2009 Game Recap – Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars 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 1 – Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Setting The Stage

  • It’s opening day. The Colts come into the 2009 season with an 8-4 lifetime record against the visiting Jaguars. Jim Caldwell takes the field as head coach of the Colts for the first time. Charlie Johnson starts at LT, Melvin Bullitt starts in place of Bob Sanders, and Eric Foster starts in place of Ed Johnson who is serving a one-game suspension.
  • The field: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana, on a sunny Fall day. Both end zones are in shadow while the majority of the field is bathed in bright sunlight.
  • The crowd: Rather subdued for most of the game, actually, considering this is the season opener. But they sure pick it up near the end. And I have to say, I love this sign!

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  • The network coverage: Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots of CBS with the coverage. Haha, the graphics guys must be working out the kinks; they must have switched stats for passing yards and first-downs. Either that, or Indy has 96 first-downs mid-way through the second quarter. Oh well, it’s early in the season, and they got time-of-possession right. Ugh… it’s pronounced SESSION. Really guys, do your homework.

Key plays

1st Qtr:

  • Oh look! Detroit is undefeated. Wonder how long that will last.
  • Haha. Peyton Manning’s first pass bounces off Dallas Clark’s hands, into the air, and directly to Reggie Wayne for a completion of 15 yards. Clark should have had that, but I’m sure not gonna complain about a bit of luck.
  • Wow. Wayne really is amazing tip-toeing the sideline and hauling in a perfectly placed pass in true ‘Marvin-esk’ fashion. First down, Colts in Jags’ territory.
  • Gijon Robinson just got clobbered by a Jags’ LB well after the play. 15-yard penalty moves the Colts to the Jags’ 26.
  • Huge block by Eric Foster opening up room for a 13-yard run over LG by Joseph Addai on third-and-one. First-and-goal.
  • INT… Man, the offense was looking really good, but they just turned it over. Peyton lofts one toward the left-front corner of the end-zone (fade route), intended for Wayne, but the CB coverage is perfect, and the Jags have the ball at their 20.
  • Huge hit by Clint Session. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Maurice Jones-Drew hit so hard he bounced backward, but it just happened. Gotta love Session.
  • Sack by Dwight Freeney! On first-and-ten, at mid-field, Freeney spins inside, collars Jag’s QB David Garrard, and slams him to the ground. Loss of seven. Session has great coverage on the next play, and the Jags punt.

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  • Donald Brown slips out to the right and takes the outlet pass. It looks like he’ll be stopped shy of the sticks, but he hops over a defender and gains the first. Good down-field blocking by Austin Collie and… sniff… Anthony Gonzalez.

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  • And Gonzo goes down, untouched. Makes me wonder if something happened on the last play when he made that great block. Whatever happened (we may never know), he’s helped off, and Pierre Garçon takes his place (for the season).
  • Just came THIS close to a second INT. Peyton and Reggie weren’t on the same page, and the Jags’ safety let the ball slip through his hands.
  • Addai, on the screen, for 17 yards and a first-down. Ryan Lilja with a great block to allow Joe out of the backfield.

2nd Qtr:

  • Addai fumble… ah, geez. The offense is moving the ball, but another turnover gives the ball back to the Jags. I take solace in the fact that’s only Joe’s second fumble in 497 touches.
  • Good defensive stand to hold Jacksonville to a FG. Jags 3-0 mid-way through the Second Quarter.
  • And Manning goes down. Lilja pulls but can’t contain the RDT. Addai looks like he’s supposed to help, but neither are in position to stop the sack. Definitely some confusion in their assignments.
  • WAYNE with a great, leaping catch on third-and-fourteen to keep the drive alive. The CB is in great position, but Reggie adjusts, steps in front, and leaps high for the 39-yard reception. First down in Jags’ territory!

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  • Chili Peppers! Chili Peppers! Peyton audibles to a run, and Addai cuts behind a good block by Jeff Saturday and follows Lilja in for the score. Adam Vinatieri with the extra point (Shane Andrus with the pursuant kick-off, by the way), and Colts lead 7-3.
  • You don’t see Dwight Freeney miss a sack very often, but Garrard spins out of his grasp then does the same thing to Daniel Muir. Once free, he completes the pass for nine yards. Wilcott points out that Garrard lost 20 pounds over the off-season and looks more mobile.
  • Jerraud Powers comes THIS close to the INT. He covered a lot of ground and timed his leap just right, but couldn’t quite bring the ball in. Third-and-eight for the Jags at the Colts’ 30. After a short run, Jags with the FG. Colts 7-6.
  • Manning just long on fourth-and-two. Colts turn the ball over with three seconds. Jacksonville tries the 63-yard FG. No good. End of the half.

3rd Qtr:

  • Jacksonville gets the ball to start the second-half and has to be happy to be behind by only a point. But they can’t sustain the drive and have to punt.
  • Jags with seven defensive backs, and Peyton audibles to the run. Nice work by the O-Line to open a big hole over RG, and Brown gains 11. Ryan Diem with a nice block down-field. Love how Brown wraps up the ball with both arms.
  • Touchdown, Reggie! After several successful running plays (Brown was in most of the series), Manning with a convincing play fake, spins 180 degrees, and lofts one to Wayne over the middle for a 35-yd TD; the first of the season. Clark with a nice block to allow 18 just enough time to release the pass. Colts go up 14-6.
  • Powers with great man-to-man coverage, breaks up the pass on third-and-five. Jags three-and-out, and the Colts get their best starting position (own 37) thus far.
  • A Jags LB/CB blitz forces Manning to turn and run, but he still manages to twist himself and throw to Addai for a gain of four. Jacksonville disguised that blitz very well, but Peyton recognized it early enough to react and completes the play.
  • Awesome defensive series to force another Jags’ punt. Mathis with intense pressure on one play, Freeney on another. Both resulted in Garrard scrambles and throw-aways. Jags punt, and the Colts have the ball at the Jags’ 34!

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  • Ok, so the excitement of taking possession in Jags’ territory lasts about about a minute. Three straight plays for no gain, and Adam Vinatieri misses the 52 yard FG attempt, wide left. Jags’ ball, and a huge missed opportunity.

4th Qtr:

  • Fourth-and-two from the Colts’ seven yard line for the Jags. A sweep to the left, and MJD brings Jacksonville to within two. No one put a finger on him.
  • After the TD, the Jags go for two to tie the game. Garrard lines up wide right, and MJD takes the direct snap. The Colts’ D stuffs the middle, and the try is no good. Nobody on the D-Line was moved backward. Eric Foster and Raheem Brock rocked it by stuffing the middle and giving Mathis time to come around the edge and take MJD’s feet out from under him. Colts hold and lead 14-12.
  • On a huge coaching decision on fourth-and-one from the Jags’ 44, Caldwell decides to punt. McAfee with a high, booming punt that hits at the three and bounces straight up and right to Justin Snow who is hovering at the goal line. Snow checks his momentum, then bats the ball backward slightly to Jacob Lacey who is planted at the one yard line. Jags’ ball, down two, with 6:56 remaining.
  • Kelvin Hayden with great coverage to knock down the pass on first-and-ten. Garrard sneaks for two on second-and-ten. On third-and-eight, great pressure by both Freeney and Mathis forces Garrard out of the pocket. With no place to throw, he runs for it, but Tyjuan Hagler meets him two yards shy of the first-down while Antonio Johnson runs him down from behind. Jag’s punt with 5:25 remaining. T.J. Rushing fields the ball at his 33 and steps out-of-bounds.
  • Brown with an awesome, leaping block on a short fade to Wayne opens a crease and allows Reggie to run for a gain of 11 and a first-down at the Jags’ 44. 3:42 remaining in the game, Colts driving.

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  • Nope. Colts can’t sustain the drive to run out the clock. Brown’s third-and-one attempt over LG is stopped two feet short, and the Colts face fourth-and-one from the Jags’ 35. It’s Brown again, sweeping right, and stopped again for no gain. Jag’s ball with 1:59 remaining. No offensive line push at all.
  • A Gary Brackett blitz on third-and-seven takes Garrard to the ground as he’s throwing. Incomplete. Fourth-and-seven with 1:23 remaining!
  • SACK! A speed rush by Mathis forces Garrard out of the pocket while Brackett blitzes up the middle. Brackett and Freeney team up to knock Garrard backward as he’s throwing. Incomplete. Colts’ ball. Game over! Whew!

Overall Impressions

  • The Offense: They moved the ball well today (10 plays on their first series, 12 on their second, 11 on their third, but only seven points ), but couldn’t seem to finish — only 14 points on a day where they were either very sharp or very sloppy. Very frustrating to watch. It would have been a typical first game for most teams, but we’ve come to expect better from the Colts. The running game was frustratingly ineffective for most of the game. But just when you think they can’t run at all, Saturday opens a huge hole, and Brown runs for six yards on the Colt’s critical final drive. They start 8 of 10 on third-down conversion attempts, but in the end, they fail on both third-and-one and fourth-and-one and end up giving the ball back to Jacksonville with just under 2:00 left.
  • The Defense: Overall, they played fast and hit hard. MJD was held to 97 yards, and when Jacksonville had a chance to drive for the win with two minutes left, the D stopped them cold. The Brackett blitz on a key third-and-seven to cause an incompletion with 1:28 remaining, and the shared sack on fourth-and-seven to seal the game, were both huge.
  • Special Teams: The return game was disappointing. I feel bad for Chad Simpson and Rushing; these guys just do not get openings, and the Colts have bad field position most of the game. Coverage today was decent as they didn’t allow a big run back, but opening holes on our returns just doesn’t seem to happen. On one punt return, Rushing manages to make the first two tacklers miss but doesn’t have the speed to outrun the third.

Random thoughts

  • With his 118th win, Peyton ties Johnny Unitas for most wins in Colts’ history. 2009 will be a history-making season for Mr. Manning. Having said that, Peyton didn’t have a great day. Although he ended up with over 300 yards passing (301-1-1), he seemed anxious and unsettled and threw an easy, early INT, in the Jags end zone. Way too many throws into double coverage, although the TD pass to Wayne was a sweet one.
  • Wayne: Could this guy be any better? Footwork is as good as Harrison’s ever was, and his attitude is better. He doesn’t often go vertical to make a catch, but he proved he can; out-jumping Derek Cox for a critical first down. Ya know what I don’t miss? Harrison, sitting at the end of the bench, looking grumpy. Wayne seems to be involved in between-series discussions with 18, and I like that.
  • Bethea: We need this guy! He’s everywhere… in the backfield stopping MJD… down-field knocking down passes… moving up to eliminate YAC. Antoine played huge today and was especially effective stuffing the run.
  • Brown got a lot of playing time today, and he looked pretty darned good. He tends to try hurtling defenders while Addai tends to spin/skip away from them. Love how Donald hugs the ball with both arms and plows into defenders.
  • Hayden has had injury problems, but today he looked healthy and fast. Good job in man-to-man coverage and he defended a pass in the Jag’s key final drive.
  • Pollack started at ROG, but I wish he hadn’t. There are flashes of brilliance. I can see why the coaches think he can play, but wow… one nice play countered by a dozen bad ones.
  • Session: This was a good game for Clint… lots of stops… lots of hard hits that are audible on tape.
  • Anyone who thinks Joe Addai isn’t quick enough to be a premier back in this league or that he doesn’t run hard isn’t watching closely enough. This guy has heart, drives through tackles, and usually makes the first man miss (often in the backfield, by the way). I’ve seen him avoid hits and step out-of-bounds before, but not today. When he was shaken mid-way through the game, he waved Brown off when Brown tried to replace him. Gotta love that. Having said that, this wasn’t his best day; a fumble, and dropped pass, and he left the game limping.
  • Great, great defensive stop on the two-point conversion after the Jag’s only TD. I hadn’t remembered that Jacksonville used this formation. That means that Miami wasn’t the first to run the Wildcat against the Colts last season; the Colts saw it here first.

Colts win 14-12

Total Run Yards
Colts: 71
Jags: 114

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 294
Jags: 114

Manning: 28 of 38 for 301 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Wayne: 10 receptions, 162 yards, 1 TD
Clark: 4 receptions, 39 yards
Garcon: 3 receptions, 24 yards
Addai (receiving): 5 receptions, 35 yards
Addai (rushing): 17 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD
Brown: 11 carries, 33 yards

Other games in the series: