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Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Jim Caldwell Era Had Officially Begun

I'm not a fan of change.
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.

The bad.

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.

GO COLTS.

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