Good, bad, ugly: Saints 23, Colts 17
Guess which category’s going to be the longest as we break down the good, bad and ugly from the Colts’ comprehensively poor performance in a 23-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in their third, and most meaningful, preseason game:
>> Reggie Wayne played, returning to the field for the first time since his knee blowout last season against Denver, and looked just fine. In fact, he caught two passes, but both were wiped out by penalties. “It was good to catch the football and get a real live game under my belt,” he said. “There’s no way you can simulate that. That’s what I said last week. It was an opportunity for me to go out there and there was some real live bullets flying at me so it was good, one down.”
>> Ahmad Bradshaw played, also making his preseason debut, although he quickly found out what Trent Richardson already has learned: it’s tough to run to daylight when there are so many defenders blotting out the sun.
>> Boom Herron continues to look like not only a keeper, but a potential starter, racking up 68 yards on eight carries, including the Colts’ biggest gain of the night, a 43-yard burst in the third quarter. Herron is by far the team’s leading preseason rusher with 104 yards on 18 carries (a 5.8 average); the shame is with only one exhibition remaining in Cincinnati Thursday night, he won’t get the chance to see how he can play with the starters.
>> There were no significant injuries, although Darius Butler left the stadium with a boot on his ankle.
>> If this was a measuring-stick game for the defense, it must’ve been the same one the offense used at the goal line (more on that in a moment), because the group came up woefully short. The secondary was absolutely shredded by Drew Brees, who passed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in three possessions. The run defense had some moments but wound up allowing 124 yards and a 5.4 average in the first half.
>> The Colts missed tackles right and left, not to mention up the middle. “We just didn't do the fundamental things,” Chuck Pagano said. “We’re more than capable, and we've seen that. We've got a really good defense. We've got a chance to be a really good defense, but we've got to do the little things.”
>> Though Andrew Luck and the offense generally are there to bail things out, it didn’t happen this time. Luck was uncharacteristically wobbly. His timing was off and his throws floated. He had one interception on a badly underthrown ball to Coby Fleener, and nearly had another on a deep pass that went over T.Y. Hilton’s head. Only four of his 10 completions went to wide receivers.
>> Luck didn’t mince words: “Disappointed in myself. Missed some throws, interception. … A lot of mistakes, I know I made a lot of mistakes that need to be corrected if we’re going to have a chance to be a good offense.”
>> The dark side of the no-huddle offense was in full display. When it doesn’t work, it puts exponential stress on the defense. Of the first unit’s six possessions, only two lasted longer than seven plays, hence the Saints racked up 49 plays, 288 yards and a time of possession advantage of 20:48 to 9:12 in the first half.
>> Seriously, has anybody seen any indication Richardson is anything other than a monumental bust? After managing 17 yards on six attempts, his preseason totals are 51 yards on 20 carries, a 2.6 average. Yes, the blocking has been poor but good running backs make something out of nothing, and that’s where Richardson consistently comes up empty. A power back should not be halted at the line by a one-handed ankle tackle.
>> Twice in the first half, Luck was hit hard, including once when he was yanked down from behind by outside linebacker Junior Galette in a move that looked more MMA than NFL, with no response from Colts teammates either time. None. Not one angry shove, not one facemask-to-facemask confrontation. If the sight of the franchise quarterback flat on his back doesn’t spark some kind of reaction from the blockers, this team has issues.
>> Through it all, had the Colts managed goal-line situations better, they might’ve won the game. The starters had first-and-goal at the one late in the half and wound up settling for a field goal after a run-stuff and two incompletions. The second unit had second-and-goal at the one in the third quarter and got stoned on three straight runs, turning it over on downs. Finishing drives in the red zone is one of the primary points of emphasis this preseason, and these were two stunning examples of how much work is yet to be done.