It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while an NFL player surprises you with an answer to what seems like an obvious question.
The Giants won the game with 27 points in the fourth quarter. The visitors prevailed with third- and fourth-string guys, most of whom won’t be playing in the NFL this season.
When sizing up what the first teams accomplished, the Colts were dominant. They led 13-0 when Luck and most of his starters took a seat midway through the second quarter. Even with backups beginning to play, the Colts led 20-0 at halftime.
That lead reached 26-0 by the fourth quarter, so it seemed a fair question to ask the fellas that this preseason outcome really wasn’t a loss when considering how the game went when the most important players were on the field.
But not so fast.
Luck didn’t hesitate to set me straight of if it really felt like a loss.
“No, it does, though,” the third-year quarterback said. “You’ve got guys out there you’re pulling for. You’re great friends and teammates. Yeah, we were able to do some great things with whoever was on the field in the first half, and we did some really good things in the second half as well, but it does feel like a loss because we lost.”
He then reiterated this juncture of preseason is still like “training camp mode.”
OK, so the team leader showed respect for his teammates. Luck has always been smart. I shouldn’t have been surprised.
The hunch was that someone else, a veteran player, would concur that the Colts’ starters did their jobs well and that’s what mattered. Not how the other guys’ scrubs kicked the Colts’ scrubs around in the final quarter.
Jackson has endured his share of losing seasons in eight years with Cleveland. So the inside linebacker, signed to a four-year, $22-million deal in the offseason, seemed like an obvious voice on the topic.
The Giants managed just 48 yards total offense in the first half. Quarterback Eli Manning completed only 1-of-7 passes for 6 yards. A blitzing Jackson sacked Manning on third down to end one possession. And Manning was saved a Darius Butler interception by a Colts penalty.
Jackson, however, wasn’t buying anything but the company line.
“No, we feel like we lost,” the inside linebacker said. “We’re all in this together. Absolutely. They’re a reflection of what we stand for on defense, offense and special teams. You’ve got to be able to finish a game.”
But isn’t it true the first team took care of business?
“No, it’s not good enough,” Jackson said. Then he repeated it again twice.
When I tried to counter, he smiled and said, “I’m a savvy vet.”
So be it. The Colts did, in fact, lose a preseason game Saturday night. It didn’t matter how they did it, with whomever was on the field late. Bottom line, it’s still an “L.”
That locker-room mentality underscores the difference between outside perception and the NFL players’ reality. The Colts have reason to be confident after two preseason games. The first-team offense has scored 16 points in roughly two quarters. Luck has completed 16-of-23 passes for 142 yards and 1 TD without an interception. WR Reggie Wayne hasn’t played a down yet. WR T.Y. Hilton sat out this game as a precaution. A first-team defense, that was missing 2013 leading tackler Jerrell Freeman and reigning NFL sack champion Robert Mathis Saturday night, has allowed just a field goal.
So far, so good, IMO. The players suggest otherwise because the Colts are 0-2 in the preseason standings. But in all honesty, with all due respect to Luck and Jackson, it’s difficult to write the Colts have serious issues at this early juncture because the guys on the end of the bench didn’t finish.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.