Colts Roundup and Recap
Last Article Written:
August 23, 1999
Colts Wallop Saints 37-7
James Shines in Preseason Debut
By Mike Devitt
Say what you want about Edgerrin James, but give him this much: the kid knows how to make an entrance.
After missing the first three weeks of training camp and the first two games of the preseason, James rushed 10 times for 77 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to lead the Indianapolis Colts in a 37-7 romp over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
James's debut comprised part of an impressive offensive performance that racked up near identical numbers rushing (136 yards) and passing (137 yards) and scored on five of its first six possessions. James' effort also overshadowed an Indianapolis defense which limited the Saints to just one offensive touchdown, had nine quarterback sacks and forced three turnovers.
The Colts started off slowly on their first possession, as James was stuffed for no gain on his first carry and Peyton Manning threw a pair of incompletions to force a punt. The Saints then marched 76 yards downfield, capped by a two-yard run by Troy Davis to give New Orleans a 7-0 lead.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Manning directed the Colts on a scoring drive of their own on the team's next possession. Indianapolis tied the score when Manning connected on a 33-yard play-action pass to Marvin Harrison with 5:06 left in the first quarter.
It was all Indianapolis from then on, as the combination of Manning's passing and James' running kept the Saints' defense on their heels. The Colts scored on their next four possessions, including a pair of touchdown runs by James and an 11-yard pass from Manning to Keith Elias. Placekicker Eric Olsen tacked on a 46-yard field goal for good measure, and by halftime, the score was 31-7 in favor of the Colts.
Manning, making a homecoming of sorts in New Orleans, played the entire first half and completed nine of 15 passes for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Marvin Harrison led the Colts with two receptions for 53 yards, while Ken Dilger, Jerome Pathon and E.G. Green also added a pair of catches apiece for Indianapolis.
James Steals the Show
As an offensive unit, the Colts may have played their most complete game against the Saints on Saturday night. The truth, however, is that the eyes of most fans were clearly on James, whose performance may have silenced some critics who thought his 21-day holdout would have a negative impact on the offense. Of his ten carries, only one went for no gain or negative yardage.
"I made a few mistakes, but not as many as people might have thought with me holding out," James said. "It was satisfying, but the trick is to go out next week and work harder and harder."
Manning seemed impressed with the show his new running back put on.
"Edgerrin ran the ball well and made a lot of guys miss," Manning said. "He hasn't played since his bowl game, so you'll usually see a flash and then some rust. You didn't see a lot of rust out there. He was beating cornerbacks to the end zone."
Saints linebacker Keith Mitchell, who attempted to tackle James on his first touchdown run Saturday night, may have put it best after the game. "Edgerrin James, hats off to him," said Mitchell. "He came out showing his stuff. He brought all his moves to the table tonight."
Defense Bends but Doesn't Break
While the team's offensive stars was busy racking up points and stealing hidelines, the Colts defense made a little noise of their own Saturday night. Although the team gave up a preseason high 402 yards of offense to New Orleans, the new defensive scheme employed Vic Fangio appeared to produce its desired results: namely, getting to the quarterback.
Indianapolis defenders sacked Saint quarterbacks Billy Joe Tolliver, Danny Wuerffel and Jake Delhomme a total of nine times in the game, resulting in a loss of 60 yards. The Colts also intercepted a Tolliver pass in the first half and recovered three fumbles, the last of which was picked up by linebacker Bertrand Berry and returned 77 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Perhaps most important is the number of points the Colts allowed. After giving up 17 points and a number of big gains to the Bengals in their previous exhibition game, the Colts tightened the screws against New Orleans, especially after the Saints' first drive of the game. New Orleans gained 59 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown their first drive but managed only 89 yards rushing after that and were held scoreless the rest of the night.
"The fact we kept them out of the end zone, that we bent but didn't break, got the pass rush, got the turnovers, these are all positives," said head coach Jim Mora. On the negative side, Mora added, "I would've liked to have seen us be more physical, stronger against the run. And we had some mental errors that gave them plays in the passing game."
Onward and Upward
The Colts will conclude the exhibition season when they host the Seattle Seahawks at the RCA Dome on Thursday, September 2nd. The Colts and Seahawks have played each other in the exhibition season every year since 1990 and hold a 4-4 record against them. The team is 4-3 against Seattle in the regular season.
* Middle linebacker Michael Barber, who had one sack and three tackles in Saturday's game, will miss up to four works after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his knee against the Saints. Free agent Jeff Brady is expected to take his place in the starting lineup.
* Second-year man Larry Moore made his first start for Indianapolis at center, replacing disgruntled veteran Jay Leeuwenburg. Waverly Jackson started for the Colts at right guard. Indianapolis finished with 136 yards rushing on 26 carries, the team's highest total of the preseason.
* Running back Jermaine Chaney made a strong push for a roster spot by gaining 34 yards on seven carries. He also had one reception for minus one yards.
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Mike Devitt writes the "Twelfth Man" column for the Indianapolis Star-News Online. He can be reached by telephone at (714) 841-9696, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.