After the debacle against the Chargers, and the heart breaker against the Patriots, the Colts dropped another game. They gave the Cowboys 17 points to start the contest, and had the chance to pull out a last minute victory on three occasions. Unlike previous weeks, no single unit can carry all of the blame.
The Colts had multiple series where one good play after another would get completely erased by a horrible play or decision. Manning threw interceptions on the heels of key defensive stands, Eric Foster jumped on top of an opponent to negate an amazing goal line stand, and Wayne tallied his only drop to erase a chance for the offense to win after taking the kickoff in overtime. In the end the Colts fell to 6-6, one game behind Jacksonville, and head into a short week — at least three players left the game with injuries.
It makes more difficult to know that some guys had great games. Antoine Bethea was absolutely everywhere and tallied 15 tackles, Pierre Garcon caught EVERY SINGLE throw his way, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both had a sack, Jeff Saturday returned to form, and even Manning was not terrible statistically.
On to the stats.
*S=Superior, G=Good, A=Assist, F=Failed, M=Missed, T=Turned
Notes on the Offense
* If you did not know that Manning had 4 picks, you would probably look at his numbers and think, “Wow, this was a really amazing game for him! 355 yards, a couple of TDs, 75% completion percentage!” Unfortunately, Manning went through a phase of very poor decision-making at the beginning of the game, and threw too many passes into impossibly tight coverage. Many of his picks were the result of staring down his receiver. Manning recovered in the second half, but struggled again overtime.
* Kyle DeVan and Jeff Saturday both had over 80% good blocks with less than 5% bad blocks. These guys have been the Colts most stable linemen this year, even with Saturday’s dip the past few weeks. While much of the line is generally credited with a poor performance, these two have made consistently good blocks that do not get noticed because of failures at other positions. Even Jamey Richard was not horrible.
* Mike Pollak continued to struggle, failed to break 60% good blocks, and showed that one man can ruin another man’s great performance. Pollak was responsible for 2 Hits, 4 Pressures, and at least 4 hits behind the line on runs, including the play where Manning was hit before he could hand the ball off. Pollak has the public support of the front office and, according to Phil B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star, is the probable replacement for Jeff Saturday. The coaches may know what they are doing but statistically Pollak has been outplayed by DeVan, Richard, and Jeff Linkenbach, despite more starting experience and a higher draft than the others combined.
* Ryan Diem was worse than Pollak. He had over 40% bad blocks, and accounted for nearly half of all the pressures in the game. He failed to hold the edge and struggled to sustain a block for more than 2 seconds before he allowed the defender to run at Manning. Charlie Johnson wasn’t much better, but was less than 2% worse than season average. He may not be a long-term answer at left tackle but at least he is not wildly jumping from 15% bad blocks one week to 42% the next like Diem.
* The Receiving corps was really good against the Cowboys. Wayne was the unfortunate target of 5 poor Manning throws, but was nearly flawless otherwise — at least until he needed to be flawless. Garcon had his best day of the season with a perfect completion percentage, 56 yards through the air, a TD, an 11 yard run, and 5 first downs. It may not have been his highest yard total, but he was consistent.
* Javarris James really stood out. While 3.43 yards per carry may not seem that impressive, he ran better than his numbers. 2 of his 7 runs were for touchdowns. This was about the only good news as each of the runners was hit in the backfield at least once – Hart 3, Brown 2, and James 1.
Notes on the Defense
* On a normal day, Mookie, Moala, and Muir may combine for 4 tackles — they combined for 10 against Dallas. The good thing about a lot of these tackles is they came stuffing runs for short or no gains. They didn’t really pressure the quarterback though.
* Freeney had an average game. While he’s been in a sack drought lately, he still averages close to a sack a game, and usually racks up 10 total pressures and hits. Against Dallas, Freeney had 3 hits, 5 pressures, and a sack. Mathis, on the other hand, was rather quiet, despite having a sack of his own — he only recorded 3 pressures.
* Jerry Hughes recently started taking 6-12 snaps a game — he returned to 0 against Dallas.
* Although he started, the Colts have been slowly moving Conner out of a serious role at weak-side linebacker — Hagler is getting used more often. This happened last week as well. Brackett, Conner, and Hagler all had missed and broken tackles — most occurred early in the game. Their struggles corresponded with Dallas gaining 8 yards per carry in the first half. In fact, by halftime, the linebackers had accumulated 5 of their 6 total mistakes. In the second half, they did a better job tackling, which helped limit the run. Pat Angerer had a great game and is looking more and more like a future Pro-Bowler.
* Powers played poorly against Dallas. Some will claim that he is the surest tackler on the team, but he had 2 broken tackles, a missed tackle, led the team in mistakes, and only held on for 2 stops in the first half. He also surrendered 27 yards on the two passes thrown his way. Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon allowed only 32 yards on 7 attempts between them (25 and 5 for Lacey, and 7 and 2 for Tryon). Cornelius Brown did quite well in his limited role. He had the second highest tackle total of the corners and the only time he was thrown at was not completed. One odd thing was that Brown was in on the goal line stands, and when the Colts only played one corner, the coaches rushed Brown onto the field in place of Tryon and Lacey. It may imply that the coaches like something specific about his play style in those situations.
* Antoine Bethea entered the game as the tackle leader, and following it he had a bigger lead. He had no mistakes, tallied 15 total tackles, and was by far the most active player on the defensive side of the ball. He did give up a touchdown on the sixth down of the Colts goal line stand, but he defended it well. Francisco was less involved in the game, but he made his presence felt on a few plays and assisted on others.