INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye during the Indianapolis Colts’ 33-23 preseason loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. Consider it a case of déjà vu. Last preseason, the Eagles dominated the Colts 36-10 in Philadelphia.
Offensive outing: This was supposed to give us a realistic indication of what to expect from an Andrew Luck-led offense that has to carry the franchise this season. Color us concerned. Red flags are waving.
Pass protection was horrendous, and involved virtually every member of the offensive line. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo struggled throughout and rookie center Ryan Kelly had his toughest game against a top-drawer Eagles defensive front. Luck was sacked three times and hit another six times on 21 drop-backs. A second-quarter hit by Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox was especially forceful, and probably convinced Chuck Pagano to keep Luck on the sideline for the start of the third quarter. The initial plan was for Luck to direct at least the first drive of the second half.
“(The Eagles) did a nice job and we didn’t do the job that we should have done protecting our quarterback,’’ Pagano said at halftime. “There’s way too much penetration.’’
Penalties continued to be an issue. On the final drive of the first half, Castonzo was flagged for holding and right guard Denzelle Good for a false start. Not surprisingly, the herky-jerky offensive couldn’t overcome the self-inflicted wounds.
The running game continued to get very little accomplished: 13 yards on nine carries behind the No. 1 O-line in the first half and 39 yards on 18 carries overall.
And the offense still had trouble finishing what it started. A 26-yard Luck-to-Donte Moncrief completion produced a first-and-goal at the 7, but two Gore runs netted 3 yards and a third-down Luck pass fell incomplete. Adam Vinatieri had to clean up with a 22-yard field goal. It wasn’t a red-zone opportunity, but we’re going to include the final drive of the first half when the Colts turned the ball over on downs after generating a third-and-1 at the Eagles 29. Luck was pressured into a fourth-down incompletion despite taking a two-step drop.
Everyone anticipated a rough night for the defense, which was missing a slew of front-line players. But there was no excuse for the offense – missing only starting right tackle Joe Reitz – to struggle as it did.
Little defense: We’re not going to pile on a defense that was without its only proven pass rusher (Robert Mathis), top three cornerbacks (Vontae Davis, Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Robinson), top two linemen (Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson) and starting safety (Clayton Geathers).
But neither are we going to give them pass. Can’t do it. A few starters and slew of backups still had to deal with Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford, and they failed. Bradford was afforded a calm passing pocket and took advantage by dissecting the Colts’ depleted secondary. He completed 17-of-20 passes for 167 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and the interception at the hands of nickel corner Darius Butler was a result of Nelson Agholor mishandling a pass.
The Eagles piled up 279 yards by the end of the third quarter and did much of their damage with chunk plays. The Colts yielded six plays that gained at least 11 plays, including Bradford’s 19-yard hook-up with Chris Givens on Philly’s opening drive that converted a third-and-17.
A couple of young corners hoping to earn a roster spot did nothing to held their cause. Darius White bit on a double move and gave up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Chase Daniel to David Watford in the fourth quarter. Earlier, Tay Glover-Wright missed a tackle that led to a 38-yard catch-and-run reception by Josh Huff.
Medical update: The offensive line might have taken another hit. Starting left guard Jack Mewhort suffered a knee injury, apparently in the first half, and did not start with the No. 1 unit in the third quarter. The extent of the injury wasn’t immediately known, but losing Mewhort for any length of time would be a major blow. The Colts already were without Reitz, who missed the last two days of practice with a back injury, and rookie Joe Haeg, who suffered an ankle injury last week against Baltimore.
Rookie Austin Blythe replaced Mewhort in the starting lineup.
And as if the Colts weren’t short-handed enough in the secondary before the game, things got markedly worse in the first quarter. Butler, the only active cornerback with anything resembling experience, exited the game with an injury to his left ankle.
This and that: Linebacker Josh McNary blocked a Donnie Jones punt in the third quarter that Jordan Todman recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. . . . Backup quarterback Scott Tolzien completed 5-of-9 passes for 55 yards and suffered an interception in the end zone as a result of miscommunication with Moncrief. . . . No. 3 QB Stephen Morris completed 7-of-11 passes for 144 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Trey Williams.