I spent the last two minutes after the Wayne TD yesterday freaking out. Demond and I have a rule, if something is going on in a game, I call him. He turns games off for the safty of his family, and I call him to alert him of a miracle. The last time I called, I woke him up in time to see Robert Vaden lift IU to first round win. Yesterday, I picked up the phone and it was dead. Someone had unplugged my Vonage router, and my direct line to the States was cut off. Long story short, in my frantic efforts to plug the phone in during the timeout after the TD, I unplugged the modem for the internet, and spent the next several minutes frantically rebooting everything. Sigh, life in Argentina.
So today we are all left with our "where were we when" stories and stunned memories of one of the truly ridiculous wins any of us have ever heard of. There's just one dark cloud: it shouldn't have happened. The Tampa win 6 years made us feel like the Colts were legit because the offense rose up and took that game. Tampa had some dumb penalties, but no turnovers in the final few minutes. Yesterday, however, felt like Houston fell apart more than Indy won. Granted, the Robert Mathis strip was perhaps the single coolest defensive play I've ever heard of (it's likely to be my new desktop photo for a few months). But at the end of the day, the sick feeling we all had around 4 pm yesterday shouldn't be forgotten.
This team has serious issues, and we all need to honestly admit that it might not be a playoff caliber team. The offense may still work itself out, and getting Ugoh and Lilja back should help. But for now, the line just doesn't give Peyton enough time to hit the deep ball and makes the run game inconsistent. All season, the Colts have been throwing long, but something just seems off. Peyton's throws are a hair short or long; the WRs continue to drop passes (while alternately making insane catches). By the way, how weird is it that Peyton throws 2 TDs in the final four minutes, and he's only reason #5 or so on the list of reasons we won that game?
On defense, however, we need a 2006 like transformation. There were three pieces that saved the day in that fateful year. The first was the addition of Booger McFarland. It didn't help right away, as the Colts worst days on D happened after he joined the club. But by the time the playoffs hit, Booger was a major force, dominating the KC game. Unfortunately, there are no former pro-bowl tackles sitting out there for the Colts this time. Secondly, Gilbert Gardner was replaced by Rob Morris. This year, Clint Sessions has been a major offender on D by not maintaining his gaps. The good news is that Tyjuan Hagler is coming back as soon as he's eligible (Green Bay game). Finally, Bob Sanders got healthy. The Zombie was around for most of the first game and a half, and the run D wasn't strong, but it wasn't this shaky either.
A huge worry on D has to be the corner play. The Colts just aren't as deep at corner in 2008 as they were in 2006. In 06, they had Harper and David with MJax in the nickle and Hayden as a fourth. Now Jackson and Hayden start and Jennings comes in to give up third down conversions. Jackson had a rough day yesterday, but that's been the exception rather than the rule. It's easy to throw around meaningless sayings like: "They have to 'fly around' more" or "The coaching staff has to 'coach them up'", but in the NFL games usually come down to talent. I don't think it's a given that they the 2008 Colts have enough of it all over the field. Freeney and Mathis are clearly special players. Gary Brackett is above reproach. We haven't seen Freddy Keaiho make the leap, and there are may be too many holes to fill.
Can the Colts win this Sunday? I suppose that's always the only question that matters. Sure. They SHOULD win. There's no indication that Baltimore is any good. They've lost two tough games to good teams, so people have given them some modicum of respect, but they don't strike me as world beaters. The bottom line is that if the Colts can't beat Baltimore at home and a suddenly reeling Green Bay team on the road, they probably don't have the horses go a long way this year. This may just be an 8-8 team. They could be dramatically better in 4 weeks, but I'm no longer as sure of that as I once was.
Injuries or not, you shouldn't need miracles to beat the Texans backup QB after you go up 10-0. Something is broken, and if it could be fixed, you would have seen it yesterday. The Colts won, but I'm not sure anything was fixed.
Audibles at the Line from FO deals more with the Texans than the Colts. It's hard to argue that approach.
If you think I was exaggerating what would have happened if we lost that game, just listen to the post game quotes by the Colts. Dungy called it "a season saver". We were dead folks.
Clayton didn't have much to say about the game, but the photo is great.
Here's a great interview with #98. He carried the D for stretches last season, and won the game yesterday. He'll be a classic Colt someday for sure.
Demond Sanders: That was a fair assessment of what happened yesterday. I think the Colts themselves would tell you they weren't very good yesterday. I do not think that's being negative, I think that is being realistic. Eventually it comes down to players making plays. The Colts don't have the same players they have had in the past. Over the next three weeks (BALT, @GB, @TEN) we'll find out if the current lineup has what it takes to win in the NFL. But as for today, I'm just glad they aren't 1-3.