Colts - Saints ... At First Glance

The Colts defeated the New Orleans Saints 27-14 on Saturday night. The first-team offense's passing game was formidable. The defense and special teams combined to force five turnovers. Here are Ed Thompson's observations of the game ... at first glance.

What's more impressive than an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive? How about following it up with a 7-play, 62-yard FG drive and right after that a 13-play, 74-yard touchdown drive? This offense will be giving opposing coaches nightmares even though the running game only looks a little more than adequate so far.

Tarik Glenn should be very relieved that the offense still managed to drive for a touchdown on their opening possession. His 10-yard holding really cost the team 44 yards, as it negated a 34-yard completion to Harrison. Everyone else must have been paying attention during the week though as the Colts didn't commit another penalty the entire first half.

Whatever Dallas Clark ate prior to this game, he needs to make it part of his pre-game diet every game day. He had three catches for 66 yards in the first half, and he would have had 25 more yards had Manning hit him on a play in Saints territory in the second half. And he put a really nice block on a linebacker on the first play of the second quarter that resulted in Marvin Harrison gaining single coverage, allowing the Colts to convert a first down.

Late this week, the Colts thought linebacker Gilbert Gardner would still be able to play against the Saints despite an injured hand. He didn't. Keith O'Neill got the start and put in a solid performance with five tackles, second-best for the team on the night.

During the first half, Peyton Manning didn't look all that sharp at times, throwing some passes too high and others slightly behind his receivers – at least more often than you usually see out of him. The amazing part is he still managed to complete 14 out of 25 passes (56%) for 165 yards and a TD in just two quarters of play.

Anyone else think that Saints defensive back Reggie McKenzie is going to hope he doesn't see Marvin Harrison again in his lifetime? Three first-half pass interference penalties he made while trying to keep up with Harrison cost his team 45 yards.

Nick Harper not only made a great play to prevent a touchdown in the first half, picking off Drew Brees in the end zone, he was also the Colts leading tackler with 5 solo efforts and 3 assists.

Shaun King has shown the Colts that he deserves the number two spot on this football team. After getting pounded on some plays due to blitzes that didn't get picked up, he showed his nerves of steel out there and calmly threw a beautiful pass to John Standeford in stride for a 45-yard touchdown. He finished the night 8-15-120 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

Rookie Tanard Davis hasn't been heard from much, but he put himself in the spotlight a bit with some good special teams work. He had a first-half tackle on a kickoff and then got credit for forcing the fumble on Bethel Johnson's big kickoff return in the third quarter.

Will the Colts let Shane Andrus go again after watching him kick well for two consecutive games? He's unlikely to clear waivers a second time since he's made 3 out of 4 field goal attempts so far in the preseason with his only miss hitting the upright from 42-yards out. Doesn't it make you a bit nuts knowing he was unemployed last season while the Colts were struggling to find a kickoff specialist? Against the Saints he put his kickoffs to the 5-yard line three times, then to their 2-yard line, and another one four yards deep into their end zone. This guy is proving he belongs in the NFL.

Terrence Wilkins showed he's not conceding the kickoff returns specialist job without a fight. He returned three kickoffs and showed great consistency, averaging 31.3 yards with his longest at just 35 yards. So he didn't skew the results with one big return. Wilkins also returned a punt 17 yards during the game.

The Colts got some highlight reel plays from both of their top picks from the 2005 draft class. Marlin Jackson forced and recovered a fumble while Kelvin Hayden intercepted a pass and made a huge play near the end of the game. With the Saints threatening to pull within six points at the Colts' 5-yard line, Hayden pulled New Orleans quarterback Jamie Martin down at the line of scrimmage on fourth-down to give the ball back to the Colts offense.

How about that Antoine Bethea? The sixth-round pick misses substantial camp time due to injury, but puts together back-to-back standout performances in his first two NFL preseason games. He showed good moves for a guy who had a bum knee just a few weeks ago, returning an interception for 44 yards.

Think John Standeford noticed the addition of Marc Boerigter this week? He pulled in a pair of passes for 65 yards, including the 45-yarder from King. He showed nice concentration on that touchdown catch.

For all the hoopla over Reggie Bush, he wasn't a real factor in this game. Five rushes for 22 yards and five catches for 20 yards didn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of the Colts players.

Tony Hollings has been a good addition to the team, showing his ability to bull his way forward for tough yards. But he deviated from that running style that has made him look good so far -- and it didn't pan out well for him or the Colts. Hollings tried to reverse his field on a play and got swarmed for a 13-yard loss, coughing up the ball in the process to give the Saints a chance to pull within six with just over 4 minutes left in the game. When the Colts got the ball back after the Saints failed to score off of the turnover, Kory Chapman was put back into the lineup instead of Hollings.

The longest Colts rushing play of the night was turned in by Peyton Manning. His 11-yard run eclipsed all four running backs who got some opportunities. Dominic Rhodes was next with a 10-yard gain.

The Saints averaged about 32 yards per kickoff return. That's an area that undoubtedly still has to be a concern for the Colts.

Is there any doubt that Reggie Wayne is poised for a Pro Bowl season? He had six catches in the first half for 47 yards, including a touchdown. He continues to look amazing this preseason.

Drew Brees completed roughly two-thirds of his passes for 189 yards, but he got sloppy at times and too daring at others. His two interceptions came at very demoralizing moments for the Saints.

The Colts first-team offense had 18 first downs by half-time, 11 of them on passing plays. Just three came off rushing plays while and four by penalties. Manning didn't cut the Saints any slack in the first half, teaching them early that even in the preseason he'll call for the quick snap if they try to substitute in a situation where he can get a first-down for his team by drawing that too many men on the field flag.

Once again the Colts caught their opponents napping with a trick play. Against the Rams it was an onsides kick on the opening play of the game. Seattle saw punter Reggie Hodges fake a punt and run for a first down. Tonight, the Saints also fell victim to Hodges as he threw a pass to Marlin Jackson for a first down out of the punt formation.

Rookie Joseph Addai scored a touchdown on a short-run in the first half. Some will undoubtedly question his production with just 12 yards on nine carries, but on some of those plays he wasn't getting much help from the offensive line. Dominic Rhodes had 21 yards on 7 carries. But take away his one 10-yard dash and his numbers drop to 11 yards on 6 carries. You might see Manning challenge that 49-touchdown feat this season if the offensive line and the backs can't get things in sync.

The Colts showed much more discipline in the area of penalties. They were charged with just four totaling 30 yards.


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