2009 Game Recap – Week 8: San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts

To help pass time this off-season, I’ve reviewed the Colts’ regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I’ll be sharing my impressions.

Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.

Today’s Game: Week 8 – San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts

Setting The Stage

  • The Colts return to Indianapolis with a record of 6-0 and the top ranked passing attack in the NFL. Alex Smith, the number one overall pick in 2005, and Frank Gore lead the San Francisco 49ers who, at 3-3, field a very good defense; one which is ranked #6 against the run. Donald Brown and T.J. Rushing are out with injuries. Reggie Wayne starts after missing practices all week, and once again, Mike Pollak and Kyle DeVan alternate series at right guard.
  • The Field: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis IN. Roof is open on a blinding sunny day. Early in the game, for example, on a critical third-and-three at the San Francisco 15, Peyton throws toward Clark in the right corner of the end zone, but Clark never sees the ball due to the sun.
  • The Crowd: Like the Colts’ offense in the first half, the crowd seems unfocused and subdued. But near the end, when the Colts are controlling the ball to secure the win, they stand and make some noise. After a quick snap gives the Colts an easy first-down, a 49ers lineman goes down with cramps. The crowd thinks he’s faking and boos loudly when he walks off under his own power.

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  • The Network Coverage: Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan with Fox Sports. They point out that the Colts have had only 10 three-and-outs in their first six games, but had three today. They show a graphic: Since 2004, Wayne ranks 1st in yards (6772), 4th in catches (471), and 5th in TD receptions (47). As the teams run in for halftime and calling it ‘rarely seen’, they point out that Peyton will be the one at the whiteboard giving the offensive adjustments. Ryan points out that the SF defense has managed to disguise their coverage all game by not committing players to the rush. Often, the linemen stand, never dropping into their stance; then they rush or fall back at the last second. ‘Everybody tries it, but the 49ers are executing it’. Also, a funny bit about Dallas Clark explaining what it’s like to be a young receiver on the Colts and that he totally relates to the deer-in-the-headlights look he often sees. ‘You leave the huddle. Your head is already spinning. You’re so glad you’ve finally got the play down. You’re at the line of scrimmage, and in slow-motion, Peyton turns to you and screams out something different. It’s terrifying.’ Ha! That’s funny. They also reference Peyton’s quick release. In last week’s game against St. Louis, Manning had 34 passing attempts. 30 of them were released in under three seconds, 4 were released in under 3.5 seconds, and none took longer than 3.6 seconds. Impressive.

Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • San Francisco left tackle Joe Staley goes down on the first offensive play. He’s a mainstay on the 49ers O-line, and this could be a problem for them. A run for a loss and an incompletion (Bob Sanders with good coverage) leads to a three-and-out. 49ers punt.
  • Jamie Silva is in to return the first punt. Looking up into the sun, he muffs the punt but is able to locate the ball on the ground, pick it up, and run for a yard or two. Ugh.
  • Clark fumble! On the Colt’s first third down, Peyton Manning throws short to Dallas Clark. As Dallas starts to run for the first down, he loses the ball, and San Francisco recovers. Colts coach Jim Caldwell has the first key play of the game when he challenges the ruling of a catch and fumble. Replay shows that Clark’s knee was down before he lost the ball. Ruling is overturned, and the Colts punt. It’s always disappointing when the Colts don’t start well. After a muffed punt and a near turnover, today’s game isn’t starting out very well at all.
  • Nice punt coverage! McAfee with a booming kick, and great coverage by Tim Jennings and Aaron Francisco lead to a tackle for a loss of five. No! A penalty on the Colts moves them back five yards, and they kick again. Man, this started out bad, and it’s getting worse. The second kick is a sixty yarder by McAfee. Again, coverage is good, and the 49ers take over at their 30. Philip Wheeler, Justin Snow, Jamie Silva, and Freddie Keiaho combine to bring down the returner after a gain of eight.
  • San Francisco scores… Ugh. Jerraud Powers and Antoine Bethea meet Frank Gore 8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, but neither wrap him up, and Gore is off on a 64 yard TD run. The D-line got zero penetration, and the SF O-line carved a big hole up the middle. I am impressed with Dawson’s speed, though, almost running Gore down from behind (faster than Hayden). SF scores first to go up 7-0.

