First thoughts from the aftermath of Sunday's 18-14 win over the 49ers. As always, all opinions and identifications are temporary until I watch the tape later this week.
Reasons to Smile:
- 7 and 0. Combined with the Broncos' loss, Indy now has a one game lead on the rest of the conference.
- The run defense, with one notable exception, played very well. Aside from the one run (more on that later), the SF backs carried 16 times for just 39 yards.
- Joe Addai played a whale of a game. The Colts had to leave him in to block on virtually every pass play, and he did so valiantly. There was almost no running room all day long, but Joe did a little bit of everything. If I'm giving out game balls, he'd get mine.
- Reggie Wayne continues to prove just how good he is. That was an incredible game winning TD catch.
- Two forced turnovers. Ataboy, Zomibe.
- Mathis and Freeney. Every time you need them, they show up. If Mathis doesn't also make the Ring of Honor, they should take it down. He's made more game winning/saving plays than any defender in Colts' history not named Freeney. He's incredible. His sack came on a three man rush.
- 64.5% passing and 347 yards has become a bad day.
- Pat McAfee. Wow. With one exception, he had a huge day.
- Amazing effort by Dawson to try and run down Gore on the long run.
- :26 Three time outs. Three points.
- 5:45. Two time outs. They never saw the ball.
Reasons to Frown:
- More mistakes by Garcon. I know he made a huge first down catch, but his route on a bomb late was horrid. He also picked up another penalty. At some point, he has to stop making big mistakes.
- Hank Baskett. Get well soon, Gonzo. If he makes either of his very makeable plays, perhaps this game isn't even close. Terrible.
- Bethea has to catch that pick. Shades of 2007 where Brady hit him in the navel with a pass that would have iced the game. I guess that's why he's a safety.
- Powers/Bethea's double whiff on Gore. That one play is what most people will take away from that game nationally. People will assume the 49ers controlled the ball and the clock. They didn't. Not even close. There was just sloppy tackling. Did anyone see who got pancaked on that play?
- The "Brady" rule call on Session. I hate that rule. Hate it.
- Pollack giving up two sacks. I don't see that he's getting better. The protection was spotty all day. More on this later.
- No holes in the run game. Against three dudes milling around in a standing position before the snap, you should be able to hit for big run gains. Addai was running hard directly at the holes. He did no dancing. There were no holes. This line can't run block even a little.
- 4 field goals. Turn even one into a touchdown, and this game is a walk.
- The dives by the 49ers defenders. That one linebacker saw they couldn't make their substitutions so he dropped like he was shot. When is the league going fine/penalize teams for this nonsense?
- The roof. It's not the elements. That's fine. It's that it creates a weird in and out of the shadows effect. I agree with Demond. Leave the roof closed for 1 PM games.
- Going for it on fourth and inches. The only way to lose that game is to get a FG blocked, or to have a kickoff run back. Good call going for it.
- :06 left, ball at the 12. There's time for one more play. It's nit picky, I know, but if you lose by a score, going straight for the FG there will keep you up all week.
Reasons I'm Flyin':
- The defense won this game. Tremendous effort. The Colts now lead the NFL in fewest points allowed. This D is legit. Zero second half points. 3 turnovers, 4 sacks. One bad play and one bad drive are no big deal. Shutting down a team when trailing in the second half...very big deal.
- The final drive was the kind of drive we have to have to win playoff games. If you get the ball back with the lead and less than 6 minutes to play in the game, you have to ensure the other offense never sees the field.
- This team has some serious leadership. Wayne. Freeney. These guys are banged up, and they went out made huge plays.
- The Colts won against a gritty opponent on a day they didn't play their best.
- Gonzo should be back soon. That will help.
- Half back pass trailing in the fourth quarter? Our coach has stones. Good on you, Jim.
Reasons I'm Dyin':
- The deep ball wasn't there all day. Some readers speculated that Manning's knee was acting up. It did look eerily like last year. He did get Friday off, which raised eyebrows at the time. The deep ball wasn't there all year last year, and when it came back this year, the difference was striking.
- Hayden got hurt again. The young corners really held up remarkably, but I'm beginning to wonder when this secondary will ever get healthy. Houston, New England and Baltimore are up next. We need all our corners.
- Houston is really playing well. A loss is coming for the Colts. It's just a matter of when. That's ok, it's the NFL, they are going to drop a couple of games. I'd sleep better if next Sunday isn't one of them.
- The O-line. It's just not right. Indy should have been able to run the ball against that meandering front. The fact that they couldn't worries me. Deeply.
The Bottom Line:
This was a good week for a wake-up call. The road gets tough from here on out, and it's good for the team to have faced a challenge. The Vikings are pretty good, and they needed a hail mary to beat these 49ers at home. We are still up three in the loss column on the Texans, and now one over Denver and two over Pittsburgh and the Pats. I've said all year that I thought the D had a chance to be special, and I saw nothing today that would dissuade me from that position. Peyton Manning played one of the best 'bad' games you'll ever see. It's a good win. A little 2008 for my tastes, but we'll take it. This team can still get better but if you want to sleep at night, ask yourself this question: is this team better than the Steelers were last year? They were the best team I saw all last year. I think this Colts' team is better. It's not flawless. But it's still the best team I've seen in the AFC at least, if not the NFL.
Sixteen wins in a row. It boggles the mind. Too bad it means nothing other than we have one incredible football team in Naptown.