Sunday, September 13, 2009
I don't do well with change.
When Tony Dungy decided to leave, I was pretty awe-shocked and didn't know how I felt. I knew it was coming, but each off-season I hoped and prayed that he would come back for one more. I have always trusted Jim Caldwell, because Tony Dungy trusted Jim Caldwell. Their years together in Tampa Bay, and then Tony bringing him along with him to Indy has always made me feel like Caldwell was the real deal. If Coach Dungy vouches for him, and Jim Irsay is willing to put his faith in him, then I should too. I should get over my issues, and my emotional distress about Tony Dungy not wearing the Colts polo and hat on the sidelines.
I took the pre-season for what it was. An appetizer of what the Colts season might be. And it felt pretty much like most pre-seasons. There was good, and there was bad. And lots of the good didn't play much and lots of the bad was cut last Saturday. So today, September 13th was the true test. Today was the defining moment in this transition into a new era of Colts history. The post-Dungy, Jim Caldwell Era.
And I liked it from the first time I saw Caldwell on camera, sporting some really nice sunglasses. It really gave me a Samuel L. Jackson in "Shaft" type of vibe from the coach, and I liked that. A little grin came across my face, as I thought about Coach Caldwell hiding his eyes from the camera, and living behind the mirror-reflective lenses of those glasses. The mystery behind the man was what made me grin, he's not the open book of emotions that we could always read on tony Dungy's face. He was like a masked leader, whose mystery lends to his leadership. I was sad to see that Coach decided to remove the glasses in the second half.
Let me start with the good from today.
First, the O-line impressed me. After the pre-season games that included a number of sacks on Peyton, I had worries. But, I think the O-line looked as solid as they have in most years, and even better in some instances. They opened up some nice holes, which it seemed like only Donald Brown knew how to run through - but I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll address that shortly.
Second, the new aggressive defense was fun and interesting. I'd had some conversations with my buddy John Petty during the pre-season games, and told him that I really wasn't impressed with anything on our defense. He made comments that he felt like we were going to see something new and different, and I told him I hoped he was right. Turns out that he was. Blitzing linebackers was a NICE thing to see. We've still got to improve on finishing our tackles. Jones-Drew should have been taken down in the backfield, and instead he spun off and ran for 8 yards. Garrard should have been sacked by TWO of our defenders (the first being Freeney), but he just shock them both off - luckily, that play went for an incomplete pass. Finally, we had two chances to bring down Garrard in the end zone, and should have had a nice safety, and instead, we let him run out 8 yards and almost seal a new first down.
Third, Donald Brown is PIMP. Donald Brown in the new Joseph Addai. And Addai is very quickly becoming the new Dominic Rhodes. If Addai doesn't watch out, Donald Brown is going to be running in TDs against New England this year, on our way through the playoffs and back to Miami. I talked to Troy about this last season, and I'm going to bring it up against this year: Colts runningbacks, who let their hair grow out each season, get worse. It's like a reverse Sampson (biblical) curse. As the Edge let his dreads grow out, he got less productive, same goes for Rhodes. Addai's best season with us was his rookie year, and his productivity has seemed to go down (in my opinion) each and every season. Donald Brown has a nice, short haircut, and seems to be running pretty darn good. At the end of the day, it's not super noticeable on the state sheet. Addai went 17 times for 42 yards - an average of 2.3 - but he did fumble the ball. Which reminds me a lot of his rookie year, when I was yelling at Rhodes for his fumbles. Brown went 11 times for 33 yards, which is still a somewhat pathetic average of 3.0 yards, but Brown just looks more confident when he's running. I'm really worried that last year, putting all of the pressure on Addai to be a singleback, really ruined him for us. Both psychologically and physically. And I believe that led directly to his injury last season, and I'm getting the vibe he's not back to 100%. Addai was shown limping a couple of times today, and I was not happy with his dropping wide-open tosses to him, and fumbling on a routine run.
I'm very much looking forward to what Donald Brown can continue to do this season, and I hope the relief in playing time, and mental pressure of carrying the running game can return Addai to a much more productive and essential player on our squad.
Pat McAfee was AWESOME. Perfect punts. Long hang times, good bounces. Very, very happy with that kid. Again, I was upset to see Hunter go. I liked him, and liked his presence on our squad. But, today, both of McAfee's punts looked amazing, they 43 and 45 yards a piece, and one had a 4.7 second hang time! Also, getting that ball to bounce on the 2/3 yard line to pin the Jags deep was gorgeous! I'm sold on McAfee for this season.
Gonzo. Oh baby. Oh please no. As I was driving home and listening to 1070AM The Fan's post-game coverage, I heard an interview with Jim Irsay who said that Anthony was in the middle of an MRI at that time. Oh, that looked bad. No contact, and his knee looked like it just buckled under him. If he tore something there, which is likely, it's going to be a long, long time before we see him again - if ever this season. And that's not good. Not good at all, especially to happen to such a talented and hard-working Buckeye. Obviously, it's not as bad as the Patriots had it last season, but losing our Number #2 WR is pretty detrimental in my personal opinion. I am a little relived in having Garçon and Collie on our roster, and both of them contributed pretty well today. Garçon had 3 for 24, and Collie was 2 for 15. Both decent numbers, considering Wayne and Clark got the majority of the looks.
The turn overs were not good. Granted, it was the first two drives of the season, but they should not have happened. I've already address Addai's fumble, and the fact that it was directly related to the length of his hair. But, the Manning INT was the play that never should have happened. The Colts were basically at the 5 yard line. First down was a WAY overthrown ball to Dallas Clark. The second was a horrible throw to Reggie. Notice the problem? First AND Second Down passing plays in the red zone! COME ON! We've got Addai, who is supposed to be a fairly premiere running back, and his back-up Brown probably could have gotten those 5 needed yards. Run o nfirst down. Get it closer. Run on second down. Get it closer. Then, if you still haven't made it in, run a quick slant route with Dallas, and let him catch it over the middle. That was very poor play selection on Peyton's part. I think he was just a little over-zealous, and mybe trying to get an early passing touchdown to make sure he can try to keep up with Tom Brady this season? It was dumb. It shouldn't have happened. Worst case, it should have been three running plays - all stopped, and then a FG to put some points on the board.