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  • Finally some pressure! With Dwight Freeney drawing the double-team, Robert Mathis speed rushes to force Smith to vacate the pocket and toss an incompletion. After giving up the huge running play to Gore, the Colts D forces a three-and-out on the next San Francisco series.
  • Wayne for 32 yards! The first effective play by the Colts’ offense comes on their third drive. At their own 25, the right side of the line let’s their man penetrate while they pull to set up the bubble screen to Wayne. Great blocking by Collie and Diem allows Wayne to cut inside and then back out to move Indy into San Francisco territory.
  • Austin Doberman (the player formerly known as Collie) with a key third-and-nine completion to keep the drive going, then a really pretty 17-yd completion to Clark, dissecting triple-coverage, gives Peyton 4000 career completions. He’s only the fourth player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Still, the offense can’t convert a crucial third-and-two at the 49ers’ 18, so the Colts’ settle for a Stover FG. The run game is so fricking frustrating! Addai had no place to go. Stover’s kick is right down the middle, and the Colts cut into the 49ers’ lead, 7-3.
  • Silva! Jamie with a great ST play on the resulting kickoff. He slices through his blocker to take down the returner at the 49ers’ 12… Yes, I said the twelve! Silva may never be a star, but I’m glad they kept him on the roster for 2010. The kid shows promise, and I love his enthusiasm.

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  • Sanders’ INT! San Francisco is at their own 40. Alex Smith drops back and throws a nice tight spiral to Michael Crabtree, who lunges and deflects the ball right to Sanders. Bob weaves through traffic and returns the ball 25 yards to the 49ers’ 20. There wasn’t much pressure on the QB, and Smith makes a nice throw against good coverage by Kelvin Hayden. This was all about being in the right place at the right time. Colts’ ball at the San Francisco 34!

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2nd Qtr:

  • Jaguar! Jaguar! Peyton audibles and targets Clark on the post. Dallas loses the ball in the sun, and Colts settle, once again, for a Matt Stover FG. 49ers lead cut to 7-6.
  • Manning goes down! Around here, we often talk about Manning’s quick release and decision making and how he makes the O-line look good by avoiding sacks by getting rid of the ball so quickly. Yeah, not today. The O-line formed a good pocket and held it for a full 4 seconds, but no one was open. Manning holds the ball and goes down for a loss of 7 (first of 3 sacks today). Interesting that Lilja apparently thought 4 secs was long enough too and gave up on his block and allowed his guy through.
  • Nope… not even gonna comment on the perfectly-thrown, 19 yard pass dropped by Hank Baskett on third-and-ten. Colts punt again, the fourth consecutive punt here in the second quarter.
  • Touchdown, San Francisco. The Colts’ defense is unable to generate much pass rush, and Smith conducts a nice two minute drill. Session with a personal foul for roughing the passer, and the ball is moved back to the Colt’s 12. Clint looks awkward on the blitz, loses his balance, and falls into the QB’s knees. Good clock management, great pass protection, and several clutch completions lead to a Smith-to-Vernon Davis eight yard TD pass over the middle. You can see why Alex Smith was the first overall pick. Davis now leads the NFL in TD receptions at seven, and San Francisco extends their lead to 14-6.
  • Chad Simpson with a nice return on the resulting kick off. Colts take over at their 39 with 26 seconds remaining and all three time outs. Colts drive to the 49ers’ 26 with three key receptions by Collie, Clark, and another by Collie. Finally, the offense seems to be clicking. A Matt Stover FG brings Indy to within five. San Francisco up 14-9 to end the half.

3rd Qtr:

