Young quarterbacks on display as Colts win preseason opener over Panthers 21-18

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts’ pair of young quarterbacks were on display Sunday as they led Indianapolis to a 21-18 win over the Carolina Panthers in the team’s preseason opener.

While it’s hard to get too excited over an exhibition game in which most starters watched from the sidelines, the contest remained entertaining throughout and was decided by an Eddie Pinerio field goal with seven seconds on the clock.

More importantly, the Colts’ coaching staff got their first look at QBs Jacob Eason and Sam Elhinger in game action. Both are competing to be the guy Indianapolis turns to should Carson Wentz’ foot injury cost him the beginning of the regular season.

Eason — a 2020 fourth round pick — turned in a solid performance with 183 yards on 15/21 passing. His lone turnover came when he was stripped from behind in one of the three times the defense got to him for a sack. Eason’s high points include a 37-yard pass down the left sideline that he dropped in a bucket for Parris Campbell and a well-orchestrated two-minute drive that resulted in a Jordan Wilkins touchdown run before the half.

The second half belonged to Elhinger, but his first drive didn’t start the way he had hoped. Carolina intercepted the 2021 sixth round pick on a 3rd and 5 pass intended for fellow rookie Kylen Granson. Elhinger would rebound by leading his team to a fourth-quarter comeback.

Down 18-10, Elhinger completed passes of 47 and 25 yards to set up a 1-yard Benny LeMay touchdown run. Elhinger tied things up himself by tucking the ball and taking off for the endzone on Indy’s 2-point conversion attempt. After a quick three-and-out, Elhinger and the offense executed a 16-play, 6-minute drive that ended with Pinerio’s game-winning field goal.

The rookie finished with 155 yards on 10/15 passing and added another 30 yards on the ground. It should be mentioned that Elhinger did not take a single sack as his mobility routinely got him out of trouble.

The Colts’ next preseason test will come Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.

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