Indianapolis — In a battle of backups, the Detroit Lions defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 27-26, in preseason action at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The Lions took a 27-20 lead with 4:03 remaining on Godwin Igwebuike’s 2-yard run. Needing a touchdown, Colts fourth-string quarterback Jack Coan completed three third-down passes before hooking up with receiver Samson Nacua for a 26-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining. The throw beat the coverage of Lions cornerback Cedric Boswell, who also surrendered the game-winning touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the preseason opener last week.
Going for two to avoid the preseason tie, pressure by defensive lineman John Conimsky forced Coan to throw an off-balance prayer into the end zone that went unanswered, allowing the Lions to escape with the one-point victory after Tom Kennedy recovered the Colts’ onside kick attempt.
With the majority of the starters held out after the two teams conducted a pair of joint practices this week, David Blough drew the start at quarterback for the Lions. Operating a balanced, but conservative game plan, Blough completed 16 of his 22 throws, mustering just 76 yards to go with one touchdown and one interception.
The second-quarter interception came when Blough attempted to force a third-down throw to Kennedy across the middle. Colts linebacker James Skalski was able to get a hand on it, popping it into the air where it was intercepted by cornerback Tony Brown.
Blough managed some redemption on the final play of the first half when he connected with Kennedy for a 5-yard touchdown as time expired. That score sent the teams to the locker room tied at 13.
The Lions also got a pair of field goals from Austin Seibert in the opening half, from 28 and 40 yards. He also missed a 55-yard attempt off the right upright.
The Colts matched Detroit’s offensive output through two quarters, scoring on three of their four possessions.
Indianapolis drove 64 yards on 11 plays the first time they touched the ball, converting a pair of third downs due to execution errors in Detroit’s secondary, including a missed tackle by rookie safety Kerby Joseph. The drive ultimately stalled in the red zone after running back Phillip Lindsay dropped a third-down pass.
The Colts’ touchdown came in the second quarter when Lions cornerback Mark Gilbert got beat twice in four plays by receiver Mike Strachan, first giving up a 25-yard reception down to the 8-yard line, followed by a 15-yard touchdown where Strachan used a straight arm to fend off the coverage.
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To open the third quarter, Tim Boyle replaced Blough at quarterback and led the Lions on seven-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Fueled by runs of 21 and 17 yards by running backs Justin Jackson and Igwebuike, Boyle delivered a strike to Kennedy in the back of the end zone from 10 yards out to put the Lions up, 20-13.
The Colts needed just five plays to counter. Rolling away from pressure to his left, quarterback Sam Ehlinger found receiver Dezmon Patmon wide open deep down the field for a 50-yard score. Joseph had been in coverage on the play, but lost his assignment after turning his attention to the scrambling quarterback.
That led into a stretch of four possessions, all ending in punts, where the two teams combined for just 20 yards. But Boyle settled into a groove to start the fourth quarter, completing a trio of third-down passes on a lengthy march down the field.
After missing high to a wide open Maurice Alexander in the back of the end zone, Boyle handed it off to Igwebuike, who capped the series with a 2-yard touchdown plunge to put the Lions back on top, 27-20 with 4:03 remaining.
Locked in a tight battle with Blough to serve as Detroit’s backup quarterback, Boyle finished his afternoon 12-of-15 for 99 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.