Best Part About Preseason Loss Was Opening New Stadium, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, little had changed for Tony Dungy.
Dungy, the Colts' head coach, said while there were positives about the Colts' preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday – most notably, a successful grand opening of Lucas Oil Stadium – the same things bothered him that bothered him the moments after the game.
The Colts committed too many turnovers. And they didn't create enough.
They didn't make enough timely plays. And they didn't prevent enough.
And overall, Dungy said, that just wasn't enough.
"The one real positive we got out of last night was obviously opening the new stadium," Dungy said Monday afternoon, a day after the Bills beat the Colts, 20-7, in the first preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I thought that part of it was good. There weren't many glitches in terms of what we had to do with the stadium. It was fantastic, and like I said, that was the best part of the night. I wish we had played a little bit better to christen it, but we didn't.
"We'll go to work on that."
The Bills outgained the Colts 257-233, but the Colts committed five turnovers – including four second-half interceptions – and converted 2 of 8 third downs.
The Bills committed no turnovers and converted 10 of 18 third downs.
"There were some positive things, some individual performances, but it really came down to Buffalo converting on third downs and us not converting, Buffalo protecting the football and not turning it over and us turning it over five times," Dungy said. "That was the difference in the game. It's hard to win NFL games when you're minus-five giveaway-takeaway no matter what else happens."
Bob Sanders, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety and the Associated Press' 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and defensive end Dwight Freeney – a three-time Pro Bowl selection – each played for the first time this preseason against Buffalo. Sanders underwent offseason shoulder surgery and Freeney missed the last seven games of last season with a foot injury.
"The encouraging thing was we got Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders back in action," Dungy said. "They did a good job and got through it OK. It was good to see them back. We'll probably get a couple of more people back (this week) and keep rolling, but all in all we just have to continue to improve and take care of the football a little better and we'll be in pretty good shape."
In other Colts news, three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and kickoff/punt returner T.J. Rushing, each of whom sustained injuries against the Bills, would not be able to play this week if it were a regular-season game, Dungy said.
"We'll see what the long-term look is a little bit later on," Dungy said, adding that Rushing, Saturday and quarterback Jim Sorgi (knee) underwent MRIs on Monday.
Dungy said it's not yet known if Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, will be able to play against Chicago in the September 7 regular-season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Starting guard Ryan Lilja – a fifth-year veteran who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list – has practiced at center, and while rookie draft-selections Mike Pollak, Steve Justice and Jamey Richard are listed as guards with the Colts, all three played center collegiately.
"We'll look at it once we get the estimate of how long it's going to be," Dungy said. "We have a lot of guys who could play in there. We have three young centers and we also have guys who could move in there if it's more of a long-term thing, some of our veteran guys.
"It's still a little too early to project. If it's just one game, we'll probably just roll Steve in and go."
Dungy said the hope is that Lilja and Pollak – the latter of whom missed the Bills game with a knee injury – will be ready to practice this week.
"He (Pollak) would be another option at center if Jeff is going to be out a while," Dungy said. "It's probably just sorting it all out and at some point, we'll find out what our best group is. One of the things with those offensive linemen is they all play a number of different spots. That helps you in times like this.
"People move around and play. It's something we've done. We'll do it again. We'll get our best five out there this week and the best five will be there Sunday for the Bears."
Also on Monday, Dungy said rookie tight end Tom Santi and veteran wide receiver Roy Hall could return to practice this week. Santi has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury, and Hall has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury.
"That would be a big plus if we can get him going and get a week's work in," Dungy said of Hall.
Dungy said with only three days between the Buffalo and Cincinnati games, most Colts veterans likely won't play extensively against the Bengals.
"We're going to anticipate mainly our young guys playing, but we'll see," Dungy said, adding, "It (the injury list) is always that way this time of the year. You'd love for your guys to all be 100 percent and not have any health issues, but I think most teams are in the same boat. That's why you have a preseason and that's why you develop a 53-man roster. There are going to be times – whether it's the first game of the year or Week 16 – that other guys are going to have to step up and play.
"That always has been our philosophy, so I don't think that will be that much different."