I won't get a chance to watch tape on the Packers 24-21 win over the Colts, but here are my observations from my perch at the 50 yard line:
- Don't buy the hype on Painter. He was better than he has been, but he wasn't good. Tons of wayward passes. The pass to Wayne was a comically blown coverage and the pass to Garcon was underthrown. It should have been a touchdown. His second touchdown pass off his back foot was ugly. He's easily the #3 quarterback, but should Manning not be able to go, Collins is still a vastly superior choice.
- Having said that, there is something to be said for Reggie Wayne's devotion to him. Wayne played an incredible game and acted as if he was trying to will Painter into the starting job. It's impossible not to love 87. He played crazy hard.
- For the most part the offensive line played well. Castonzo was strong. There were moments of weak protection, but I doubt Peyton Manning would have been sacked tonight, let's put it like that.
- Addai was amazing. Don Brown brought me out of my seat with some great blitz pickups, but looked like he was running in wet sand. I can't see how he doesn't slide down behind Carter soon.
- The Colts may have the best defensive line they've had in years. Moala, Nevis, and Harris all made plays. Hughes filled in for Mathis, and I spent most of my time watching him. He got more pressure than you may realize. No stats to speak of, but I thought he played ok. Dwight Freeney is a beast.
- Sims and Anderson both acquitted themselves well. The Colts look like they went 3-3 on free agent pickups.
- The Colts biggest worry spot is still safety. There were some badly aligned zones leading to big gains in the passing game. Lacey didn't play well, but he wasn't nearly the problem he seemed. It looked to me like there were plays where linebackers were just flat out of position.
- The Colts had few penalties and played hard. The difference between last week and this week was stark. Caldwell had the team ready to play.
- The defense missed Bethea and Bracket. I think had they played, the unit might have looked dramatically better.
- Watching Painter and Orlovsky, you understand the greatness of Manning. There are openings to throw the ball that they just can't hit. There are short windows to avoid a sack, but they don't feel the pressure. It's like watching The Godfather starring Pauley Shore. "Make him an offer he can't refuse, buuuudiiiie."
- The Colts went with a ton of two TE sets. Tamme or Clark were often split wide, but it was a relief to see. That may have just been because of injuries to Collie and Gonzo, but it's the best offensive set for the QBs they have out there.
- I tried to track Ijalana, and was pleased for the most part with what I saw. He's definitely no where near where Castonzo is.
- The crowd was bigger and better tonight, even with the Cheeseheads. How bad is preseason football? I struggled to even give way extra tickets to the game. Sad.
All in all, it was a good night. The Colts might be a little better than I gave them credit for, especially on defense. They are THIN however. If Manning recovers to be Manning, the season may well rise or fall on the ability of the young linebackers to make the leap, especially in coverage. Indy is deep at DT (I can't believe I just said that), but thin at safety. A few injuries on defense, and the whole thing could come unglued.
Considering it's a mortal sin to make too much out of a preseason game, just be content with mild encouragement. If Manning is 100%, there is a path to dominance for this team. It might be a narrow one, hard to hold, but it is there.
The 2011 Colts may not be a great team, but they could be a great team. It's at least metaphysically possible, if unlikely.
That's more than I believed 12 hours ago.