I suppose the easiest way to sum up last night's win would be to say:
Winning is better than losing.
Last night, Peyton Manning was vintage, Reggie Wayne beat all the coverage, and Pierre Garcon played savage. What should have been a heartening win wound up hanging on the foot of Adam Vinateri, but he reminded us once again how much it helps to have a kicker with titanium balls.
The Colts didn't solve all their problems last night, but they did solve the only question that ever matters at the end of the week: how do we win a game?
It's been three frustrating weeks in a row, so today I'm going to focus on the positive. I plan on writing more about Manning's night (and season) later today, so I'll be brief. He carried the team last night. Maybe quarterbacks get too much credit and blame, but Manning deserved the blame he took for the last two losses, and he deserves the adulation for last night's win. He essentially played perfect football. Watching him repeatedly hook up with Reggie Wayne for long gains was heartening. Wayne and Manning have had similar seasons. Statistically, they are having monster years, but we've all seen a few plays here and there that have cost the team. Still, there's been no quit in either of them. There's no resting on their laurels. They go out every week and keep gunning. With stars like that, it's little wonder this team has made the playoffs every year for nearly a decade.
The man who really deserves attention is Pierre Garcon. Just a few weeks ago, Garcon was having possibly the worst season of any Colt wideout since 1999. Since then, he's caught virtually everything thrown at him. His catch rate is now well up over 50%. He's been playing hard every week. Last night, his catch and run of 43 yards was probably the biggest play of the night. With the Colts clinging to a 6 point lead with just over three minutes to play, Garcon took a short little flip from Manning and slugged his way through the Titans defense, refusing to go down. It was a microcosm of the kinds of plays Garcon has been making in recent weeks. It's almost as if the Colts have decided to change how he's used. We are seeing fewer of the straight 'go routes' and more of the over the middle kinds of plays from Garcon. The result is that Garcon is using his size and strength to gain extra yards through the heart of the defense. It's been a rough go this season, but Garcon has elite skills. Watching him put them to good use is a joy.
Garcon is no longer having the worst season of the last 10 years. I'll update that article next week, but he's played outstanding recently. Simply put, the Colts don't win last night's game without him.
Maybe that's the story here. Maybe that's what the 2010 Colts are all about: responding to criticism, refusing to quit, rising to the occasion.
What will become of this team? How will they do in the playoffs?
We'll find out next week.
The playoffs start early this year.