Colts Accomplished a Lot in 30-28 Loss to Cincinnati in Preseason Finale, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLS – Overall, Jim Caldwell said he saw what he wanted to see.
And while the Colts finished the 2010 preseason without a victory, Caldwell – entering his second season as the Colts' head coach – said not only did the team accomplish what it wanted this month, specifically it accomplished its objectives for Thursday night's preseason finale.
Some players rested – a lot of players, actually.
Others competed for jobs.
Perhaps most imantly, Colts' coaches and personnel officials got what they considered an important chance to evaluate the roster throughout a 30-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2010 preseason finale in a game at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday night.
"We had a chance to look at a number of different aspects we wanted to look at," Caldwell said. "I think a lot of young guys got an extensive chance to play.
"I think we'll certainly be able to do some evaluating from the film."
The Colts, after trailing 20-6 in the third quarter, rallied with three second-half touchdown passes from third-team quarterback Tom Brandstater to reserve receiver Brandon James.
"The guys around me were tremendous," Brandstater said. "They really helped me and pushed me and made me look better than I should have."
The Colts, who rarely have played starters extensively if at all in recent preseason finales, took that approach again Thursday, with quarterback Peyton Manning – who hasn't played in the preseason finale since 2004 – among well more than a dozen Indianapolis starters not playing.
Other starters/front-line players not playing Thursday included wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, as well as running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown. Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark did not play, nor did offensive linemen Jeff Saturday, Charlie Johnson, Ryan Diem, Jamey Richard or Tony Ugoh.
Defensively, ends Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney and Keyunta Dawson did not play, nor did tackles Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson. Linebackers Gary Brackett, Philip Wheeler and Clint Session did not play, as was the case with safeties Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea and cornerbacks Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Jacob Lacey and Deshea Townsend.
But Caldwell said as important Thursday was who did play: a slew of rookies and young players competing for roster positions. Under NFL rules, the Colts must cut the roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.
"All across the board, it was a pretty good showing," Caldwell said.
With the starters watching, backup quarterback Curtis Painter started for Indianapolis, with the Colts getting a pair of second-quarter field goals to tie it 6-6 at halftime.
"The one good thing is it looked like everybody was getting better," Painter said. "We are doing some things well. We had some nice drives out there."
Painter completed nine of 20 passes for 114 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions, with Brandstater completing 10 of 18 passes for 178 yards and the three touchdowns to James with no interceptions.
"Brandstater did a nice job coming in," Caldwell said. "I thought Curtis did a nice job moving the ball. Brandstater came in and finished it off there. I thought they both threw the ball pretty well. The numbers might not be reflective of that, but I thought they threw pretty well.
"The big thing is we have to find the end zone. Brandstater did a nice job of that."
Kicker Mike Nugent opened the scoring with a 52-yard field goal to cap the Bengals' first possession, a nine-play, 34-yard drive that consumed 4:07. The Bengals pushed the lead to 6-0 on their ensuing series when former Colts kicker Dave Rayner capped a six-play, 21-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal.
The Bengals outgained the Colts 81-28 in the first quarter.
Indianapolis cut into the lead midway through the second quarter, with kicker Adam Vinatieri capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal. Painter completed two of three passes for 56 yards on the drive, with the key play a short pass that Blair White turned into a 52-yard gain.
The Colts tied the game, 6-6, with a 36-yard field goal by Vinatieri on the ensuing drive. Painter completed 2 of 7 passes for 21 yards on that drive.
The Bengals then took control in the third quarter.
First, running back Cedric Peerman took a handoff, cut left, then right and outran the Colts' defense for a 93-yard touchdown run and a 13-6 Bengals. One possession later, Bengals third-team quarterback Jordan Palmer gave Cincinnati a two-touchdown lead with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jerome Simpson.
Brandstater then threw the first of the three second-half touchdown passes to James – this one a 26-yarder that capped a four-play, 64-yard drive.
That made it 20-13, Bengals, and after a 34-yard field goal by Nugent, the Colts turned a muffed punt into their second touchdown of the game when Brandstater passed 23 yards to James. The two-point conversion cut the Bengals' lead to two, 23-21, but on the ensuing play, Palmer passed 50 yards for a touchdown to Dezmon Briscoe with 6:10 remaining.
James' third touchdown reception of the half – a four-yarder from Brandstater – capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive and pulled the Colts to within two again with 1:39 remaining. The Colts held Cincinnati on downs following an onside kick, but time ran out on the Colts' final drive.
Still, Caldwell said in a game that was more about evaluation than winning, much was accomplished, something he said was equally true of the entire preseason.
"I'm excited about where we are," Caldwell said. "We've certainly been improving all along. We're getting a little bit better. That's a pretty good indication, and our young guys are certainly grasping the material.
"We ran to the ball well defensively. I thought we hung in there offensively as well. We put some points on the board. We had a few long returns against us that we have to continue to work on, but overall, I think we've made good progress."