Some of you might find this a bit awkward for me to say, seeing how I have Peyton as my starting QB in my Fantasy Football league, and obviously, I would want the points from Peyton throwing the TD, instead of nothing for him handing off the ball. I respond with this: I care more about the Colts winning and playing correctly, than I do with winning Fantasy Football.
It was a stressful game to watch. Despite all of the good things I saw, we just didn't finish everything as smoothly as I feel like we should have. But, it is a win, and a win is important. It was a divisional win, which makes it even more important. And with the Titans losing to the Steelers, and the Texans losing to the Jets - it leaves the Colts alone at the top of the AFC South, and gives us a one game lead on everyone. Looking at the box score for the Miami/Atlanta game, it makes me feel really good about next Monday night. If Matt Ryan can throw for 280 yards against the Dolphins, I have faith Peyton can come close to 400. And if the Dolphins can only rush for 96 yards against the Falcon, I have hope that our defense can hold them to under 100 also. Granted, Miami did air it out for 260 yards themselves, but I have faith in our corners and safeties that they can get some serious INTs against Chad Pennington. It should be a good time next Monday night!
Most important: The Colts are 1-0.
Second, I saw some good things.
Third, I am holding my breath until I find out what the official word is on Anthony Gonzales.
I'm going to believe that The Colts only like winning Super Bowls that are in Miami.
Which means, no other teams needs to apply this year. Thanks.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Anyone who has read his autobiography "Quiet Strength" from cover to cover understand why Coach Dungy is a short timer and will sympathize with him. The fact that he is still coaching is a surprise, to be honest.
But does the move of his family to Tampa signal his impending departure? Not necessarily.
As a man who puts family first, as it should be, the family's move to Tampa is likely all about putting his kids first. And according to WISH-TV, Colts Owner Jim Irsay is willing to make it easier for Tony Dungy to coach and be close to his family. Apparently Irsay is offering a private jet to go see his son play football on Friday nights, plus off season sabbaticals to spend with the family. Irsay is trying hard to keep Dungy.
But you may be asking, why would Dungy move his son from Park Tudor, a well known private academic power house? It looks like it is because of athletics. Park Tudor Football, who plays in Class 1A, went 3-6 this season and lost in the first round of the sectionals to Clinton Prairie 28-6.
Eric is now attending Plant High School in Tampa, who were the 2006 Florida Class 4A Football Champions and got bounced from the semi-finals this season. It appears that they have a strong football program. The young Dungy was Park Tudor's top wide receiver and is moving to a school whose top two wide receivers are graduating this year. So Dungy goes to a football team with the prospect of success and pushing him into the view of college football scouts, and a school that is in need of wide receivers picked up a good one. I've never seen the sophomore Eric play; I don't know his stats. But on the outside, it looks like a natural fit.
Just so you know, it is not all about football. 97% of Plant's graduates go to college. And Plant has been named one of the top 100 high schools in America by Newsweek magazine for three straight years.
Plus, it is a public school.
So Eric Dungy would be getting the best of both worlds, academic and athletic.
Will Dungy move on after this season? Good possibility. But the move of his family to Tampa is neither a sign of change nor a reason for change. Based on his work schedule, he doesn't see his kids that much during the season. Moving them to Tampa won't change that. Irsay's offer will keep Coach Dungy in Tampa enough to see his family and, specifically, his son.
Obviously, these questions will be answered in due time. Until then, focus on today and just do what we do.
Friday, January 11, 2008
I have been a season ticket holder for 14 seasons, so this game will likely be the end of an era for me.
To honor the RCA Dome, I'm going to take a trip down memory lane and recall my top 5 favorite games of all time.
5. September 4, 1994 – Colts 45,
This was my first official game as a season ticket holder. The seats were in section 340, row 4 on the 23-yard line. The seats were transferred to me by a co-worker of my father’s at a local
This was also Marshall Faulk’s first game with the Colts, which in itself was the beginning of an era. To me it marked a time when the Colts started to take winning seriously, and that the organization would do whatever it took to win.
I remember that the Oilers, a playoff team the year before and two years removed from the Biggest Meltdown in NFL History, came into the game favored over the Colts. The Colts jumped out to a huge first half lead thanks to superb running from Marshall Faulk and a Tony Bennett interception return for a touchdown. It was shock and awe, Colts style. And coming at a time when the Colts were NFL doormats from 1989 to 1993, the outcome of the game was a huge surprise.
Needless to say I was sold for life on season tickets by halftime! 4. October 15, 1995 – Colts 15,
There were a lot of defining games in the 1995 season, but this game was the first one were we really thought the Colts had a chance to make the playoffs.
4. October 15, 1995 – Colts 15,
The 49ers came into the RCA Dome as reigning Super Bowl champs, and still had Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders on the roster.
In what would become a game that defined the scrappy 1995 squad, the Colts battled the champs toe-to-toe for the entire game. Two plays that stand out in my mind are Ray Buchanan’s sack of Steve Young in the end zone off a corner blitz for a safety, and a Jason Belser pass deflection at the end of the first half that kept the 49ers from scoring a touchdown. After he made the play Belser took his helmet off and threw it to midfield; that’s the kind of enthusiasm that sparked the Colts to its first ever AFC Championship Game appearance as the Indianapolis Colts.
What I remember most about this game, though, is our post game celebration at the then brand new Circle Centre Mall in downtown
3. November 16, 1997 – Colts 41,
The 1997 season was the most dreadful season I experienced as a season ticket holder
The Packers came into this game as defending Super Bowl champs and possessed a perfect 10-0 record. The Packers looked destined to repeat as champs.
The Colts were the polar opposite. Its record was 0-10, and to make matters worse, Our 1995 Savior Jim Harbaugh missed this game due to injury. In his place was none other than Paul Justin, the man who wore a mullet and kept a canister of chewing tobacco in his uniform pants.
Things looked bad. To make matters worse on my end, I had to give away my ticket to my friend AND convince him on why he should go. It was pathetic!
