2009 Game Recap – Week 3: Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals

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 3 – Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals

Setting The Stage

  • Six days after the defensive marathon that was Indianapolis at Miami, the Colts travel across the country to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday night. Arizona enters the game 1-1 after beating Jacksonville; a game in which QB Kurt Warner completed 24 of 26 passes to set a new NFL record for completion percentage. Tonight marks only the second time Warner and Peyton Manning have faced each other. Kelvin Hayden and Gary Bracket are both out due to injuries. Freddie Keiaho and Jordan Senn rotate in for Brackett and get quite a bit of playing time late in the game. Jerraud Powers is back after missing last week. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who complained about Mike Pollak’s play against Miami. Although he starts the game at RG,, Kyle Devan (added to the roster during the week) replaces him for the second offensive series. They seem to be alternating Pollak and Devan each series.
  • The crowd: Loud early on, but boy do they turn on their team when things start going badly. By the end, there’s more applause for the Colts than for the Cards, and more than a few boos.
  • The field: The Cardinals play at University of Phoenix stadium with its roll-away, real-grass field. Pretty cool in that they roll the field out into the open air during the day and back in for games.

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  • The network coverage: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. I know Collinsworth isn’t really popular with Colts fans, but I actually kinda like him in a ’he’s just an old, self-centered WR, so don’t pay him much mind’ kind of way. He has pretty good insight into offensive reads, and I find myself thinking ‘glad he mentioned that’ often.

Key plays

1st Qtr:

  • Colts win the toss and elect to receive. Here we go… but not far; Colts with a three-and-out on their first series, and McAfee punts.
  • Sack, Dwight Freeney (his 26th sack/fumble of his career)! Freeney puts his patented spin move on the Cards’ left tackle and wraps up Warner as he’s attempting to throw, causing a fumble. Card’s recover the ball but have to punt. I find it interesting that Dwight thought Warner got the pass off, so he let him go and was looking down-field while other Colts were fighting for the ball.

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  • Colts can’t convert a third-and-four, so they punt again. That’s three straight three-and-outs for the two teams.
  • Still looking for the first first-down, the Colts huddle, but can’t convert a third-and-one. Colts punt yet again. That’s now 5 straight series that end in a punt. Arizona has one first-down, Colts with zero. McAfee with a nice, high punt, and Lacey with a great open-field tackle on receiver Steve Breaston for a loss of eight.
  • Bethea just rocked it, slicing into the backfield and driving into and launching the FB off his feet and into the RB for a loss. Great play! He reacted so quickly, the WR didn’t have time to get over to block him.

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  • Arizona is the first to put together a drive of note, and they score the first points of the game; a Neil Rackers 38-yard field goal gives the Cards a 3-0 lead.
  • Donald Brown fields the line drive kickoff and returns it to the Colts 36. Colts begin their third series with 2:41 remaining in the first-quarter.
  • Great play fake and a nice route by Austin Collie to give Indy their first first-down; a 27 yard completion down the left sideline.
  • INT! DeVan stunts left, and Saturday isn’t able to contain the left defensive tackle who hits Manning’s arm as he throws. The pass flutters into the hands of a Cards’ corner back and is run back 28 yards to the Colts’ 48. Wayne had beaten his man and was open at the Card’s 20, but even so, it’s Cards’ ball in Indy territory.

2nd Qtr:

  • Cards fumble! With Arizona about to score, Melvin Bullitt puts his helmet on the ball and knocks it out of the RB’s hands. Antoine Bethea with the recovery at the Indy six yard line.
  • Colts start their drive with a couple nice sweeps to the left. Addai carries for seven and then thirteen. Charlie Johnson pulls to lead the way and Wayne provides a nice down-field block. It’s good to see some success with the run game.
  • So, with the running game having some success, what do you do on a critical third-and-one at the Arizona 30? First, you bring in Foster at fullback. But then what? Addai up the middle? Stretch play right? Nope. You fake to Addai and run the reverse to Clark. Gain of ten and another first-down.
  • GREAT… GREAT… one-handed grab by Wayne at the post for the Colts’ first score. That was just plain awesome. Reggie lines up in the slot to the right, with Clark and Garcon outside him. Garcon draws the CB, and Wayne is open at the post. Amazing one-handed grab to complete the 95-yard drive! Colts take the lead, 7-3.

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  • Sack, Freeney! Bullitt’s big hit and the Wayne touchdown seem to have awakened the defense. Dwight bull-rushes the left tackle, slips out of his grasp, and corrals Warner for the sack and a seven-yard loss. Excellent defensive series to force a three-and-out. Warner goes to the turf on all three, and the Colts get the ball back.

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  • Nice punt return by T.J. Rushing. Rushing takes the punt at the Colts’ 42, and with Jamie Silva and Tim Jennings containing the gunner, T.J. finds a hole and reaches the Arizona 39 before being tripped up. Flag! An illegal block by Wheeler negates what was otherwise a nice special teams play and moves the Colts back to their own 43.
  • Pick up of eighteen by Pierre Garçon on the reverse. Austin Collie with a good block, and Pierre stiff-arms a second defender for an additional ten yards. Michaels calls his stiff-arm ‘assault and battery’. I like it. Since the Wayne touchdown, everything seems to be going right for Indy.
  • Touchdown, Clark! Dallas open over the middle (what LB can cover him?) and fights through an attempted tackle for the score. There’s some weirdness surrounding the PAT, though. The kick is blocked and appears to hit the crossbar and bounce back onto the field. It’s called ‘no good’. Turns out, it hit the camera which is mounted behind the crossbar. Colts up 14-3.
  • Awesome run stuff when Marlin Jackson comes off the corner and blows up the run. The RB has to reverse field where Ed Johnson wraps him up. Cards punt with 3:50 remaining in the half.
  • Ok, they’re not all pretty. Clark just takes a screen and, with CJ out in front, Dallas tries to stutter-step and change direction. Instead, he falls flat on his face. He looks partly embarrassed and partly amused heading back to the line.
  • Touchdown, Garcon! Speed, speed, and more speed. Pierre simply outruns the CB, Peyton hits him in-stride, and 54 yards later, 85 stands in the end zone pointing at the name on his back. Colts up 21-3.

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  • INT, Bethea! Arizona with a first-and-goal at the Colts’ one yard line. Warner targets Fitzgerald, but he can’t haul it in. The ball is deflected toward Antoine who bats it to himself, not once but three times, until he can haul it in. Colts’ defense comes up big once again. At halftime, the score is 21-3, Colts.

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3rd Qtr:

  • The Cardinals come out strong on their first possession of the second quarter. Using the no huddle, Warner puts together a string of several nice completions, and Arizona threatens. Jordan Senn with a sure tackle, to slow them down, after shadowing the RB and recognizing the quick outlet.
  • Touchdown Cardinals. On third-and-one, from the Colts’ ten yard line, Mathis stunts and has a good lane, up-the-middle, to the QB, but runs out of time. Warner completes to Boldin for the score. Jackson was beaten badly on the play, and the Colts lead is cut to 21-10.
  • Wayne with a very pretty sideline reception. How he gets his feet down in bounds is beyond me. Gain of 33, and the Colts are moving the ball.

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  • Joe Addai with a couple nice runs over LG; eight yards and then nine more move Indy to the Arizona 39.
  • More Addai! Joe with one of his more exciting runs, and I catch myself yelling at the TV. After lining up wide and taking the quick screen, 29 weaves through the Cardinal defense, trailing nice blocks by Garçon, Collie, and DeVan for a gain of 17. No! Holding by Garçon negates the play and moves the Colts back to the 37. That’s disappointing.
  • And Brown almost scores! Manning with the perfect call as Arizona blitzes; a hand-off to Brown and run right. Following great blocks by Clark, Diem, and DeVan, Donald tip-toes the sideline and into the end zone; but he stepped out at the 14. He was so close to breaking it. Still, it’s a nice gain of 23.
  • The drive stalls on a run for no gain and two incompletions (great CB coverage on Garçon, and a throw-away due to pressure). Vinatieri’s 53-yard FG attempt hits the upright and is no good. Arizona ball.
  • A blitz by Jackson forces a rushed pass by Warner, and Kurt goes down yet again. It is really nice to see the Colts D being aggressive for a change. Powers actually came close to the INT.
  • Whoa, that was close. The Cards just came inches from scoring. Powers is back-pedaling, trying to keep up with Fitzgerald, and trips over his own feet. Warner had Fitzgerald wide open and simply over-throws him. Haha… Check out Peyton’s reaction! Priceless!

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  • Brown for 72 yards! Yes! Manning audibles and tosses to Donald over the right side. Garçon with a nice down-field block, and Brown is in a foot race down the right sideline. He’s taken down at the Arizona ten yard line by a CB, but a face mask penalty moves the ball half-way to the goal line. First-and-goal Colts!
  • Addai touchdown! After Peyton gives Brown one more shot at the goal line, Joe Addai is sent in to replace the rookie. The delayed inside screen, in the backfield, puts Joe at the eleven, and he follows DeVan in for the score. Colts answer the Arizona score with an 80-yard, 4-play drive of their own and go up 28-10.
  • Colts blitz, and Bullitt with a great diving tackle of the RB in the backfield. This change in defensive strategy to a more aggressive approach is really fun to watch. Ummm… Ron who?
  • Whoa! Muir just flung the center to the side and slammed Warner to the ground. No sack, since Warner had the presence of mind to fling the ball, but that was still impressive. Great penetration by Dawson and Mathis on the play as well.

4th Qtr:

  • INT Jackson, on the first play of the fourth quarter! The four-man rush continues to get good pressure on Warner. This time, he’s hit from behind by Mathis as he throws, and the ball lands in the hands of Jackson. Marlin had good coverage on the receiver and stepped in front of him to make the play. Colts’ ball at mid-field!
  • Man, it just keeps getting better and better. 22 yards on the crossing pattern to Wayne. Reggie with good yardage after the catch, partly thanks to a great diving block by Clark. Colts in the red zone once again.
  • Addai with a nice one-handed, leaping catch on third-and-three, but it comes up just short, and Colts attempt a FG. Vinatieri hits the 26 yarder to increase their lead. Colts 31-10.

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  • Dang. Freeney heads to the locker room with a ‘right leg injury’. He seems to be walking just a bit gingerly.
  • Mathis sack! With Freeney missing, the Arizona O-Line moves to the hurry up, but still can’t contain the Colts’ rush. Robert simply out runs the RT, circles, and takes down Warner from behind. The drive ends on a Keiaho blitz and force of an incompletion. Cards punt with 10:20 remaining.
  • Whoa, four really ugly plays in a row; a mis-directed pass that’s almost picked off by Powers, a delay of game penalty (Colts D was jumping around, and Warner seemed to be hypnotized by all the action), a throw-away due to intense pressure (Bethea was confused on coverage, and Keiaho was screaming defensive alignments at him… One Lurk! Huh? It’s One Lurk? One Lurk!), and then one of the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen watching professional football. Brock with a sack of 28 yards! Warner, as talented as this guy is, has looked awful the last couple drives. His line can’t contain anybody, he’s been hit on almost every play, and Warner is losing his composure. On this play, Brock comes completely free, and Warner, instead of throwing the ball away, runs for his life; in the wrong direction. Loss of 28, on fourth-and-fifteen. If this was any other QB, it would have been hilarious. But this is Kurt Warner, and it’s a bit sad to see this great competitor lose his composure this badly. OK, I’m over it. Colts’ take over at mid-field with 6:20 remaining.
  • Good power running by Brown, off left tackle, on second-and-seven to gain thirteen. The Colts are just out-classing Arizona in every aspect tonight, and it’s been fun to watch. The only thing that would make this game more enjoyable is it if had been against San Diego. Ugh! San Diego… although, I’ve heard their weather is sweet!
  • Fourth-and-eight, on the Arizona 32, with 3:19 to go, and Indy goes for it. The stretch play, to the right, pulls the defense. Good protection gives Manning time to step up and wait for Wayne to go deep, then come back. Peyton throws back across the field to hit him near the left sideline. Reggie drops to the turf, in bounds, and the clock continues to move. First down, Colts at the Arizona fifteen.
  • Four straight runs, and Indy turns the ball over to Arizona. Cards run out of time, and the game is over.

Overall Impressions:

  • The Offense: With only one first-down in their first three series, they looked pretty bad. I can only guess they were still exhausted from all that bench-sitting in Miami. But the second quarter is all Colts as they score 21 unanswered points, and they’re pretty much unstoppable for the rest of the game. The run game was effective; both Brown and Addai had big runs and looked good. The line didn’t give up any sacks although Peyton was hit twice. Peyton had four TD passes and one interception. All in all, a good day.
  • The Defense: A couple great plays in the first, but not much else early on. They seemed to be so focused on stopping the run, they allowed Warner a lot of yardage through the air. Can someone tell me why that is; the Cards can’t/don’t run the ball? The D looked much better in the second causing a fumble and an INT; both as the Cards were threatening to score. The Cards do score on their opening drive of the third quarter, mostly through the air. Throughout the second half, there seems to be a recurring theme: Colts put intense pressure on Warner, Warner holds the ball until the last second and miraculously completes a pass down-field, refs throw a flag on the OL for holding, Arizona backs up and tries again. Warner is amazing, but his OL just can’t compete with the Colt’s D. As the game wears on, the D gets more aggressive, more players get involved, and the number of big plays grows. Freeney gets injured late in the game, and that can’t be good.
  • Special Teams: If this was the first Colts game I’d ever watched, I’d be tempted to rate their special teams play as fairly decent. They stop a couple returns inside the 20, and punt coverage is pretty good. Jordan Senn with seven tackles looked good; of course, he’s cut two weeks later, but we don’t know that yet. All in all, nice job, guys.

Random Thoughts:

  • After a slow start on both sides of the ball, this one was all Colts and signified a nice rebound from last week; especially for the defense. Freeney had a monster game, schooling the Cards’ left tackle, when he lined up there, or the right tackle, on the few plays he lined up there. Several times, even though 93 didn’t reach the QB, the play was called back due to holding. They just couldn’t contain him.
  • This contest pitted the worst and second-worst running teams of 2008. At the end of the day, Indy had accumulated 126 yards rushing while the Colt defense held Arizona to 24. Brown’s 72 yard scamper accounts for most of that yardage, but they were affective when they needed to be, and the passing game was potent because of it.
  • Gotta love Manning and the 2-minute offense. I’m thinking back to the debacle that was the Dolphins’ final drive last week… pitiful.
  • Oh look! The Lions won!
  • Another solid game by the Colt’s #1 RB. Joe displayed good vision, great blitz pickups, great hustle, and had that amazing one-handed catch early in the 4th.
  • Dallas Clark comes into the game leading the league in receiving yards, and made a couple huge plays today; a reverse and some great catches. When he stumbled and fell, untouched, after trying to juke a defender, I laughed. He laughed. Actually, I find it kinda cool that we root for a team which is so successful that we can laugh at the occasional blunder instead of screaming at the TV and talking about ‘if only’ all week.
  • Gotta say, Ed Johnson looks much better this week than last. On one play, in particular, he showed a lot of hustle sniffing out a dump-off to the RB and tackling him from behind.
  • Jacob Lacey had punt coverage in the first quarter; he was the first to reach the returner and did a great job wrangling him (Breaston, who’s a beast, by the way) to the ground. Actually, Jacob did a good job all game filling in for Hayden.
  • Dang, I’m gonna miss Marlin Jackson. He was everywhere today; a great read in ignoring a play fake and diagnosing a screen pass, avoiding two blockers on his way to the RB in the backfield, one-on-one coverage on Fitzgerald all the way into the end zone and forcing an over-throw, and the INT late in the game. Reminds me of another INT late in a game.
  • Jerraud Powers played well with 8 solo tackles, several passes defended, good hustle, and some hard hitting. I like this guy!

Colts win 31-10 to go 3-0 on the season.

Total Run Yards
Colts: 126
Cards: 24

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 379
Cards: 299

Manning: 24-35, 379 yards, 4 TDs
Addai: 13 carries, 63 yards
Brown: 14 carries, 40 yards
Wayne: 7 receptions, 126 yards, 1 TD
Clark: 7 receptions, 62 yards, 1 TD

Other games in the series: