It's been a star crossed season in Indianapolis. From the injuries to the devastating losses full of crazy bounces, right down to losing a game on a 'leverage' penalty, the Colts have been snake-bit.
So for one final regular season Sunday it was nice to finally get a few breaks.
While my dream scenario didn't work out, the Colts had gotten help even before the game started. First the Jaguars lost both Maurice Jones Drew and David Garrard, which hurt their chances to score a win over the Colts. Then the Chiefs imploded opening up the chance to play the Jets (sporting an injured Mark Sanchez). All Indy had to do was win, and the third seed was theirs.
Of course, seven dropped passes in the second half kept Indy of taking control of the game with the Titans, and when Dominic Rhodes fumbled with 1:46 to play, all seemed lost. The Colts were still going to make the playoffs, but as one fan put it, "The Luke deflated like the Metrodome". As great a story as Rhodes was, that fumble was going to be long remembered in Indianapolis.
Then, almost miraculously, he got his own Jerome Bettis moment. Kerry Collins, who once again showed that if he is given time to throw he can be an effect quarterback, couldn't handle the snap from center. He dove on the bouncing ball, only to have it squirt free into the arms of Robert Mathis.
In a season of black cats and broken mirrors, the horseshoe finally turned up.
Football involves far more luck than we like to admit. The games are played on such a high level and are so tight, that while transcendent players can seem to tip the field in their favor, often times the difference between euphoria and despair is the oblong bounce of the ball.
The Colts' reward for their perseverance, nerve, and fortune is a matchup with a beatable Jets team Saturday night. The Jets will be no easy task for sure. It doesn't pay to look beyond the edge of the map, because here there be monsters. This season should have taught us to be thankful for each and every win, because they have to be earned. Today we should celebrate a division championship, and if the Colts are fortunate enough to win a playoff game, we celebrate that too.
Accomplishments are hard earned in life. Every single one should be celebrated. Those who look down their noses at success as if they deserved more only prove they are not worthy of any. The odds of this team holding up the Lombardi trophy are extremely long (much, much less than 10% even with the most generous odds). This is a team to be embraced and loved even if the season doesn't end in magical fashion.
Then again, the Colts have already won four games in a row to get to this point. Is four more so impossible?
Well, let's just say: it'll take a lot of luck.
- Peyton Manning was a beast on Sunday. That game reminded me a lot of the '07 Playoff game against the Chargers. Manning was incredible that day too, but the rest of the team folded like a house of cards, riddling the RCA Dome turf with dropped passes and fumbles. We needed Peyton to play well down the stretch and he responded. Over the final four games, Manning posted a passer rating of 101.3 with 9 TDs and 2 picks. This season Manning played the first 7 games at a 101.4 rating (Colts go 5-2). Then he played the next five at 74.2 (Indy went 1-4 in those games), before finishing the year at 101.3 over the final four games (Colts go 4-0).
- It took three quarters, but the Indy pass rush finally showed up. Kerry Collins peppered the Colts secondary for most of the game because he had plenty of time to do so. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, however, Mathis and Freeney came to rescue to bail out Indianapolis. I'm not going to say any more about the pass rush until I watch the tape.
- Once again, the Indy D Tackles played a solid game in run defense. This bodes well for this week's matchup with the Jets.
- The drops are starting to drive me crazy. It's no one player. Almost the entire roster dropped balls. Garcon's were the most damning as both were for big yardage. After watch a whole season of this, I just shake my head that there are still people who whine about all Manning's 'weapons'.
- There was no question Vinatieri was going to hit that kick. I've been silent on AV all season. By the time it was all over he went 26/28 and hit a huge clutch kick. Still, with zero 50 yard kicks on the season, he ought to be hitting at a 92% clip. If I knew Vinny could drill that kick that Stover missed in the Super Bowl, I'd be singing his praises. Still, he was virtually flawless this year. His only two misses were in the Redskins game, which the Colts won.
- Indy finished the season with a two game lead over the Jags. Amazing that three weeks ago, the Jags could have won the division. They were never for real. Never. At no point in time.
- McAfee averaged just 35 yards a punt. There was not a pooch punt in the group either. He was awful yesterday. Awful.
- In the big spot, Caldwell went for the first down. Good for him. A tough call brought it back, but that's ok.
- Indy went away from the run game, which was effective, because Manning had so many open guys. Too bad they couldn't, you know, catch the ball. Don Brown was conspicuously absent again, but I have a theory on that. Charlie Johnson really struggled with the LDE. I suspect the Colts felt they couldn't run outside on the Titans so they stuck with their better inside backs. That and the fact that they knew they could throw on the Titans meant they were sticking with better blockers. My guess is that if the Colts have a game plan that calls for more outside runs, we'll see Brown/Addai more heavily with Rhodes on the bench. It think Brown's disappearance had more to do with Charlie Johnson than it did Don Brown.