2009 Game Recap – Week 7: Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams

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 7 – Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams

Setting The Stage

  • The Colts come off the bye week with a record of 5-0 and as one of four undefeated teams. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and running back Steven Jackson lead the Rams who have lost 16 straight. Bob Sanders starts after missing the first 5 games with a knee injury. Charlie Johnson returns after missing the Titans game, and Matt Stover is signed to replace Adam Vinatieri, who had knee surgery. Kelvin Hayden returns, and Dan Muir gets the start, replacing Ed Johnson who was cut over the bye week. Chad Simpson returns and will field kickoffs. Mike Pollak starts and will once again alternate series with Kyle Devan.
  • The Field: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
  • The Crowd: It looks like a sell-out, and the crowd is loud early on and raised the volume when prompted by Laurenitis (rookie, Ohio state). St. Louis isn’t that far from Indianapolis, so there are quite a few Colts fans, sporting blue.

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  • The Network Coverage: Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots of CBS. I like this team, even though Wilcots can’t seem to get it through his head that it’s not Clint Sessions. They point out that Eli sent Peyton notes on former Giant defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnolo. Of course, according to Peyton, it was ‘Stuff I already knew’. Wilcots calls Manning the best QB in the league today, and Harlan relates how Manning had a camera placed in the end zone during a previous off-season because he was worried his eyes were giving away clues to the defensive secondary. Wilcots conveys how Collie attributes his early success to Manning’s high expectations and pushing everyone around him to be better; but he did admit to some frustration early on. Garçon, on the other hand, credits Marvin Harrison for taking him under his wing and teaching him how to be successful. They discuss how ‘this is a passing league, folks’ (see graphic). Keep in mind that the Cardinals and Colts had their bye weeks early, so they’d played one less game at this point.

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Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • After a holding call on the kickoff, the offense starts at their own 10. On the first offensive play, Ryan Diem loses containment, and Peyton Manning has to scramble to his left. The result is a 14 yard completion to Wayne. Great example of why the Colts O-Line gave up so few sacks due to Manning’s ability to react and release the ball quickly. After three straight runs to the right, totaling 11 yards, the play fake sets up an 18-to-87, 10 yard completion. Reggie eludes two defenders and tacks on 15 YAC.
  • Touchdown Wayne! The first series includes a heavy dose of Wayne, who was targeted on four of seven passes including a 17 yard completion on third-and-six. Then, Reggie on the receiving end of Peyton’s 346th career TD pass to complete the 12 play, 91 yard drive. This is the third game this season in which the Colts have scored on their opening drive, and the Colts go up early, 7-0.

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  • Bob Sanders makes his presence felt early, plugging an otherwise wide-open hole over LT and stopping Steven Jackson for a 1 yard gain. But on the very next play, when he bites on the play fake and leaves the middle wide open, Bulger takes advantage by completing a 51 yard pass all the way to the Colts’ 14.
  • Tyjuan Hagler with a run stuff and the defensive backs with good coverage to force incompletions, and the Rams settle for the FG. Colts lead 7-3.
  • Sweet! They just showed a replay of Hayden’s INT in Super Bowl XLI. I sometimes forget how fast he is.
  • Huge run by Brown! First, nice opening by the left side of the O-line, including #44 who chips the RE then slips out for the screen. CJ and Lilja with great blocks down-field while Saturday traps the RE. Clark with a gain of 11. Then, more great O-Line play as Clark contains while CJ pulls to lead Brown out of the backfield for a 46 yard scamper. Nice! Reggie with a key block, and Donald shows great acceleration. Wow.

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  • TD, Clark! They’re making this look easy. Manning with a perfect throw to split defenders and lead Clark for the finger-tip, over-the-shoulder, 27 yard TD reception. Gijon Robinson and the middle of the line give Peyton really good protection, although 18 gets hit from behind just after the throw. He appears unhurt. Colts drive 78 yards in three plays and open up a 14-3 lead.

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2nd Qtr:

  • After two long TD-scoring drives to start the game, the Colts go three-and-out on their first possession of the 2nd quarter, mostly due to great defensive play by the Rams. First, great coverage forces a Manning throw-away. Then, Clark has a first-down pass almost secured when he’s clobbered by a Rams’ safety. The ball hits the ground, as does Clark, and Dallas is slow to get up. That was a nasty hit. On third-and-ten, Manning is hit as he throws, and the pass floats dangerously toward Wayne and double-coverage. Reggie comes back to make the catch but is tackled short of the first down, and we see Pat McAfee’s first punt of the day. Good punt coverage, with Bullitt getting the tackle at the St. Louis 45.
  • Great play by Clint Session on a run for a short gain. He sheds his blocker, twists and lunges to make the tackle. Man, I like this kid. Whoa. I don’t remember seeing THIS live. Freeney just dropped back into coverage, shadowed the TE moving laterally, and broke up the pass. Three-and-out. Nice!
  • Nooooooo… Garçon fumble! Addai, Devan, Jeff Saturday, and Clark provide great blocking down-field and allow Garçon to take a short screen and cut back for a gain of 17. A good hit by a Rams defender knocks the ball free, but Collie recovers. For those who (mistakenly, IMHO) think Wayne dogs it on some plays, he sure doesn’t here. As soon as he realizes the ball is loose, he dives into the pile and fights for it. It’s later announced he’s hurt; this might have been the play. Colts unable to sustain the drive, and they punt.
  • Freeney sack! Freeney just made the Rams’ rookie LT look like a high-schooler with an amazing speed-rush and sack of Bulger, causing a fumble. Freeney gathers the ball and rolls into the end zone for the touchdown. But the refs determine that the QB’s forward progress was halted prior to the fumble. It’s Dwight’s seventh straight game with a sack. Rams’ ball at the one.

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  • Colts D forces a Rams’ three-and-out. Rushing with good speed to the outside for a return of eleven to the Rams’ 41. On the return, Tamme puts a huge hit on the Rams’ long snapper, and the snapper is carted off the field. I mention this for two reasons: Tamme’s hard hit and the fact that Snow and McAfee walk over to encourage the Rams’ player as he’s being carted off.
  • Brown gains 13 yards up the middle on the delayed hand-off, following good blocking by Diem, Saturday, and Charlie Johnson. Brown lands awkwardly, and runs off favoring his left shoulder. Wayne has a strained groin, so two key injuries in this game. Wayne returns in the 3rd. Brown never returns.
  • OK, there’s good news and bad news. The good: with Brown out with a bad shoulder, Addai comes back in. The bad: with Wayne out with a strained groin, Hank Baskett takes the field. Ugh… just ugh.
  • Addai touchdown! On third-and-one, Manning audibles at the line and hands off to Addai who scores, untouched, through a huge hole created by Diem and Pollak. Colts up big, 21-3.

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  • Foster sack! On second-and-five in Colt territory and with St. Louis driving, Eric takes down the Rams’ QB. Bulger bounces around in the pocket, but Foster’s relentless pressure finally brings him down. On the next play, Freeney comes THIS close to another sack, but Bulger manages to shovel the ball forward as he’s going down in Dwight’s arms. Rams punt, and Manning kneels to end the half.

3rd Qtr:

  • OH, Hagler! How could you drop that!? Tyjuan drops back into coverage and is in perfect position to intercept Bulger. He leaps, bats the ball around, and has three chances at the INT, but can’t make the play. That absolutely should have been Colts’ ball at mid-field. On the subsequent third-and-eleven, Foster with a nice play to sniff out the screen pass and stop Jackson for a loss. Rams punt. Rushing lets the ball go over his head, and after bouncing, is downed at the Colts’ two.
  • Nice completion to Gijon Robinson in the slot and good speed by Gijon to accelerate for the first down, but that’s all Indy can manage. Colts’ first possession of the second half ends with a McAfee punt.
  • I’m gonna say right now that Steven Jackson is a beast! Three carries in a row for 12, 11, and 13 yards moves St. Louis to the Colt 24. He’s just plain running over everyone in his path. I’m having visions of Miami… ugh. Finally, a tackle of the FB in the backfield by Mathis and then a sack by Muir! Daniel, Clint Session and Freeney all beat their blockers and meet at the QB. Big loss, and even an eight yard gain on third-down by Jackson isn’t enough to convert the first. Rams forced to settle on another FG. Colts 21-6.
  • Awesome! Simpson with a 33 yard kickoff return! Foster and Dan Federkeil form the two-man wedge, and both with big hits to open a hole. Silva also with a nice hit, and look! A return lane!

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  • With a third-and-five, seven yard pass to Reggie Wayne, Manning surpasses Warren Moon for fourth in career completions. 3989 is a lot of completions, folks, and Peyton’s got… what?… five more good years ahead of him? Impressive.
  • Hurry! Hurry! Manning catches the Rams’ defense unprepared and tosses a fifteen yard completion to Collie to keep the drive alive. First-down Colts at the Rams’ 38. Two Garçon incompletions and an overthrow (targeting a hobbled Wayne) later, McAfee comes in to punt.
  • Lacey INT! Nice! With Jackson breaking off huge runs and the Rams driving, Lacey picks off Bulger and runs it back 35 yards for the TD. Safe! What!? A flag? You’ve got to be kidding me. Stupid rule, and the crowd agrees… lots of boos when the penalty is announced. Nice hit by Bullitt on the intended receiver and another by A. Johnson on the QB after the pick. Colts up their lead to 28-6, and the crowd is getting restless.

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4th Qtr:

  • Ouch! Awesome hit by Kelvin Hayden after Bulger avoids pressure and palms the shovel pass to the TE. Looked like a nice gain until Hayden closes fast and stops the runner cold. Big, big hit. And Hayden with the INT! On the same drive, the Rams go for it on fourth-and-six at the Colts’ 11. Great coverage and anticipation by Hayden leading to the seventh pick of his career. Colts’ ball on their own six. Nice play, but since it was fourth down, the INT actually costs the Colts 5 yards.
  • Good hands by Gijon on a second-and-six for nine yards, an eleven yard pickup by Addai off left guard, a first-down run by Addai, a couple short runs by Chad Simpson, and then a defensive pass interference call moves the Colts into the red zone. Garçon beats the CB and the safety down the right side and almost hauls in the pass from Manning. Defensive PI is called, and the Colts have a first down at the Rams’ eight.
  • Touchdown, Collie! On first-and-goal, the play fake to Simpson draws the LBs up while Austin slides into the end zone. Peyton leads him perfectly, over the middle, and the Colts have another TD. Colts lead 35-6 with 3:42 remaining.

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  • Sorgi sighting! The Rams are unable to move the ball and turn the ball over with 2:37 to play. Jim Sorgi takes control of the offense at the Rams’ 31 and on the first play, hands off to Simpson. Behind lead blocking provided by Foster and nice containment by CJ, Simpson sweeps left, outruns the LB, and scores. Touchdown Simpson! Colts extend their lead to 42-6 with 2:20 left.

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Overall Impressions:

  • The Offense: After two potent offensive drives to start the game, the next two result in punts. Coach Jim Caldwell decides to punt on 4th-and-1 at the Rams’ 45; Peyton’s not happy. With the exception of the long Simpson and Brown runs, the run game was average. Peyton looks sharp and Gijon has a good game.
  • The Defense: The Colts D comes into the game ranked #7 in the league. Pretty good run defense and good pressure on the QB in the first half. Hard hitting. Jackson runs at-will in the second half; running over the Colts’ smaller defenders. Rams move the ball well, but the Colts’ D consistently makes big plays to force punts or FGs.
  • Special Teams: Typical Colts ST play, I’m afraid; a few nice plays but a lot of fair catches and returns to just shy of the 20 while allowing returns of 30+. Silva’s name was called a few times today; that’s encouraging. I happen to like T.J. Rushing, but he mis-judges a punt in the third, and it cost the Colts. He should have fair caught it at the Colts’ 15 but let it bounce instead, and the Rams down it at the Colts’ one.

Random Thoughts:

  • This was a fun game to watch; the offense looked good, the defense looked good, and special teams… well, they had a nice play here and there. The Colts scored early and controlled the game. The Rams played hard, and I was impressed. They were obviously out-classed, but they never stopped playing. Interesting note that since Peyton Manning joined the Colts, the Rams have gone through twelve quarterbacks.
  • With Brown hurt and the game under control, Simpson gets some carries late. I like, and will miss Chad. He plays hard, and I don’t think our kickoff return problems can be blamed on Chad. His 31 yard TD scamper, late in the game, was pretty. He showed good speed.
  • What is it about our kickoff coverage? The Rams return the second half kickoff from 3 yards deep to their 35, and I’m left asking myself why even bad teams have such success against our kickoff team. Is it due to poor execution? Lack of size? Lack of effort? On this play, it doesn’t appear to be the latter as Chad Simpson, the first Colt down-field, lays a big hit on the two-man wedge; we can hear the hit clearly. Keyunta Dawson also slams into the wedge, and there are several Colts who appear to be in position to make the tackle. But the returner finds a lane, and it takes Ramon Humber, the second player down field, to circle back and tackle the returner from behind. Gain of 38, and I still don’t have an answer.
  • Interesting coaching with 6:24 left in the game. On a third-and-three near mid-field, Addai sweeps right and appears to have the first down, but they spot the ball inches short. Manning encourages Caldwell to challenge but instead of challenging right away, the Colts line up and let the play clock run down to one second, then Peyton calls time out and Caldwell throws the challenge flag with 5:53 on the clock. The challenge leads to a repositioning of the ball and a first down. Nice use of the red flag and the clock, Coach.
  • The Colts have scored 30 or more points in four straight games. Also, this is one of those rare games where they rack up more run yards than their opponent (only one, but it counts!). Knowing that the front office has attempted to address some O-Line issues this off-season makes me even more excited for 2010!

Colts win big, 42-6 to go 6-0 on the season.

Total Run Yards
Colts: 156
Rams: 155

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 235
Rams: 177

Manning: 23-34, 235 yards, 3 TDs
Addai: 20 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD
Brown: 2 carries, 58 yards
Simpson: 3 carries, 35 yards, 1 TD
Wayne: 7 receptions, 83 yards, 1 TD
Clark: 3 receptions, 44 yards, 1 TD
Robinson: 3 receptions, 38 yards
Collie: 4 receptions, 36 yards, 1 TD

Other games in the series: