Colts-Bills review: Ugly opener and then some

Each week, we'll take a second look at the previous Colts game. Not that many Colts fans want to remember Week 1 at Buffalo, right?

One of the more popular features from my past is being brought back on a weekly basis, watching Indianapolis Colts games a second time in search of more observations.

It’s been my experience that we see so much more when watching an NFL game again, especially journalists who might get a quick replay on a press-box monitor now and then.

The game reviews will appear on Tuesday — apologize for the late start on this one (decision made late this week) as well as the fact it’s not a game many Colts fans want to relive.

Here’s what stood out in a second look at the Colts’ 27-14 road loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

* Frank Gore almost broke a run on the very first play, getting tripped up after gaining 7 yards. I realize the Bills crowd the box after this, but the running back shouldn’t have been ignored. Throw it to him out of the backfield to loosen up that blitzing defense.

* The Khaled Holmes holding call sure was a killer on that opening series. Tight end Dwayne Allen had just hauled in a 27-yard pass to the Bills’ 23, but the center’s grab proves costly.

* It’s obvious quarterback Andrew Luck is off on some his early passes. He overthrows wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a first-quarter throw that could have been intercepted had safety Aaron Williams been able to secure the ball when hitting the ground.

* New Colts defensive end Kendall Langford introduces himself by dropping LeSean McCoy twice for losses in the first half.

* What surprises me on Percy Harvin’s 51-yard TD catch against cornerback Darius Butler on the final play of the opening quarter isn’t that Butler got beat. Harvin has always had serious wheels. But safety Mike Adams cheats inside, so there’s no deep cover. No disrespect to Butler, but he’s the team’s nickel back ideally, so it doesn’t make sense to leave him alone with a speed burner.

* As lousy as the game is going, the Colts are down just 7-0 after that final play of the first quarter.

* Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman commits inside too quickly and can’t recover on an end-around run for a Bills first down. Colts tacklers make this mistake too often.

* We know rookie Phillip Dorsett muffs two punts later, losing one of them, but he shouldn’t be fair-catching another on the 7-yard line, either. It’s no excuse for anyone to say the kid is learning. He’s in the NFL now. Certain expectations apply, especially on returns. We’ve seen enough bad decisions on them in the past.

* Luck’s first interception earns a rewind or two. First, he underthrows wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who initially has a step on the defender. Throw that ball farther and maybe Hilton turns on the burners and grabs it. If nothing else, it’s not a pick. But Hilton tends to just glide as the ball arrives instead of trying to break up the turnover. That’s on both Luck and Hilton, in my book. One mistake could have been prevented.

* Bills just overload the box and have too many guys rushing on the first sack of Luck. There’s two extra linebackers and a safety in the mix. Luck steps up and he’s done. Better to accept the inevitable than try to throw it away and risk another turnover.

* Didn’t notice second-year outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome much, but he did stay with McCoy to break up a wheel-route pass.

* Some questioned head coach Chuck Pagano sending out kicker Adam Vinatieri to try a 52-yard field goal in the wind and rain late in the first half. Vinny had plenty of leg, he just hooked it wide left. Down 10-0, you have to try to make it a one-score game. And considering the ageless one had only one miss last season, you expect him to make everything.

* Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 31-yard scramble is a complete breakdown from up front to the back. The outside rushers zoom past to give him a lane, then there’s only one defender anywhere near and Taylor is too shifty, makes him miss as everyone else keeps giving chase. Where are the linebackers? Haven’t noticed inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson or outside linebacker Trent Cole much at all.

* As bad as that was, rookie running back Karlos Williams’ TD rush is even worse. He looks stuffed inside, then bounces outside and, again, there’s only one guy there. Adams, the safety, does the same thing as his linebackers, over-running the play inside. Williams motors 26 yards to make it 17-0 just 20 seconds before halftime. This guy was available in the fifth round of the draft? Sure looks like a steal after this run.

