Curtis Painter: He ended the game with the most attempts and yards of any quarterback on the roster by a wide margin. With ten completions in 17 attempts, he showed some accuracy — especially since he was working with a mixed bag of receivers and offensive linemen and wasn't able to get into a rhythm — but the team gained only 77 yards on those 17 attempts.
That's 4.5 yards per attempt, which won't cut it in this offense. It's also 7.7 yards per completion, when Manning has averaged about that per attempt over the course of his career.
Still, he appeared to be comfortable running the offense — although they're going to have to do some work on the two minute drill — and was very effective when operating outside the pocket. He didn't show anywhere near enough to unseat Jim Sorgi, but he did better than his rookie competition.
Chris Crane: Although he had the second most attempts, he didn't do as much with them in terms of quality. He appeared to be rattled in the pocket and threw the game's only interception, which was a fluttering attempt at an out route that fell short.
Though he did complete three of four passes, they only went for 18 yards, which is six yards per completion — well below Manning's career number of yards per attempt.
Brown had fans feeling good with several impressive runs
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Donald Brown: Brown garnered the most attention of any rookie on the field and rightly so, as he led all players in rushing yards. Even though Adrian Peterson only had four carries, any game you can go head-to-head with him and gain more yards than him is a victory.
Brown looked fast and decisive, but still has a lot to learn with regard to pass blocking and pass catching. But, he looked strong with the ball in his hands.
Adrian Grady finished second on the team in tackles, with five solo tackles and two assists. Only Matt Giordano, who was on the field for practically the entire game, including special teams, had more tackles.
Grady put himself in good position to make plays and actually played the best out of any of the rookie tackles that saw action last Friday.
Terrance Taylor was penalized once for offsides and often took himself out of the play. Even though he rebounded nicely, Fili Moala was called for defensive holding and offsides on consecutive plays. Moala showed some pass rushing skills and an ability to penetrate the rush lane later in the game, but looked rattled and out of place early on.
Out of all of these men, only Grady was able to anchor against the run, hold the point of attack, and position himself to tackle the ball carrier. He did this consistently and did it well, as evidenced by the tackles he collected in one half of football.
Michael Tauiliili seemed to be all over the field on both defense and special teams, but made a particular impression on punt and kickoff coverage, flying to the ball carrier and laying a big hit on Minnesota return man Jaymar Johnson in the fourth quarter.
The linebackers looked deep and solid as a unit and that does not bode well for Tauiliili. But, if he can continue to impress in the kicking game, he might be able to catch on.
That is provided that Ramon Humber doesn't take his job. Humber was more active on defense than special teams, though, which might be a bad sign for him. The starting rotation and backups at the linebacker positions are fairly set at this point. If Humber wants to make the team, he's going to have to make more of an impact on the coverage units.
Jerraud Powers was, for the most part, very smooth and natural and looks as though he could make the team as a special teams contributor and sub package specialist. He did, however, have a bad "signature" moment when he took a bad angle on Chester Taylor in the first quarter and allowed the Vikings running back to drag him into the end zone. It was the only touchdown of the game and set the tone early.
Something tells me we haven't seen the last of him at punt returner. He only got one opportunity on Friday, but watch that number go up in games two and four.
Jacob Lacey and Travis Key were both physical in the running game, dealt out their fair share of punishment on receivers, and Lacey was even involved in a few pass break-ups. With a lot of injuries at the position, they spent a great deal of time on the field. Don't expect to see that in the future, especially as Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden return from injury.
Friday night was their shot and, while they didn't play badly, they didn't distinguish themselves enough to make a big impression. And making a big impression was exactly what they needed to do in order to get more playing time against better players in the coming games.
Receivers and Tight Ends:
The star of the show was Austin Collie, who led the team with four receptions and showed a solid understanding of the offense, both in the slot and split out wide. He needed to get out of bounds during the two minute drill at the end of the first half, but chances are that Jim Caldwell has already talked to him about that error and the situation has been remedied. Collie knows how to play the game, so that mistake was probably the result of first game jitters.
John Matthews played an impressive game and led the team in receiving yards, with 30, but most of that came after the outcome had been agreed upon and was achieved against third- and fourth-string players, while Curtis Painter was still at quarterback for the Colts and Tony Ugoh was still in the game.
Matthews put forth a solid effort and it won't be ignored by the coaches, but it's probably not going to be good enough to get him more looks in games two and three, which is where he needs to get more looks in order to get noticed.
Colin Cloherty and Brett McDermott failed to distinguish themselves and failed to record a reception. Therefore, they failed on a night when most of the rookies performed well in spite of the final score.
Shane Andrus connected from 42 yards out and missed from 54, but has no realistic chance to make the roster, barring an unforeseen setback in Adam Vinatieri's recovery.
Pat McAfee, on the other hand, is a man that played quite well, although Indianapolis coaches and fans would have preferred to not seen so much of him. He punted seven times and the end result was a solid 40.4 net yard average.
But, he made solid contact with the ball, was starting to work better directionally by the end of the game, and was starting to put more air under his kicks. With his first attempt, he boomed a 63-yard punt that got to its destination too quickly and outdistanced the coverage.
He made some rookie mistakes, got a fortunate bounce early in the fourth quarter, and hasn't quite settled into the job yet, but his future looks bright. He'll get a chance to build on what he learned in the next three games and should be good to go for the regular season.
The good news is that his leg is stronger than expected, which is something you can't teach or grow into.
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