Good Riddance to an Ugly Preseason

The Bengals took advantage of a sizeable mismatch, putting up 28 unanswered first-half points en route to a 38-0 preseason victory.

The Colts entered their final preseason matchup in Cincinnati knowing they would sit most of their starters. So it was up to the players further down on the depth chart to end the slide and prevent an 0-5 preseason for Indianapolis.

It didn't happen. In fact, it was downright embarrassing. A 38-0 shutout to end a horrific preseason -- at least if you base it on the scoreboard results.

But unlike the other preseason losses, it was really tough to find the silver linings in this dark cloud of a game. 

But here's a few.

The Ravens won't gain the slightest advantage by watching the film of the Colts' final preseason game. Even the backup offenses ran a very vanilla offensive scheme.

None of the Colts starters incurred serious injuries -- since most of them didn't play.

Hunter Smith looked terrific, averaging 49-yards per punt on a busy night.

The Colts defense was credited with two sacks (Josh Mallard, Gary Brackett/Sean Guthrie split the other)

Defensive tackle Jason Stewart made three consecutive plays (knocked down pass and two tackles) on one Bengals possession to force a rare 3-andout..

Rookie corner Kelvin Hayden hit Kevin Walter so hard that the Bengals wide receiver's helmet was askew and he made no attempt to correct it as he stumbled back to his huddle. At that point it didn't look like he even knew he was wearing a helmet...or playing football....or in Cincinnati for all that matter.

That's about it. The rest was just about as ugly a spectacle of football as you could see.

The Bengals created an immediate mismatch by playing their starting offense behind quarterback Carson Palmer (6-of-7 for 107, 2 TDs) against a Colts defense that featured just two starters -- middle linebacker Gary Brackett and cornerback Nick Harper. That led to a quick 14-point lead after their first two possessions. Starting running back Rudi Johnson left the game after just seven carries on the night resulted in 40 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Jim Sorgi choked and sputtered his way through two brief possessions (2-5-17) that only allowed him to receive 7 total snaps before yielding to Hunter Smith.

Former starter Jon Kitna then took over at quarterback for the Bengals, so the Colts didn't see a huge dropoff in quarterback talent. And it showed on his first play as he completed a 48-yard pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Seven plays later, the Bengals were in the end zone again, 21-0.

Sorgi's response? One completion out of three attempts for 4 yards. Hunter Smith was in for a busy night.

Later in the second quarter, Kitna drove his team to another easy score as the Colts defense allowed them to grab chunks of yardage on the ground and through the air. Six plays, 42 yards, 28-0.

Realizing that the Colts would be lining up against his team during the regular season -- with a vastly different group of players on the field, including Peyton Manning, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis did the only thing he could do to try to ebb the onslaught -- he turned the offense over to his third-string quarterback with just under five minutes to play in the first half. That helped ensure that no further damage would be done for a while.

At the half, not only were the Colts down by 28, their statistics were staggeringly embarrassing.

Four first-downs compared to nineteen for Cincinnati.

95 yards of total offense versus 346 for the Bengals.

Cincinnati had twice the amount of time of possession and hadn't turned the ball over. The Colts had two fumbles lost (J.T. Wall, Sorgi) and came close to being intercepted at least twice.

And while Jim Sorgi's first-half stats would leave people believing he did pretty well (7-14-95 yards), don't be fooled. Forty-one of those yards came on one pass and three of his seven completions were for 4 yards or less, contributing to Hunter Smith appearances. So he completed just four decent passes in an entire half of play. And after completing that huge pass to set the Colts up inside the Cincinnati ten-yard line with six minutes remaining in the half, he never saw or felt the pressure coming from his blind side. And when he was sacked he coughed up the ball like a cat with a bad hairball, shutting the door on the Colts' scoring opportunity as Cincinnati recovered.

Note to Tony Dungy and Bill Polian. You have a second-string quarterback who at this point is playing --at best -- like a third-stringer or a practice squad prospect. And the season starts in a week.

So what do the Colts do to start the second half? They send Sorgi out again, either hopeful that he just had a bad half, or determined to shake his confidence permanently. Sorgi proved that their continued endorsement of his charade as the second-string quarterback was simply ludicrous. On his second pass of the Colts' possession, he was intercepted at the Colts' 45 by Larry Stevens -- who promptly scampered into the end zone to light up the scoreboard again, raising the lead to 35-0 with over eleven minutes still left in the third quarter.

Sorgi got one more shot, but with some help by offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez who was called for a holding penalty and a false start on consecutive plays, the embattled Colts quarterback tossed an incomplete pass while trying to gain back the lost yardage.

The Colts were fortunate that they weren't paying Hunter Smith on a per-kick basis on this evening.

Finally, with nine minutes left in the third quarter, Tom Arth (5-7, 58 yards) took the field. And after his first drive came up inches short on a 4th-and-three inside the Bengals' 10, Cincinnati mercifully worked the clock on their next drive to exhaust the third quarter, moving the ball from deep inside their territory and into field goal position to increase the score to 38-0.

Ran Carthon (13-50) and Tom Arth provided some excitement with just under nine minutes remaining. Carthon pounded out a number of short runs while Arth added an 8-yard rush of his own. But the big play came when Arth found tight end Ben Utecht upfield for a 40-yard gain. Then on a critical 3rd-and-7, Arth completed a pass to Ben Hartsock for nine yards to the Bengals 10. But after getting as close as the three-yard line, fullback J.T. Wall fumbled for the second time in the game, turning the ball over and allowing the Bengals to run out the clock.

And with that, it's time to say good riddance to the 2005 NFL preseason. It's time to start playing the games that mean something with the players who will be striving to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Indianapolis this year.

And it's time to say goodbye to poor-to-mediocre preseason performances and execution....and get back to playing disciplined, yet explosive Colts football again.

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