Up the River

I’m stranded in a small city in the interior of Argentina, typing in a dark hotel room as my wife and kids desperately try to sleep.  Meanwhile my car is nesting happily in a mechanic’s shop as I wonder how and when I’ll ever get home.

Today, as I sat in the blazing sun waiting for the tow truck to haul my recently troubled vehicle back to civilization, I said a prayer, and fired up my Ipod to listen to my mp3 recording of the 2006 AFC Championship game.  When things look bleak (and they are bleak, friends), it pays to remember happier times.

So, instead of getting the sleep I need, I want to take a few minutes to respond to some thoughts in the comments and my emails and do a recap of a MUCH happier time…Sunday night.  As always, I caution you that I haven’t watched the tape, nor am I within a 9 hour drive of the tape.  I have barely slept or eaten in a couple of days.  I did actually manage to watch the game live, however, because this is a crazy tripped out world we live in.  Mine just happens to be crazier than most.

Reasons to Smile:

  • Peyton Manning.  Yawn.
  • Collie was brilliant for a second straight week.  Tremendous game from him.
  • The defense was brilliant all night.  Two turnovers by the Colts: zero first downs allowed was the defense’s response.
  • Tim Jennings and Tony Ugoh’s play in the second half.  See the note below.

Reasons to Frown:

  • The Colts still aren’t running the ball with any regularity.  Neither back is getting it going.  To be fair, Indy has played 3 of the top 5 run defenses in the NFL through 5 weeks, so it may just be a scheduling quirk.  The bad news is that they play 3 more of the top 8 in the coming weeks, so it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  This is the one GLARING weakness for this team.  We’ve all seen too many playoff runs aborted because of a criminal inability to move the ball on the ground.  I’m not giving up hope that the run game will find itself, but there is a long way to go before I feel confident this team can put away a close game when it matters.
  • Tony Ugoh’s and Tim Jennings’s play in the first half.  Jennings is what I said he was:  a not bad weakest link.  He makes plays, but largely because he gets more opportunities to make plays than most CBs.  He is always the #1 target out there, and sometimes he makes a play.  Other times, balls bounce off his head, go through his hands, and WRs break his ankles.  Ugoh could not have played much worse for the first 25 minutes or so, but was nicely invisible in the second half.  In the first half, it was stunning how bad he was.  I know he is still battling various injuries, but wow, did it ever look like he had gone seriously backwards.  In the end, he showed why he’s still around.  It’s not too late for him (yet).
  • Jeff Fisher is a coach I always had respected.  I’m not sure how I feel about him any more.  His was a gutless, uninspired game plan.  In the end, he shocked us all…by playing it straight and getting destroyed.  Bad form, Jeff.  Bad form.
  • Both roughing the passer calls were legit, but I HATE the first one.  I hate the Brady rule.  I know it keeps QBs healthy and what not, but I don’t think it’s fair to hamstring the defense that much.  The second call was a text book late hit, and Fisher should not have been whining about it.

Best Call

  • Going for it on fourth and one early.  It’s almost always the right play.  Caldwell has been forward thinking on this all year, and I for one appreciate it.

Worst Call

  • Can anyone explain to me taking a 2nd and 15 over a 3rd and 8?  I guess I get the field position thing considering they were in long FG range, but it was a bad swap as the Titans threw for 11 yards, making it 3rd and 4.  This is tied with the pointless early blitz of Brackett that lead to an easy completion to the TE.  I’m quibbling, I know.  It’s hard to find fault when you win 31-9.

Reasons I’m Flyin’

  • The defense is for real.  It’s now 15th in the NFL against the run, and other than Miami’s wildcat, it has been ‘gash proof’.  MJD had one big run verses a blitz in week one, but for the most part running against the Colts has been a no go.
  • It’s easy to point out that Indy hasn’t played anyone, but as FO noted a couple of years ago, blowing out bad teams is a better indicator of success than beating good teams.  Indy has rolled three straight opponents.  That’s a GREAT sign.  Regardless of what anyone thinks, it’s actually a better indicator than Denver squeaking out close wins over teams with winning records.  The haters won’t like it, but facts are facts.
  • Two consecutive bye weeks is awesome.  What?  You mean I forgot about the Rams?  No.  I didn’t.
  • The AFC South is OVER.  Indy is playing for a bye.  At this point, anything less than 13-3 and a first round bye has to be a major disappointment.  Anything less than 14-2 and a #1 seed is a minor disappointment.
  • When this team gets Hayden and Sanders back…watch out.  This defense is going to be incredible.

Reason’s I’m Dyin’

  • Uh, hello?  Did you read the first paragraph?  You don’t want to be me right now.  Seriously.
  • Argentina needs a tie verses Uruguay to secure a World Cup berth.  That’s effed up.
  • I also misidentified the Jets QB the other day as Matt Sanchez.  Cut me some slack.  That internet connection was crazy slow, and I never got around to fixing it.  Still, it was an inexcusable mistake.  Normally, I just misspell stuff.

The Bottom Line

This team isn’t quite 2007 good (yet).  It still has to run the ball effectively, but it’s close.  This defense might be the best yet in Indy, and it hasn’t even gotten it’s secondary anywhere close to healthy.  The big games are coming soon (NE, @Balt, Denver), but for now, the Colts can feel strong about where they are and where they are going.  Ladies and Gentlemen:  Your 2009 AFC South Champions…the Indianapolis Colts (well, more or less).

Bonus Trivia Question:

How many different Colts have had 100 yard games with Peyton Manning as their QB, and can you name them? (tip to Stan for the question)

Bonus Debate:

Would the Colts still win the AFC South if Peyton Manning didn’t play another down the rest of the year?

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