Do we start with an offensive line which gave up 3 sacks and countless hurries and whose poor play never really allowed the team to get into a rhythm? Do we focus on the receivers who failed to create any separation in the secondary and, when the ball was thrown their way, were unable to come up with a big catch?
Or do we look at the quarterback? Called the future of the league in the preseason, he was unable to find any sort of consistency. Too many incomplete passes, too much indecision, too much wild scrambling in the backfield.
Should we turn our ire towards the coaches, who inexplicably stopped calling running plays after the first drive of the 3rd quarter, despite their brutal efficiency (19 carries for 101 yards (5.3ypc))? Coaches who seemed shocked that the opposing defense played a responsible, yet aggressive defense at all three levels?
How about the defense? Sure, they did okay against the pass, holding the "superstar" on the other side of the field to just 164 yards on 18/27 passing (6.1ypa), but they were gashed by the run (39 carries for 179 yards, 4.6ypc, and 3 TDs) and completely undisciplined - both in coverage and in penalties - on 3rd-down.
This was a team who had an incredible season in 2012. They made some pretty significant changes in the off-season. There were some whispers of Super Bowl. And now, 1-2 and a game against a divisional rival on the horizon. Where does this team go from here? With the injuries they are facing, is there any help on the horizon?
Every blogger becomes a blogger because of their intense love and/or passion for a team, a cause, a genre, a hobby. I became a blogger because I love the Colts and, just as important, I love talking about the Colts. The longer I stay a blogger, the less I feel and act like a fan. Sometimes, we get so busy analyzing, telling, demonstrating, talking, predicting that we forget the reason we do all of that is because of how much we enjoy Sundays, how much we love the Colts.
I disagree with the Colts overarching philosophy when it comes to building a team. I am still against the trade that brought Trent Richardson to Indianapolis (though I won't make any judgments on him, as a player, for quite a few weeks). But gosh, Sunday was fun, wasn't it? A dominant, swarming defense that punished the opposition (let's just forget that one alcoholism-inducing drive in the 1st quarter, okay?), an efficient, if not explosive, offense, and just enough correct calls from the officials that you can hold on to your sanity.
I still have some concerns about this team: will that defense show up every week? The secondary was aggressive with the press-man concepts, while remaining disciplined against the 49ers read-option and play-action plays. The front was active and, again, minus that one drive, took it to a very good 49ers' OL drive after drive. And the linebackers - I'm not counting Erik Walden, even Erik Walden wouldn't count Erik Walden right now - read and reacted marvelously. It was the most-complete performance by a Colts defense in the Pagano era. And it was all done without LaRon Landry (hello, Delano Howell) and Pat Angerer (I love the guy, but it'd be great if he could stay healthy). If Pagano and Manusky can get the defense to perform up to this level on a weekly basis, this team will win the division going away.
On the other side of the ball: the Colts really are becoming a dominant running team. After today's performance - against a really good defense (I'm sensing a good bolding pattern, fun) - the Colts have carried the ball 91 times (including QB runs) for 439 yards (4.8ypc). That's really good. I thought Sunday was Pep Hamilton's best performance as a play caller.
My only qualms? The Colts 3-and-short play calling is really questionable. You call yourselves a power running team. You're showing you're a power running team. Line up and POWER RUN IT. Honestly, for all of my complaining about the running game, the one thing I've been pretty consistent on is this: I want the Colts to be a team who can line up on 3rd and 4th-and-short and pick it up. That they've apparently put together a roster that can do that, but seem to outsmart themselves time-after-time, is really confusing. Just line 'em up and run 'em over.
And finally, at some point, I hope Andrew Luck can continue to develop as a down-field passer. We saw him do some amazing things last year. We've seen less of that this year. Most of it has been a lack of opportunity. Allow him to go deep. Allow him to use the dominant running game to help with that by lining up in some power running formations and using the play-action. There's room to improve. But that's good news. This Colts team is so far from reaching its offensive potential.
But right now: who cares? The Colts beat... no, dominated the San Francisco 49ers - THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERs, people! - on their home field. They put forth a dominating performance on both sides of the ball. No complaining about running the ball and stopping the run. No fretting over a lost 1st-round draft pick. No need for heart-stopping late-game heroics. Just fun. Erik Walden jokes and fun. And in this age of social media, instant analysis, and always having to be right, sometimes we need to just stop and have fun.
And speaking of fun, here come the Jaguars!
The play calling was still poor to fair this game just like the last two. One decision that I believe was Pagano's was the call to go for the extra point with four minutes left. It made no tactical sense and maybe its me still having little to no faith in any colts defense for the last decade and a half. Going for one left us at a 13 point game. If we go for two and get it its a 14 point lead and if we fail to convert it its still two TD's for the 49ers to take the lead. Thankfully it didn't matter. Anytime were in these situation I am reminded of the 2003 Tampa Bay MNF game.
Greg, how in the world could you let Barnwell beat you to "Irsay It Ain't So"?
That one's so great, in hindsight, that it's amazing none of us thought of it WHEN HE CUT PEYTON MANNING.
