Sand in my Shoes

note:  comments on this post are now working

Oddly enough, this isn’t a post about ‘things that irritated me’ but merely an explanation that I’m on vacation right now.  I’ll still be working hard to give you all a quality post each day, but the links probably won’t come as fast and furious as normal.  If you find something good you want everyone to read, please post in the comments instead of emailing it to me.  I’m using a funky mobile broadband card, and my service is spotty, so be patient.  I did manage to watch the game on a funky slingbox connection that went in and out at times.  If there were specific things I missed (like apparently an egregious hold of Mathis), I’m sorry. 

Reasons to Smile:

  • Joe Addai’s running.  Nice burst, great running on the TD play.  Oh yeah, great blitz pick ups too. 
  • Gary Brackett’s pick.  That was as fine a read and clutch a play as you’ll ever see a middle linebacker make.  Defensive plays don’t come any bigger than that.
  • The goal-line stand.  Anyone still think we miss Ed Johnson?  Great plays by more guys than I can count
  • The defense in general.  That Ravens team has a good offense, and Indy played a classic game for their scheme.  They kept everything in front of them (except the one deep ball which Lacey had incredible coverage on).  They forced the Ravens to go on long drives and not make any mistakes.  Eventually, they did.  Even the missed field goal becomes a factor of the law of averages.  Make a kicker take 6 FG tries, and chances are decent one of them will miss.
  • Dallas Clark’s TD catch.
  • Tom Santi’s play.  I know he fumbled, but he got CRUSHED on the play.  Sometimes the other guy makes a big play.  Do I wish Santi had hung on to the ball?  Sure, but there’s a difference between your guy fumbling because he’s doing something dumb and a fumble that comes from getting blasted.  Santi was a big factor all day, and that’s a good sign for a team that needs to find new options on offense.
  • FRENCHY!  Huge game.  This is where he’s different than ’08 Harrison: he’s on the way up.  This was a game that showed he’s going to be good someday.
  • Reggie Wayne’s effort on the key third down. 
  • Zero sacks, good time for Manning.

Reasons to Frown:

  • No sacks, very little pressure.  If there is a reason that the Ravens got inside the 30 seven different times, this would be it.  It didn’t seem to matter if the Colts blitzed or not, there was not getting to Flacco.
  • Manning’s second pick.  Ignore Dierdorf’s nonsense about Manning’s eyes and the pump fake.  He had moved Reed right where he wanted him.  Wayne was wide open, and if Peyton leads him left toward the front pylon it’s a touchdown.  Instead the bail sailed on him and drifted back to the right.  For a QB, this is the equivalent of Garcon running that sloppy route a few weeks ago.  This was a ‘physical’ pick, not a mental one.  He had the right read, but made a terrible throw.  This worries me because that’s two ‘physical’ picks in the last two weeks for Peyton.  I think it’s wise for them to rest his arm.
  • The play call on first down after the Flacco pick.  Addai ends up going out of bounds.  I’d blame Joe, but you could clearly see him dancing to try and stay in play, but the play call was designed too wide.  It wasn’t a well thought out call, in my opinion.
  • Instant replay.  Let me be clear: both calls probably accurately reflected what really happened on the field. Neither fumble should have been overturned.  I say that because the evidence is supposed to be indisputable.  On both plays, the only angles I saw showed the runner with a knee down and large parts of the ball exposed (when freeze framed).  I realize that after this point, you see Lacey rip the ball completely free, but I don’t see how it’s indisputable that the runner still had full control at that point.  Replay is supposed to fix OBVIOUS mistakes.  Unless the official saw angles I didn’t, I don’t see how either call was obvious.  Poorly done.
  • Clark‘s effort on the first interception. He wasn’t very open.  Manning shouldn’t have thrown the ball.  Still, Clark leans back away from the contact, allowing the defender to get inside of him and bat the ball up in the air.  Clark needs to attack the ball there and at worst it’s incomplete.  That pick was 70% on the QB, but the receiver could have done more to prevent the turnover.

Best Call:

You already know what I’m going to say.  GOING FOR IT ON FOURTH AND ONE!  That made my heart happy.  Addai made an incredible run for the yardage, but Saturday’s smart hold brought it back.  I say it was a smart hold because he knew he was beat and by grabbing the guy, he kept the drive alive and allowed Indy to punt. 

Worst Call:

I’m cheating here.  Other than griping about the play calling inside the 10 on the last drive (which was probably Manning’s call anyway), Caldwell coached a clean game.  Harbaugh did not.  Calling a time out and then challenging the spot was awful.  First, the spot was bad…but in Baltimore‘s favor.  Secondly, he should have just thrown the flag immediately.  A head coach has to go into that situation prepared to use his challenge as a time out.  It’s like he never considered that very obvious strategy before.  Instead of his team getting the ball back with nearly a minute to play, there were just seconds left.  Bad job by him.

Reasons I’m Flying:

  • This defense is for real.  Other than a short stretch in the NE game, it has been playing at an elite level for weeks now.  The corner play was for the most part strong.  They completed some passes on Lacey, but even so he had tight coverage most of the time.  The Ravens stymied the Colts’ pass rush, and still couldn’t get touchdowns.  When a D stops a good run O on the goal line…that’s when you know it can handle all phases of the game.
  • The toughest part of the schedule is nearly over, and the Horse won’t do any worse than 3-1.  Don’t worry about how the team is “playing”.  You don’t beat average and good NFL teams when you aren’t playing your best.  Unless you are the Colts.  The Patriots are clearly the #2 team in the AFC, and right there with the Vikes and Saints.  Indy beat them.  They can play with anyone right now.  And…they can still get better.
  • The run game is becoming dependable.  I actually want them to run the ball now. That’s a good sign.
  • The resilience of Pierre Garcon.  He had a rough game last week, but hasn’t folded.  Just the opposite, he made a big catch at the end of the game against the Pats and loomed large in this one.  That’s the mark of a guy who’s going to stick and blossom.

Reasons I’m Dying:

  • Just one really:  the bad throw by Manning.  I worry that his arm isn’t quite right or that he’s getting fatigued.  That’s a ball that he should hit every time and to see it get away from him…I don’t know, it worried me.

The Bottom Line:

4-2 secures a #1 overall seed. 3-3 probably gets it done.  The Colts are in the middle of the toughest stretch of games they’ll have until January and have acquitted themselves well.  My confidence in this team grows each week.  It feels like the vets are playing with a little extra something.  Doesn’t it seem like Reggie Wayne is 100% locked in and ready to do anything to win a title?  There are lots of old nemesis still out there waiting for Indy, but with any luck the Pats and Chargers will finish 2-3.  I don’t care in what order they finish, just so long as we don’t have to play both of them.

10 wins.  Again.  It’s hard to complain about anything.

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