MINNEAPOLIS — Colts coach Frank Reich wasn't 100 percent sure yet, but it sounds like the competition between Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger will last another week.
Both Eason and Ehlinger had ups and downs in the Colts' 12-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. Ehlinger started and threw two tipped-ball interceptions but rebounded with a scoring drive in between; Eason had zero yards on his first eight passes but bounced back to complete 14 of his final 19 passes for 132 yards.
And so, in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's game, Reich figured Eason and Ehlinger would continue battling things out through Friday's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions.
"I gotta look at the film to make that determination but my hunch is that we're probably need to see another week," Reich said. "My hunch is that we're probably going to need to see another week because I think both guys are doing enough, showing enough good signs. Both guys have made enough mistakes, but that's normal — I mean, shoot, it's hard out there. It's not easy."
Ehlinger started and, after a three-and-out on his first drive, picked up two first downs with his legs and hit Zach Pascal for a 10-yard gain. That drive ended with Rodrigo Blankenship knocking in a 47-yard field goal.
But Ehlinger threw a pick-six on his next drive, with a pass intended for wide receiver Parris Campbell getting batted in air and into the waiting arms of Vikings linebacker Troy Dye, who darted into the end zone. Ehlinger responded with another drive that died with a field goal, though the Colts were not able to turn three plays inside the 20 into a touchdown on it.
"If you want to be a really successful team you gotta be great in the red zone," Ehlinger said. "And it's something that we work on all the time, we talk about all the time. We gotta be better in that area to be able to — six points is a lot better than three."
Ehlinger's day ended with another tip drill interception, this time by defensive tackle Jordon Scott. He finished the night with eight completions on 13 attempts for 70 yards with two interceptions; he also rushed two times for 11 yards.
Eason tagged in and ran into some early issues, completing two of his first eight passes for zero yards.
"The way it felt was, in the first half it was pitch and catch," Eason said. "I had guys and I was just either behind them or early or late or whatever it was. Gotta make those throws."
But he was able to recalibrate things at halftime and improved in the final 30 minutes — a 28-yard strike to Dezmon Patmon sparked a scoring drive in they third quarter, and he led a 13-play, 69-yard possession that netted the Colts the game-winning field goal.
But that drive stalled in the red zone, too, even if it resulted in a go-ahead 28-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro.
"At the end there were a lot of missed opportunities and throws that I wanted back," Eason said. "We got the result we wanted but in terms of my personal play there's a lot of things I want to go back on and take a peek at."
Eason, though, did come up with an accurate completion to Patmon to convert on a third down in the Colts' late-game four-minute drive, which allowed the offense to run the clock down and effectively seal the game.
All told, Reich was happy with how he felt both quarterbacks overcome adversity throughout Saturday night.
"We talk a lot about that, especially at the quarterback position," Reich said. "You gotta have thick skin, you gotta be able to put a bad play behind you and I think both guys have shown that in the two games we've had."
For now, though, Eason, Ehlinger and the Colts will return to Grand Park for one final week of training camp practice before one final preseason game. And an advantage of the NFL's new preseason format in 2021 is the Colts will have more than two weeks separating Friday's game in Detroit from Sept. 12's opener against the Seattle Seahawks at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I think it's all good," Reich said when asked about the pros and cons of waiting another week to make a decision between Eason and Ehlinger. "Either way there's been a lot of reps, and we have two weeks after that. Once we get a grip on what's going to happen Week 1, I think we'll have plenty of time to establish what we need to establish."