INDIANAPOLIS – Mr. Irrelevant picked up his first NFL win Thursday night.
He’ll have to wait a little longer for it to count.
Chandler Harnish, the last pick in this year’s draft, rallied the Colts twice Thursday night and threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Jones with 6:54 to play, giving the Colts a 20-16 victory over Cincinnati in the preseason finale.
Harnish, a Norwell graduate, got his most extensive action of the preseason after both starting quarterbacks left the game early.
Andrew Luck ran three plays, then headed to the sideline for good – as it was scripted. He was 1 of 2 for 8 yards, easily his lightest work day since finishing classes at Stanford and returning to the Colts in early June.
Andy Dalton lasted twice as long but left earlier than anticipated. On the Bengals’ sixth offensive play, Cincinnati’s young offensive line broke down and Robert Mathis hit Dalton on his throwing arm. Dalton stayed down initially, then got up, walked toward the sideline and dropped to the ground again where trainers appeared to be looking at his right elbow.
He was diagnosed with a bruised arm and is expected to play in the season opener against Baltimore.
Harnish wasn’t perfect, but he was efficient. He led the Colts on three touchdown drives that consumed a total of 5 minutes, 58 seconds. Harnish wound up 9 of 16 for 162 yards and threw for one TD – the winner.
Indianapolis (2-2) managed only one first down in the first 26 minutes and drew five of its 10 penalties in the first 20 minutes.
We’ve got to learn to play faster, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. We’re killing ourselves with negative yardage plays, penalties, give up a run here or there.
Seven-year NFL veteran Bruce Gradkowski replaced Dalton and led the Bengals to three first-half scoring drives. He finished 12 of 19 for 95 yards with one TD. Zac Robinson played the entire second half for the Bengals and wound up 16 of 22 for 140 yards. Cincinnati built a 10-0 lead after a 37-yard field goal and 10-yard TD pass from Gradkowski to rookie Marvin Jones.
Harnish responded by rallying the Colts, who got runs from Deji Karim and Darren Evans in the final 2:28 of the first half to take a 14-10 lead.
Bengals kicker Mike Nugent booted a 48-yard field goal before halftime to make it 14-13 and a 22-yarder midway through the third quarter for a 16-14 lead.
But Jones wiped that out by making a nifty catch on the move, eluding one tackle and breaking another as he scampered 42 yards for the score – and the win.