INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Monday night fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 20-19, in their preseason Week 2 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts as they move to 1-1 on the preseason?
Sloppy was a word thrown around both by head coach Frank Reich and quarterback Andrew Luck after Monday night's second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
That's not to say there weren't plenty of positives to take away from the game, particularly on defense and on special teams — and, as Reich alluded to, reviewing the game film will likely indicate nothing was as bad, or as good, as it seemed watching it live from the sideline.
But for a team with plenty of time to digest its preseason opener, which was 11 days prior to Monday night's game, it's clear to everybody involved that they believe they can be much sharper on Saturday, when the San Francisco 49ers come to Indianapolis for what is traditionally the final regular-season tune-up for the starters.
From an abundance of penalties, not finishing drives — or getting points, period — in the red zone, untimely turnovers and at-times sloppy ballhandling, the Colts certainly have plenty to clean up for Reich and his team.
Get up. Get up. Get up.
For a brief moment early in the second quarter of Monday night's game, that was the collective thought from Colts fans at Lucas Oil Stadium and those watching the game across the world on ESPN.
On 3rd and 7 from the Indianapolis 31-yard line, Luck took the snap in the shotgun formation and tried to escape the pocket to his right side. Just a little bit more time, we learned after the game, and a deep play down the field might've broken open.
But Terrell Suggs had other plans.
The future Hall of Fame pass rusher seemingly went untouched off the left side and quickly got Luck within his sights, opening his arms to engulf the quarterback from his blindside and trying to jar the ball loose.
Luck was able to hold onto the ball, but the hard hit led to him landing on his right elbow — just like he did back in 2015, when he originally suffered the injury to his right shoulder against the Tennessee Titans that eventually led to the surgery less than two years later that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.
To the collective relief of the home fans, however, Luck got right back up on Tuesday and jogged back to the sideline. He was fine — and, in fact, he said he didn't even think about his shoulder while, or after, he was taken down by Suggs.
No offense ever wants to give up a sack, and no quarterback ever wants to take one — especially against Suggs — but the fact Luck was able to withstand a ferocious hit like that on Monday night is nothing but good news for his continued comeback.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Colts' special teams coverage units were humming on Monday night. Accordingly, there's really three plays that would be candidates for the play of the game against the Ravens, but it's the final one that was perhaps most impressive considering the individual effort required.
After cutting the Ravens' lead to 20-13 with 6:11 left in the fourth quarter, the Colts forced Baltimore into a three-and-out and a punt, giving them a chance to, at the very least, tie the game with a final drive with 4:22 remaining.
But five plays later, quarterback Phillip Walker would be intercepted by cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste at the Baltimore 19-yard line.
A possibly deflating feeling for a Colts team that was hoping for some late-game magic.
But the defense responded again, forcing another three-and-out, and still having some life — and some clock — left.
On 4th and 4 from the Baltimore 25, Kaare Vedvik set up to punt the ball away at his own 11-yard line. It seemed like he had plenty of room to get the kick off by the time he fielded the snap, but Tarell Basham quickly closed the gap with a monstrous rush up the middle.
Dominating both Chris Board and protector Kai Nacua, Basham bullied his way to the Vedvik and got his left hand on the punted ball. For good measure, Basham was able to pick up the live football and take it to the Ravens' 9-yard line.
On the ensuing play, Walker would find wide receiver Zach Pascal for a nine-yard touchdown pass, getting the Colts to within one, 20-19, with 2:29 left in the game. Reich opted to try for a go-ahead two-point conversion attempt, but the rushing attempt by Walker was stopped short of the goal line.
Regardless, it was an impressive — and clutch — play by Basham.
Speaking of Pascal, the first-year Old Dominion product had been putting in an impressive training camp prior to Monday night's game against the Ravens.
It seemed as if every time a pass was thrown Pascal's way in traffic during camp practices, he would find a way to come down with the catch — no matter who was in his way.
That theme continued on Monday, as Pascal made two catches for 26 yards, including that aforementioned nine-yard touchdown from Walker.
On that play, Pascal faced one-on-one coverage from cornerback Darious Williams, taking him to the front left corner area of the end zone. With the back shoulder throw delivered on time — and on target — from Walker, Pascal was able to create separation at the exact right moment he needed to and snagged the football with two hands over his head, landing with two feet in bounds.
