(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
This Monday's Colts Notebook, while still true to its newspaper-like style, will be a bit different than the usual entry. Today, we’ll discuss the playoffs, Baltimorean animosity, and a short breakdown of the Luck to Fleener touchdown. And, since the Colts are playing the Ravens, we'll talk about eminent domain – the rarely mentioned factor that not only finalized Robert Irsay’s decision to come to Indianapolis, but also possibly affected the odd timing of the move.
Going “Back” to Baltimore for the Playoffs
Indianapolis’s wild card playoff opponent resides in a city that loves Chuck Pagano but doesn’t feel quite so warmly toward the Colts, the team they attempted to seize through eminent domain, sadly sealing their fate in the struggle to keep the team from heading off to Phoenix, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, or Indianapolis. All those cities had entered the conversation for the Colts’ new home beginning in the late 1970s. (Take a moment to imagine a Jacksonville Colts team, playing at the Gator Bowl, which was part of the city’s plan in 1979)
As talks broke down in the spring of 1984, Maryland state legislature went ahead and approved the eminent domain bill a couple days before the team left, sparking the midnight move. By the time then-Maryland Governor Harry Hughes signed the bill on March 29, 1984, the Colts were already in the Circle City. (Source: The Baltimore Sun: Anatomy of a Move. There is also an interesting, more in-depth look at Examiner.com)
Jim Irsay’s very telling comments on the move, from a 2009 CBS Sports article by Clark Judge:
"People don't realize it, but my dad did not want to leave," the Colts owner said at a break during this week's NFL owners' meetings. "This was not like Al [Davis] doing something radical and being a maverick. It took him years [to make the decision], and it wasn't until the 'eminent domain' issue came up that he made up his mind. It was tough for him."
Despite all the peace Irsay has attempted to make over the years, many Baltimoreans still feel the sting of the heartbreak of their favorite team leaving for a new city, not much bigger than their own. There will be talk of the move – it’s an interesting story, after all – and there will be angry fans in Maryland. Yet, the game will be played by young men who aren’t old enough to remember the event that made a whole city so angry.
OLB Dwight Freeney is one of the older players on the team, but still was only four when the Colts moved to Indy, was asked whether it mattered to him that, of all places, they were going ‘back’ to Baltimore. “It doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “We’ll play in the parking lot. We just want to go out there and play football and be in this dance, which we are and just go out there and play against the best. Our goals, we have to accomplish these goals.”
“They’re a great team. Obviously, Coach Pagano knows more about them than I do so lean on him if that’s who it ends up being, but obviously a historic defense. I know the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis so it’ll be interesting. But I’ve heard it’s a tough and hard place to play. Obviously, everybody knows about their defense so hopefully it’ll be a good matchup.”
Whatever the focus of the players on both teams, the focus for some of the media and many fans in Baltimore will be the Colts returning to the city where they refuse to display the word “Colts” on their stadium scoreboard, instead electing to refer to the visitors as “Indy.”
Not Just Happy to be there
For many fans, after an equally promising and improbable season, Indy’s foray into the postseason is like icing on the cake, an unexpected bonus in an unexpected season. The Colts seem to provide little evidence of being a good team outside of their 11-5 record. Yet they continue winning, never listening to what others say about them, never looking at things like DVOA, or the raw production statistics that say they shouldn’t be winning so many games. They have been outscored (325-360) and outgained (5799-5988 yards) on the season, and Andrew Luck has been sacked 41 times.
Now, just as people predicted a losing record before the season, many now believe the Colts will likely be a one-and-done in the playoffs, even against the reeling Baltimore Ravens. These Colts, however, just like with those preseason projections, don’t see things the same way as those of us on the outside. They are not just happy to get to the playoffs after all they have been through.
“The story has yet to be written,” said rookie tight end Coby Fleener. “Ultimately, it’s what we do in the playoffs that means something. Getting there is one thing but winning games there is another.”
“We’re not happy just to be in,” added Andrew Luck. “There’s an ongoing mind just like every team in the playoffs and we’re shooting for that goal. We’ll take it one week at a time, but it is great to be in the playoffs for those veterans, but that’s not the end of the journey by any means.”
A couple days before their win against the Texans, Head Coach Chuck Pagano was talking about coming back to coach again and said, “…our goal from day one has been to hoist the Lombardi, we didn’t know when and where. Our deal now is why not now, why not us?”
They didn’t look like a winner on paper before the season, but they are. Heading into the playoffs, they again don’t look like much on paper, aside from their momentum and surprisingly good 3rd down conversion rate (7th in the NFL), but the Indianapolis Colts don’t care how they look on paper. And they are far from satisfied with just showing up to the dance.
Breaking down Fleener’s Touchdown
Coby Fleener didn’t have a particularly great game overall, but his short touchdown catch in the first quarter helped the Colts to play with the lead for the majority of the game. Indianapolis lined up looking like they would try a run after an empty backfield play didn’t work out. “It was a play-action play,” Fleener said, “and I think you’ve got to credit the o-line for selling run and the play by Vick Ballard in the backfield. They bit pretty well and came up a little bit and Andrew (Luck) threw it in there.”
The offensive line definitely sold the run look on the play. All four Houston linebackers barreled forward to try to stop the run while Fleener appeared to feign a whiffed block on the outside linebacker, who was picked up and slowed by a diving Ballard. The fake was so convincing that the camera initially followed Vick Ballard, the way camera operators used to follow Edgerrin James by mistake. Fleener quickly turned and caught a perfect pass right in the middle of the letter A in the Indianapolis end zone.
This was only Fleener’s second opportunity to celebrate a touchdown in his rookie season. Would he break out another unusual “jackhammer” dance? Nope. This time, “it was a tribute to the late Michael Jackson,” he said of his celebration. “I think it went well.” Regardless of his celebration (It surely didn’t get as much attention as Hilton’s odd end zone gyration), the play was a success, and it set the Colts up to play with the lead for all but about 12 seconds afterward.
A Few Good Quotes
Luck on the big guys dancing in the locker room after their win: “I’d say there are a lot better dancers. It’s nice to unwind, un-tuck your shirt and have a little fun in the locker room especially with coach Pagano there.”
Deji Karim, who was signed back to the active roster about three weeks ago, discussing his kickoff return for the touchdown that took the lead and the momentum back from the Texans: “All week we had been preaching it. (Marwan Maalouf), the special teams coordinator, had been telling us we were going to get one and just to prepare for it. We ran the return and it just split open. I mean I’ve got to give all the credit to all my blockers on kickoff return. They got the job done. They’ve been doing it every week and I kept telling them over and over again that we were going to get this. They stayed patient with me, opened it up for me and I just took it for six. It’s all a credit to them.”
Vontae Davis on the Colts: “We compete, that’s what it’s about in the National Football League. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to come in this organization and be a part of this team.”
Pagano, to the people still fighting for their lives against cancer: “You are strong enough. You have one thing that you find out, that you’re a lot stronger than you think you are. Have a positive attitude, wake up every day, and have a faith, a belief that you’re going to beat it and you’re going to win. That’s the best message that I can give any of them. If they believe and they have faith, they’ll beat it. Lean on those people that are very, very close to you. But when you’re put in a situation like that, like I said, you’re a heck of a lot stronger than you really think you are. The will to beat it and the will to survive will get them through.”
All Quotes for today's notebook are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
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Win or lose, one of the best things about playing the Ravens is that Chuck Pagano will be on the Colts sidelines and Jim Caldwell will be on the Ravens sidelines.
Isn't it ironic the colts' have to play the game in Baltimore, the seen of there midnight escape in 1984. It has always been a tough place to play and win. The colts' are 2-0 against the ravens in the playoffs including a playoff win in 2007. How would it look like to come into there place again and beat them for a third time. The crowd would start to riot if this happened. I would like them to get out of there with a win, as well as there safety. Go colts!
Good reference to the eminent domain issue. It's never mentioned when the east coast media give their filtered version of the events leading up to and including the move. True, they didn't sign it until after the move but Irsay had caught wind of it well before it was passed. It was definitely a factor. BTW, if you mention the eminent domain issue to someone from Baltimore they get pissed because it's true. Baltimore has no one to blame but themselves for losing the Colts.
I don't believe in this team yet. I want to, I really do but it hasn't clicked for me. For years is watch Peyton play close games and I really, if ever, sweated it. I believed in him and Marvin and Reggie and Edge and Dallas but I'm not there yet with this team. They haven't reached that level, or built that kind of history to warrant such faith. I'm devoted to them and will be cheering all the way but a one and done wouldn't surprise me either. Maybe the 11-5 record should be all the proof I need but it's not.
Any way we can paint the Colts Plane to look like Mayflower Trucks.. or show up in them :-) you know the whole salt in the wounds thing.
I have to watch the game streaming, being down here in StinkState, I mean, Florida. So I sit at my PC, with my Luck Jersey on, my Colts hat, my Colts slippers...
With the kickoff TD return, I was yelling and my wife said, "what? was it a TD or a two yard rush for a first down?" Apparently, I yell loudly no matter what the gain!
Great game. Would be sweet to win in Baltimore and then, gulp, face the Patriots or Broncos? Or is it the remaining lowest ranked team?
"Odd end zone gyration"?! That's the Bernie! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJMBmsK5hXc
@Questions Authority Hahahahaha! Caldwell is a super guy and a find position coach, but words cannot express how much I agree with your comment :)
@vinylsoundsgood They didn't sign it, but the legislature passed it 38-4. I agree. I think as soon as he heard about that, he didn't have any more love left for Baltimore, MD.
@MitchIsaacs I'm one of the people expecting a one and done, and I won't be disappointed in them. I'm just impressed by their belief in themselves.
They really aren't very good, but if they keep their overachieving mentality when they have some more talent, they could really be special. They're really going to need an influx of talent, though.
@MitchIsaacs You don't have to believe. They do. And they'll show you why.
@Sandtiger Perhaps I should try something on photoshop. I don't know if I could put it on the site, but I'd definitely get it circulating on twitter.
I live in FL too, and the Houston/Indy game was the TV game at 1pm. I was about to head out to a sportsbar at 12:30 when I checked the guide and saw it was on. Hooray I didn't have to leave! The playoff games are all on TV too... btw!
@buymymonkey Hey, a 2-yard rush for a first down can be a thing of beauty. One of my favorite plays of the season was a qb sneak where Luck stumbled forward, saw some daylight behind the right side, and plowed forward for another 6 or 7 yards.
I have a feeling the Ravens and their fans are looking at the Colts the same way we are looking at them: the one beatable AFC opponent besides maybe Cincy.
But if we beat Baltimore, New England awaits.
@buymymonkey Colts will play Denver if Texans win, otherwise they will play Patriots.
@Lvl9LightSpell Oh man. I watch so little baseball, I live under a rock as far as baseball stuff is concerned. That is awesome. A Weekend at Bernie's reference, I guess?
@DougEngland Thank you.
@MarcusDugan After Caldwell was so badly outcoached in the Super Bowl loss to New Orleans, I realized that the Colts would never go all the way with him at the helm. His ultra-conservative (and even that's being kind) play calling used to infuriate me. So as painful as last year was it was worth it to have Caldwell gone.
@MarcusDugan Ah, thanks for clearing that up. I thought I read one time that they did attempt to seize the team after it had already relocated to Indy but were shot down by the courts. Don't remember where or when I read that.
@WillSparg it wasn't on in Orlando. Maybe some other part of Florida? Yep I know about the playoffs on tv. Thank goodness!
@MarcusDugan Sure is! Basically became the A's unofficial dance last season.
@vinylsoundsgood You are right about that too, as far as I can tell. They just didn't know when to stop. According to the Baltimore Sun's timeline:
March 27: Irsay had a new list of demands that were probably in line with Indy's proposal, IMO, but the same day, the MD state legislature approved the eminent domain by a landslide.
March 28: They tried to tell Robert Irsay they accepted his list of "demands," even though they had already voted to take over the team (kind of underhanded, IMO). Irsay didn't respond. His ace in the hole was the fleet of moving trucks that started moving the team that night.
March 28: MD governor signed the eminent domain bill, and they wired a $40 mil offer to Irsay for the state to buy the team, but...the Colts were already gone.
March 30: They filed the official eminent domain suit in court (I don't understand the difference between signing it in law and trying to force it in court - I would guess because the Colts didn't comply, but I'm no lawyer)
It took them over a year and a half a million dollars, according to the article, to lose the battle in court.
Here's the article from 2009: http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baltimore-colts/bal-baltimore-colts-move-timeline,0,4891536.story
I enjoyed it, but I was 3 when they moved, so much of it is new to me.
@Lvl9LightSpell Wow. Knowing all that now, I have a much bigger appreciation for T.Y.'s celebration.