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The Indianapolis Colts traveled to western New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the team’s preseason opener. The upstart Colts offense stumbled out the gate on a day full of gusting wind. The defense saw inconsistent play for much of the afternoon.

But a handful of young players made positive strides, including Darius Rush’s exciting pick-six. Here is a sweeping recap of everything that happened Saturday.

The Colts Have A QB1 But Must Be Patient As They Groom Anthony Richardson


Anthony Richardson was reportedly the very first Colts player to take the field before the game. He arrived hours early to the stadium, and the photos made him look like a little kid whose dream was coming true. With his trademark ear-to-ear grin, the rookie signal-caller was ready to begin his NFL career.

Richardson was pinned back into his own territory on the opening drive after a penalty on an ill-advised kick return by Isaiah McKenzie. The first snap was a read play that went to running back Evan Hull for a small gain. On second down, the Colts quarterback completed his first pass on a five-yard curl. Hull gave Indy a fresh set of downs on the next snap.

Head coach Shane Steichen utilized the no-huddle offense to keep the Bills on their toes. Unfortunately, the good times did not last for the Colts on the initial drive of the day. Richardson hesitated and threw a pass off his back foot leading to a momentum-killing interception.

Rookie Josh Downs took the following kickoff, this time replacing McKenzie after his mishap on the previous kickoff.

Richardson followed up his turnover with the first-ever rushing attempt of his career. He then hit Michael Pittman Jr. up high for a nice first-down gain. After that tuck and run by Richardson earlier in the drive, the Bills’ defense began to respect his running prowess, allowing Deon Jackson and Co. to pick up some nice yardage.

Richardson did not handle the pressure well on a second-down blitz, although the offensive line deserves its fair share of blame for allowing constant pressure. But the rookie signal-caller drew an offsides flag, netting another first down and keeping the drive alive. Alas, four straight run plays resulted in a turnover on downs for the offense.

Richardson Rebounds, Leads Strong Final Drive


Things did not get any easier for the Colts on the third and final drive for the first-team offense. The Bills once again pinned Indianapolis back inside its own ten-yard line.

Another offside on first down gave the offense a little more room to operate, but Richardson put a bit too much steam on the ensuing pass, as Kylen Granson could not haul it in. But once again, the running game moved the chains for the unit with a strong run from Jackson.

A well-executed screen pass to Hull led to a second consecutive first down before Richardson lasered a 20-yard completion through zone coverage. Seemingly finding his groove, the 21-year-old put a catchable ball on the outside for Alec Pierce, but the defense interfered, causing the ball to fall to the gridiron.

After the penalty, Richardson delivered his best pass of the day on a deep ball downfield to Pierce again, but the second-year pass catcher could not survive the ground. On a play that goes down as an incompletion in the box score, it showcased the sky-high ceiling for the team’s new signal-caller.

A debilitating Colts penalty negated a near-touchdown run by Richardson, putting the unit in the unenviable position of 1st & 20. The setback was too much for the offense to overcome, leading to an eventual 28-yard field goal attempt for Matt Gay — which he would miss on the windy afternoon in Buffalo.

All in all, the first-year player looked exactly like his Florida tape. He flexed elite touch on the deep ball and inconsistent touch on the intermediate routes. He showcased his elite running potential but did not handle pressure well in the pocket, leading to inconsistent footwork as a passer.

The Rookie QB Reflects On His Colts Debut


During the second half, Richardson was interviewed on the sideline and asked what he thought about the performance. “Overall, I think I did really well,” the young quarterback replied. “I still gotta improve, lots of room for improvement. I’m just glad I got a chance to go out there and compete.”

If anything, Saturday showed more good than bad — even if the box score paints a different picture. Richardson did what he was asked to do. He ran a fast-paced, no-huddle attack and was decisive. That is all you can really ask for from the still-developing rookie. Hopefully, he will learn from the mistakes and put a more consistent performance together vs. the Bears next weekend.

First-Team Defense Reps; Shaq Is Back!


The defense would surrender a touchdown on the ground to Bills running back James Cook a few plays after the Richardson turnover. The group started behind the eight ball on that drive, as Buffalo took over deep inside of Colts territory.

On the next drive, the run defense stepped up, and training camp standout Darrell Baker Jr. nearly intercepted Kyle Allen on third down. Zaire Franklin and Khalid Kareem made their presence felt on that possession with two clutch tackles, too.

It is worth noting that DeForest Buckner did not appear for the Colts on Saturday, and Shaquille Leonard only logged six snaps. Still, the returns were disappointing in the first half, and the coaching staff will look for a better turnout from the starters in the next preseason game. Hopefully, we get to see more from Leonard before the season starts, but the fact he took the field at all is a win for the franchise.

The Young Secondary Needs More Time To Marinate


Darrell Baker’s near interception was a standout play from the secondary in the first half. But Darius Rush’s pick-six serves as the play of the day for the defense. Rush picked off the throw and outran everyone to the end zone with his 4.3 speed.

Fellow rookie Jaylon Jones also played well in his first professional contest, logging a couple of tackles and playing tight coverage on the boundary. JuJu Brents did not have any plays of note, but that is often a good sign for a cornerback.

Still, the youth at cornerback and safety is clear as day. The group must smooth out its rough edges and continue developing. Otherwise, opposing offenses will take advantage of them all season. Especially when it is Josh Allen at quarterback — not Kyle Allen.

The Colts Missed Jonathan Taylor In The Run Game


Deon Jackson and Evan Hull did what they could behind the starting offensive line, but the Colts were clearly missing their star ball carrier against the Bills. Jonathan Taylor’s contract situation is still murky, and his continued struggles with an injured ankle make things even more uncertain. But one thing is for sure: Indy needs Taylor if it wants a respectable ground game. The offensive line can only do so much.

Other Notes From Saturday


Grant Stuard and his overflowing lettuce made multiple big-time tackles on special teams. The former Mr. Irrelevant plays like his hair is on fire and should have a solidified role as a gunner in the regular season. It is an underappreciated aspect of football, but Colts fans know how valuable a top-end special teams unit is. Stuard’s 11 tackles as a linebacker today could lead to snaps on defense, too.

Josh Downs should be a fixture in the passing attack. The North Carolina product caught multiple passes for Indianapolis on Saturday, highlighted by a tough 18-yard gain to set up an eventual Colts score. Add his contributions to special teams, and we will see plenty of No. 1 on the field in 2023.

Jake Funk recorded the first touchdown when he scurried into the end zone with seconds remaining in the half. The former Maryland Terrapin struggled to find running lanes, but so did most of the running backs. We will cut him some slack.

Al-Quadin Muhammad nearly came away with a sack early in the second quarter before finally getting home with just under five minutes remaining in the half. Muhammad is motivated to earn a roster spot in his second stint with the Colts. If he keeps this level of play up, he may push for valuable regular-season reps with the starting unit.

Khalid Kareem is another name to keep tabs on this preseason. The Notre Dame alum has impressed at every stage of the offseason. He has been unblockable at training camp, and the same was true on Saturday vs. the Bills. Kareem recorded two tackles for loss and a sack while looking dominant against Buffalo.

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