Horse Sense

It’s difficult to summarize one of the most exhausting wins in quite some time.  Sunday’s game felt like a ten round heavy weight fight, but in the end, it could be exactly what the Colts need to be ready for January.  Really, it was a tremendous game for the Colts with two major exceptions.  First…

Reasons to Smile:

  • Clint Session is a beast.  Every week he brings out his sledge hammer and smacks people with it for 60 minutes.  We said before the season that he should make the Pro Bowl this year.  Is there anyone left who disagrees?
  • The entire run defense.  The Colts made a concerted effort to stop the run yesterday.  That may have hampered them from stopping Brandon Marshall, but they sure stopped the run.  Denver couldn’t score because the heart of their offense was taken away.  Marshall has three 100 yard games this season…Denver is 0-3 in them.
  • Bending but not breaking.  Denver crossed the 50 nine different times.  They scored 16 points.  That’s the definition right there.
  • Dallas Clark laying out on fourth down and also hauling in three TDs…now about those dropped passes…
  • Austin Collie making the most out of the few times Manning looked his way.  Collie only had three catches, but one was for a TD on third down and the other was the biggest third down catch of the game on the final drive.
  • Indy has now gone on bruising ‘game sealing’ drives in back to back weeks.  That’s how you win playoff games.
  • For about a quarter and a half, we saw just how good this team can play.
  • Mike Hart on third down.  How big was that broken tackle for the first down?  If he goes down in the backfield there, Indy kicks a field goal to go up 8, and Denver has the ball back with about 2:40 to play and two timeouts.  Instead, they end up having to burn all their timeouts, and are down 12 points.
  • Joe Addai was dominating the game until he went out with an ankle injury.  He came back and finished hard.
  • Dwight Freeney is having a monster year, and playing hurt the whole time.
  • No egregious officiating mistakes.  It’s so nice when Ron Winter isn’t in town.

Reasons to Frown:

  • The rational part of me says, “21 catches for less than 10 yards a catch is no big deal when you only give up 16 points.”  The rest of me says, “THEY ONLY HAVE ONE LEGIT WIDE RECEIVER!  COVER HIM!”  I know that the Broncos are 0-3 when Marshall gets over 100 yards receiving.  I know that there were injuries in the secondary.  I just can’t figure out why doubling Marshall would have been so difficult.
  • Manning’s play in the middle of the game was awful.  I get that the Broncos have the #1 pass defense, and a great cover secondary, but a 2/14 stretch for 15 yards, 3 picks and a rating of ZERO?  Not to make excuses for him, but I think his drop off coincided with him having to stretch out his glute on the side line.  It’s not like the Broncos were making incredible plays on the ball.  His throw toward Wayne that hit Marshall in the facemask was insanely bad.  I’ve been saying for several weeks that Manning just looks a little off, and I think something is bothering him physically.
  • The injuries.  Mathis and Freeney are banged up.  Yesterday, Foster, Lacey, Powers, and Bullitt all go out (hmm, 21 catches doesn’t seem so bad all of a sudden), as well as Addai and Clark getting banged up.  I thought Indy should play all out through the Jets game, but I don’t see how you run all these guys out there on three days rest in Jacksonville. They should still play all out against New York with plenty of rest, but the Thursday night thing just doesn’t go in their favor.  I see another “San Diego ’05” kind of loss where the Colts ‘play their starters’ on the surface, but there are so many guys missing they can’t win a close game.
  • Lots of pressure.  No sacks.  But lots of pressure.
  • Tough day for Garcon.  Gotta catch that deep ball.  Sure the DB makes a nice play to rake the arms, but if your hands are on it, you have to hang on.

Best Call:

Going for it on fourth and four from the 34.  I don’t love it because it worked; I love it because it was the best chance to score.  I have zero confidence in Stover from 51 yards.   Punting gets you nothing there, so going for it is the only sane play.

Worst Call:

Tim Jennings on Marshall on the goal line. I know we were short DBs, but come on.  At least double him with a line backer or safety or something.  He tossed Jennings aside like a rag doll.  You have to do better that scheme wise.

Reasons I’m Flying:

  • That was a gutty, playoff caliber win.  Other than 21 catches for Marshall and Manning playing like a goon, there was nothing to criticize in that game. They stopped the run. They ran the ball.  The started fast. They finished strong.  They beat an 8-4 team by double digits.
  • The road to Miami runs through Indianapolis.  This is our year.  I can feel it.
  • Our dream playoff scenario is one step closer to reality. New England may well managed to catch Cincy for the three seed after all, which would mean the Colts will only have to play the Pats OR the Chargers, but not both. The Pats need to win out, and the Bengals would have to lose to San Diego next week, but it could still happen.

Reasons I’m Dying

  • The injuries. They seem to be mounting. It’s time to get healthy.
  • Manning’s play is bothering me. That’s 14 TDs and 10 picks in his last 6 games. Something is wrong. His rating has dipped back down below a 100. He’s going to land almost perfectly on my “Old Manning” prediction for the year. Unless Indy goes 16-0 and NO doesn’t, he doesn’t win the MVP. Even so, that might not be enough.
  • Eli Manning bounced me from the 18to88 Fantasy playoffs last night. Thanks a lot Brett Favre! You sunk me just when I needed you most.

The Bottom Line:

The best part about all the records the Colts set yesterday is that they can still mean something. If Indy wins the Super Bowl this year, the consecutive wins, the most wins in a decade, ect. All of that becomes significant in the future. When people look back on the ’00 Colts, they’ll see those records and (hopefully) two Super Bowls and remember them as one of the best teams of all time.

For large stretches of the game, Denver didn’t look like it belonged on the same field with the Colts. Indy executed their game plan perfectly with the exception of Manning insisting on throwing the ball to the Broncos repeatedly. I’m thinking that is correctable.

It’s all right there for the taking. Get healthy, stay sharp, and make a run to glory.

The playoffs are coming.

I can’t wait.

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