ARLINGTON, Texas —The Indianapolis Colts are on the road for the first time in the 2017 preseason, as they travel to Texas to take on the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium Saturday evening.
The Colts (0-1) are coming off a 24-10 preseason-opening loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, while the Cowboys (1-1) on Saturday are playing in their 2017 preseason home opener.
So here's a look at the action as it happens each quarter in Arlington:
FIRST QUARTERThe Cowboys won the coin toss and elected to receive, giving the ball right to their high-powered offense that tonight features the likes of quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, each of whom are making their 2017 preseason debuts.
Prescott, perhaps not surprisingly, went right for Bryant from the start, connecting with him for a 23-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and then finding him for a 32-yard touchdown pass on a back-shoulder route to end it. With just 11:26 left, the Cowboys jumped ahead, 7-0.
A week after forcing a turnover on the Lions' opening drive, the Colts' defense this time around got gashed on more than a couple plays, particularly in the secondary, which missed some key tackles. It was a 95-yard drive in just seven plays and 3:28 for Dallas.
On came Scott Tolzien and the Colts' starting offense, which mustered just 27 yards of total offense last week against Detroit, and was hoping for a much better outing this time around.
The Colts faced an early 3rd and 3, however, and Tolzien's pass to tight end Jack Doyle didn't get enough to move the chains, forcing an Indy punt.
Not ideal starts on both sides of the ball for the Colts.
The Cowboys, however, weren't done attacking with their first-string offense. Darren McFadden, starting in place of Ezekiel Elliott, had runs of six, 11, 11 and 14 yards to get into Indianapolis territory, and a pass from Prescott to Cole Beasley for 13 yards in the slot resulted in 13 yards to get to the 27. Then, on 3rd and 8, Prescott found Beasley once again for 10 yards and the first down.
Then came the big play, finally, for the Colts' defense. Outside linebacker John Simon and safety Matthias Farley came down and knocked the ball out of the grip of McFadden, which was recovered by cornerback Vontae Davis, for Indianapolis' second takeaway of the preseason.
Could the Colts take advantage on offense? Not this time; another three and out. To this point, Dallas has a 166-13 lead in total yards.
With Prescott's evening over, the Cowboys put in lefty backup Kellen Moore at quarterback, as the Colts began rotating in some backups with some starters on defense.
And, wouldn't you know it, that Colts' defense — two backups — made another play. Barkevious Mingo, the former first-round pick, burst through and knocked the ball out of Moore's hands, which was scooped up by Lavar Edwards, who rumbled into the end zone for the defensive score. With 2:02 left, the Colts tied it up at 7.
That's where we are heading into the second quarter.
SECOND QUARTERThe Colts' defense continued to make plays early into the second quarter, forcing a Cowboys' turnover and their first punt of the game.
Indy put its No. 1 offense back on the field, and Tolzien immediately found undrafted rookie tight end Darrell Daniels, who got the start opposite Doyle — which is notable, considering the absence of usual No. 2 tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who recently had a knee scope and is week-to-week.
This time, facing a 3rd and 1, the Colts put in Robert Turbin at running back and converted, as he found the hole and galloped his way to 10 yards for the first down. Positive momentum, though it wouldn't last, as Indy could not convert a 3rd and 5 three plays later, forcing another punt.
And while the Cowboys would get deep into Indy territory on their ensuing drive, two nice plays by cornerbacks T.J. Green and Quincy Wilson prevented them from getting in the end zone, and Dallas would only get a field goal to go up 10-7 with 7:26 left in the first half.
Yes, you read that right: cornerback T.J. Green. The Colts asked the second-year safety to give the position a try beginning in Tuesday's practice, and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said he hoped to give Green plenty of opportunities to get his feet wet in game action on Saturday.
Indianapolis stuck with its first-team offense for its next drive, which included rookie Marlon Mack at running back, as the fourth-round pick was making his professional debut. After a big-chunk pass play from Tolzien to Kamar Aiken for 25 yards, Mack showed what he could do immediately, running for 10 yards and for 13 yards on back-to-back plays, getting to the Dallas 27.
But on 3rd and 14 from the Dallas 20, a pass to Turbin wouldn't be enough, and the Colts would settle for a 34-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri to tie it at 10-all with 2:47 left in the second quarter.
Mack's running ability — and the way Tolzien was able to work off of it — is definitely a positive to take away from that drive for the Colts' offense.
