Indianapolis registered a 19-15 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Saturday night and had its best overall performance of the preseason. The Colts played with a spark that had been lacking in losses to Detroit and Dallas the previous two weeks.
"It is always good to win. I don't care what the stakes are. They all matter. This team needed this win and it came at the right time. It felt like we started fast. The offense moved the ball and put a touchdown and two field goals on the board in the first half," head coach Chuck Pagano stressed.
"I love the way we finished the game. It was great to get a win. It was a really good football team. We talked about it being a great measuring stick for us to see exactly where we are at."
The win was good, but Pagano admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done. Especially with roster cuts coming up later this week.
"As we come down the wire with preseason, I felt the guys competed their tails off. There is a lot to clean up, but there always is," the Colts coach said.
Pagano was especially encouraged by the play of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who has battled injuries and inconsistency through his first two years in the league. Dorsett got extensive playing time against the Steelers as veteran T.Y. Hilton was held out of the game.
"He made some plays and he made some contested catches. He (walked out) of the locker room feeling good about himself and feeling confident. There is nothing like having success and making some plays and gaining the confidence back," Pagano said.
"And believing in yourself. He has done a nice job. It was a good night for Phil. I'm glad to see him come through. We are going to need him to be there and come through."
Quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris got most of the work in the Pittsburgh game and both played relatively well.
"I think we all saw some good things out of both guys. It was great for the team and great for those guys. Both those guys," Pagano added. "Just from a confidence standpoint, to have some success, and win a football game. We needed to win a football game. It was good. I am happy for those guys."
The play of several of the team's younger defensive players caught Pagano's eye. Safety Mathias Farley and inside linebacker Antonio Morrison led the way.
"We looked fresher (against the Steelers), and looked faster. I don't know what it was. Maybe the analytics are starting to work and kick in," Pagano said. "Anyway, it was good to see those guys, and a bunch of guys made some plays. We have a lot to clean up."
Notes: Quarterback Andrew Luck remains very much a question mark heading toward the Colts' season opener against Los Angeles. Luck remains on the team's active/physically unable to perform list after undergoing surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason. "We're moving forward with the guys we have and the guys who are practicing," head coach Chuck Pagano said after Monday's practice. He added that he hasn't seen Luck throw yet. ... Cornerback Vontae Davis left Saturday night's game with Pittsburgh after suffering a groin injury. He did not return. Davis is slated to get a second opinion on the injury. He will most likely not play Thursday night against Cincinnati. ... Linebacker Luke Rhodes has won the Colts' long snapping job. Indianapolis traded undrafted rookie long snapper Thomas Hennessy to the New York Jets in exchange for S Ronald Martin. Rhodes did not see any playing time on defense against the Steelers Saturday night. Keeping him around should give the Colts some roster flexibility when it's time to make final cuts. But Pagano said Monday that as for now, Rhodes will be the long snapper only.
Safety Roland Martin, obtained from the Jets Monday in a trade for undrafted rookie LS Thomas Hennessy, has played in 11 NFL games with New York over the last two seasons. He originally signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2015. Martin, who played collegiately at LSU, was signed by the Jets after being released by Seattle. ... Punter Jeff Locke was released by Indianapolis Monday. Locke and undrafted rookie Rigoberto Sanchez split most of the Colts' punting and kickoff duties through the first three preseason games. Locke had been signed as a veteran free agent by Indianapolis from Minnesota in the offseason. "It was a great competition, but we made a decision that we felt was best for the team," Pagano said. Sanchez averaged 46.5 yards on two punts against the Steelers Saturday night. His kickoffs appeared to be a bit more consistent than those of Jeff Locke, who was also competing for the job. Sanchez played collegiately at Hawaii. He will also end up as the holder for Colts veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri. "Young kid, great leg, has done a good job in the preseason," Pagano said Monday when asked why the decision was made to keep Sanchez.
Guard Jack Mewhort did not make the trip to Pittsburgh Saturday night and did not participate in Monday's practice. Mewhort has seen limited work in practice during training camp and the preseason. He is not expected to play against Cincinnati Thursday night in the preseason finale. "We'd like to get him to the point where we don't have to keep him on a pitch count," Pagano said as he looked ahead to the start of the regular season. ... Center Ryan Kelly was at practice Monday after undergoing surgery on his left foot. Kelley was hurt in practice two weeks ago and is not expected back for at least six weeks. He did some stationary bike work during the practice.