Colts vs. Seattle: Luck returns, an opening win
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye in the Indianapolis Colts’ 19-17 win over the Seahawks Thursday in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Leading, of course, with Andrew Luck’s return to real football for the first time in 585 days:
Luck on their side: Everything that transpired paled in comparison to Luck’s return after the January 2017 surgery on his right shoulder and after missing last season. How quickly would he reacquaint himself to the speed of the game? The chaos of the passing pocket?
At the risk of overreacting, Luck checked those boxes with a firm stroke. He directed the first two series, shouldered 19 snaps and generated 124 yards and two Adam Vinatieri field goals.
Forget the raw numbers, though. What was impressive was the manner with which Luck played his position. He appeared calm and decisive. He was quick on his throws and when velocity was needed, he zipped the football to his receivers. Before giving way to backup Jacoby Brissett, Luck completed 6-of-9 passes for 64 yards and an 87.3 rating.
Also, Luck dealt with the perils of playing QB. He absorbed a decent hit by linebacker Bobby Wagner on a 1-yard scramble on the first series, then took a sack on the second series.
He bounced up each time.
Defense picks up steam: Russell Wilson’s night at the office lasted one series, and he pretty much had his way with the Colts’ new-look defense. Seattle worked out the kinks with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Wilson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Nick Vannett.
After Wilson pulled on a baseball cap, the Colts’ defense got its act together. Seattle’s next three first-half possessions generated a modest 61 yards and three first downs.
Need more? After their fast start, the Seahawks’ offense hit the snooze button. On its final eight possessions: 37 plays, seven first downs, 120 yards, one field goal allowed.
More importantly, Indy’s defense began making plays that made a difference. Nickel cornerback Nate Hairston ended one Seahawks drive with an end zone interception of backup quarterback Austin Davis. Another drive was stonewalled by the pass rush. On consecutive plays inside the Seattle 20, John Simon got to Davis for a sack and shared another with Denico Autry.
If coordinator Matt Eberflus’ new 4-3 scheme is going to work, it must get pressure from the front four. That wasn’t the case when Wilson was at QB, but the pressure increased as the game unfolded.
The Colts finished with four sacks as Hassan Ridgeway came up with two in the second half.
Tackle troubles: It’s anyone’s guess when – if? – we might see Anthony Castonzo in the preseason. He’s dealing with an injury to his right hamstring he first injured while working out on his own in late July, then aggravated last week.
If Thursday was any indication – and it might have been – the Colts have a serious issue at backup left tackle. Joe Haeg allowed the only sack of Luck in the first quarter, although Luck insisted the sack was a result of a “communication error.’’ Late in the second quarter Haeg replaced Ryan Kelly at center and J’Marcus Webb stepped in for Haeg at left tackle. Webb was beaten by former Colt Barkevious Mingo for a sack of Jacoby Brissett.
Winning with Walker: Credit Phillip Walker with the win, if you’re keeping track at home. He’s competing with Brad Kaaya for the No. 3 spot behind Luck and Brissett, and offered evidence he deserves that position on the depth chart.
After Reich pulled Brissett in the third quarter, Walker took over and led from a 10-9 deficit to a 19-10 lead by engineering a pair of scoring drives. He put the offense in position for rookie Michael Badgley’s 34-yard field goal, and followed that up with a quick-striking 2-play, 53-yard TD drive. On the latter, Walker hit Kasen Williams with 33-yard completion (coupled with a 10-yard unnecessary roughness penalty) and followed with a 10-yard TD to tight end Darnell Daniels. Daniels showed his power by running through the Seahawks at the right pylon.
Charting the QBs: Luck, Brissett, Walker and Kaaya combined to complete 20-of-29 passes for 211 yards and one touchdown for a 101.4 rating. They were sacked three times.
Medical update: Running back Marlon Mack limped off the field following a 5-yard run late in the first quarter. He was diagnosed with a hamstring injury and did not return.
Wideouts Deon Cain and James Wright didn’t finish the game because of knee injuries. Cain’s situation is worth monitoring. The sixth-round draft pick is in the midst of a solid training camp.
This and that: The Colts might have set an NFL preseason record with 7 fumbles. Seven. Blame center-quarterback exchanges. Walker and Kaaya were credited with two each while center Mark Glowinski was given another for his high-and-wide shotgun snap to Kaaya late in the fourth quarter that resulted in defensive lineman Joey Ivie covering it in the end zone for a Seattle touchdown. . . . Colts safety Shamarko Thomas was ejected in the fourth quarter for offering a textbook example of the NFL’s new helmet rule. He lowered his head, launched and hit Seattle wideout David Moore with the crown of his helmet.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.