Plus, I mean, classic Weezer.
Great post, Greg, snarkalicious and honest in your own unique way. Glad that it happened after a fantastic Colts win, which proves once again that the game isn´t meant to be played in written columns or voting polls, but on the field.
It seems like the Colts have done a really good job so far at playing to the level of their opponent... except in this game. They underwhelmed against the Raiders, but still won. They were sloppy against the Dolphins, though the refs didn't really help in that game. And in this game, they smashed the 49ers in a slugfest, and beat them at their own game. Do you guys realize we beat the 49ers by more points than any other win last year? Our greatest point differential was the Thursday night Jacksonville game, where we won by 17 points. We just beat the 9ers by 20 in their own house!
I'm hoping that this game is the jumpstart to an even better season than last year. Our coach is healthy and our defense looks to be improving. Our offense has the potential to have the best QB/RB combo in the league. If our o-line plays as well as they did yesterday, getting consistent push in the running game, and giving Luck enough time in the passing game, this could really be an elite offense that can beat you in a myriad of different ways. In the time I've really been watching the Colts (2005-06), that'd be a first.
Also, living in CA, this was the first time I could watch the Colts live. What a game to start out with!
And how about the fun of all the expert picks and predictions being dead wrong? Loved it! This one goes in the "that's why they play the games" hall of fame.
I heard Dungy say this on Sunday Night Football: the Colts D reminded him of his defense in one specific way, they were flying around everywhere. Hitting very hard, tackling well. While the Dungy Cover 2 was vanilla and a "bend don't break" he made up for it by having them swarm. I remember how a ball carrier or receiver that made it into the secondary often had 5 or 6 Colts all over him in seconds. If we keep the defense imaginative and have guys flying around and punishing people, it's going to be a thing of beauty.
I think the reason why the Colts couldn't go deep yesterday was a) it required to much time to get a deep pass off and considering the state of the line the Colts didn't want to take that risk and b) based on what I saw from TV, the niners were determined not to give up anything deep. there safeties were playing back for the most part and there were several nickel packages they were playing. All the deep passes the Colts were running just looked locked down
It was a great day to be a Colts fan. And this morning isn't too half bad either, but I still just have this nagging feeling while an elite run game is great we are turning into the 08-09 Jets. Trade away top picks, elite run game and great D. They were a great team, but come December and January when they needed to pass the ball they were screwed. And we know how they end up right now. Not that we can't pass the ball if we wanted to, but if we just coddle Luck and don't give him any opportunities to be that great QB and instead use him as a hand off machine I'm worried that will hurt his development. I just wish we'd pass more and it was a 2nd/3rd rounder for TR. Then I'd be happy and more comfortable with the Colts heading forward.
Let's flip TRich, Walden and Satele to the Giants for JPP and an autographed pic of Ahmad Bradshaw! !!! I promised, if the Colts won, to have Andrew's face tattooed over my face ... hoping if I dye my neckbeard black and do an Andre the Giant impression, nobody will call me on it. Anybody want a peanut?
Werner's beginning to begin to come on. If he's good enough to keep Walden on the bench, at some point, that's a solid start for the 1st rounder, learning a new position. It seemed like Moala Mathis and Redding were getting good pressure all game. Freeman was great. It was great to have Conner back. I think he really helped shut down the 9ers rushing attack.The offense is officially boring, but man oh man, Reggie! He juked like 3 guys on that long run after catch. That never happens! I think Pep and Luck will open it up more against shittier backfields in the weeks to come.
In the California sun it was Stanford v. Stanford. What a great game!
Keep it it coming, Greg. You are hilarious, and you know what yr talking about even when you're wrong, caught picking against yr favorite team.. All of you guys at CA do. It's great.
Excellent call on just having fun.
I was so stunned (and I guess just waiting for reality to rear it's ugly head) that I didn't enjoy this game as much as I should have. Shoot, I still can't believe it.
It was a great day...the defense really stood out to me as well. Backing down because of injury would be understandable but they really did a nice job on perimeter contain and aside from Gore's wild romp in the first half they were awesome. They only gave up 12 rushing yards in the second half. That's amazing.
I missed the 1st half in transit back home, but here's what I took away from the 2nd half - HOLY DEFENSE BATMAN! I don't remember seeing such consistent, hard-hitting tackling in a long time. Subtract a few Kelvin Sheppard appearances (as in, he *appeared* right at the ball carrier but failed to wrap up a sure tackle), and I was highly encouraged.
Howell laid some wood. Bethea's 3rd down Kap-killer was phe.nom.en.al. Butler played bigger than his size. Active hands all over the field. Just wow...
As Walden has been the fan favorite whipping boy, I was specifically watching for him to blow it. To be honest, I'm not sure what I should have been looking for besides "setting the edge" which, to me, would mean he doesn't let the ball carrier get outside of him. Assuming that's correct, what caught my eye about him was his patience. At first I thought "wow, he is slow", but he deliberately looked to be trying not to get pushed inside ... like he was happy to occupy his blocker/space so long as he kept the play from getting outside of him. I agree w/the general consensus on his signing, but I'd also like to know if (a) I'm understanding his role correctly and (b) if anyone else noticed what I did.
