One of the big questions of the night had to be why did Peyton Manning even bother going out for the first three plays of the game?
After heading onto the field with backups Dominic Rhodes at running back, and wide receivers Aaron Moorehead, Brad Pyatt and John Standeford, Manning was sacked on the third play of the game. As Hunter Smith punted the ball away, he put on his baseball cap and joined Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne -- who had been watching Manning from the sidelines.
Those players, along with roughly 20 other Colts who were nicked up with injuries, sat out the Bills' 2005 preseason debut at the RCA Dome. The Colts certainly didn't need to add Manning to that list. But despite the patchwork offense and defense the Colts assembled against the Bills' first-team offense and defense, they managed to keep this contest very close, even as the Bills shuffled more of their second- and third-team players onto the field in the second half.
Buffalo's new quarterback J.P. Losman played longer than expected, but the Bills were only able to gain a 17-3 advantage by the midpoint of the third quarter when backup and former Colt Kelly Holcomb took over. And seven of those points came off an extremely rare punt block of a Hunter Smith kick by Lauvale Sape in the first half that he scooped up and carried into the end zone. The Colts defense only yielded ten points on the night.
Losman finished 11/19 for 88 yards and 1 TD. He was sacked twice, once by defensive end Robert Mathis and again by defensive back Waine Bacon who forced a fumble with his hit. Defensive lineman Josh Mallard, who had a good game last week against the Falcons, recovered the fumble. But the Colts failed to convert the opportunity into points when kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed a 27-yard field goal attempt. The Colts kicker hit a 42-yarder earlier in the game.
The Colts were content to use this contest to get a good look at the players deep on their depth chart. While starting running back Edgerrin James sat out and Dominic Rhodes ran just once before being pulled, the rest of the Colts running backs struggled mightily. Ran Carthon got the most attempts with six, but ended the night with -9 yards. Rookie Anthony Davis got three carries for 3 yards. James Mungro carried twice for 2 yards.
By the end of the game, none of the Colts runners had better than a 1-yard/carry rushing average, and the team compiled a pitiful -5 yards rushing on 15 carries.
The Colts' backup quarterback position is still a bit of a concern. Jim Sorgi completed 10 passes out of 21 attempts for 135 yards, but was intercepted once and only led the Colts to 3 points. Travis Brown (14-30-173 yards) started out well and led the Colts to their only touchdown of the night when he connected on a 31-yard pass play to tight end Bryan Fletcher late in the third quarter.
But Brown struggled in the fourth quarter. Oddly enough, the Colts didn't opt to give young quarterback Tom Arth a chance to play in the fourth, allowing Brown to flounder a bit.
Early in the fourth, Brown was sacked on two consecutive plays, leading to a Colts punt situation. Then he threw three consecutive incomplete passes on the next possession.
After completing three quick passes later in the period, Brown was sacked and he fumbled, turning the ball over to the Bills. And as the Colts ran their two minute drill with an opportunity to tie the game, Brown's second pass was intercepted. But fortunately a pass interference penalty nullified it and he got another chance. Brown proceeded to hit just 3 of 8 passes in his final drive and was sacked once before the Colts ran out of downs and time in a 17-10 loss.
The Colts defense only allowed the Bills to convert 2 out of 14 3rd-down opportunities on the night....The Colts were penalized just 7 times for 45 yards which is remarkable considering most of the players who were in this contest don't get considerable game action...Run defense continues to be a concern as the Bills posted a healthy 4.6 yards-per carry on the night....The Colts offensive line gave up 6 sacks....Both Mike Vanderjagt (27 yards) and Dave Rayner (43 yards) missed a field goal attempt. Vanderjagt had kickoffs of 60 and 64 yards while Rayner had just one attempt for 65 yards...Rookie LaVon Thomas out of Georgia Tech led all Colts receivers with 6 catches for 67 yards....Waine Bacon had an active night with 7 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Linebacker Nick Hannah was second in tackles with 5...Jason Stewart was credited with the Colts' third sack of the evening and second forced fumble when he jarred the ball loose from the hands of Kelly Holcomb in the third quarter.
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