ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. —Game No. 1 is in the books.
The Indianapolis Colts on Saturday left Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 19-18 victory against the host Buffalo Bills in their 2016 preseason opener.
After seeing their original preseason debut against the Green Bay Packers canceled last week due to the field conditions at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio, the Colts players were more than ready to throw on the pads and play some ball Saturday evening. A little rain in the Buffalo area did little to throw off that excitement.
Although the Colts found themselves in an early 9-0 hole thanks in large part to a miscue on special teams (a blocked punt batted out of the back of the end zone for a safety) and a slow start by the offense, Indianapolis began to found its stride late in the second quarter. By halftime, they had tied the Bills at 9.
The rest of the game was a back-and-forth affair, and ended with some dramatics with plenty of lessons for the Colts' players and coaches. Head coach Chuck Pagano said he was pleased with the way his younger players responded in the second half, and then put the game away with no time left on the clock, forcing an incomplete pass on a two-point conversion attempt that would've won the game for the Bills.
Here's some of the top postgame quotes from Pagano and the Colts players after the victory:
• "Obviously it was good to play, good to get a win, that does great things for morale, obviously. You know, there were some really good things out there. I had the opportunity to evaluate the football team for the first time and see where we're at, especially the young guys. I like the way that we finished, I didn't like the way that we started. We didn't start fast, so we're gonna look at that tape, so we can run the ball better, we need to stop the run better, but it was just, it was real simple stuff." — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, giving his thoughts on the preseason opener against the Bills.
• "It's whatever. Scott (Tolzien) does a great job too. He played a heck of a game today. We would always practice different quarterbacks and exchanges after practice. That was nothing we hadn't seen before." — Colts center Ryan Kelly, asked if he was disappointed he wasn't able to get his first NFL snaps with Andrew Luck, who did not play in Saturday's game.
• "I think it's kind of a feel-out period right now and we're kind of seeing if teams can catch an advantage and pin them inside of the 25. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out. But you also have to remember that, in a lot of preseason games, guys are kicking the balls a little bit shorter to see if guys are covering kicks and making tackles so you have a lot going on." — Colts punter Pat McAfee, on the league's new experimental rule moving touchbacks up to the 25-yard line, and how his team responded on Saturday.
• "I knew I could use my speed as an advantage. I tried to do that. I knew the first one they threw to me was kind of short. That's when I realized maybe I can use my speed and I don't have to do so much near the line. It was a learning experience and I'm just excited to get through that first game." — Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers, on making an adjustment mid-game and it paying off with a 57-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game.
• "It definitely started slow and that's in some aspects typical in the first preseason game, but you're always chasing perfection. That's what we're all out here to do. That was a bit frustrating but it is something to build on, in essence a starting point for the season. I thought we kind of got into a flow of it after the half." — Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien, on overcoming a slow performance by the offense in the first half to tie the game at 9 heading into halftime.
• "I think, for right now, you're going to get a mixture of things. I don't really think it's fair to put judgment on it and say, 'Yeah, it's going to work,' or, 'Yeah, it's not going to work.' But, from a pure statistical standpoint and a field position standpoint, it makes sense to do that." — Colts punter Michael Palardy, on the new kickoff/touchback rule and whether or not teams would prefer to continue kicking it deep or try for shorter, higher kickoffs.
• "It feels awesome. We've been grinding here for a few weeks. It was really nice to go out there and hit somebody in a different uniform. Last week, it was tough, getting built up and ready to go and then having it to be suddenly canceled. It (today) felt really good." — Colts defensive tackle David Parry, on how he felt finally getting the chance to play in an actual game.
• "That it is different. It is new. It is something refreshing. I felt like last year, we grew a little complacent with all the success that we had had. It is easy to do that when winning comes and for us, early in our careers, it came easily it felt like. To have a new offense and to have a new challenge, it is going to be great. It challenges us every day. For myself, once I get down the tight end position, I move on to the wide receivers and then the offensive line to learn and really master this offense." — Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, on what he likes about offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's scheme.
• "In games, that's where you really shake off most of the rust, you know, because you have to finish as a D-lineman, (and) you can actually tackle the quarterback. So I feel like game reps are very important to transition into the season." — Colts outside linebacker Earl Okine, who registered a sack Saturday night, on the importance of actually playing in a game vs. practice reps.
• "You know, it was so great to see, especially in that second half, the veteran guys that were done playing, they were in that thing big time — all the way until the last play. And they're standing up, and they're cheering those guys on, and they're coaching them as they come off and they're talking football with them and guiding them through their first NFL game. You know, for morale, it makes for a great ride home. We understand that, hey, it's the preseason. But you know what? We don't ever know how many of these opportunities we're going to get, so we're going to take advantage of every last one of them and enjoy them all." — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, on his biggest takeaways from Saturday's game.