The throw, and the catch, were perfect.
With spots to be won at wide receiver, Pascal was already making a name for himself prior to Monday night's game, but his stock continues to rise after an impressive touchdown catch when the chips were on the table at the end of Monday night's preseason game.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• The aforementioned Colts special teams coverage units were fantastic on Monday night. Their production includes two forced fumbles on punts (one by Clayton Geathers, which was recovered by long snapper Luke Rhodes; and the other by Matthew Adams, which was recovered by punter Rigoberto Sanchez), as well as Basham's clutch blocked punt. Add that in with a 57-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri — which would've tied his career high set back in 2002 if it were in the regular season — and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone has lots to be happy with coming out of this one.
• Hassan Ridgeway and John Simon continue to ball out for the Colts' defense this preseason. Simon, who had 1.5 sacks in the preseason opener against the Seahawks, had another sack on Monday night, hustling to take down Joe Flacco not once, but twice on one play (he wasn't ruled down the first time). Ridgeway, meanwhile, copied his results from the Seattle game, earning two sacks against the Ravens to bring his total to an NFL preseason-leading four. The third-year Texas product seems to be enjoying the change to the 4-3 defense under coordinator Matt Eberflus.
• The Colts' defense, in all, allowed just 266 net yards to the Ravens on Monday night, including just 127 net yards passing. That's not bad at all against a team that features three quality quarterbacks in Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III. The Colts logged three sacks on the night, and limited the Ravens to a 15-percent third-down efficiency (2-for-13). The speed, aggressiveness, effort and physicality wanted in this new scheme is definitely evident so far.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• The starting offensive unit wanted to get in a rhythm and, unlike the Seattle game, find a way to get the ball in the end zone. Unfortunately, in five drives with Luck under center Monday night, the Colts' offense would muster just one scoring drive, and that was thanks to a 57-yard field goal from Vinatieri. Unable to take advantage of a special teams takeaway and prime field position, Luck, trying to find tight end Jack Doyle, threw an ill-advised interception, keeping more points on the field. The run game, meanwhile, also didn't develop the way they had hoped. The Ravens' defensive pressure, meanwhile, eventually became too much to handle as the opportunities became fewer and fewer. There were some good results — Luck had completions of 16, 16 and eight yards — but, come Saturday against the 49ers, the hope is that things will be much crisper.
• Nyheim Hines struggled to hold onto the ball as a returner for a second straight game. Hines was officially credited with one fumble on the night — he fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, which was lost to Ravens linebacker Chris Board — but he had several instances of bobbles, muffs and otherwise shaky ballhandling throughout the rest of the game. Reich kept putting the rookie out there to field kickoffs and punts, however, and he knows how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands. Hines will keep getting opportunities to prove that he can get better.
• Penalties committed in Monday night's game? Baltimore: eight accepted penalties for 56 yards. Indianapolis? Thirteen accepted penalties for 129 yards. There is usually no excuse for such a high number if you're the Colts, even if it's the second preseason game. The talk elsewhere will likely be about the two leading-with-the-helmet penalties called on Colts defenders on Monday night, which is a huge emphasis by the officials and the league to improve player safety this preseason. But the 11 other penalties committed — especially those where mental errors were the primary cause — will probably be a point of frustration for Reich and his staff as they watch the film in the morning.
• The Colts reported just one injury during Monday's game. Running back Josh Ferguson suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and did not return. Reich did not have an immediate update on Ferguson after the game.
• Starting defensive tackle Denico Autry was being tended to by team trainers on the field during the second quarter, but was able to walk off the field under his own power. Reich said there was never any official injury designation for Autry, which can preliminarily be filed under "good news."
After getting 11 days between their first and second preseason games, the Colts have just five days before the 49ers come to town for preseason game No. 3 on Saturday. Like Indianapolis, San Francisco has a 1-1 record through its two preseason games, having defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 24-21, on Aug. 9 and then losing to the Houston Texans, 16-13, last Saturday. The primary storyline for this Saturday's game, of course, will be the "final regular season tune-up" for both sides' starters, as the fourth preseason game is typically meant to serve as a final impression for those trying to earn final spots on the 53-man roster.
After two joint practices the Baltimore Ravens met the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium for Indianapolis' preseason home opening game.