ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. —With Andrew Luck ruled out, Scott Tolzien got his first opportunity to show what he could do as the Indianapolis Colts' backup quarterback in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.
But on a rainy evening at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Tolzien and the Colts' offense took a while to get things going.
If it wasn't constant pressure from the Bills' defensive front, it was dropped passes that slowed things down. And when pressure or dropped passes weren't an issue, it seemed as if Tolzien's passes were just off the mark.
Yet with a little time — and a little better execution — Tolzien and the Colts' offense were able to get things going after finding themselves in a 9-0 hole late in the second quarter.
The momentum was officially theirs after a perfectly-executed 42-yard touchdown pass on a screen play from Tolzien to running back Jordan Todman with just less than two minutes left in the second quarter, and by the end of the half, a 24-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri had tied things up at 9 heading into the locker room.
Those adjustments were exactly what head coach Chuck Pagano wanted to see out of the offense.
"I think they just executed better and some guys made some plays," Pagano told FOX's Larra Overton in his halftime interview. "You know, we had opportunities early, but we dropped balls, had some miscues, had some pressure early. But it was great to see us move the ball down the field and have two scoring drives."
Those miscues early resulted in a good deal of work for punter Pat McAfee, who had five total punts in the first half. In all, the Colts had just three total first downs and 46 net yards on offense prior to their first scoring drive, which began with 3:57 left in the second quarter.
That drive started promising, with a 16-yard connection between Tolzien and tight end Chase Coffman. After a 1-yard scramble from Tolzien, the veteran quarterback was able to draw the Bills' antsy defensive front offsides on two straight plays, giving the Colts a 1st and 10 at the Buffalo 46. A four-yard completion to rookie wide receiver Tevaun Smith was a positive play on first down heading into the two-minute warning.
Then the Colts struck gold.
Photos from the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills
With a heavy blitz coming from the Bills, Tolzien dropped back and the offensive line let them by — the screen play was on. Tolzien found Todman, who sped up the field untouched. Tight end Mo Alie-Cox and company provided a huge block upfield, propelling Todman into the end zone for the big 42-yard touchdown play.
After a three-and-out forced by the Colts' defense, the offense got back onto the field with 52 seconds left in the half. Tolzien opened with a nice 24-yard completion to Smith and an eight-yard completion to Coffman to get to the Buffalo 29.
Another encroachment call on the Bills got the Colts to the 24. A couple plays later, Tolzien tried to find Smith deep to his left in the end zone, but a defensive pass interference call set Indianapolis up at the Buffalo 6. Although Tolzien would overthrow Quan Bray in the end zone with 10 seconds left, that would set Vinatieri up with the chip shot 24-yarder to tie the game at 9.
In all, Tolzien completed 12-of-23 passes (52.2 percent) for 140 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 85.4.
"You know what? I'm pleased," Pagano told Overton of Tolzien's performance. "He's a good football player, and he managed this thing well. And he just got better as the half went along, so really impressed with him."