Yesterday's game provided a lot of fodder for the complaint folder: the offense continues to rely heavily on the fullback, the Colts once again acted like a 3-point lead at the start of the 3rd quarter was an insurmountable lead, and the defense went from bad to good to bad faster than seasons 2, 3, and 4 of Heroes. And while each of those issues would, individually, be worthy of a gripe or two, let's be honest about a few things.
First, I didn't expect much this year from the Colts defense. Sure, they spent a lot of money improving the unit in the off-season, but the truth is, it still has quite a few holes, especially in the front-seven, where there is nary a dynamic play-maker to be found. Robert Mathis, who quietly has 3 sacks through 2 games, is great, but he is the only one along the Colts OLB/DL who can get after the QB. This forces the team to blitz.
Lack of pass rush leads to blitzing. Blitzing leads to one-on-one coverage in the secondary. One-on-one coverage in the secondary leads to suffering. The next thing you know, Andrew Luck is slaughtering a camp of Sand People for the fun of it.
As for the offense: yea, Stanley Havilis should be heard, not seen. And the sequence seen on the Colts 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter: pass to the FB, run, run, punt – when they had a 3-point lead and a chance to put the reeling Dolphins away – was inexcusable. But overall, when you factor in the loss of Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, and Donald Thomas, the Colts moved the ball pretty well. As a matter of fact, after taking a few deep breaths and re-watching the game, I think the offense played well enough to win.
So today's gripe-fest won't be about the offense or the defense. Not today. I'm sure they'll make appearances in future editions. But today? Today is reserved for a special group of strangers.
This week's Monday Morning Moaner honor belongs to Clete Blakeman and his merry band of "officials". First, who names their kid Clete? Isn't that what Europeans wear as they sully FOOTBALL'S good name? Name your kid Clete if you want comfortable, well-protected feet. Not if you want a COMPETENT NFL REFEREE. Now, I don't normally sink to whining about officials OR name calling (shut up, Blaine Gabbert), but Sunday's effort necessitated it.
You see, apparently, during a 60-minute football game between two (seemingly) even-matched teams, the Miami Dolphins committed, according to CLETE AND COMPANY, 0 penalties. This isn't a totally-rare occurrence mind you: it's happened so often that, as I try to research it, all of the sites list the number of teams to commit 0 penalties in a game as "many". That seems like a significant number. Still, let's consider that the Dolphins committed, on average, 5.2 penalties per game in 2012 and just last week, in their Week 1 victory over the Browns, they committed 10. So, without even watching the game, I'd find it hard to believe that the Dolphins suddenly found religion this week.
But I did watch the game. And let me tell you, sirs and madams, the Dolphins did actually engage in activities, which, were the game officiated by someone with a soul, would have been grounds for punishment (likely in the form of a penalty, except for Texas, where they would have received the death penalty).
1) 15:00 – 2nd quarter: Donald Brown is pushed out of bounds by the defender, then, once the duo is approximately 8-yards out of bounds (I'm very bad at guesstimating length, it's why I always have a tape measure with me wherever I go), the defender slams Brown to the ground. The play is so egregious that even the normally-"who gives a poo about officiating" announcers said it was a bad no call.
2) 14:55 – 2nd quarter (yes, the next play): Coby Fleener is running a seam route. He's beat his man. Andrew Luck throws him the ball. Coby goes to catch it, but the aforementioned defender decides to hook both of his arms! In some states, these two would be married. Reverend Clete was having none of that, however. No call.
3) 12:15, 3rd quarter: Andrew Luck's go-ahead TD pass to Coby Fleener is nullified by an "illegal shift" penalty on rookie WR and neophyte to NFL Rules Reggie Wayne. I've watched this play 100 times. The official who threw the flag is at the top of the formation. Reggie does come set for a second. Is it a SECOND? Or a second? And what degree of second is required for the official to be appeased? Said Reggie Wayne in his post-game comments: "I hope they're right. If they're not, it's gonna be a tough pill to swallow."
Coat that pill in peanut butter, Reggie. It helps it go down.
4) 11:00, 4th quarter: Andrew Luck is hit in the helmet by two fists and a helmet after the ball is gone (not that it matters). Clete, currently reading 50 Shades of Grey before its theatrical release, is unaware of the rule making it illegal to use fists on the QB in any manner. Who knows. Maybe Luck liked it.
5) 8:20, 4th quarter: Andrew Luck's deep pass to Reggie Wayne is intercepted by Brent Grimes. Unrelated: Brent Grimes holds Wayne during the route, then, in the end zone, pushes (with full extension) off of Wayne before intercepting the pass. Pass interference was introduced to the world in 1960. Clete Blakeman, unfortunately for the Colts, wasn't introduced to the world until 1964.
6) Colts penultimate play of the game, 4th quarter (duh): Griff Whalen is running a crossing route. Have you ever seen "Christmas Vacation"? Clark and Eddie are standing by the Christmas tree discussing Eddie's dog, Snotts? Eddie mentions that if Snotts gets a hold of your leg, to just let him go. In this scenario, Griff Whalen is your leg and Dolphins' CB Nolan Carroll is Snotts. As you might have guessed, Clete Blakeman is a big Chevy Chase fan, and appreciated the homage to one of his favorite movies. Instead of a flag, he gave a round of thunderous applause to Carroll for his acting job.
But seriously: pass interference, holding, unwanted advances… anything would have been appropriate in that situation, Clete.
Here's reality for the Colts: their roster isn't good enough to win games while overcoming hurdles. On Sunday, Clete Blakeman and his crew provided Andrew Luck and the Colts enough hurdles to qualify the team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And while this column has no problem making light of Sunday's officiating, the truth is, yesterday's game had very-real implications for the Colts. It was, in many ways, a must-win on a schedule that includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Chargers, and Broncos over the next five weeks. If the Colts wind up missing the playoffs by a game, no one will be laughing.
And Clete will deserve his name sake to the bottom side.