ARLINGTON, Texas — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 0-2 on the 2017 preseason with a 24-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts as they head home to Indy?FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The primary goals for the Colts on Saturday night were to get the first-team offense some momentum after it struggled in the team's first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, and to stay consistent on defense after a solid first-game performance.
Photos from the preseason contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts.
Neither happened, at least immediately, on Saturday — although the Colts would begin to come around on both fronts as the first half wore on.
Indianapolis would even take its first lead of the preseason, 13-10, with 4:34 left in the third quarter after a 42-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri, before the Cowboys would storm back and score 14 straight points and take a 24-13 lead with 8:46 left in the fourth quarter.
The Colts would keep fighting, though, and an impressive 19-yard touchdown pass from Stephen Morris to wide receiver Fred Brown brought it to 24-19, with 57 seconds left, setting up the final score.
It's one of those preseason games where there's plenty of good and bad for the coaching staff to evaluate. But If you're head coach Chuck Pagano, it immediately appeared there was many more positive to take away than Week 1 of the preseason, which is certainly a step in the right direction.REVEALING MOMENT
With the two teams going into halftime tied at 10, the Cowboys seemed poised to jump back out to the lead on their first drive of the second half.
Though that drive stalled at the Indianapolis 27-yard line, Dallas sent out kicker Sam Irwin-Hill to attempt a 44-yard field goal.*
Nuh-uh*, Margus Hunt said.
Hunt broke through and swatted the Irwin-Hill attempt to the turf, showing off exactly why he was a key target for the Colts this offseason: his special teams prowess.
At 6-foot-8, Hunt would block 17 kicks at SMU — the second most in NCAA history — as well as 10 blocked field goals — breaking the NCAA record — before doing the same in the NFL. Last season with the Cincinnati Bengals, he blocked two extra-point attempts and also knocked down a field goal, leading the entire National Football League in blocked kicks.
The play in Saturday's game for Hunt shows why he can be a difference maker for these Colts' special teams units, and it's those plays that can certainly be the difference between a win or a loss during the regular season and, of course, the postseason.PLAY OF THE GAME
Stephen Morris has proven for two years now he can find receivers in preseason play.
And Fred Brown showed Saturday he brings a good bit of agility and concentration to the Colts' wide receiver corps.
With 57 seconds left and the Colts trailing 24-13, Indy was just hoping to do something to get back into the game with a touchdown, and then try its hand at getting the ball back with an onside kick.
The play before, Morris threw a seed to Brown along the sideline to the 19-yard line, and the two would hook up again on the next snap. Morris delivered a perfect throw over, and between, the Cover 2 defensive scheme, to Brown, who not only stayed in possession of the ball, but was able to get one foot down and tap the other before falling out of the side of the end zone.
While the ensuing two-point attempt, and onside kick, were unsuccessful for the Colts, the play was the culmination of a lot of hard work both for Morris and for Brown, each of whom continue battling for a final roster spot come Week 1.UNSUNG HERO
Luke Rhodes continues to impress.
The first-year William & Mary product was signed late to the Colts' roster last season and got to participate in four games, but this offseason and training camp has been his first opportunity to really show the coaching staff what he can do.
And if Saturday's game is any indication, Rhodes could be seeing more regular-season action here in a couple weeks.
He had a game-best eight tackles on the night, six of which were solo stops, in the middle of the Indy defense, as well as a special teams stop.
Rhodes — who has also been in the competition for the long snapper spot — can do a lot for the Colts on defense and on special teams, and continued to make that case on Saturday.WHAT WENT RIGHT
• Despite another slow start for the Colts' first-team offense, quarterback Scott Tolzien & Co. would really begin to show signs of positive momentum to wrap up the first half of Saturday's game. The Colts went three-and-out on their opening drive, three-and-out on their second drive, and got as far as their own 33 on their third drive before getting things going. Down 10-7 with 7:26 left in the second quarter, Tolzien connected with Kamar Aiken for a 25-yard completion, the first of four big-chunk plays on the drive; Mack had runs of 10 and 13 yards, and Jacoby Brissett had an 11-yard reception. The drive would end in a 33-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal, tying the game at 10 going into halftime. Tolzien finished the game completing 10-of-14 passes for 70 yards and was only sacked once, all major improvements from the week before.
