Manning, Colts Efficient in a 23-15 Victory over Philadelphia at Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – Colts quarterback Peyton Manning wanted a couple of things in the second game of the 2009 preseason on Thursday:
• More playing time.
• Better efficiency.
• And perhaps even a victory.
Mission – missions, actually – very much accomplished.
Manning, who this week said he hoped the Colts' starters would play more in the second preseason game then the first, got his wish. The first-team played 19 plays and took full advantage, taking an early two-touchdown lead en route to a 23-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in front of an announced 64,562 at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Thursday night.
"The players challenged themselves this past week, and the coaches challenged us to be a lot sharper," said Manning, whose two first-quarter touchdown passes helped the Colts to a 14-7 first-quarter lead they never relinquished.
"I thought we had a lot of intensity all the way around. It started in pre-game, and sort of started on the first drive."
The Colts, after a performance in the first preseason game that first-year head coach Jim Caldwell said needed to improve, scored on two of their first three drives on Thursday. Kicker Shane Andrus added field goals in the second, third and fourth quarters in a performance that Caldwell said showed strides offensively and defensively.
"We did come out and play better than the week before," Caldwell said. "Offensively, we certainly moved the ball a lot better. Our defense was pretty solid. I think we can be pleased with a number of things we saw.
"It was some real solid play out there."
The Colts, after being outgained by Minnesota 351-142, in the opener, outgained Philadelphia by 190-71 in the first quarter and 265-154 in the first half Thursday.
"I thought it was really good," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "Obviously, there are going to be things to improve on, but it was much better than last week. I thought we blocked it pretty well up front and hit some big plays down the field."
After allowing 198 yards rushing last week, the Colts allowed 23 yards on 17 carries on Thursday.
"Overall, our defense ran to the ball well," Caldwell said. "We were a lot better than we were the week before. That's one area we did try to stress during the course of the week. It's good to see results. The interior of our defense was pretty solid.
"Overall, I think it was a pretty solid performance and toward the end, we just got a little sloppy."
The Colts took a 14-0 lead with Manning throwing touchdowns of three yards to wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and 76 yards to wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Manning, who completed one of two passes in a 13-3 loss to Minnesota last week, played three series. The other drive on which he played ended when he lost a fumble when he was sacked by Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, but at the end of the first quarter, the Colts had converted three-of-three third downs and had 10 first downs to four for the Eagles.
"I think everybody wanted to be in there," Manning said. "The entire offense felt hungry after the first week. I thought we practiced well, and it carried over to the field. This was something we can build on going into next week."
The Colts, who allowed three sacks on the first six plays a week ago, not only produced 265 yards offense in the first half, their early touchdowns came on an extended drive and their longest play of the 2009 preseason.
The Colts allowed two first-half sacks Thursday night, one on Manning.
"The offensive line did a nice job," Caldwell said. "They protected well, which is something that's very, very imant to us. When there were opportunities to run, they created some holes for the backs."
The Colts rushed 29 times for 62 yards, but Caldwell said the Colts ran well early, with starter Joseph Addai rushing twice for 11 yards on the opening drive.
"We didn't run it a whole lot during that stretch," Caldwell said, "but nevertheless, they were very effective. They certainly did the job and did it well."
Said Saturday, "We ran the ball well when we ran it, and that's what you want to do in a preseason game – come in, play well, and get everybody out and stay healthy."
After talking all week of wanting to improve on last week's performance, the Colts took the opening kickoff and drove 81 yards on 12 plays, scoring on a three-yard pass from Manning to third-year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Manning completed 7 of 10 passes for 72 yards on the drive.
The Colts lost a fumble two possessions later, but after defensive end Dwight Freeney forced a fumble by Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb that Colts defensive end Keyunta Dawson recovered, Indianapolis again drove for a touchdown.
This time, the Colts did it quickly.
On the play after Dawson's recovery, Manning threw deep from the Indianapolis 24 to Wayne, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who was well behind Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
Wayne caught Manning's pass cleanly, ran free down the left sideline, then made a move on a defender near the five-yard line for a 76-yard touchdown that gave the Colts a 14-0 lead.
The Eagles cut the lead to 14-7 when McNabb threw a perfect pass to wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who cut between the Colts' safeties and caught the pass as he crossed the goal line. Andrus, substituting for Adam Vinatieri converted a 24-yard field goal to give Indianapolis a 17-7 halftime lead.
Andrus added a 41-yard third-quarter field goal to push the lead to 20-7 12:40 into the second half and also had a 31-yarder with 11:35 remaining to give the Colts a 16-point lead.
Eagles wide receiver Brandon Gibson's 21-yard touchdown reception from reserve quarterback Adam DeMichele closed the scoring with :26 remaining.
One area that Caldwell said he didn't much like was the Colts committing seven penalties for 45 yards.
"That was one thing that kind of jumps out at you," Caldwell said. "If we want to be the kind of team we think we can be, that will have to decrease, but we can build upon that."
And with two weeks remaining in the preseason, Caldwell said building is still the idea.
"It's always good to be able to critique after a win as opposed to after a loss," he said.