* It wasn’t lost on me while watching the game live, and then the same thought returns at halftime on this review: The Colts are once again playing catch-up, facing a double-digit deficit in an opener. Was in Denver for last year’s opener, when the Colts fell behind the Broncos 24-0 in the second quarter. Mistakes happen, but the Colts look lost and uninspired.

* Pat McAfee lives up to his “Boomstick” nickname by sending the second-half kickoff beyond the end zone for a touchback. OK, it’s an obligatory mention because he does this well.

* Adams blitzes and nobody is there to stop McCoy from taking a quick pass for 22 yards.

* Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden gets flagged for roughing the passer. Yeah, he didn’t need to take the shot. But the announcer is wrong. It wasn’t helmet to helmet. It was just 15 yards for stupidity.

* Harvin beats Butler again to convert a third-down throw.

* McCoy makes it look easy on a 12-yard TD run, but the Bills were holding. It just delays the score. Bills are playing smash mouth and wearing down the Colts’ bunched 3-4 scheme. After McCoy just misses on a run to the pylon, Anthony Dixon jumps over the pile to make it 24-0. Inside linebacker Nate Irving has a shot at the ballcarrier, but Dixon still surges just enough.

* Just keep undrafted rookie running back Tyler Varga on kickoff returns. He runs hard, regardless of whatever he’s doing.

* Andre Johnson has no chance on a high throw. And for what it’s worth, Johnson had a defender draped all over him. It’s as if Luck was throwing it to him regardless.

* Luck hooking up with Moncrief on this drive. Finds the second-year pro on back-to-back plays to move the chains.

* Rookie running back Josh Robinson sure got lucky on his fumble. First, that it bounces out of bounds, then the Bills’ Jerry Hughes is flagged for a face mask.

* Finally, the Colts score, but it took 18 plays to go 65 yards. The Bills made ‘em earn it. Colts have first-and-goal at the 3, but need four plays, finally cashing in on Luck’s 2-yard TD pass to a slanting Moncrief. The Bills blew the coverage as the defenders don’t anticipate Moncrief running inside of Johnson. Luck keeps his head up while running and finds tight end Coby Fleener for the two-point conversion pass. So it’s 24-8 with 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

* Kyle Williams gets a free rush at Luck on third down as Varga whiffs picking him up, and the resulting scramble doesn’t go anywhere. No momentum from the previous scoring drive as the Colts’ offense goes three-and-out.

* A pass to Sammy Watkins falls incomplete. This is worthy of mention because Colts cornerback Vontae Davis shut him out. Watkins, the fourth overall pick a year ago, wasn’t shut out in a single game last season and was named Rookie of the Week three times. Serious props to Davis.

* Dorsett muffs the punt to give the Bills their final scoring drive. Before the field goal, Colts rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson trips up McCoy for a loss. Anderson, a third-round pick out of Stanford, had nine tackles in his pro debut. Eight of them were solos.

* Colts score again on a nine-play drive, eight of them passes and a Luck scramble. Dorsett catches passes on back-to-back plays for a combined 45 yards. Varga takes a short pass, makes two guys miss, and goes 18 yards. Luck finds Allen wide open who initially engages for a quick block and then releases across the field for the 6-yard TD. The Bills didn’t see him until it was too late.

* Johnson drops the two-point conversion pass. Yeah, through his hands. Should be 27-16. Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receivers don’t drop those. Just 5:56 remains.

* McCoy rips off a 16-yard rush on third-and-4 play as Freeman and Jackson dive at him and miss. Colts need a quick stop, they have to know the Bills are going to run to keep the clock moving, but don’t get it.

* Back-to-back throws to Johnson, but he doesn’t have a chance on either of them. First is underthrown and the second too far outside. We expect to see more from Johnson, but he didn’t have a prayer on at least half of his 10 targets.

* Luck is looking for Johnson who gets his hands on the high pass and tips it to a Bills defender for another interception. Yeah, it’s a 50-50 ball, but Johnson doesn’t win the battle against tight coverage. That it gets tipped into an interception is just bad luck.

That’s enough. We’ll review Colts-Jets on Tuesday.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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