I’m nervous about today’s game. The Colts are on the road to play the best 8-8 team I’ve ever seen. The weather looks perfect for the game. 54 degrees, wind at 2 mph, 10% chance of precipitation.
DZ Comments: I’m back from the beach, and sick to my stomach about tonight. It’ll take me a few hours to sort through the comments and articles to see what merits response. Mostly, I’m just preparing for doom. We’ll post comments and thoughts here throughout the day, but there won’t be any live game blog. I’ve seen too many games when Manning was great and the Colts still lost to feel good about anything tonight. Forgive my protective shell, I’ve come by it honestly.
Pregame: No Pollack or Justice tonight. Since Pollack was easily the worst starter on the team (right now), I’m not going to cry about that. If Justice was going to be needed, we’ll be in trouble anyway. All my other thoughts right now are focused on why the Cardinals were so stupid as to NOT run Edge James most of the year. He’s clearly their best back still.
END OF QUARTER ONE: You’ll never see sicker throws than the ones Manning made on the Colts TD drive. Early on, the D is playing very well, as Mathis and Freeney are making life tough on Rivers. Actually, if the Chargers win this game, Mike Scifres will be the MVP. He killed Indy last year, and has now pinned the Colts inside the 20 for the third straight time (twice inside the 10 and once at the 19, which became the 14 on a false start). Other than field position, everything has gone perfectly for the Horse in quarter one. Demond says, “I hate Mike Scifres”.
END OF FIRST HALF: So all our worst fears about this game are being realized. Manning has been great, but an insane day by the Chargers punter has put the Colts in a 4 point hole. The D has given up more than 5 yards a carry. The Colts can’t run, and have struggled in pass protection. It will take a herculean effort by the Horse, and a steroid test for Scifres to come back and win this game. Still, this is a typical Colts/Chargers matchup, so we can’t expect anything less than a back and forth slugfest all the way through.
END OF THIRD QUARTER: Indy leads, but it’s a minor miracle, as the Chargers look to be the better team in most phases of the game. Manning led the first of what Demond predicts will have to be 2 90 yard drives, brilliantly duping the Chargers and hooking up with Wayne for a long TD. The defense continues to be terribly overmatched in the run game, but a clutch strip at the 3 yard line kept the Colts in the lead. Unfortunately, an ill-timed 3 and out (punctuated by a lazy route by Harrison, who drifted instead of coming back to the ball on a key third down), and a big return once again has the Chargers in scoring range. This one will go down to the end.
End of Four Quarters: So, overtime. Yeah, that sounds about right. And so, in the end, it went down exactly as we feared in the fourth quarter. The Colts couldn’t stop Gates on the final drive. The offense couldn’t run the ball to pick up the last two yards they needed to win the game. The line couldn’t give Manning time to throw for it (thanks Gijon). And finally, the special teams were completely outclassed. Only the Chargers stupid waste of a timeout and a totally pointless spike play in their two minute drill saved Indy, and held the Chargers to the tying field goal. So much will come down to a coin flip. Still, the Defense was mostly stout in the fourth quarter. So maybe, even if the Colts lose the toss, there might be hope.
Final: Some times, smoke clears and mirrors shatter just at the wrong moment. A team that can’t run, pass protect, or get the opposing offense off the field on third down can’t win in the playoffs. Peyton Manning had one of his finest seasons, and the 2008 Colts played hard and never quit, but at the end of the day, they weren’t close to good enough. The Chargers are hardly a great team, but they had just enough to put away a deeply flawed Indy squad. Just like last year’s loss carried with it the realization that even if Indy had won, they weren’t good enough, so this did this year’s. They were too bad at too many things, and even if they had won tonight, they wouldn’t have gone far.
I’m sure some will take the opportunity to pile on Manning or Dungy, neither of who could have done anything more to change the outcome of this game. This time, they just didn’t have the Horses to compete.
Links: LT has a torn tendon in his groin. He will attempt to play.