INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts evened their 2018 preseason record at 1-1 Monday night with their 20-19 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Despite the fact the Colts admittedly had a sloppy performance at times from all three phases, the team remained competitive throughout the contest, and actually had an opportunity to take a one-point lead with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter.
But quarterback Phillip Walker's designed QB draw run play on that decisive two-point conversion attempt fell short of the goal line, and the Ravens would end up flying home victorious after an extended stay in the Circle City.
"Obviously, not our best outing," head coach Frank Reich said. "It's going to be like any other game. We are going to watch the tape and see that the defense started out playing pretty well, did some nice things. Special teams made a couple of plays. Offensively, we had a couple of good moments, but at the end of the day, when you have 13 penalties and you turn the ball over three times, then you get down in the red zone twice and come away with no points, that's not a good formula."
The "good news," Reich said, "is we can correct those things."
"The body of work so far has been good," he continued, "just a disappointing performance tonight."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Monday's game against the Ravens:
• CAN'T ESTABLISH A RHYTHM: After a successful preseason debut Aug. 9 against the Seattle Seahawks, leading two scoring drives that both culminated into Adam Vinatieri field goals, the Colts' first-team offense, led by quarterback Andrew Luck, hoped to use Monday's game against the Ravens as an opportunity to push the envelope even further. The goal was to continue to establish great rhythm and, this time around, playing a little deeper in the ball game, punch the ball into the end zone on at least a couple occasions. But that didn't end up being the case against the Ravens, as the only points scored in five drives by the first-team offense came once again off the foot of Vinatieri, and that was thanks to an impressive 57-yard field goal. Luck ended up completing 6-of-13 pass attempts for 50 yards, but couldn't capitalize on perhaps the Colts' best early opportunity of the preseason after Clayton Geathers forced a fumble on a punt play, which was recovered by long snapper Luke Rhodes at the Baltimore 14-yard line. Just three plays later, however, on 3rd and 7 from the 11, Luck threw an ill-advised pass attempt to his tight end Jack Doyle that was picked off by Anthony Levine Sr. With Saturday's traditional "final regular-season tune-up" for the starters against the San Francisco 49ers, the Colts' first-team offense hopes to establish the crispness and rhythm they had hoped to show, and then some, to create a little momentum heading into the Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
• SOLID DEFENSE: The Colts' new 4-3 base defensive scheme relies heavily upon physicality, speed, hustle and effort. The Indy defense certainly showed that in droves against the Ravens. Indy allowed just 266 net yards on Monday night, including just 127 net yards passing — and that's against the likes of 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 linebackers were flying around; Zaire Franklin had a game-high nine tackles on the night, while Darius Leonard had seven. The defensive interior held strong with five tackles each from Grover Stewart and Hassan Ridgeway (more on him later). We're starting to see flashes of what defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus wants to see out of his unit on a weekly basis.
• FLAGS, TURNOVERS, MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Most NFL teams can look at a few specific areas when trying to determine what led to a loss — or, on the flip side, what they avoided that led to a win. The Colts on Monday night struggled at times in three key areas: penalties, untimely turnovers and, simply, missed opportunities. Indianapolis had 13 accepted penalties for 129 yards against the Ravens, including two leading-with-the-helmet calls that have been under the microscope across the league this preseason. The Colts committed three turnovers — one the aforementioned pick by Luck, another interception thrown late during a potential game-tying drive by Walker and then a lost fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half by returner Nyheim Hines, who had troubles with ball security for a second straight game. And then when it came to opportunities, the Colts couldn't get points on either takeaway caused by their punt coverage units (both forced and recovered fumbles on the Baltimore returner that gave Indy terrific field position), and, in all, the Colts were just 2-of-4 putting points on the board in the red zone on the night, and 2-for-3 in goal-to-go situations. The good news is it's only the second preseason game, and most, if not all, of these items listed are correctable for when the games actually start counting.
• HOW 'BOUT HASSAN?: We came away impressed with the play of Ridgeway in the Colts' preseason opener against the Seahawks, as the third-year Texas product dominated the second half with two sacks and added another tackle for a loss. So how'd he follow it up with even more, and earlier, opportunities against the Ravens? His night started with a tackle for loss midway through the first quarter. It continued in the second quarter with a big sack of Jackson on third down, leading to a punt. And then, in the fourth quarter, with Baltimore trying to pull away, Ridgeway earned another sack, this time bringing down Griffin III for a loss of seven on first down, setting up another Ravens punt. Through two preseason games, Ridgeway leads the entire NFL with four sacks; he definitely seems to be at home in this new 4-3 scheme.
• THE GOAT: In 2002, as a member of the New England Patriots, Adam Vinatieri hit a career-long 57-yard field goal in a win over the Chicago Bears. He was 29 years old at the time; a young whippersnapper by his standards. Sixteen years later, now with the Colts, Vinatieri — who has been money from 50-plus-yards in recent years, hitting almost 80 percent of his attempts from that distance since 2013 — trotted out to attempt another 57-yarder in Monday night's game against the Ravens. And he nailed it. It probably would've been good from 60 yards or even further. It's always impressive when coaches can depend on their kickers to put the ball through the uprights when they start the play standing in the midfield logo, but Vinny's status as the "GOAT" — or, the "Greatest Of All-Time," for you non-whippersnappers — just continues to be confirmed time after time after time.