An Unforgettable Win, An Irreplaceable Loss

No matter what else happens over the final two weeks of the season, the 2010 Colts didn’t let the Jacksonville Jaguars end their season in Indianapolis.

That alone is a great comfort to Colts lovers and Jags haters everywhere.

The Colts dominated the Jaguars on Sunday.  It all started up front for the defense which dominated the line of scrimmage and held Maurice Jones Drew to just 46 yards rushing on 15 carries, and just as importantly, held Garrard to 8 yards on four carries.  Last week, I openly questioned Larry Coyer’s ability to get this defense ready for the Jaguars.  And while I do wonder how much MJD’s knee and Garrard’s hamstrings limited them, I also have to admit that Indy defenders looked well prepped.  They had Garrard’s number on every bootleg and roll out.  Coyer did a nice job developing blitzes to get pressure on Garrard who often threw off his back foot.

On a day when the Colts’ birthright as AFC South Champions was being threatened, the Colts’ cornerstone players on defense all made the biggest plays.  Gary Brackett forced a four point swing with a huge tackle for a loss on the goal line.  Robert Mathis went airborne to take Garrard down early in the game.  Freeney forced several penalties and was a dominant rushing force all day, and when the Colts desperately needed a stop, it was Betha who provided a huge interception. 

46 yards rushing for the Jags compared with 155 for the Colts.  That tells the story of the game.  Indy did the two things they haven’t been able to do all year: they ran and they stopped the run.  Don Brown had a breakout game, showing that if he gets a hole, he absolutely has the big play ability to punish the defense.  Perhaps we just need to see a return to the stretch play when Don’s in the game. Or maybe it just helps to play on the NFL’s worst defenses.  Either way, it was a timely performance.  As Darren McFadden is showing in Oakland, two years isn’t enough time to judge a running back, especially one playing behind a suspect line.

When Tyjuan Hagler sprinted through the Jags into the endzone it capped a memorable day.  With the Luke begging for a Christmas miracle, the Colts offered up a holiday beatdown. 

Unfortunately, the mood in the Circle City isn’t one of unbridled joy today.

As important as the win was, the Colts’ hopes this season took a major blow as well.  While Hagler’s return won’t soon be forgotten, neither will the scene of Austin Collie lying motionless on the turf.  How incredible was Collie yesterday?  Sure he had 87 yards and two scores in the first half, but more than that, his affect on the game was undeniable.  With Collie, Manning was 20-27 for 166 and two scores.  Without Collie he was 9 of 12 for just 63 yards.  Collie was the dominant figure in the game, and while everyone’s first and second thoughts were for the young man and his family, the third thought that came to mind after the horror wore off was, “Oh no.  We are screwed.”

The Colts are a weapon short right now.  They are actually three weapons short, but you get the feeling that any one of them would change this offense.  Austin Collie helped stretch the field running great routes up the seam.  Blair White is a nice story, but he’s not in Collie’s league (as evidenced by a big third down miscommunication with Manning in the third quarter).  I’m no doctor, but I don’t want to see Collie on the field again this season.  This young man’s life and future are in serious jeopardy, and even if it meant giving up a Super Bowl, I wouldn’t want to see him play.  God willing, he’s got 60 years ahead of him.  Going back out on the field now will almost certainly shorten those years.

It was a great win.  The loss of Collie was just as big.

Observations:

  • Manning was laser sharp in the game.  He only threw 10 incompletions and about half of those were dropped passes.  The Jaguars secondary proved as porous as advertised.  After watching the offense go to work with Collie playing, it was painfully clear that the only thing plaguing the Colts offense in the middle of the season was the loss of Collie/Clark/Addai.  Now we can only assume that we’ve lost two of them for the season, and we have to wonder if Joe is coming back either.  The cavalry isn’t coming folks.  This team is going to have to win with what they have.
  • Here’s the video of the punt return.  Freeze it at the :37 mark. Thomas’s hand is CLEARLY above his shoulder pads, and probably above his head.  Now read NFL rule 10.1.1: 
      A receiver is permitted to legally raise his hand(s) to his helmet to shield his eyes from the sun, but is not permitted to raise them above his helmet except to signal for a fair catch. If a player raises his hands above his shoulder(s) for any other reason, it is an invalid fair catch signal. Penalty: For invalid fair catch signal: Snap by receivers five yards behind the spot
      of the signal.

     This was as blown a blown call as you can get. 

  • It was nice to see Dom Rhodes out there, but I have to question the decision to have him take the key snaps in the fourth quarter. I know the Colts favor splitting carries among running backs, especially in the second half, but Rhodes averaged less than 3 yards a carry. 
  • It’s been mentioned other places, but the stunts the Colts employ are not working.  They are slow developing and are creating far too much time for QBs to throw.  There are two Garrards: one is  skittish when rushed.  The other is pinpoint accurate when he has time to throw.  The stunts turned the first one into the second one.
  • The coaching staff bet before the game that they wouldn’t need Jerry Hughes, who is basically an extra pass rusher.  Hughes struggles in run support, and they had to figure they wouldn’t need him.  That was an understandable mistake.  As it turned out, yesterday was exactly the kind of game they drafted him for.
  • Del Rio is getting killed for going for it on fourth and one, but the only problem with that play was the execution.  The Jaguars aggressiveness was the only thing keeping them in the game early.  Caldwell twice punted on fourth and one, and both times it turned into points for the Jags.  Going for it was absolutely the correct decision.
  • I saw nothing yesterday to disabuse me of the notion that the the Jaguars are not a good team at all, and that they have had incredible luck.
  • That was a horribly officiated game in both directions.  There were missed personal fouls, massive screw ups, and blown pass interference calls.  Both teams were affected.  Terrible crew.
  • I no longer have any idea what constitutes a personal foul against a wide receiver.  I couldn’t see anything wrong with what Francisco did in the first quarter, but Collie takes a first contact elbow to the skull, and there’s no flag?  I’ve read the rules.  I’m a knowledgeable fan.  It shouldn’t be impossible for me to determine what is a flag and what isn’t. 
  • The second half game plan of “don’t lose this game” was grating.  Still, after weeks of saying that Manning was pressing, I’m not about to whine about him playing it safe down the stretch.  The Colts had a nice cushion for most of the second half, so it’s hard to complain.
  • More of the same next week.  The Oakland and Jacksonville offenses are pretty similar.
  • Kudos to Mike Pollak who threw a HUGE block on Brown’s first long run.  He and Saturday opened a truck sized hole.
  • As said on Twitter: “It’s nice to win a game off Josh Scobee’s foot for once.
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