A Capsule Preview of Saturday's Colts-Lions Game
Indianapolis Colts (1-1) vs. Detroit Lions (1-1)
Ford Field (64,500 capacity) – Detroit, Mich.
Saturday, August 29 at 1:00 p.m. EDT
Television/Radio: WTTV-TV and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM, 97.1
The Lions' 0-16 season is long gone. With a new coaching staff, a hand-picked franchise quarterback and a clean slate, the team is eager to kick off its 2009 campaign.
Through two preseason games, both the Colts and the Lions are 1-1. The Colts won 23-15 over the Philadelphia Eagles last week while the Lions fell on the road to the Cleveland Browns, 27-10.
In addition to the two teams' preseason records, both teams also have new head coaches. Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell and Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz were both named the leaders of their respective NFL teams this past January.
Schwartz has plenty of familiarity with the Colts having spent the past 10 seasons with the Tennessee Titans and the last eight as the team's defensive coordinator.
The Colts own a 13-6-1 edge all-time against the Lions during the preseason. The two teams' last preseason meeting came in 2007, when the Colts beat the Lions in the RCA Dome, 37-10. This will be the Colts' first preseason trip to Detroit since 1987.
Here are three storylines to watch for in the Colts' third preseason game, Saturday:
MANNING: PLAY TOP ROOKIE QBs
To play or not to play? That is the question NFL coaches must ask themselves when dealing with quarterbacks taken as top draft choices.
In Peyton Manning's case 12 years ago, the rookie played. And started. Every single game. But for every young quarterback, there is a different theory as to how much they should play. And Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, is no different.
Stafford was drafted by a team that went 0-16 last season. Looking to turn the franchise around, the Lions hired a new coaching staff and selected Stafford as its quarterback of the future. While the team's incumbent starter, former Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper, is more than capable, some have called for the future to begin now and Stafford to be the one under center with the first-unit offense.
While Manning played his entire rookie year for the Colts, his younger brother, Eli, sat his first 10 games as a New York Giant and started his last six.
"And (Eli) said what he learned in the last six he played far outweighed what he learned in the 10 on the sideline," Manning said. "He said you just can't quite tell how fast these defensive players are and just how confusing the blitzes are. So that sort of reinforced what I (already) thought."
For Stafford and other young quarterbacks, Manning thinks the best way to learn is to play, no matter how uneasy the first few games can be.
"I remember how uncomfortable it was my third preseason game against the Chargers," Manning said. "I don't recall the stats, but I remember they weren't very pretty. I threw two to the Chargers.
"I think if you don't play, you're going to have that uncomfortable game, whenever it is you do. And I think the sooner you do it, the better off you're going to be in the long run."
The Colts quarterback said he can relate to the young Lions quarterback because like Stafford, Manning came in with a new head coach and a new system, which he thinks is an advantage.
"You can know the system as well as all the veterans, and that's kind of a benefit for a rookie quarterback," he said.
In two games this preseason, Stafford has completed 12 of 27 passes for 148 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"I think anytime you draft a guy first overall, there's a high level of expectation," Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew said. "I think that Matthew has done some things that have been really exciting. I think you want to see that consistently every play…He has a chance to be a really, really good player. We just have to develop him and put good players around him."
SPREADING THE LOVE
Caldwell said he anticipates his team's first-unit offense and defense playing the entire first half and into the third quarter Saturday, explaining he wants his starters to play the first series of the second half to give them an idea of what it is like to come out of the locker room after a halftime break.
But he also wants to get a good, long look at some of his reserves and younger players who are fighting to make the team. With the team's first roster cut looming, the coaching staff will use the third preseason game to continue to evaluate individual performances, which means giving everyone a chance to contribute.
On Thursday, Caldwell talked a little bit about sharing the pigskin on offense during the preseason.
"The last game we spread the ball around quite a bit. I think there were 14 different receivers that caught passes," Caldwell said. "I think you may see that continue."
A FAMILIAR LOOK
From a preparation standpoint, the Colts have spent the past week getting ready for the Lions just like they would the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team's opponent in their regular-season opener on September 13.
It marks a shift in the team's focus from concentrating solely on themselves to beginning to scout and scheme for their opponents.
After watching tape of Detroit, Manning said the Lions resemble the AFC South team their head coach comes from.
"You're a little limited what you can study film-wise, since you just have two games, but (we have seen) similarities to what the Tennessee Titans did," Manning said.
Those not expected to travel or play on Saturday for the Colts are: DE-Raheem Brock, TE-Colin Cloherty, DB-Michael Coe, WR-Sam Giguere, DB-Matt Giordano, RB-Mike Hart, DB-Kelvin Hayden, DB-Jacob Lacey, OG-Ryan Lilja, DB-Bob Sanders (PUP) and K-Adam Vinatieri (PUP).