Love the sarcasm at the beginning. Very nice. Two thoughts
1. I think the downfield passes will come back as the Colts prove the WILL run it to win. There were a few times yesterday, where you could see that SF was really playing the run heavy. It just happened after the Colts had a 2 score lead. That will change soon if the D and run offense can hold up.
2. I may have to be the first to apologize to McGlylnn. He did a very credible job, on short notice, at C. Is there any way possible that Satelle isn't the worst OL? And can we just switch him out now?
@TheGreatMisdirect Yup that game was great fun. Like you it was my first live Colts game so it was wonderful to see such a dominant game.
Like pretty much everyone here, my only complaint was the conservative call on 3rd/4th and short. It you're a power running team that is WHEN YOU POWER RUN! I hope that once the running game gets a little more established Pep will allow Luck to be a little more aggressive in the passing game and take more shots down field. Maybe use play action as a spring board for a more aggressive passing attack like the Saints.
@RobertItoh Yeah, I think that was part of it. Pep's game plan was definitely to get the ball out of Luck's hands as quickly as possible.
@Candlebox I get what you're saying, but I think even an incidental comparison of Luck to Mark Sanchez is a crime against nature.
@Candlebox I do agree with your worry, since rush offense correlations with winning are not as strong as pass offense. That said, I'm trying to take the bright side and say that perhaps Indy can make like the 2004 Patriots who won the Super Bowl with a 7th ranked rush and 11th rank passing offense (although I'd hope that Indy's pass offense would be ranked better than that), or the 2005 Steelers who went all the way with a 5th ranked rushing offense (I'm closing my eyes and going "LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" at their low ranked passing offense that season...).
@ColtsHead_Ben Thought the same thing during game. Tweeted Kyle, got shot down immediately. haha
@matt_has Totally agree about Bethea's tackle on Kaepernick -- that was a "don't even try to run that shit" response.
@matt_has In the first half, on SF scoring drive, you can watch "Where's Walden" as he continually crashed into an offensive lineman and let Frank Gore run into the secondary like a gazelle. In the second half, he wasn't terrible (to my eyes). Unfortunately, the more I watch him, the more I think he's Gilbert Gardner v2.0. I just hope someone takes his place before the end of the year like Rob Morris.
The whole line looked better with McGlynn making the calls. He was in command out there. Satele looked like he was apologizing all game last week. His body language showed he knew what a rough game he was having IMO.
@AJ_ @Candlebox That's my issue, is that we aren't even ranked that high. We're like what 20th right now in passing yards? They're very efficient yards, but still I would like to see some more downfield shots and Luck throwing more than 200 yards, which he hasn't for 2/3 games so far. I liked the Miami game plan approach a lot better, there was a lot of passing and running was used to supplement it. I would love a balanced offense, which is what everyone was wanting when Manning was here, but by balanced I mean slightly more passing than running. Not an almost 2:3 ratio on Passes to Runs.
@GregC @Candlebox @AJ_ They have the personal to be a great passing team, and have two great deep threat WR's yet we insist on short passes. Agreed on the gameplan, and they thought they could over power the 49ers and I can't disagree with the results.
Why aren't we seeing more gameplans like when we played the Giants in the preseason? And just passed it and were real aggressive in the air?
Couldn't agree more with the lead point, they think a FG is insurmountable and that's when you should stop being aggressive.
But I just have that nagging feeling. Why spend a #1 pick on the best QB prospect in forever and utilize him this way? It doesn't make sense. Both the OAK and this game the plan was to just run it down their throats. I almost feel like our success through the run is almost pure persistence than actually dominance. We literatly just run it down their throats, and that's how we get our yards.
That said, I think yesterday's game plan was, by-and-large, fine. There weren't a lot of down field shots, but I'm not sure there were a lot of down field opportunities.
My criticisms of Pep and company yesterday would be this: stop using your fullback as a 5-tool player. There are way too many plays where Havili is split wide, going in motion, etc..
This is not college, the fullback is not a "split-wide" kind of athlete. This is not about running the ball and stopping the run, it's just the reality that using your FB like that is robbing an actual good receiver from a snap AND making it easier on the defense.
My next criticism would be their 3rd-and-short play calling. You say you're a running team. You call 39 runs (well, 35?). But on 3rd-and-short, they seem to outsmart themselves.
Those are the times when a power running team licks their lips.
Finally, the team is too conservative in general, but Pep's play calling is pretty conservative. They play for field goals. They think they can grind out 10-7 wins.
Anyhow, yes, in some ways it feels like they are reducing Andrew Luck to Trent Dilfer, but it's hard to say that after an efficient win over a tough defense. Let's see what happens against the Jaguars.
@matt_has @bradicus18 @Music Man Not always. As a 3-4 OLB, yes. When the Colts play a four man front, Werner is usually, though not always, on the strong side as a 4-3 DE. He and Mathis do switch that up as well on four man fronts. Werner is usually in during passing situations which is why it seemed (to me) that he was in more often. I don't know that to be fact, though.