INDIANAPOLIS -- It was not the kind of start coordinator Sean McDermott wanted for his Eagles defense. Peyton Manning drove the Colts 81 yards on 12 plays and scored a first-possession touchdown on a picture-perfect fade pass to Anthony Gonzalez and, just like that, the Eagles were in a hole.
That was the kind of night the first-team defense had against Manning, who played very well. The first drive was a combination of quick passes from Manning, who hit tight end Dallas Clark twice for 25 yards on the drive, and some missed opportunities to get off the field. The Colts set the tempo with a no-huddle offense and never looked back.
The second time Indy had the ball, pinned at its own 3-yard line, the defense made a play. Right end Jason Babin, fighting to make the team, blew around left tackle Charlie Johnson and arrived at Manning along with Mike Patterson and forced a fumble that Akeem Jordan recovered at the Colts 24-yard line.
However, the offense failed to take advantage as Dwight Freeney spun past left tackle King Dunlap and forced a Donovan McNabb fumble that Indianapolis recovered with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Then, Manning struck right away. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne got behind cornerback Ellis Hobbs and hauled in a deep pass down the left sideline, eluded Quintin Demps inside the 10-yard line and completed a 76-yard touchdown play to give the Colts a 14-0 lead.
Manning led two drives for touchdowns and completed 10 of 14 passes for 167 yards and the two scores. The Eagles had a chance to end the first drive – the Colts were two of two on third downs on the opening drive, and cornerback Asante Samuel should have intercepted a pass in the end zone – but they couldn't get off the field.
"I don't even know how to put it into words. That wasn't Eagles defense; that wasn't what we are about right there," said safety Quintin Mikell. "We need to work on a lot of things. Whenever you come in against a good team like that, you can't really make mistakes. We had a lot of mistakes out there and we have to get better than that. That was not Eagles defense."
There were some good things from the starting defense. Right end Jason Babin had a sack and a forced fumble, and generally had good push. He also made a very nice play crashing down the line to stop a draw run and played with great energy. He was around the ball during his time in the game. Victor Abiamiri played well off the edge on the left side. And Demps made a nice tackle in space on a quick pass early on.
By and large, though, McDermott wants more from his defense. He needs more. The Eagles are still trying to see what Mays can do in place of Stewart Bradley. The pass rush needs to be more consistent, and the Eagles can't blow coverages like they did when Wayne had his 76-yard touchdown catch and run.
"That's a good play that they had. They had two guys running through the zone on one of our safeties and that's a tough position," said Mikell. "Any time you have a great quarterback like Peyton Manning it's tough. But that point aside, we don't have any excuses. We've got to make the plays, so at the end of the day we've just got to get better."
Now, said Mikell, the defense needs to get back to its core. The scheme has been vanilla and the Eagles played without some key members of the defense, but ...
"I think (we need to) just get back to basics. I think the main thing is we've got to fly around a little more," said Mikell. "We've got to get our eyes on the right spot. It's always tough in the preseason, but that's no excuse. We've got to get this thing together. We're going to go back to work on Saturday and figure out what we need to do there."