker throughout the first two weeks of training camp with Wheeler running with the second unit.
Free agent signee and linebacker Ernie Sims grabbed the headlines in last Saturday's mock scrimmage for the Colts but Wheeler asserted him at St. Louis.
The Georgia Tech product showed Saturday night why he has started 13 games the past two seasons and is one of the Colts most important special teams players.
Behind Wheeler in the secondary, cornerback Kevin Thomas finally saw his first game action in the NFL. The Colts 2010 third-round draft pick missed all of last season with a knee injury and was sidelined early on in training camp with a quad injury.
Thomas equaled Wheeler's six tackles and showed why the Colts staff is high on the second-year pro.
The second cornerback spot could be a race between Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon through the first two weeks of training camp, but Thomas' play on Saturday showed some potential depth in the Colts secondary.
ADDAI, SATURDAY AND WAYNE PLAY ONE SERIES
Three plays. That was the night's work for Joseph Addai, Jeff Saturday and Reggie Wayne on Saturday.
Addai carried the ball once for two yards on the opening drive. Donald Brown entered the game for Addai and had four carries for 21 yards.
Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez took over at receiver on the second series for Wayne. Mike Pollak slid over to center when Saturday headed to the bench.
Most of the Colts veterans did not play past the first quarter with the younger players taking a majority of the snaps. All five of the Colts draft picks had substantial playing time.
The Colts' top four receivers (Wayne, Austin Collie, Gonzalez and Garcon) and top two tight ends (Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme) combined for only two catches.
For the Rams, quarterback Sam Bradford played five series, completing seven-of-12 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Many Colts players and Coach Jim Caldwell said they expect the playing time to grow as the preseason moves along.