INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Saturday defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17, in their preseason Week 3 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts as they move to 2-1 on the preseason?
Get in some good work — and get the heck out.
That was the goal for the Indianapolis Colts' first units on offense and defense in Saturday's third preseason game against the 49ers, the final "dress rehearsal" for the regular season.
For the most part, both units were able to achieve that goal.
While there are certainly going to be issues to stress when the coaching staff goes over the film in the morning — particularly when it comes to the run game, both offensively and defensively — the Colts' offense put points on the board, and, for the first time all preseason, scored a touchdown, while the starting Indy defense only really allowed three field goals in about 2 1/4 quarters of action.
The rest was left up to the reserves, and they certainly did their job. Running back Christine Michael punched in a big rushing touchdown, kicker Michael Badgley nailed a couple long field goals and the defense sealed the game with a big interception by safety George Odum on the 49ers' final drive.
Perhaps the biggest development to come from Saturday's game, unfortunately, is the injury report. The team will evaluate where it stands on Sunday as it pertains to safety T.J. Green (hamstring), tackle/guard Denzelle Good (knee), defensive end John Simon (neck), safety Ronald Martin (shoulder).
Expect to hear more on those injuries from head coach Frank Reich on Sunday.
The revealing moment in the Colts' second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens was a big hit on quarterback Andrew Luck. But that was on a sack.
The revealing moment in Saturdays game against the 49ers also involved a hit on Luck — but the scenario was entirely different.
About midway through the second quarter, the Indianapolis offense was driving into San Francisco territory. With 10:40 left, Reich elected to go for it on 4th and 1, and the 49ers' defense bit hard on a play-action fake by Luck, who found tight end Darrell Daniels wide open for a 16-yard gain, getting to the San Francisco 27-yard line.
But three plays later, the Colts faced a 3rd and 13 from the 30. Luck, lined up in the shotgun, was unable to find any receivers open down the field, so he took off up the gut. Unlike his previous two scrambles in the game, however, Luck wasn't going down willingly this time (at least not with a slide).
Fifteen yards later, Luck was brought down at the 15-yard line, and Indianapolis had a big first down conversion. He took a nice shot from behind from linebacker Dekoda Watson, but got right back up.
On the very next play, Luck found his tight end Eric Ebron open in the middle of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown, the first TD by the first-team offense this preseason. Luck and most of the first-team offense won't be playing in Thursday's preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, so that drive is a good note to end on heading into the regular season.
PLAY OF THE GAME
After the Colts jumped ahead 23-17 on Michael Badgley's 40-yard field goal, the 49ers took the field at their own 25-yard line with just 1:10 left and no timeouts. If they could somehow muster a touchdown and an extra point, they'd fly home winners.
The Indy defense wasn't even going to let them sniff the chance, however.
On first down, quarterback Nick Mullens was rocked by defensive end Ryan Delaire, who knocked the ball out to earn a sack/forced fumble, but it was recovered by 49ers tackle Pace Murphy.
But on second down, the Colts wouldn't let the 49ers get any more chances.
Mullens, feeling heavy pressure from defensive end Chris McCain, tossed up an interception into the hands of rookie safety George Odum at the 34-yard line. After an 18-yard return, all that was left to put the cherry on top was a QB kneel from Phillip Walker.
Odum, an undrafted free agent signed by the Colts this spring, has impressed since the offseason workout program, when he earned multiple interceptions. That theme continued into training camp. He's definitely given the Colts plenty to think about as the preseason comes to a close and the 53-man rosters begin to take shape.
How about Ryan Delaire?
Signed just a couple weeks ago, the defensive end has made an impact literally almost every single day of practice — and in two preseason games — since.
On Saturday against the 49ers, Delaire was an outright monster.
He sacked quarterback C.J. Beathard with 49 seconds to go in the third quarter for a loss of six, putting the 49ers in a sour mood as the game headed into the fourth quarter. They would punt three plays later.
Then, with 9:58 left in the fourth, Mullens fumbled, and Delaire was right there to pick it up at the San Francisco 9-yard line. Four plays later, Badgley would connect on a 25-yard field goal to put the Colts up 17-9.
