The Colts’ preseason goal is to win.
That they didn’t accomplish that on a stifling, early-August Texas night in the 2007 preseason opener Thursday was disappointing, Colts players and coaches said, but at the same time, far from shattering.
There were solid moments.
There was good effort and energy.
There was improvement in a 23-10 nationally-televised loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium – some early offensive production, and a lot of playing time for a lot of inexperienced players.
A great night? No, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said.
But not a bad one, either.
“There were some things to like,” Dungy said. “I thought we played pretty fast and pretty hard. We didn’t make really make the plays on third down defensively in the first half, but offensively, I thought we pass-protected well against their first group.
“There were a lot of things to build on, and just some little fundamental things to clean up.”
The Colts, who won the Super Bowl following last season, have the NFL’s best regular-season record since Dungy’s arrival in 2002, and are 26-6 over the past two regular seasons. Since 2005, they are also 1-9 in preseason games.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with the score of the game,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I know it will be a good film to learn from. We’ll have a longer week next week, with the Monday Night game at Chicago (on August 20 in the RCA Dome). We can use next week to hopefully learn from this and improve. . . .
“Some teams practice against other teams in training camp. Coach Dungy doesn’t like to do that. This is really our first test going against different opponents. You’re seeing a different style of defense, teams with different defensive players. Dallas is a good test.”
Said Colts center Jeff Saturday, “Obviously, we have a lot to improve on. It was a good first showing. We got out there and it was the first time we hit anybody else, really. It’s a good thing you don’t have to be ready right now.
“We’ll keep building up these next three (preseason) games and be ready for the season.”
The Cowboys turned a three-point halftime lead into a 17-point margin with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.
First, with Dallas leading 6-3, Cowboys safety Keith Davis intercepted a tipped pass from Colts reserve quarterback Jim Sorgi, returning it 41 yards for a touchdown.
Dallas drove 73 yards on 10 plays on its next possession, capping the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by reserve running back Tyson Thompson.
The ensuing extra point made it, 20-3, Dallas.
The Cowboys took a 3-0 lead on the game’s first possession, with former Colts kicker Martin Gramatica making a 24-yard field goal with 5:27 remaining in the first quarter. That ended a 15-play, 66-yard drive.
“We didn’t give up a touchdown,” Colts defensive end
Dwight Freeney said. “It was hot. We were ready to get them off the field, but we didn’t give up seven.”
The Colts needed eight plays and less than four minutes to move 46 yards on the ensuing possession, tying it at 3-3 with a 40-yard field goal by reserve kicker Shane Andrus with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter.
“It was nice to establish a drive and get some first downs, get some points, then shut it down,” Saturday said. “We felt good about the first drive and staying on the field a little while. That’s always a good sign.”
Manning completed three of five passes for 37 yards on the first series. Two of the completions went to veteran wide receiver Marvin Harrison for 34 yards.
The Colts’ offensive starters did not return after that, with many of the defensive starters also out after the Cowboys’ second series.
“It’s always good to come out of the gates and get that first drive,” Manning said. “You always like to get a touchdown, but to get three points on that first drive – I was pleased with the way we started. . . .
“They tell you, ‘Hey, you’ve probably only got one series,’ so you have to kind of have to have a little talk with yourself that that’s probably going to be it. We had a good drive to start. It would have been nice to get a touchdown down there, but we got the three points and it was good. Anytime you can have your first drive of the preseason go down and get some points, that’s a positive.
“We’ve been going against ourselves the whole time (during training camp) and haven’t really had any full, live-speed drills. To have that start in the first preseason game, I think, is a positive.”
Dallas then took a 6-3 lead on its next possession, with reserve kicker Nick Folk converting a 25-yard field goal with 9:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Dallas mostly controlled the game after that, with the Colts scoring their lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter. A three-yard pass from reserve quarterback Josh Betts to reserve wide receiver Trent Shelton late in the fourth quarter made it 23-10, Dallas.
But afterward, Colts players and coaches were less concerned about the score than what was accomplished – and despite the score, they said what was accomplished was quite a lot.
“I think we had some young guys, especially up front – some defensive linemen that got into the fray a little bit and made some things happen,” Dungy said. “I think some of our secondary guys learned. We didn’t pressure the quarterback like we’d like to and like we usually do, but all in all, I think there were some things to build on.”
Said Saturday, “What we focus on, obviously – besides just a win – is getting better each and every week. This is a starting point for us. Obviously, next week, we’ll want to come out and play even better. We talked about having great energy and guys flying around.
“We just have to hone up the little details. That’s what preseason is for.”
Story Courtesy: The Indianapolis Colts