Game recap: Morris’ late TD to Smith delivers Colts to 13-10 win over Bengals

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Chester Rogers #3 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the football upfield against Nick Vigil #59 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Colts defeated the Bengals 13-10. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye during the Indianapolis Colts’ 13-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium:

Been there, done that:

The latest chapter in the I-74 series lacked star power – a slew of starters roamed each sideline – but delivered a ton of drama. In the 25th preseason meeting since 1984, the lead changed hands three times in the final 2 minutes.

The final switcheroo came with 40 seconds remaining and was delivered by quarterback Stephen Morris and rookie receiver Tevaun Smith. Facing an all-out Bengals blitz on third-and-5 at the Cincinnati 25, Morris tossed a quick bubble screen to the left. Smith gathered it in, avoided immediate traffic and ran untouched to the end zone.

Morris’ fourth touchdown pass of the preseason capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive that took just 1 minute, 15 seconds.

It also ended the crazy final minutes.

With 1:55 remaining, the Bengals took a 10-6 lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from former Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning to rookie receiver Alonzo Russell.

That erased a 6-3 Colts’ lead that came on Adam Vinatieri’s 38-yard field goal with 7:22 to play.

Morris completed 20-of-30 passes for 217 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Chester Rogers caught seven passes for 80 yards and tight end Erik Swoope five passes for 47 yards.

The Colts generated 371 yards in total offense and converted 10-of-16 third-down situations.

Mixed bag early:

There was so much to like in the first half, which offered the best forum to analyze the veracity of each team’s backups.

With Scott Tolzien and Morris directing the offense, the Colts dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard. Three of their four drives consisted of at least nine plays, generated 161 total yards and converted 7-of-10 third-down situation. There also was a semblance of a running game – 12 carries, 42 yards – behind a line of left tackle Jeremy Vujnovich, left guard Adam Redmon, center Austin Blythe, right guard Kitt O’Brien and right tackle Le’Raven Clark.

Tolzien and Morris were a combined 17-of-21 for 129 yards.

But . . . zilch on the scoreboard. The trend of first-half red-zone failures continued. Twice the offense penetrated the Bengals 20-yard line. Twice it turned the ball over. Running back Robert Turbin lost a fumble at the 6 at the end of an 11-yard run and Morris threw into triple coverage and found Cincy linebacker Nick Vigil. Two plays before Morris’ interception, Clark, a rookie who’s struggled, was penalized for holding.

In the first half of the four preseason games, the Colts failed to score a TD on four red-zone trips.

The second-tier defense dominated behind the front-seven play of T.Y. McGill, Curt Maggitt, Antonio Morris, Kelcy Quarles and others. The Bengals were limited to 101 yards on 23 plays and were 0-of-3 on third downs. The defense came up with a turnover late in the second quarter on third-and-1 when Quarles smothered Tra Carson, Maggitt forced a fumble and Thompson recovered.

Medical matters:

Cornerback Tevin Mitchel’s night ended in the second quarter when he suffered a hamstring injury. It’s been that type of preseason for the second-year player out of Arkansas. The coaching staff likes his potential, but Mitchel has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries.

Now we wait:

Nearly two dozen players are in store for anxious hours. The 75-player roster must be trimmed to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday. Even then, the Colts probably won’t be finished shaping the roster. No one should be surprised if general manager Ryan Grigson finds a player or two on the waiver wire he prefers over players he kept. A safety or offensive lineman might be targeted.

Beginning Sunday at 1 p.m., teams are allowed to sign players to their 10-man practice squad.

And then . . .:

Now that we’ve endured the preseason, we can look ahead to when they start keeping score for keeps. The Colts open the season Sept. 11 against the Detroit Lions in Lucas Oil Stadium. The team is looking for a fast start if for no other reason than to help erase the memory of last year’s 8-8 finish.

And it should be noted fast starts haven’t exactly been this team’s trademark. It lost five of its last six season openers – the exception was the only home game during that stretch, a 21-17 nod over Oakland – and gotten off to 0-2 starts the last two seasons.

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