I was also responsible for Packers fans in my section. At the time the Colts allowed season ticket holders to purchase extra tickets before the season started. My cubicle mate at the time was from
He came back the next day and said he wanted 36 (!!!), and had the check in-hand. Apparently he had a lot of family in
The game was amazing. The Colts went toe-to-toe with Brett Favre and the champs. It was back and forth, with lots of scoring and tons of yards … it was pretty freaking exciting!
The moment of the game came at the end. The score was 38-38, and the Colts drove the ball down inside the Packers 10 yard line with around 1:30 left on the clock. Colts head coach Lindy Infante made his best decision ever at this point, and ordered three straight kneel downs to run out the clock. Colts kicker Cary Blanchard kicked what amounted to an extra point through the uprights to seal the 41-38 upset over the champs.
This was why I am surprised the Patriots did not lose this season. Occasionally a team can get caught in a shootout with a really crappy team, and the breaks don’t always go the way it wants. That’s what happened to the Packers. In the back-and-forth game, the Colts had the ball last, and the last possession won. Crap happens sometimes.
For what it’s worth, all 36 Packer fans that I acquired tickets for personally thanked me and shook my hand. To them, seeing Brett Favre and the Pack was enough. Classy bunch.
The Colts went on to finish 3-13 that season while the Packers went on to the Super Bowl and lost to John Elway and the Broncos.
I went to
2. January 4, 2004 – Colts 41,
The Colts went almost 4 years between home playoff appearances. This game was the first since the 1999 loss to
At the time I was starting to wonder if the Colts would ever make anything happen in the playoffs. 1999 ended badly, and the 2000 playoff appearance in
Would Peyton Manning ever win a big game? The answer proved to be yes, and this was his first “Big Game Win” in the NFL. The Colts came out firing and had the Broncos beat before halftime. The signature play off this game was the famous (at least locally) play where Marvin Harrison caught a pass coming across the field, got down to avoid contact and then got back up to run into the end zone when he realized that Denver LB Al Wilson and friends went to sleep on the play.
The Colts went on to beat the top-seeded Chiefs at Arrowhead in a 38-34 shootout, but then lost to the Patriots in snowy Foxboro by the score of 24-14 in what was the first game of what is now the best rivalry in the NFL.
1. January 21, 2007 – Colts 38,
This was my favorite of all time. I won’t get into specifics now because I captured my experience at the game here.
I will say that I have watched this game at least 5 times since January 21, and it is still every bit as moving as when it happened. I get chills just thinking about it!
My most cherished RCA Dome moment
I should also note that this was our most epic tailgate ever. Breakfast and lunch were served, much alcohol was consumed and people we did not even know stopped by to celebrate. It was also our longest -- I think it clocked in at around 8 hours.
September 6, 2007 – Colts 41,
The Colts raised the first and only Super Bowl championship banner the RCA Dome would ever see.
January 9, 2005 – Colts 49,
All blowout playoff wins deserve some sort of mention.
January 16, 2000 –
This was the first playoff game ever in
This game also stands out because I was not able to use my tickets. The Colts ticket office payment processing system rejected all Discover Card transactions, and as a result, my playoff tickets were lost in the mix! I had to stand in line with all the non-season ticket holders to get my tickets.
When I got into the game, I offered the fellow who got my tickets a beer, cash and my seats in a trade. His answer: “I don’t drink”. Boo to him!
Also, this was my tailgate group’s first epic tailgate. We had about 20 people or so show up, and I seem to remember a certain someone (not me!) who got a little carried away with bratwurst and condiments. Somehow said food found its way onto vehicles with
October 22, 2000 – Colts 30,
This game was Peyton’s first win against a Bill Belichick-led Patriots team. He had to stage a 4th quarter comeback to do it, but I can’t remember the deficit right off hand.
December 14, 1997 – Colts 41,
This was another win from the dreadful 3-13 season. The Dolphins mailed this one in and the Colts took full advantage. It was a laugher.
So, you might ask "what's missing"? Well, if you look again, you will noticed that the game in which Peyton broke Dan Marino's single-season touchdown record does not appear here. I have missed a grand total of 3 games in 14 years, all due to holiday travel to the in-laws in St. Paul, Minnesota. This game was one of the three.
If you have RCA Dome memories you would like to share, or if you were with me and you'd like to either add to or change what I have, please leave a comment. I think it is appropriate that we all get a little nostalgic over the RCA Dome. It brought NFL football into our lives and made us better for it. The least we can do is remember her for what she has done.
1983 - 2008: Farewell, old friend.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Bob Sanders - representing IOWA - has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award!!!
Last year, Bob barely played. A pair of games in the regular season (including the defeat over New England) and then the Play Offs, where he proved how valuable he was to us - in another defeat over New England.
This year, he played every game. (Sadly, including the loss to New England...)
Last year, our defense ranked 31st overall in the NFL.
This year, we ranked THIRD during the regular season. Second in Passing, but 15th in Rushing.
Then, there's the 5-Year, $37.5 MILLION dollar contract.
So, we've got one of the highest paid QBs in the league. (There's some speculation, based on the division of his $98 Million Dollar contract, last year Drew Brees earned more ($22m) for the single season than Peyton did...)
The highest paid DE in the league - who happened to get injured this season.
And now the highest paid Secondary Player in the NFL.
Looks like we might be viewed as the Yankees of the NFL...?
Four days to go, until the San Diego Chargers come into our Dome, and give us a run for the AFC Championship. Peyton WILL NOT throw 6 INTs. Vinatieri will NOT miss two FGs. And the NFL's Defensive Player of the YEAR is going to put Philip Rivers in his place.
Three days, until EVERY ONE in Indianapolis becomes a Jacksonville Jaguars fan!!!
How AWESOME would it be for the LAST NFL Game EVER played in the Hoosier Dome to be the AFC Championship Game? And, for it to be a divisional rival. And, for the Colts to STOMP them, and go on to win their second straight Super Bowl? I'd LOVE to see TWO World Championship Banners hung at Lucas Oil in September.
