We predicted a slaughter, and got a dogfight. Why am I so happy? First off, if we had known Bob Sanders would be inactive, we would never have expected the defense to shut down Houston. This team is radically different when he plays. More important than the margin of victory was the reappearance of all phases of the offense. Here's what I noticed: 1. Hey! It's the run game! It was great to see Addai SLAM ahead in the fourth quarter for a big first down conversion. As the game went along, he looked shifty and fast. If this team starts running effectively, it will be hard to beat (see 2006, postseason; don't see 2005, 2007). 2. Harrison did what I wanted to see (my exact quote was: Harrison may be getting open deep, but he's not getting open short). Kravitz complained that all Marvin's completions were short. GOOD! Look, deep balls are freaky. They can result from perfect throws or blown coverage. It's the slants and hooks for first downs that move the chains. THOSE were the plays where Marvin hadn't shown any separation all season. It was those same throws that Manning kept having picked in weeks two and three. These were the routes that Nick Harper(!) was batting down. When corners get sick of giving up first downs to 88, that's when they bite on double moves and big gains follow. Marvin needs a few more games like this convince everyone that he really is ok, but this was a start. 3. Dwight Freeney seems to make all his sacks big ones. He has long been one of the most 'clutch' players on the Colts D (he was the only one to show up for Black Sunday against Pittsburgh). He had two sacks yesterday and both were big. 4. Melvin Bullitt has four picks. That's second in the NFL. He's had three 'game enders'. That sounds impressive, and it's a nice stat for him. It's not that big a deal really. Those are good plays, but none of his picks have been particularly tough plays. He struggled yesterday. 5. Clint Session has improved dramatically from early in the year. 6. Ugoh struggled on the one bizarre drive to end the first half, but Williams had no sacks of Manning. Penalties are bad. Sacks are worse. Given the run and pass offense yesterday, I don't think you can score that matchup as any worse than a wash. Ugoh hasn't always been pretty, but this line is better with him. I say it every week, because it's obvious. 7. Peyton was brilliant again yesterday. Ever since the two back to back games in the wind against great pass defenses, Manning has been unstoppable. His completion percentage is down this year thanks to lots of throw aways from pressure and an ungodly number of drops. His cumulative stats continue to improve each week, and while a couple of the efficiency stats may be lower this year, he'll still throw for 4,000 yards and 28-30 scores. He needs a huge game against SD to get the MVP train chugging at full speed. 8. Sunday night's game is massive. A win, and the Colts are sitting at a very solid 7-4 looking at a spate of winnable games. A loss, and they are right back where they've been...scratching and clawing each week. In fact, a win and they are right back on track for an 11 (or 12) win season. This season may yet be about the improvement of the Titans (re: VY got benched) more than the decline of the Colts. Really the only 'bad' loss the Colts have was the debacle against the Jags, where the officials blew several obvious calls and turned a blow out into a loss. The Chargers MUST have this game Sunday. It's going to be tough. Everyone pray for Bob's knee this week! 9. The Jags are done! The Jags are done! After the game Jack Del Rio repented of his harsh treatment of the team. He ordered the locker room repainted with pastels, and bought all his players muffin baskets. He then demoted MJD to the practice squad for 'giving him a dirty look'. What a clown. Links: Peter King puts Manning at #2 in the MVP watch, but then says he thinks the Colts would be 3-7 without him? Really? Which 3 do you think they win? I'm thinking 1-9 would be generous. Demond Sanders: After Warner's middling 1 touchdown, 1 pick effort against Seattle it is fair to say the MVP race is on like Donkey Kong. Someone is going to win their record-tying third MVP. Warner is the sexy pick right now because he's leading an exciting young team. He also has the comeback story working for him. Manning can overcome that, but it will be difficult. Lots of wins and touchdowns are in order. Dallas Clark talks to ESPN Manning plummets in Quick Reads...all the way to number two for the week. He had been on top the previous two weeks in a row.