Unlike two years ago, when the Indianapolis quarterback came to Cincinnati and watched the final preseason game wearing a polo shirt and jeans, he was in uniform on the sideline Thursday as the Colts found out about his backup.
Jim Sorgi gave a reassuring performance, throwing for a touchdown before the reserves took over, the game degenerated and the Bengals rolled to a 38-7 victory.
These two teams have ended the preseason together for the last seven years, watching their backups slog it out. Neither Manning nor Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer left the sidelines Thursday.
Sorgi missed most of training camp with a pulled right hamstring. Rookie Curtis Painter impressed in his absence and raised questions about which one of them would be Manning’s backup. In his only preseason appearance, Sorgi went 11 of 19 for 119 yards with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Taj Smith.
Bengals backup quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan played only one series, which ended with his 14-yard touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell against a defense populated by reserves. After that, the game belonged to the guys trying to make the rosters.
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy customarily sat his starters for the last preseason game. In 2005, he rested all of his starters except for two on defense, and the Bengals won 38-0. Jim Caldwell succeeded Dungy in January and took a page from his no-play book. Defensive right tackle Ed Johnson and linebacker Phillip Wheeler were the only Colts starters who played on Thursday.
The only question for the Bengals was whether the trainers would allow Palmer to play despite a sprained left ankle. Two hours before the game, he worked out on an adjacent practice field, just him and a trainer, doing a series of agility drills for the ankle. His gray Bengals shirt was drenched with sweat.
Palmer dressed in his uniform for the game — a brace on his left ankle bulged from under his white sock — but didn’t get in. As a result, he’ll be heading into the season opener against Denver without much of a preseason.
Palmer suffered a moderate high-ankle sprain in the first preseason game, then sat out the last three. He didn’t return to practice until this week. He threw only 11 passes in the preseason games.
The Bengals finished last in the league in offense in 2008, when Palmer missed a dozen games because of an injured passing elbow.
NOTES: Colts rookie WR Jamie Petrowski hurt his left foot in the first quarter and walked off the field. … K Adam Vinaitieri missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. … Bengals RB Brian Leonard, trying to win a roster spot, had the most impressive play of the game. He was running at full speed and jumped over DB Travis Key, who dived at his legs. … RB DeDe Dorsey, also trying to win a spot, blocked a punt and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown. … WR Chris Henry caught a touchdown pass in each preseason game.
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