Colts win as Brissett makes strong case to be Luck’s backup in final preseason game
CINCINNATI — For the second year in a row, the Bengals lost a backup quarterback in the final preseason game.
Matt Barkley’s left knee was injured by a low hit after he threw a pass during Cincinnati’s 27-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night, giving Jeff Driskel the inside track for the backup spot.
“It’s a bummer Matt went down,” said Driskel, who knows how it feels.
Last year, Driskel broke the thumb on his passing hand during the final preseason game at Indianapolis, sidelining him for the season. He and Barkley were competing for the No. 2 job heading into the final game. The Bengals (3-1) also have seventh-round pick Logan Woodside.
Coach Marvin Lewis had no further information about Barkley’s injury after the game.
It was the most high-profile job up for grabs in a game that featured few starters. The Colts’ Andrew Luck and the Bengals’ Andy Dalton watched as reserves competed for roster spots.
The No. 2 quarterback job hadn’t been an issue for the Bengals since they drafted AJ McCarron in 2014. He led them to the playoffs the following year when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand. The Bengals asserted McCarron was still under contract for 2018 because he was hurt during his rookie season, but McCarron won a grievance and became a free agent, going to Buffalo. The Bengals then signed Barkley.
On Cincinnati’s second possession, Kemoko Turay hit Barkley in the legs after he threw a pass, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. Barkley came to the sideline to have the knee examined and walked to the locker room. He didn’t return.
Driskel finished the first half and went 14 of 20 for 116 yards with a 20-yard touchdown and a passer rating of 101.2.
“I felt like I did a good job seeing the field,” Driskel said. “I know what I was trying to get done. I need to be ready to let it rip, and I think I did that tonight.”
Jacoby Brissett — Luck’s backup — was 8 of 12 for 68 yards with a passer rating of 109. He led the Colts (3-1) on an 18-play, 79-yard drive that took 9 minutes, 33 seconds and culminated in his 2-yard touchdown pass.
Luck is ready for his first regular-season game in more than 20 months, the result of a long recovery from surgery on this throwing shoulder. He sat out practice on Monday with a sore foot that isn’t a concern.
“He’ll practice on Monday,” coach Frank Reich said. “He’s good to go. It’s week one, he’s starting and we feel good where we’re at. We really appreciate his leadership.”
Luck said his shoulder felt strong during his preseason appearances, and the Colts are counting on him staying healthy so they can try to break their streak of three straights seasons without a playoff appearance.
Third-year offensive tackle Joe Haeg got his first start of the preseason as the Colts took a final look at their depth chart.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Haeg said. “I just kind of roll with it.”
The Bengals gave a four-year contract extension to defensive tackle Geno Atkins and a three-year extension to Carlos Dunlap on Tuesday. Neither played against the Colts.
The roughing-the-passer penalty on the hit against Barkley was one of three in the game. The Colts’ Chris McCain and the Bengals’ Andrew Brown also were flagged.
The Bengals had undrafted rookie receiver Jared Murphy play a deep safety spot on the Colts’ final possession, which ended with Phillip Walker’s 28-yard touchdown pass with 1:12 left.
There were no protests during the national anthem, with all players from both teams standing.
Colts: RB Christine Michael was wobbly after a hard hit in the second quarter and the officials sent him to the sideline for evaluation. … DE Tarell Basham hurt his left knee in the second quarter and walked toward the locker room for an exam. He didn’t return.
Bengals: Tight end Cethan Carter suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter.
The Bengals announced the crowd at 39,520. Their other preseason game drew 35,633 fans. Paul Brown Stadium seats 65,535.
The Bengals will make the quick trip to Indianapolis to open the season on Sunday Sept. 9. The teams played in the regular season last year as well, with the Bengals winning 24-23 at Paul Brown Stadium on Dunlap’s interception return for a touchdown.