The Cowboys, in their two-minute offense, faced a 3rd and 2 at the two-minute warning, which would turn into a 4th and 2 shortly thereafter and another Dallas punt. So now the Colts, still with most of its first-team offense in, got a prime opportunity to run their two-minute offense.
But after a sack and a near interception, the Colts faced a 3rd and 18, and a draw play to Turbin would not get the yards needed, and time would run out on the second quarter.
Tolzien in this half: 10-of-14 for 70 yards. Much better feeling for the Colts' first-team offense coming away from this one.
THIRD QUARTERFirst, a quick injury note: the Colts have ruled Wilson out for the rest of the game with a knee injury. We'll keep an eye on this one as we get updates from head coach Chuck Pagano.
The Colts opened up the second half with the ball and trotted out rookie Phillip Walker at quarterback, who played most of the second, third and part of the fourth quarter last week.
After a holding call on a screen play was followed by a short pass, however, Walker and the Colts faced a 3rd and 18 pinned deep in their own territory, and would be forced to punt after a short pass to Jacoby Brissett, who missed last week's game.
With the Cowboys in Colts' territory on their ensuing drive, they faced a 3rd and 6 from the 27. Moore's pass to his left to Lance Lenore was broken up on a nice play in one-on-one coverage by second-year safety Tyvis Powell, however, and then Margus Hunt — who led the NFL in blocked kicks a season ago with the Cincinnati Bengals — did it again, blocking the Dallas field goal attempt.
While a backup along the defensive line, Hunt certainly could earn a spot on this final roster largely due to his special teams value. Plays like that can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Then Mack showed up once again, running straight up the gut for a 23-yard pickup, and picking up 13 yards on a pass from Walker to get to the Dallas 24-yard line. What a weapon this rookie can be; he's at 5 rushing attempts for 45 yards (9.0 avg.) and one catch for 13 yards.
Though the Colts wouldn't punch it into the end zone, they did earn their first lead of the preseason off the foot of Vinatieri, who nailed a 42-yard field goal to make it 13-10 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
In came rookie quarterback Cooper Rush for the Cowboys, who came out throwing, connecting on consecutive throws of 18 and 15 yards, and then connected with Noah Brown, who was wide open, for a 19-yard touchdown toss and catch. With 1:32 left in the third quarter, Dallas takes the lead back, 17-13.
More on the injury front for the Colts: inside linebacker Jeremiah George (hamstring) and cornerback Tevin Mitchel (abdominal strain) have also been ruled out.
After a botched snap on third down — the team is now 1-of-9 on third downs in the game — the Cowboys will receive the punt to open the fourth quarter.
FOURTH QUARTERRush led the Cowboys on another nice drive to open the fourth quarter, and he'd have big help from big running back Rod Smith, who had runs that included 12- and 20-yard chunks. To this point, the Cowboys are gaining 6.5 yards per carry, which one would imagine would be a huge point of emphasis for Pagano and his staff heading into next week.
The Cowboys would punch it in soon thereafter with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Rush to Lance Lenoir with 8:46 left, and after the extra point, Dallas took an 11-point lead, 24-13. It was a 10-play, 74-yard drive that milked 6:02 off the clock.
Stephen Morris, who led Indy to its only touchdown-scoring drive last week, then came on at quarterback for the Colts. Two plays later, he found JoJo Natson in the seam for a 23-yard pass-and-catch, and then followed it up with a 12-yard throw, again to the speedster Natson.
But the momentum would quickly slow down for Morris and the Colts' offense, who faced a 4th and 5 from the Dallas 40. How would they respond? Morris to Natson. Again. Twenty-five yards to the Dallas 15.
Morris has shown an ability to make plays deep in games during the preseason the past couple years. And although the Colts, down two scores, wouldn't be able to convert on 4th and Goal, the team has to be pleased with the way Morris has handled his workload.
The Colts would force another final Cowboys' punt, and Morris & Co. would convert on 4th and 5 after a defensive holding call on Natson in the secondary, setting them up with 1:10 to go with a 1st and 10 from the Dallas 33.
Morris delivered a seed to first-year receiver Fred Brown to the 19, and then the two connected on an even more impressive touchdown throw-and-catch inbetween the Cover 2 defense, to make it 24-19 with 57 seconds left. The two-point conversion attempted pass would sail out of bounds, however.
That touchdown pass? Wow — a thing of beauty. Great accuracy by Morris, and great concentration by Brown, who was able to get one foot down and then tap his other all while falling out of the side of the end zone.
The onsides kick attempt from Jeff Locke was unsuccessful, giving the Cowboys the chance to milk the rest of the game clock.
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