CINCINNATI — The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up preseason play on Thursday night with a 27-26 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
With most of the starters sitting this one out, Thursday's game was a terrific opportunity for the Colts' reserves to show exactly why they deserve a spot on the Week 1 roster with the cutdown from 90 to 53 players coming at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Colts head coach Frank Reich thought his players continued to make those looming decisions difficult ones after their performance against the Bengals.
"I really liked how the guys finished. It means something. I know it's the fourth preseason game, and we know what it's not, but we know what it is — an opportunity to show what you can do," Reich said. "I think the players took that seriously and played hard and did a nice job out there. We did a nice job."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Thursday's game against the Bengals:
• CATCHING A JOB?: The Colts came into Thursday's preseason finale already knowing who their top three wide receivers were with T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers. The team had a few prime candidates battling it out for the final couple spots (if the team decides to keep five receivers), and all of them bring a little bit of a different flavor to the position. Four of those candidates all ended up having solid performances in Thursday's game: Kasen Williams (three receptions for 35 yards); Zach Pascal (three receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown); Reece Fountain (three receptions for 32 yards); and Seantavius Jones (two receptions for 23 yards). Cobi Hamilton, meanwhile, had a nice game with three receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown, while Steve Ishmael, targeted four times, had one reception for seven yards. Again — tough decisions will have to be made.
• THE LONGEST DRIVE: It began at the 6:44 mark of the first quarter and ended by the 12:14 mark of the second quarter. It took 17 plays, went 75 yards and, in all, took 9:33 off the game clock. It featured five straight third-down conversions, the last of which culminating in a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Pascal to tie the game at 7. It was: The Longest Drive (of the preseason, anyway). The Colts' prospects on that drive didn't look promising just three plays in, as they faced a 3rd and 19 from their own 16-yard line. But Brissett was able to find running back Christine Michael, who knifed his way through the soft coverage to get 20 yards and the first down. Brissett and the Colts would then convert a 3rd and 1, a 3rd and 2, and a 3rd and 10 (on a 16-yard pass to Fountain). That would be it for Brissett, who had an efficient night completing 8-of-12 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
• NO RELATION: Last year, as an undrafted quarterback out of Temple, Phillip Walker had quite a few opportunities to show what he could do in the preseason, but put out mostly inconsistent results, completing 17-of-39 passes (43.6 percent) for 147 yards with one touchdown and one interception. This preseason? A completely different story. Looking much more confident in Reich's new offensive system, Walker flourished in his preseason action, completing 30-of-49 passes (61.2 percent) for 446 yards with four touchdowns and two picks. He wrapped up his preseason play strong on Thursday completing 19-of-31 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His two touchdown tosses — to Erik Swoope and the game-winner to Cobi Hamilton — were about as well-placed as they could be and were right on time. Reich said during veteran minicamp he didn't, at that time, anticipate keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but Walker certainly is giving the Colts enough reason to possibly reconsider that position heading into the weekend.
• INJURY REPORT: Outside of making a final good impression, perhaps the most important part about Thursday night's game is for the Colts players to stay healthy entering the regular season. Four players suffered injuries against the Bengals and did not return to the game: defensive end Tarell Basham suffered a knee injury, though Reich considered it minor; tight end Ross Travis also suffered a knee injury, but the team is expecting to know more today; and safety Chris Cooper and cornerback Robert Jackson each suffered concussions and are now in the league's concussion protocol. The injury to Travis, particularly, could end up being very relevant if it ends up being even somewhat serious; the Colts already had some really tough decisions to make at the tight end position.
• LET'S DO IT AGAIN: While the Colts and Bengals are traditionally always matched up for their preseason finales, Thursday's game represents an oddity schedule-wise, as the two teams will meet up one again in just 10 days to open up their regular seasons at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts are hoping to improve from last season's 4-12 record, and are also hoping to earn their first Week 1 victory since 2013, a 21-17 win over the Oakland Raiders. The Bengals, meanwhile, finished last season with a 7-9 record, though they did edge the Colts, 24-23, in a Week 8 matchup at Paul Brown Stadium.