  • It’s an ugly start to the third; a false start and a second sack. Pollak gets schooled, and Peyton goes down. But just when you think the 49ers’ defense has Manning’s number, he avoids the rush, steps up into the pocket, and completes a 28 yarder to Garçon for a key first down. The completion seems to have sparked the offense. They’re still not making much ground on first and second downs, but two critical third-down conversions keep the drive alive; one, a nicely placed pass over the defense where only Wayne can reach it for a 19 yard first down. Colts driving.
  • And the third sack of the game… wonderful. Chalk up another one to Pollak. The SF left defensive tackle puts Pollak on his butt and hops over him to corral Manning. Peyton had no chance. The sack ends a 5:26 minute drive and leads to another Stover FG. Colts cut the lead to 14-12, but they still haven’t found the end zone.
  • Ugh. Hayden gets caught up in a gang tackle of Frank Gore and leaves the game with a knee injury. He’s replaced by Lacey.
  • Awesome play by Muir in shedding his block, penetrating, and wrapping up Frank Gore in the backfield. Nice footwork by the big guy and a solid tackle. Then, as good as the D looks against the Gore running play, they look terrible against a Gore screen pass. I thought we were supposed to be the quicker and nimbler guys on the field. Gore just weaved and sliced his way through five supposed tacklers for 11 yards.
  • Turnover! On a screen to Crabtree, Sanders totally whiffs on the tackle attempt, but Crabtree is quickly surrounded by five blue jerseys. Hagler and Bethea hit him at same time, and the ball pops loose. Powers picks it up and scrambles for five. The ruling is Colts’ ball, challenged by Singletary. Turns out, in wrapping up Crabtree and rolling him over, Crabtree lands on top of Hagler and never hits the ground. Colts’ ball at the San Francisco 42, baby!
  • Good pressure on a stunt by Mathis and containment by Foster forces an errant pass on third-and-seven and a 49ers’ three-and-out. Tim Jennings comes THIS close to an INT. In a game with so many punts, it’s nice to hear the crowd get excited again.
  • Hurry! Hurry! Manning quick snaps while the San Francisco defense is still setting up. Completion to a totally uncovered Wayne for 12 and a first down. Alright, who sent Baskett onto the field? He just dropped a perfectly placed throw over the middle. Next, Manning’s hard count draws an off-sides call. Colts moving the ball any way they can.
  • Finally, a decent run to end the third. Addai sweeps wide right for ten yards and a first down. Good containment by DeVan and great blocks by Reggie and Austin.

4th Qtr:

  • WOOoooo HOooooooo… Touchdown, Colts! The Colts’ biggest play of the game happens on the first play of the fourth quarter. Colts with a first-and-ten at the 49ers’ 22. The Colts in a two TE run formation, and the hand off goes to Addai sweeping left. The LBs penetrate and the CBs commit to the run. But Addai squares up and throws the game winning TD pass to Wayne in the corner of the end zone. The two point conversion fails, but Indy takes its first lead, 18-14.

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  • Sack! With the lead, and the 49ers moving the ball well, the Colts’ D steps up big. A great read on a screen by Muir, a blitz and big hit on the QB by Session (play resulted in a completion, but set up the next play), and then with everyone crowding the line, but only three actually rushing, on a critical third-and-twelve, Freeney bull-rushes the LT providing containment while Mathis puts a wicked spin-move on the RT for the sack. Loss of 10, and SF is pushed back to the 45 and out of FG range. SF punts.

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  • Continuing a solid fourth quarter comeback, Manning, behind great protection and with a nice play fake to Addai, hits a wide open Clark on a post-corner for a 40 yard gain into San Francisco territory. The drive eventually stalls, but the offense is in 49er territory again. That hasn’t happened much today. McAfee punts.

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  • Once again, with the lead, the Colts’ D comes up big. On third-and-ten, at the 49er 35, Raheem Brock forces the QB out of the pocket while Freeney stunts inside for the sack. Dwight ties Mathis’ team record of eight consecutive games with a sack. San Francisco punts, and the Colts have the ball and the lead with 5:45 remaining.
  • So tell me; does the run set up the pass or is it the other-way-round? We may never know for sure, but after three successive completions, Addai takes a first-and-ten hand off over RG, untouched, for 13 yards and into SF territory. Great push by DeVan, Diem, and Saturday. Colts with the lead, the ball, and driving with under 3 minutes remaining.

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  • Whoa, that was close! Manning barely avoids the blitz and completes a key completion to Clark for the first down and causing SF to take another time out. Four Addai carries in a row, and Indy faces a fourth-and-inches at the 49ers’ 17. Haha… With the clock winding down, Indy lines up while Manning, under center, attempts to draw San Francisco off-sides. Someone on the SF defense yells ‘I knew it’, and Peyton backs away, leaving the O-line set, and approaches the ref, preparing to call a TO. Addai steps up under center and attempts to look like he’s going to run a play. But, of course, Manning isn’t set or anything, and Joe looks a bit silly trying to fool the defense. We don’t see someone other than Manning under center often! When play resumes, Addai runs for the first, and the clock expires. Colts win!

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Overall Impressions

  • The Offense: From a fan’s perspective, this was not a good game. Well, they won, but the first three quarters were pretty ugly, to be honest; four three-and-outs, three sacks, way too many third-and-longs, and six punts. Seriously, when was the last time the Colts punted six times? Peyton just seemed out-of-sync all day. He started just four of nine, consistently missing just short, too long, or ‘just a bit outside’. The running game wasn’t any better, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and accumulating just 61 total yards on the afternoon. Still, they somehow pulled it together in the fourth quarter, but it takes a trick play, Addai’s halfback option, to get the ball in the end zone and seal the win. It counts, but it wasn’t pretty.
  • The Defense: The 49ers’ offensive line is good. When they opened up that huge hole for Frank Gore on the first play of the second series, I’m thinking ‘this is going to be a long day’. But the Colts’ D is good too. They forced eight punts, a fumble, an interception, and had two sacks. While that 64-yd TD run by Gore and the missed tackles were ugly, subtract the 64 yard TD run, and San Francisco only managed 49 more yards the rest of the day. Still, they weren’t able to exert consistent pressure on the QB, and that allowed Alex Smith to run an impressive seven play, 74 yard drive in 1:11 to end the first half. The defense looked better in the second half, and once the Colts had the lead, they looked more like what we’ve come to expect.
  • Special Teams: San Francisco returns the opening kickoff to their 31, but they were THIS close to breaking through for the score. With T.J. Rushing out, Jamie Silva returns punts and does reasonably well; at least as well as his blocking allows. Good day for McAfee with numerous punts high and deep. After being so impressed with Simpson being provided a return lane in Last Week’s Game Recap, it was good to see a similar situation today. Silva found himself in a lane but didn’t have the speed to take advantage of it. Could it be… maybe… just maybe this year’s special teams blocking will be better? Yes, please.

Random Thoughts:

  • Despite an overall inconsistent team performance, Manning continues to rack up the honors, completing his 4000th pass and the 53rd 300 yard game of his career; although he wasn’t able to extend his string of 10 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He had opportunities, as several receivers got open down-field, but he just couldn’t hit them. Overall, this wasn’t a good day for Mr. Manning. Check out the stats at the bottom of this article; zero TDs for Manning? Really? You won’t see that often. Coach Jim Caldwell earned himself an honor as well; he becomes the first rookie NFL head coach to win his first seven games. Congrats, Coach.
  • It occurs to me that we’ve been spoiled by watching super-smooth Marvin and Reggie for too many years. On one play, Garçon reminded us all that he’s just a kid by completely losing track of where he was on the field; contorting himself to stretch for a first down when he was already two yards pass the marker. The kid looked a bit silly, frankly, but the whole team looked less than smooth today.
  • Seems every time I looked up, the Colts were facing a third-and-long while the 49ers seemed to have second-and-shorts. The SF defense is good… better than 3-3, that’s for sure.
  • Oh look! The Jags lost.
  • Clark seemed to be drawing double and triple coverage wherever he went, but he still managed to collect 8 receptions for 99 yards. Wayne also had a career day, with 12 catches for 147 yards and a TD. Addai gets his first career touchdown pass. It’s the first Colts’ TD pass by a non-quarterback since Ken Dilger threw for six in 2001.
  • Interesting; with Brown out and Addai hurting his hand on the previous play, Mike Hart is sent in instead of Simpson. Mike gets no carries but picks up the blitz well. The fact that Chad was hurt a couple games ago might have come into play here. Whatever the reason, it’s good to see Hart get some playing time. Tell me; what is it about some players that makes us fan pull so hard for them… even when the stats don’t really back it up? Hart is one of those guys, and I’m really, really hoping he shows what he can do in 2010.
  • I think the thing I love most about this team is the hope they inspire in me. It’s knowing that someone… somebody… every single game… is gonna step up and make the big play. Some games, it’s Wayne. Other games, it’s Clark… or Garçon… or Collie (who had 3 TDs over the 3 preceding games, by the way). But you just know that somehow, Manning is gonna connect with someone to get the win. But then, every once in awhile, a game comes along where Manning just can’t seem to get in the end zone. And on that day, Joseph Addai sweeps left and throws the game-winning TD to Wayne. You just never know who it’s going to be, but because it’s the Colts, you know someone is gonna make the big play.

Colts win 18-14 to remain undefeated at 7-0.

Total Run Yards
Colts: 61
49ers: 113

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 349
49ers: 182

Manning: 31-48, 347 yards
Addai (passing): 1-1, 22 yards, 1 TD
Addai (running): 20 carries, 62 yards
Wayne: 12 receptions, 147 yards, 1 TD
Clark: 8 receptions, 99 yards
Collie: 6 receptions, 66 yards
Garçon: 4 receptions, 53 yards

Other games in the series: