It was an impressive beginning for the new coach - just don’t think he spent the rest of the day planning a February parade route.
“I would hope that everyone can realize that I don’t think we can just take the week off because we’ve got it made now,” Zorn said. “That was a start, but it is going to get tougher and tougher down the road. … We won’t enshrine them for having one good game.”
On paper, his quarterbacks were nearly flawless. The first three combined to complete 19 of 21 passes, including three for touchdowns, but Zorn found room for improvement.
He has been adamant about stressing a fast tempo in getting out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage since the inception of camp. Zorn said starter Jason Campbell was “steady” and Colt Brennan needed the most work with his pace. And though Todd Collins had inferior numbers compared to Campbell and Brennan, the veteran backup earned the highest praise in that area.
The new coach also pointed out that Brennan, while he did complete nine of 10 passes for 123 yards and two scores, might want to exhibit a little more restraint when throwing into high-traffic areas in the future.
“I think a majority of [the quarterback play] was what we wanted,” Zorn said. “We had a couple fortunate catches, or I should say risky throws and very fortunate catches when you watch the video. … I don’t know how to grade those. ‘No, no … yes.’ Those are things [Brennan] can learn from.”
There were plenty of other less-than-perfect moments. Missed blocking assignments were masked by deft running back play from Marcus Mason and Rock Cartwright. Shaun Suisham missed a relatively routine field goal. The third-down defense was suspect on the Colts’ first drive.
Still, the good easily outweighed the bad. The offense was effective and efficient both on the ground and through the air. After the first drive, the defense was stout save for a pair of long passes by Colts quarterback Quinn Gray.
Rookie punter Durant Brooks averaged 46 yards an attempt and landed two inside the 20-yard line. The punt coverage unit yielded a touchdown, but it was nullified by a holding penalty.
The play of the game on special teams came on the opening kickoff when seventh-round pick Chris Horton recovered an onside kick attempt by the Colts.
“This tells you some of the experience that our staff has. [Special teams coach] Danny Smith knew that Indianapolis had done this before to a rookie head coach,” Zorn said. “So he got his guys ready for [that] particular possibility - and it happened.”
Horton wasn’t the only rookie standout. Brennan, a sixth-round selection, didn’t waste any time becoming a fan favorite. Second-round pick Fred Davis tied for the team lead in receptions with three. Horton had two sacks and nearly intercepted a pass. Rob Jackson had a sack and had another wiped out by penalty (though he was the culprit).
Maybe the most important debut came from offensive lineman Chad Rinehart. In a game in which reserve linemen Stephon Heyer and Todd Wade left with injuries, Rinehart might have proved this team has even more depth at the position.
“[Rinehart] played both tackle and guard, and I thought he did an excellent job,” Zorn said. “He really is aware of what is going on, and as he continues to get more reps he will continue to improve. He will be a factor this year as a guy who can play both positions.”
Note - Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly had arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove loose particles in his left knee. The surgery was done at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Fla., and Kelly is expected to miss two weeks. Kelly injured his right hamstring July 25 and has complained of soreness in both knees during his recovery. He returned to practice last week but was clearly limited and was held out of Sunday’s game.