Colts Lose to Cincinnati Bengals, 38-7, in Preseason Finale
The Colts' 2009 preseason finale began Thursday as it often has in recent seasons.
It ended as it often has in recent seasons, too.
The Colts, who the past several seasons typically have played few starters or front-line players in preseason finales, took the same approach Thursday night against a familiar preseason finale opponent. Starting just two regular starters, the Colts stayed close through much of the first half before the Cincinnati Bengals pulled away for a 38-7 victory in front of 56,527 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
"We didn't perform as well as I was anticipating or would like to have seen," Colts first-year Head Coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio after Indianapolis lost for the third time in four 2009 preseason games. "We knew it was going to be tough sledding, obviously, with a number of young guys out there playing.
"Our effort was good, but our execution was poor."
But Colts President Bill Polian told Colts Radio following the game the score wasn't nearly as imant as what was learned during the game.
"I said to someone before the game, 'It's not the scoreboard that counts – it's how the individual matchups and the standard of performance measures up from player to player,' Polian said. "There's an old story, 'They cut themselves.' Well, there were plenty of guys who cut themselves tonight, but I think there were some who also distinguished themselves and will have a bright future here.
"(Friday), we'll get after it, look at the tape and we'll try to get the best 53 we can."
The Colts, who have made seven consecutive playoff appearances, have played the Bengals in the last nine preseasons, with eight of the meetings in the preseason finale. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who hasn't missed a regular-season game in his NFL career, hasn't played in the preseason finale since 2004.
The Colts have lost to the Bengals in the preseason finale each of the last five years, and have scored a total of 16 points in the games during that span.
"There were some things we had to look at, some individuals in different positions, that will help us in terms of our decision-making here in the next couple of days," Caldwell said. "We did get some things accomplished. We just didn't perform the way we'd like to."
Caldwell and Polian each said there were bright spots, including:
• The play of quarterback Jim Sorgi. After missing the first three preseason games with a hamstring injury, he completed 11 of 19 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. His 22-yard touchdown pass to first-year wide receiver Taj Smith tied the game, 7-7, in the first quarter.
• The return of kicker Adam Vinatieri, activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list Thursday. "That was a plus, obviously," Caldwell said.
• The kick returning of RB Chad Simpson, who averaged 26.3 yards on six returns. "Chad did a nice job on those returns," Caldwell said.
• The play of cornerback Jacob Lacey, who had a second-quarter interception.
• The play of defensive end John Gill.
"We'll certainly look at the tape tomorrow morning," Polian said. "I was joking with the coaches after the game, 'We had a lot of questions going into the game. Many of them were answered. Unfortunately, the answer was no in a lot of cases.' It only takes 53, not 80. We'll sort through it. There are areas we're going to have to shore up, but we've had those issues before.
"We faced the very same issue the year we won the Super Bowl. We'll get it squared away."
The Bengals outgained the Colts, 389-205, and outrushed the Colts 296-79. The Bengals also sacked Colts quarterbacks six times.
"We obviously didn't move the ball the way we wanted to on offense, but we had a lot of guys dinged up," Colts tight end Jacob Tamme said. "We had a lot of guys playing hard. The preseason overall was successful, but it's never a good feeling when you lose a game and leave with that taste in your mouth."
The Colts fell behind by a touchdown early, but rallied and cut the lead to 10-7 by the end of the period.
The Bengals moved 61 yards on five plays on their first drive, taking a 7-0 lead when wide receiver Andre Caldwell caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan. Just two Colts defensive starters — strong-side linebacker Philip Wheeler and defensive tackle Ed Johnson — started the game. No projected Colts starters opened the game offensively.
The Colts tied the game on the ensuing drive when Sorgi — playing for the first time this preseason after missing the first three games with a hamstring injury — passed 22 yards to first-year veteran wide receiver Taj Smith.
Smith snatched a pass near the right sideline, then ran the final 10 yards into the end zone.
Backup kicker Sam Swank's 49-yard field goal gave the Bengals a 10-7 lead late in the quarter. The Colts allowed two touchdowns on the Bengals' final two second-quarter drives.
First, wide receiver Chris Henry caught a seven-yard pass from reserve quarterback Jordan Palmer to cap an eight-play, 81-yard drive and give the Bengals a 17-7 lead. After Bengals defensive end Frostee Smith sacked Sorgi and forced and recovered a fumble, running back Brian Leonard's 4-yard touchdown run put Cincinnati ahead, 24-7.
The Bengals pushed the lead to 31-7 early in the third quarter when TE Kolo Kapanui caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Palmer. Then former Colts running back DeDe Dorsey blocked, recovered and returned a punt for a touchdown in the fourth.
"Very seldom are you going to find guys in our position who are satisfied," Caldwell said. "We certainly have a number of areas we need to work on and get better at. All across the board, we're going to need some work to get our team in a position to go out and play well."
The Colts, who made five roster moves early this week, must trim 22 more players from the active roster this by Saturday afternoon to reach the 53-man limit.
"It's a tough weekend," Caldwell said. "Anytime you have to trim the squad down, you're talking about 22 guys or so, it's a difficult time for them when you dash hopes and dreams – it's a tough time."