Finally, on the first play of that aforementioned final drive by the 49ers, Delaire made it clear that the Colts weren't messing around, bringing down Mullens for a loss of 15 for another sack — and a forced fumble, to boot.
Delaire has simply played like he's practiced for the Colts, and while the team thought it was pretty set along the defensive line heading into the regular season, he very well could stamp a spot on the final roster with another quality performance in Thursday's preseason finale against the Bengals.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• The first-team offense established a rhythm, got the ball into the end zone, and has some momentum heading into the regular season. Andrew Luck was efficient, completing 8-of-10 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, while also running the ball four times for 27 yards. All of these items were on the checklist heading into today's "dress rehearsal," and all of those items got checked off.
• The quarterback play, in general, was excellent on Saturday. Between Luck, Jacoby Brissett (7-of-13 passing for 120 yards) and Phillip Walker (4-of-6 for 69 yards), the three Colts quarterbacks combined to complete 19-of-29 passes (66 percent) for 279 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. The QBs were also very tough in the pocket, Brissett especially, as he either was able to avoid sacks on multiple plays or take on big hits while still delivering on-target passes on others. And, to the Colts' offensive line's credit, the 49ers only officially had one sack and three quarterback hits on the day.
• Darius Leonard continues to prove his scouting report right. On Saturday, he showed off his range with five tackles and two passes defensed — both of which he, really, should've picked off. With time running down in the first half, Jimmy Garoppolo tried to find wide receiver Trent Taylor across the middle of the field, but Leonard sniffed out the play and nearly picked off the pass. If he was able to come down with it, Leonard would've only needed to beat Pierre Garçon to take it about 95 yards to the house for a touchdown. Leonard will certainly lament the chances he had to make even bigger plays on Saturday when he watches the film, but the fact that the second-round pick is even in position in the first place — and making plays elsewhere, regardless — is good enough for preseason play.
• The Colts simply took care of the football today; they had no interceptions and no fumbles. Also, while eight accepted penalties for 75 yards certainly isn't ideal for a team throughout a game, it's still a massive improvement over Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens, when the Colts committed 13 penalties for 129 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• The Colts really struggled with their run defense, particularly against the 49ers' first-team offense. Although Alfred Morris is virtually brand new to San Francisco — signing only recently — he's always been able to churn yards in large chunks, and that's exactly what he did on Saturday, finishing with 17 rushing attempts for 84 yards — an average of almost five yards per carry. The 49ers' offensive line was a huge reason why, though, as Morris had huge holes to run through almost every time he touched the ball (his last carry, for 10 yards, came at the 12:03 mark of the third quarter). San Francisco, in all, averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the day, so the run defense is definitely going to be a point of emphasis for the coaches tomorrow.
• The red zone offense continues to be a work in progress for the Colts. On Saturday, Indianapolis scored touchdowns on two of their five trips to the end zone (though they did earn field goals on the three occasions that weren't touchdowns). On Monday against the Ravens, the Colts were 2-for-4 in the red zone, and in their first preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, they were 1-for-4. So, through three preseason games, the Colts have scored touchdowns on just 38 percent of their trips to the red zone (5-for-13). The Colts were about 40 percent in this category last season, ranking second-to-last in the league. To get to the top of the league, Indianapolis needs to score touchdowns in about 60 percent of their red zone trips. They'll keep chipping away at their work in this area.
• Safety T.J. Green (hamstring), tackle/guard Denzelle Good (knee), defensive end John Simon (neck), safety Ronald Martin (shoulder) were each removed from Saturday's game. Look for follow-up information on these players, and perhaps a few more, tomorrow.
It's another quick turnaround for the Colts, who have just five days before their 2018 preseason finale on Thursday night against the Bengals in Cincinnati. Head coach Frank Reich already said not to expect the Colts' starters to play in that game, so it'll be a huge opportunity for those hoping to earn a final spot on the initial 53-man roster to begin the 2018 regular season — which also is against the Bengals, on Sept. 9 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bengals this preseason are 2-0, and go on the road to take on the Buffalo Bills tomorrow. So far, Cincinnati has defeated the Chicago Bears (30-27) and the Dallas Cowboys (21-13).
Game action from the week 3 preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts