The nightmare scenario many Colts fans thought would never happen, has occurred. Peyton Manning, the face of the Colts franchise and the NFL will not only miss the Texans game, but it appears likely the entire season. Without him, the chances of seeing a hometown Super Bowl seem bleak. Here are my five thoughts from the season opener.
1.) I think Peyton Manning is done for the season. As far as we know, the two Colts players that have been reported to have a similar neck surgery to Manning is Kelvin Hayden and Devin Moore. When both of these players went down with neck issues they did not play another down for the Colts in those seasons. I think the same fate awaits Peyton Manning.
For one, the recovery time is three-to-four months after coming off cervical fusion surgery. That means Manning will have completed his rehab towards the end of the regular season/playoff time. That is far too much time missed and far too close to the playoffs for Manning to re-acclimate himself into the offense and try to get his timing down with the wide receivers. It’s also uncertain the Colts will still be in the race by then, and if that is the case, putting Manning’s health at risk in meaningless games would accomplish nothing but more doom down the road.
2.) I think that Ben Ijalana will start sooner rather than later. Jeff Linkenbach did not play very well yesterday against the Houston defense, giving up a ton of pressure from his side. Despite this being the first start for Mario Williams as a stand-up rush linebacker in Wade Phillips new 3-4 scheme, he looked like a natural and beat Linkenbach like a drum. When Linkenbach was given help, he looked lost in his responsibilities, at times leaving Dallas Clark alone to block Williams. It’s apparent that he does not possess the skill and athleticism needed to be a long-term solution at tackle. I say give Ijalana the start and let the rookie take his lumps. Considering that this may already be a lost season, development for the future will be key.
3.) I think that the Colts — like last year against Houston — abandoned the run too early. Addai was pretty effective running the ball averaging around 4.9 yards per carry. Last year he average 4.4 yards per carry against Houston in the opener. When you have a new starting QB, who doesn’t know the playbook thoroughly yet, is still trying to get his timing down with the wide receivers, and is a statue in the pocket, why put him at risk? By running the ball, you alleviate the pressure on Collins, you allow the running game to develop for the future, and you settle down the pass rush. It made no sense to throw the ball twice as much as the Colts did running (31 passes to 15 carries).
4.) I think that Larry Coyer did a poor job of game-planning for this game. There was no secret about what the Texans were going to do on offense this Sunday. Run, Run, Play-action Bootleg. Wash, rinse, repeat. This has been the Texans game plan against the Colts since Gary Kubiak took over as coach of the Texans. Why Coyer wasn’t expecting this, I have no idea. I saw terrible gap control from the linebackers, no spy on Schaub when he ran bootlegs, and zero containment on backside cutback lanes. Everyone saw the Texans strategy coming except Coyer. You can’t blame him entirely, since two of the Texans scoring drives came off good field position after Collins’ fumbles, but if he doesn’t turn this defense around soon, I think his job will be in jeopardy at the end of the year.
5.) I think things will get better. What we saw fielded on the gridiron yesterday was a bunch of players being fitted in at the last second. As time elapses, Collins will be more and more comfortable with the offense, getting his timing and rhythm down with his supporting cast. There is far too much talent around him to be held to only seven points each and every week. I expect this same kind of turn-around from the defense. Though they made a lot of mistakes yesterday, they are correctable with a little technique refinement and tactical changes.
I’ve seen this team this team fight through several adversities in my eight years of fandom ranging from 17 point deficits with only 5 minutes left to 19 players being put on IR. This team has too much pride and too much fight in them to let the loss of one player, even it’s most important player, keep them down. There is a chip on each player’s shoulder right now to prove that Peyton Manning is not the end-all-be-all for this team and I fully expect each player on this roster to prove their metal in the coming 15 weeks.