Saturday night: GO JACKSONVILLE!!! Phil and I are having some people over to the apartment to watch the game, if anyone wants to come.
Sunday afternoon: GO COLTS!!!
The NFL Playoffs. What fun...
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Patriots / Giants game was the biggest chip in the NFL's hand: the two biggest self-important sports markets (New York and Boston) battling over the Patriots' perfect season and two major single-season records (Brady and passing TDs; Moss and receiving TDs).
Mr Godell, you blew it.
For what more could the NFL ask? The negotiating ploy is simple: sit and wait. If game day comes and none of the cable companies fold, fine. Let the customers vote with their feet (actually, their wallets). If the cable companies sue, fine. If the NFL's actions are not anti-competitive, its actions should hold up in court.
And it's not like the NFL won't have company. News Corp with its Big Ten Network will face a similar situation with the Big Ten basketball season. The NFL has strength in numbers.
The NFL thought that it needed to do what was in the best interest of its fans and allow everyone to witness this historic event. Well, what about the NFL Network has been in the best interest of fans thus far? Other teams having great years (Green Bay, Indianapolis, Dallas) and big market teams (Chicago, Washington) have played on the NFL Network in meaningful games and received no such preferential treatment despite the fact that four out of the five teams (sans Indianapolis) have a strong national following.
But now the NFL has acted in the best interest of its fans (which really means Boston and New York). Now we will all get to witness the greatness that is Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Patriots v. Giants football (I can hardly wait to get started on my household chores). So what happens next?
The cable companies should hold their ground as they now have leverage against the NFL. Each company knows the NFL will give in when push comes to shove. It makes no sense for them to carry the NFL Network for free.
The NFL blew it. If it hopes to get the NFL Network to all cable subscribers free-of-charge, it will need to gain control its playoff broadcast rights from ESPN, NBC, FOX and CBS and show the games exclusively on the NFL Network. Otherwise NFL fans will not be motivated to acquire the NFL Network (alternatives do exist, like sports bars) and the cable companies won't be motivated to take action because both parties know the NFL will cave in to their demands.
Good luck to the NFL. It needs it.
As for the game ... so, what channel is Heidi on?
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Q: How long does the contract of Bob Sanders run?
A: His contract expires at the end of this season, at the beginning of the new league year in February. He’ll be here next season. Don’t worry about that.
Chuck Norris' hero.
I can't imagine better news.
A big, big win
I don't need to spell out for you how important this win was to the Colts' playoff goals. The win gives them a two-game lead over the Kitties, and because the Colts won the season series, the tiebreaker goes to the Colts. The Kitties, in order to win the division, have to gain three games on the Colts with only four games remaining. The Colts have a decided advantage here.
The win also gives the Colts another triumph over a hard-nosed opponent. Jacksonville, as usual, was out for blood; the tenor of the game resembled more of a post-season match up than a regular season one. The more of these games the Colts withstand, the more seasoned they'll be heading into the playoffs.
We also can't discount the damage to the Jacksonville psyche this game caused. For years now Jacksonville has tried to get past the Colts. If you ask them, I'm sure they would tell you they think they're just as good as the Colts and deserve to pass them.
The Colts are running away with the South
This game meant a lot to them. It was their chance to prove themselves to the world, and in all practical reality, themselves. And when Jacksonville finds themselves in this position, they implode. Jack Del Rio rushed onto the field and argued with referees for every single call he disagreed with. Wide receiver Reggie Williams was coaxed into a personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter by Tyjuan Hagler. After the game, Indy native Paul Spicer was so bent out of shape that he was certain Colts GM Bill Polian had paid off the officials.
The Colts beat them physically on the scoreboard, but the damage inflicted emotionally will cause the Kitties far greater harm. They already want the playoff rematch because they're convinced things will be different. Like they play well when they're angry or something. I beg to differ, and think that the Colts could and would win a third game against them.
The Colts occupy the 6 inches between their collective ears, and that's all that matters.
Colts still have room for improvement
For as well as the Colts played this weekend, the team still needs to shore itself up in a couple of areas.
The first area is pass rush. There's a reason David Garrard was able to lead the Kitties to within 3 points of the Colts with 3 minutes left to play, and it's the lack of a consistent pass rush. The Colts have tried two different approaches thus far. The first approach, Simeon Rice, failed miserably. The second, the switch of Robert Mathis to right end, has worked out better thus far, but has not brought consistency.
The Colts had one of the best pass defenses in the league this season for a reason -- they got after the quarterback with ruthless efficiency when Dwight Freeney was in the lineup. Freeney could apply pressure despite double- and triple-teams; the attention allowed Mathis to work one-on-one with the right tackle. Now that Mathis gets to experience the double- and triple- teams, the Colts desperately need to find a way to get pressure on right tackle and guard. If they can't, situations like we saw with Garrard at the end of the game will continue to happen.
We need more of this for the playoffs
The Colts need not solely rely on the pass rush to close out a game, however, and that leads me to my next point. The Colts need to execute offensively with a lead and less than 6 minutes left in the game. If the Colts had been able to keep the chains moving with 5 minutes left to go against the Kitties, Garrard would have never had the chance to bring the Kitties within 3 points and the Colts would've won 28-17. The Colts were fortunate that they had a two-score lead and that they were able to run out the clock at the end.
But think back to New England and San Diego. Let's face facts: if the Colts execute at the end of those games, the Colts are undefeated. Period. This will cost the Colts in the playoffs if they don't improve.
So, what can the Colts do? It's simple ... keep it simple: run the football and throw high completion percentage passes. They don't need to throw the ball down field, and they don't need to run draws and screens. It's not a time to get cute; it's a time to impose your will upon the other team.
A look ahead
The Colts travel to hostile Baltimore to play a team that gave all they had against New England. I must admit that I was a hard core Ravens fan for about three hours Monday night, and the way they lost to the Patriots was a kick in the gut.
I think we saw Baltimore's best effort. The way that game ended -- with the timeout, questionable contact penalty and a generous interpretation of "possession" -- brought out the true colors of the Ravens; they completely melted down physically and emotionally. Given that this team has experienced locker room problems all season long, the final 5 minutes of the Patriots game could have broken their spirit entirely.
I think the Ravens will give the Colts a game, but I can't see them coming close to matching the intensity they brought on Monday. I'd expect Willis McGahee to be a load to bring down, but I don't expect a whole lot from Kyle Boller and the Ravens' receivers. The Colts will do just enough to stop the run and get them one dimensional. The Colts must make Boller beat them, and not McGahee.
Colts 27, Ravens 13
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This also gives Colts fans a chance to step back and think about the challenges that lie ahead. Let's take a brief look at what the Colts face in December.
Injuries have cost the Colts a great deal this year. With a healthy Marvin Harrison, I can't imagine the Colts stalling out in the 4th quarter against the Patriots. With either Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison or Anthony Gonzalez in the lineup against San Diego, I also can't imagine the Colts struggling as badly as it did in the first half.
Think about the severity of the injury situation. Of 11 opening day starters on offense, only Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning, Jake Scott, Ryan Lilja and Jeff Saturday have played in all 11 games.
On defense, only Robert Mathis, Ed Johnson, Gary Brackett, Antoine Bethea, Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden have played in all 11 games.
Three opening day starters finished their season on the injured reserve list: Booger MacFarland (who never made it out of training camp), Rob Morris and Dwight Freeney.
Can you believe the Colts have a 9-2 record, and are a holding penalty and one 19-yard field goal away from an 11-0 record?
Can you believe that the Colts defense, once the laughing stock of the league, now ranks 2nd in the NFL in total defense ... despite the injuries?
I can't. And this should tell you something.
All things being what they are, the Colts are fortunate to have a 9-2 record and sole possession of second place in the conference. I think that says something about the type of football team we have here. Say what you will about the New England Patriots and their dominance, but the Colts have pulled off almost a more formidable task than the Patriots and have received far less credit. In fact, after the San Diego loss, most of the national media wrote the Colts off (kind of nice, isn't it?) ... and wrongly so.
The 10 day layoff will hopefully pay huge dividends and allow key players, like Tony Ugoh and Marvin Harrison, to return to the lineup. The return of these guys on offense should bring back continuity to the offense ... the same continuity we witnessed at the beginning of the season.
Concern at right defensive end
Not all players get to come back, however. The loss of Dwight Freeney leaves a huge hole on the defensive line.
Thus far Simeon Rice has not delivered results. Left tackles have handled him with relative ease, and the total lack of effort required to restrain Rice has meant that Robert Mathis has received Freeney-esk attention.
This will cause the downfall of the bid to repeat as champions if the Colts don't correct it soon. Quarterbacks who can routinely enjoy 5- to 7-step drops will eventually find an open receiver in a cover-2 zone defense ... especially if they're named Tom Brady.
What can the Colts do? Get creative. They took a step against the Falcons when Robert Mathis and Simeon Rice swapped end positions in the second half. But the switch won't be enough. The Colts will need to utilize the blitz more than they have in the past. That's not what the Colts like to do, because the cover-2 scheme ideally runs on little to no blitzing. Without Freeney's presence, though, the Colts will have to get to the quarterback by any means necessary. They cannot rely on the 4-man rush to get the job done by itself ... unless Simeon Rice mysteriously regains his old form.
Editor's Note ... Simeon Rice was released on November 27. No surprise there.
If the Colts want to play in Foxboro in late January, the team must take care of business in December first.
December 2 vs. Jacksonville ... For the 9th time in 12 games this year, the Colts will play a team in either first or second place in their division. And make no mistake about it -- Jacksonville will be out for blood because, if it wins this game, the team will find themselves in contention for a division title AND a first round playoff bye. Don't think that's lost on the Jags; not only will it try to beat the Colts, it'll also try to batter the Colts. Expect both teams to play a very physical game and hope that the injuries aren't serious.
December 9 at Baltimore ... Baltimore won't contend for the playoffs, but the Ravens still have a very physical defense that will pose the Colts' offense a significant challenge. Like Jacksonville, the Colts will need to find a way to win while staying healthy in the process. What's different than the Jacksonville game, though, is the anti-Colts sentiment that still hangs over Baltimore. I expect no less than a very hostile environment.
December 23 vs. Houston ... Houston also won't contend for the playoffs, but the Texans will most likely give the Colts all they can handle from a physicality stand point. Again, the Colts need to survive this game with its health in tact.
December 30 vs. Tennessee ... the worst-case scenario here is if the Titans have a shot at a wild card (or worse, division) playoff spot. If they do, expect Jeff Fisher to try anything and everything to beat the Colts. And expect yet another physical match-up. Out of all of the division games thus far, the Titans gave the Colts its toughest challenge, and that will intensify if the Titans have something to play for.
If the playoffs started today, the AFC scenario would look like this:
Bye ... 1. New England, 11-0
Bye ... 2. Indy, 9-2
3. Pittsburgh, 8-3
4. San Diego, 6-5
5. Jacksonville, 8-3
6. Cleveland, 7-4
On the outside
7. Tennessee, 6-5
8. Denver, 6-5
Cleveland would play at Pittsburgh and Jacksonville would play at San Diego in the first week. This means the Colts would play Pittsburgh if Pittsburgh won, or the winner of San Diego v. Jacksonville if Pittsburgh lost. None of these options appeal to me, to be honest.
Should the Colts not earn a bye, they would likely host some combination of Cleveland/Tennessee/Jacksonville in round one and fly off to Pittsburgh for round 2. That appeals even less to me.
The Colts' best path to Foxboro is to earn the bye and at least host the Pittsburgh/San Diego/Jacksonville combination at home. The Colts could then use the extra week of rest to mend any injuries sustained in December.
The Colts have a tough road to travel. The injuries, coupled with a tough December schedule and the list of potential playoff opponents mean the Colts' road to Super Bowl 42 will be a tougher one than the road to Super Bowl 41.
If the Colts make it Foxboro, though, I really like its chances.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Boy, was I wrong.
The Sunday night game against the Chargers was an absolute disgrace. Oh sure, it was nice they made a comeback and all, but to me that wasn't enough.
First, they should never have been in that spot. The special teams play was absolutely horrendous, and if the Colts don't take action soon -- most preferably a fire and hire -- it will cost them another game and perhaps the division.
Manning's decision making process was equally bad. Did Peyton play poorly because the Colts gave Peyton the junior varisity offense, or did he just blow it? It was probably a combination of both. Just when I thought he had learned about trying to force the issue, he shows me that maybe he's not the mature quarterback we think he is.
And then comes the matter of missed kicks. I have a very low tolerance for missed kicks to begin with; kickers get paid millions of dollars to sit on their ass and occasionally kick a ball. This irritates me by default.
If only my life was as easy.
So, when a guy who has a reputation of being The Best Clutch Kicker Ever and continually misses kick after kick, including a chip shot game-winning field goal, it just makes me absolutely crazy.
Adam Vinatieri can pack his freaking bags for all I care. We need to stop living in Vinatieri Past and get into Vinatieri Present -- he is not the kicker he was with New England. In Indianapolis, Vinatieri is an average kicker who has a range of about 40 yards and cannot be counted on in clutch situations. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Adam.
The injury situation is a disgrace. I don't know what's going on here, but something has got to change. Maybe the Colts have "bad luck" with injuries. I don't know. But when I hear Tony Dungy say 'so and so could've played if ...', I get extremely frustrated. If the Colts continue to take their precautions, they might precaution themselves out of the playoff picture. As it stands now, they're in a dog fight for first in the AFC South with the Titans and Jaguars. And, frankly, the Colts have no business being in that fight ... they should be 9-0 right now. Eventually precautionary measures will have to give way to urgency; otherwise, the "injured" Colts will have all of January to heal themselves.
And along the injury lines, I'm really starting to question the quality of the Colts training staff. I don't know a lot about this kind of thing, but it seems like the Colts always have more injuries than the average football team. I'm not saying they're bad, I'm just saying that we should question it.
Now New England will run off and hide with home field advantage. The Colts now have to battle with Pittsburgh for the bye; and Tennessee and Jacksonville for the division. This is not the position they want to be in.
That's about all I have to say about this. They better turn it around ... and do it now.
That's a quote I said to Justin after the Monday Night Football game, where the Dallas Cowboys turned over the ball six times and still won the game.
The same goes for the Colts last night. Don't get me wrong, I WANTED the win. I wanted it BAD. And I would have taken it without thinking twice.
Here's where all of the blame lies for last night's loss:
BLAME #1: The majority of the blame for the loss goes to our special teams. I've been complaining about them ALL YEAR, and when they allowed 14 points, that's ridiculous. You have to learn to stop those run backs, and prevent them from getting easy points. You take away those 14 points, and we win the game.
BLAME #2: Adam Vinatieri. We brought him here for ONE REASON: So we NEVER had to worry about a Vandershank moment again. Adam screwed us over TWICE. "The Most Clutch Kicker in the NFL" can kick a ball 48 yards to win the Super Bowl, but can't hit 49 yards OR 29 yards to win a game?!?!? Adam failed us. He was brought in for one specific reason, to MAKE THOSE KICKS. The second most blame goes to the man who failed to put 6 points on the scoreboard. If he made either one of those kicks, we win the game. There was nothing wrong, it was all Adam's fault. The snaps were good, the balls were held good - one kick went left, one kick went right. The flags on the uprights had NO WIND. Adam just flat out failed us.
BLAME #3: The Officials. Just like the Patriots fans last week were complaining about the calls (which I'm not claiming were perfect...), the same goes for this week. The Referee REALLY have TO MUCH POWER. And when they make mistakes, OUR TEAM is punished. There was NO REASON for that whistle to blow in the end zone, and we should have had the ball on their 7 yard yard line, not our own 20. That was HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE. HOW does that guy have a job in the NFL? And the term "incidental" - what a great way to say "We TOTALLY screwed up, but instead of making it right, we are going to SCREW OVER THE COLTS". STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. That was horrible, and it is the WORST call in the NFL this season. There was no reason to blow that whistle, and it potentially cost us the game. At the seven yard line, you would HOPE that the Colts could some points on the board, but after Vinatieri's performance yesterday, not even a FG from that close is guaranteed. I'd hate to have seen him go 0/3 - I'd be even more upset.
BLAME #4: Most incompetent people (which apparently includes Peyton himself after what he said in the post-game interview) will try to put Peyton as #1, but that's ridiculous. None of Peyton's turnovers were run back for points. And most of the INTs were just turned back over to us, or they had to punt back to us. Most of the INTs Peyton threw were pointless for the Chargers - they didn't do anything with it. The INTs didn't help our cause, but they didn't hurt us in any way, aside from giving us less time of possession. Even with 6 INTs, he still threw for over 300 yards. Peyton is allowed to have a bad game, he's only human. And if he can throw 6 INTs (only five of them really mattered anyways, the sixth was nothing) and we can still almost win the game, then you can't put that blame on Peyton. People (mostly those who can't admit how good Peyton is) are just looking for any reason to blame Peyton.
Things that didn't help:
-Joseph Addai slipping twice on the last drive, gaining us no yardage. That hurt. It was basically a free down for the Charger defense, they didn't even have to try.
-Injuries. WOW. WHO is left on our team? When we have everyone healthy, I never have to worry about anything, but with SO MANY injuries, I have to start to wonder if we are going to be able to put together a comeback run for the rest of the season. Seriously, with Harrison, Clark, and Gonzales out of the game, THAT HURTS. Looking at the line up and seeing Utecht, Moorehead, and Thorpe on the line - that scares me. Granted, they played pretty well, but how much better would we have been with our STARTERS playing the game. Charlie Johnson, who was doing "okay" on the blindside, gets hurt. Although, this might be a bonus until we Tony Ugoh back - because I thought Toudouze did a GREAT job when he replaced him.
It hurts. The loss hurts. I didn't even get nervous when Vinatieri walked out for a 29 yard FG. I was confident, the only worry I had was the time left on the clock. My heart dropped out of my body and onto the floor when he missed that kicked. It was like someone kicked me in the chest.
We rallied back from being 23 - 0. We scored 21 unanswered points, and it should have been 24. Our defense played GREAT. Only allowing 9 points. The shut down LT for the most part, and got some great INTs. Including the one that the Refs SCREWED us on.
Painful. That's how it feels right now, thinking back to last night's game. But, it's over. It's time to move on. We've probably lost any and all hope of the #1 Seed in the AFC. All we can hope for, is winning out and holding onto #2. It's going to require some guys to get healthy, and for Vinatieri to actually do what he's paid for.
The hope: Our record last season was 12-4. We were the #3 Seed, and we won the Super Bowl. So, anything is possible. We're not out of this race yet.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I'm still aggravated by the outcome of the Colts / Patriots game. More specifically, I'm aggravated by how the Colts let the game slip out of their hand. I'm aggravated because I'm convinced that the Colts are a better team than the Patriots, but yet the Patriots managed to slither their way out of the RCA Dome with a victory.
The Colts need to come up with a cure for my Patriots hangover this week. They need to go out and dominate the Chargers. They need to force their will upon the Chargers. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson set the NFL single game rushing record against the Chargers last week. Joseph Addai won't do the same this week, but I expect him to have a stellar game against a defense that is clearly reeling.
Manning needs to get the Colts back on track.
I also expect the Colts defense to treat Phillip Rivers like the second-year starter that he is. I expect them to get a lot of pressure on Rivers that will force him to make wild, interceptable throws.
Will they do this? I don't know. But they better, because I need a cure for my hangover. Better yet, all of Colts Nation needs a cure.
Injuries are the story
The Colts, other than the general Patriots malaise that's hanging over Indy, have a problem.
Marvin Harrison won't play for the second straight week; this game will be third he has missed in four games.
Anthony Gonzalez did not make the trip. Apparently he is out for a month.
Tyjaun Hagler and Freddie Keiaho are game time decisions. If they don't play, your starting linebackers are Rocky Boiman and Clint Sessions.
Did I mention the Colts face LaDanian Tomlinson today?
Injuries are a major problem here. I am fed up with all of it, but none more so than the Harrison injury. My intuition tells me we don't know the entire story. Either the Colts are not being honest by withholding the truth from us, or a combination of Harrison and his doctors aren't being forthcoming about his status to the team.
We need this guy back ... now.
What is with this cycle of practicing here, practicing there, and not dressing for the game? When players practice here and there, I draw the conclusion that the injury is a nagging one and nothing serious. But when a guy misses three out of four games, I draw the conclusion that the injury is a serious one.
Perhaps the Colts are taking the extra precaution so that Harrison can play in the postseason. Fine. But damn it, I wish they would come out and say that. Instead we get a lot of beating around the bush from them, and frankly, that pisses me off. This sort of dishonestly via non disclosure is something that Scumbag Bill Belichick and the sleazy Patriots organization would do, not the Colts.
I consider myself a shareholder of the Colts by way of my continuous season ticket purchases since 1994. I demand to know the truth in this. There is no amount of gamesmanship that the Colts can gain. Opponents know Harrison is hurt; they will have a Plan A and a Plan B depending on his status. There is no surprise at this point. Tell us the truth.
The same, but to a lesser extent, goes for the linebacker injuries. They practice here, sit out of practice there, but we never really know until Sunday. It's getting ridiculous.
Either get these guys out on the field, or rest them and get the other guys involved in practice all week.
Colts 38, Chargers 17
Peyton Manning is money in the bank for prime time games. I can't remember the last time he disappointed in the late night spotlight.
The Chargers are a good team, and have a great running back, but they're not 4-4 by accident. They've blown out the Broncos and Texans, but have lost to lesser teams like the Chiefs, Packers and Vikings. This tells me the Chargers are inconsistent at best, so the question becomes which team will show up.
Frankly, it won't matter which Chargers team shows up. The Colts minus 4 key starters had the Patriots on the ropes and didn't finish the job. The Colts lost that one themselves. The Patriots did not win it. In all of their other games, the missing starters have not been a problem as the Colts have won handily. I expect that Tomlinson will get his 100 yards, but unless the Chargers can shutdown Dallas Clark like Rodney Harrison did last week (BTW, did you notice that Rodney Harrison mugged Dallas Clark at the end of plays? I can't believe the referees and the Colts players let him get away with that nonsense. It would've been worth a 15-yard cheap shot penalty just to get him to knock it off. Harrison has got to be the dirtiest player in the league. Makes sense since he plays for the sleaziest, most despicable organization in football), I expect the Colts offense to get back to "doing what they do". The 3-4 scheme is no longer a problem for Manning.
As long as Tomlinson doesn't go crazy against the defense, I expect a nice win.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
What can I say on a Saturday night that fans or media have not said already?
The fanfare is well documented. Not once over the course of NFL history have two undefeated teams met so late in the season. As if that weren't enough, destiny was kind enough to make this once-in-a-lifetime event include the modern NFL's version of the Lakers and Celtics. The Colts and Patriots have inexplicably linked destinies, and tomorrow's game is merely another chapter in what will likely be one of the best books ever written about an intra-conference NFL rivalry in the salary cap era.
Patriots have skewed our thinking
The numbers say the Patriots are the best team in the league. And until we know the results of the game tomorrow, we can't really argue otherwise. The Patriots are absolutely thrashing teams this year; no team in the salary cap era has sustained this level of dominance for this long of a stretch.
I think, however, that what we have seen thus far has skewed our thinking. The Patriots have hugely lopsided wins and gaudy statistics, but what do they really mean?
To me, the stats mean the Patriots run up the score. When other teams make a conscious decision to run the football pull starters from the lineup after a game gets out of reach, the Patriots leave their best out on the field and play like the result of the game is still in doubt. I think that's wrong and most of the nation thinks that's right. Whatever.
But the question I pose to you is this: how much stock do we put into the Patriots accumulation of stats when other comparable teams made contrary decisions that affected theirs? In other words, the Patriots are accumulating apples, and the rest are accumulating oranges. The circumstances are totally different because the variables are different. Belichick plays through, most other coaches don't. It's not an accurate comparison.
The Colts will need to do a lot of this on Sunday
The Patriots might be the better team, but I don't think we can really know this until they play each other. Picks from pundits, experts and fancy computer simulations were made with the discrepancy in stats; we should take them for what they are.
What to watch for
On the football side of things, watch for the Colts to feature the running game and look for tight ends in the middle of the field.
The recipe for a Colts victory will be to dominate the line of scrimmage and control the clock. With two pretty good corners in Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, Manning will find it difficult to get Harrison and Wayne both heavily involved in the game. Just like the AFC Championship Game.
Because of this, the Colts will need to work the middle of the field and attack favorable match-ups between Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and the Patriots' aging linebackers.
But it all starts with run blocking and pass protection. If the offensive line does its job tomorrow, the Colts will be able to dictate the pace and play keep away from Tom Brady.
Defensively, the Colts will give up a lot of points tomorrow. I look for the Patriots to score into the 30s. We should accept that notion now and move forward.
That being said, all hope isn't lost. The Colts will have to pressure Brady and force him into 3-step drops and quick releases. If Brady can take a comfortable 5-step drop, he'll hit Randy Moss down field just about every time. To get the pressure, I would expect to see the Colts blitz more than usual.
To counter against exposure to the deep ball, though, I expect to see Bob Sanders play more as a traditional safety and less as a fourth line backer. But again, that will be dictated by the amount of pressure the front four gets on Brady. If they can consistently harass Brady, Sanders will be able to play linebacker more frequently because Brady won't have time to throw the home run ball.
Colts 37, Patriots 34
Mike Chappell from the Indianapolis Star wrote an article at the beginning of the season that said the Colts have a home field advantage that's worth 7 points per game. In other words, the Colts essentially have a 7-0 lead before the opening kickoff. As I said earlier, the Patriots might in fact be a better team -- clearly they're better than last year's team -- but I don't think they're 7 points better than the Colts.
For all we've heard about how much the Patriots improved, let's not forget one minor detail: the Colts improved over 2006 as well.
And that seems to have been lost in the mix.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
...this being the logo used by the Super Bowl planning committee last year in their attempts to capture the 2011 game, modified to indicate my desire for Indy to go after the 2012 game. But instead, I saw this...
...Jim Irsay dressed in Willy Wonka fashion to announce the start of a raffle promotion for Super Bowl rings for five lucky winners. Which is sorta fun, and all the money raised go to local charities.
But Jim Irsay's willingness to dress in a goofy fashion on the eve of "The Big Game I: the 2007 Season Version" just goes to show what a great guy this NFL team owner is and that Indy is lucky to have a good natured guy like this. Does anybody remember the picture from a couple years ago when the Colts were going to wear throwback uniforms (the one with the two horseshoes on the back of the helmet) and Irsay modeling it for the press release? How many owners do that? Seriously.
After the announcement, Irsay said he felt like he had raided Elton John's wardrobe and that he hoped he looked more like Johnny Depp's Wonka than Gene Wilder's. Though really, it doesn't matter. With stunts like this, it just goes to show that our NFL owner is way cooler and better than most NFL owners.
Especially Bob Kraft.
Monday, October 29, 2007
And it showed in the beginning. The offense had a few hitches in their getalong, with dropped passes and missed routes.
Obviously, they figured it out in the end. In a mad way. If you hadn't watched the game, you would have never guessed from the final score that the Colts struggled a bit in the first half. No matter. A win is a win.
The defensive struggles in the first drive don't concern me. I have a standing rule that I don't worry about first drives and first quarters. Not with a team like ours that rules the second half consistently.
I can't even complain about kick off coverage this week.
Seven weeks down, seven victories had. Now to the next game. Who are we playing? Let me check my calendar...
Oh, yes, well...aren't we in for a good week!
More to come...
Thursday, October 25, 2007
What is the best part of Peyton Manning's game?
It's not a trick question. He does something better than about any QB I have ever seen: he converts third downs.
Tell me, do you ever get nervous when the Colts have to convert a 3rd and 5? What about a 3rd and 7? I'll admit that I get nervous on anything longer than 3rd and 10, but anything below that seems automatic for the Colts offense these days.
I think third down conversion is one of the most important stats in football. For one, it keeps a drive alive, which increases the odds of scoring. Two, it keeps the opposing offense off the field. That has two effects in that it keeps the defense fresh for the fourth quarter and it limits the opportunities for the opposing offense to score.
Good luck getting him off the field
Against Jacksonville, the Colts converted on third down 7 of 14 times and converted once on fourth down. That translated into about a 10 minute advantage in time-of-possession for the Colts (I think the Jags closed the gap on TOP in the 4th quarter garbage time).
The Jags didn't have a chance. The Colts controlled the game because the Jags couldn't get them off the field.
What we're seeing now -- well, really what we started to see in the playoffs last year -- is a paradigm shift for the Colts. They were once one of the most explosive teams in football, but now they are they could be the best grinder team in football. Explosive scoring is fun to watch, but grinding out games is beating the toughest and most smash mouthiest teams in the NFL.
I'll take the latter.
He was brutal. He couldn't keep the quick Jags defensive linemen out of the pocket to save his life.
I cannot tell you how frustrated I was that ESPN could not (or would not) give an update on Tony Ugoh. The sight of Ugoh standing around with a smile on his face while Johnson was doing his best rusty gate impression made me crazy.
Tony Ugoh looks more and more like another genius pick by Bill Polian. God help us if he gets hurt for any extended period of time.
A Look Ahead
The Colts (6-0) travel to Charlotte to play the Carolina Panthers (4-2) on Sunday in another match up against a team with a record better than .500.
It looks like Vinny Testaverde will get the start for the Panthers at quarterback. It won't matter. Without Jake Delhomme at the helm, the Panters stand little chance against the Colts.
The Colts will need to take away the run from the Panters early; they want Testaverde to beat them with his arm, which is something he won't do against the league's top-rated pass defense.
The Colts won't overlook this game -- they don't overlook anyone -- in anticipation of The Game of the Century next week against the Patriots. In fact, this game should serve as an excellent primer before the big contest.