The Colts back-ups were tested right out of the blocks as they started the game against the Bengals' first-team offense and defense without doing any game-planning this past week. But at the end of the first quarter it was only 7-0 even though the Bengals had moved the ball well. Cincinnati brought in their second-team offense to start the second-quarter.
The Colts' starting offensive line was Michael Toudouze, Matt Ulrich, Trevor Hutton, Bo Lacy and Charlie Johnson. The Colts failed to establish any running game as those blockers tried to handle the Bengals' first-team defense. And during the first quarter, three different linemen -- Ulrich, Hutton and Lacy -- were all flagged for false starts.
Speaking of the running game, here's a startling stat for you. Two of the three running backs finished the night with negative yardage. Hollings was the only player with a positive result -- 6 yards on two attempts. Kory Chapman and Jonathan Wells combined for minus-five yards on six carries. One thing's for sure. The Colts didn't show the Giants, their opening night opponent, anything about their running game and associated blocking schemes if the Giants watch the film from this game.
The last couple of seasons, Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has kept a list of the defensive backs in his locker that he's scheduled to face during the season. One has to wonder if Johnson's name was on a scrap of paper in rookie Antoine Bethea's locker before this game. The Colts' sixth-round draft pick (pictured right putting a hit on running back Quincy Morgan) sent a message to Cincy's outlandish wide receiver on the Bengals' first possession. After pulling in a 22-yard catch, Bethea teamed with Kelvin Hayden to force Johnson to fumble and then recovered it to give the Colts offense good field position. Bethea led the team in tackles during the first half with six, including five solo efforts.
Hayden continued to impress during the preseason, also putting a nice hit on a receiver at the Colts' 11-yard line on a short five-yard pass. Hayden logged a team-best seven tackles on the night.
Safety Matt Giordano came up limping a bit after one tackle in the first half but didn't leave the game immediately. There was no further word yet on his injury.
Quarterback Shaun King's rollout ability came in handy as he frequently had to scramble to give himself time to pass. With no running game to speak of, the Bengals were blitzing frequently and the offense struggled to pick it up. He only got sacked twice, which is a real credit to his agility and athleticism.
Cornerback Von Hutchins hammered WR Kelly Washington to jar the ball incomplete with just under 6 minutes in the half. But he may not have done enough to survive the final cuts with the level of talent in the Colts young secondary this year.
If there was any doubt that Aaron Moorehead has locked up the No. 4 receiver spot for 2006, his absence from the field on Friday night along with the rest of the starters certainly seemed to clarify it. The Colts gave extensive playing time to John Standeford, Terrence Wilkins and Ed Hinkel. Marc Boerigter also saw action. An odd twist was the amount of playing time TE Bryan Fletcher saw in this game, a good indicator that the team has Ben Utecht penciled in as the No. 2 tight end heading into the season opener.
King and Standeford hooked up three times in the closing minutes of the half for 37 yards, and things just got better for Standeford from there. He finished the game as the leader in both receptions and receiving yards with six catches of 89 yards. He and Wilkins should be awarded the number five and six slots, regardless of what order they are listed. Wilkins didn't get any opportunities to return punts or kickoffs, but showed his veteran receiving skills with some nice catches (4-57). That means the Colts will likely expose rookie Ed Hinkel to the waiver wire, but he should be a high priority for the practice squad if he doesn't land a spot on another team's 53-man roster.
Rookie kicker Shane Andrus barely missed a 51-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, but bounced back by converting his only other opportunity from 22 yards out. He got two kickoff opportunities and booted them to the 7-yard line and the goal line. The Colts confidence in Adam Vinatieri being ready to kick by next Sunday will be put to the test when they have to trim the roster on Saturday. Bottom line, they shouldn't roll the dice on a position that could be critical to winning their opener. Until Vinatieri is a proven 100 percent healthy, they'd be wise to keep the rookie from Murray State on the roster. They've carried two kickers for a number of years on opening day, so it shouldn't be an unmanageable burden.
During one stretch on the Bengals' first drive of the second half, defensive end Jonathan Welsh was involved in three straight tackles.
The Colts were flagged eleven times for 60 yards by the end of the game, including seven times in the first half. Most were false starts or encroachment penalties.
The Bengals finished the night with sixteen first downs off of rushing efforts. The Colts didn't convert a single first down on the ground.
Shaun King completed 78.5% of his passes in the first half (11-14) for 94
yards and had one pass intercepted. By the time he was pulled out of the game to
give rookie Josh Betts some playing time, King had completed 16 of 24 attempts
(66.7%) for 175 yards. He also rushed for 17 yards. He's a keeper.
Linebacker Nick Hannah made sure he was noticed, sharing credit for two punt coverage tackles in the first half and two solo tackles while playing defense.
Rookie T.J. Rushing will undoubtedly be disappointed that he only averaged 19.2 yards per kickoff return on five attempts, but with the Colts shuffling a wide variety of players in and out all night, even on special teams, he didn't exactly have all the top-level talent out there blocking for him. He is exciting to watch, and his moves and the vision he shows should be more than enough to keep him on the roster.
Josh Betts finally got to play and would have had his first touchdown pass as a pro quarterback, but WR Marc Boerigter dropped it. The moans and groans from the fans rolled down from the home fans accordingly. Boerigter was injured with a concussion on the next play as the pair tried to connect in the end zone again. The pass ended up being intercepted to boot. Betts turned in a respectable 4 for 7 performance for 46 yards in the short duty that he drew.
Special teams coverage units did a pretty decent job throughout the night. The Bengals averaged just 5.8 yards per punt return and 23 yards on kickoff returns.