• Staying with the offense, the Colts ran the ball much better on Saturday than they did last Sunday against the Lions. Though the final numbers — 15 rushes for 59 yards — doesn't look like much, when Indy was running the ball well, you saw it open up things down the field in the passing game, which is encouraging for Rob Chudzinski's unit. Mack played a huge role in that, showing his potential for this Colts' offense.
• Last week, the Colts' first-team defense earned an interception on the fourth play of the game. This week, not so much, as Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' No. 1 offense marched 95 yards down the field and seemed to score with ease on their initial drive. But the Indy defense would eventually flex its muscles again; with the Cowboys again looking like they were about to score easily, outside linebacker John Simon and safety Matthias Farley forced a fumble on Dallas running back Darren McFadden, which was recovered by Vontae Davis. It was a well-timed play for a unit that badly needed it.
• The Colts' second-team defenders, meanwhile, also made an impressive play on the Cowboys' ensuing drive. With backup Kellen Moore now at quarterback, outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo muscled his way through the offensive line and knocked the ball out of Moore's hands. Fellow outside linebacker Lavar Edwards would do the rest from there, scooping and scoring to tie the game at 7 apiece with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The play was exactly what the Colts hope to see out of Mingo, the former first-round pick who has elite athleticism and hopes to continue developing as a pass rusher in Indy.
• Rookie receiver JoJo Natson had another quality game for the Colts, catching three passes for 60 yards, while returning one punt for 7 yards and a kickoff for 25 yards. Natson is making it very hard on his coaches to risk letting him hit the open market should they decide not to keep him on the final roster. Those decisions are still a couple weeks away, however.WHAT WENT WRONG
• The Colts were 1-for-12 on third downs in Saturday's game. That's eight — eight — percent. Most of their problems on third down, however, can be attributed to negative or otherwise unproductive plays on first and second down. The team's one third-down conversion was a nice one, however, as running back Robert Turbin — who was a huge presence on third down for the Colts last season — galloped his way to 10 yards on 3rd and 1 early in the second quarter.
• The Cowboys had no issues running the ball on Saturday. In all, they had 160 rushing yards on 32 carries, for a 5 yards-per-carry average. McFadden seemed unstoppable early, netting runs of 5, 6, 5, 6, 11, 11 and 14 yards before losing that aforementioned fumble. Alfred Morris also had some nice runs, while fourth stringer Rod Smith beasted his way to runs of 12 and 20 yards at one point in the fourth quarter.
• The penalties were an issue for the Colts again on Saturday, as they had seven accepted flags for 49 yards. The Cowboys also had eight accepted penalties for 70 yards on the night.
• Tackling. Especially early, and some late on Smith, the Colts would miss several hits from their first defenders in on the play, leading to much larger plays for the Cowboys' offense. Those lead to many teachable moments for Ted Monachino's defenders.
• The Colts had two botched snaps on the night; fortunately for Indy, both were recovered by the offense. With starting center Ryan Kelly out indefinitely with a foot injury that will require surgery, the team needs its other options at the position to cut down on the mistakes so that the line can continue building momentum until Kelly's return.INJURY REPORT
The following players were injured during Saturday's game:
• Cornerback Quincy Wilson (knee; out) … Pagano said after the game it's immediately considered "not serious"
• Inside linebacker Jeremiah George (hamstring; out)
• Cornerback Tevin Mitchel (abdominal strain; out)WHAT'S NEXT
The Colts continue preseason play next Saturday, when they travel to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on FOX59.
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