By the time the rest of the country finally realized the Indy defense was as bad as hell... it was already too late for the Baltimore Ravens.no comments
(note: I'll only be updating at the end of each quarter. I'm way too uptight to do each drive tonight.)
- The first quarter defined little for the Colts. The offense moved the ball reasonably, but both drives stalled out with a field goal a punt from midfield. The Ravens have had tight coverage, and Colts receivers are struggling to hang onto the ball. The defense had major chances early, but a bogus offsides call on Mathis extended the Ravens drive. Hayden struggled early as the Ravens passed more than I would have expected. It almost bit them in the butt, as Bethea dropped an easy pick on the goal line that could have gone the other way for six. The second quarter begins with the Ravens pinned deep. Honestly, it's been a solid start, and you get the feeling the Colts need just one big play to really get going.
- THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! Manning and the defense absolutely dominate the second quarter. It all started with the defense. Flacco starts 4/4, but finishes 1/6 and the Ravens fail to get a first down. Manning takes over with 8:00 drive that took 14 plays (including a HUGE fourth down conversion to Addai), and then followed it up with a 1:23 drive also for a touchdown, which Wayne scored with just two seconds to go in the half. Manning caught fire and has a first half passer rating of 111.3. The Colts need 6 or 7 more points, and they can rely on the D to hold the lead. Absolutely a best case scenario for the Colts. Brilliant.
- Sometimes it just feels like your day. The D holds the Ravens on a key fourth down, and then Manning throws not one but two picks to Ed Reed. The first goes by the boards as Frenchy Garcon makes an incredible play to run him down and poke out the ball for a fumble. Then a second pick is called back on a good pass interference call. As we speak the Colts have a first and goal. If Manning punches this in, it will be a rare two INT drive that ends in an offensive TD. The Ravens also used two timeouts in the quarter, which means that three runs and a field goal here could go a long way to putting this game to bed.
- Put in the bag, folks. The Colts play the fourth uber-conservative, choosing to just run safe plays and punt. The Colts D continues playing large, forcing a fumble and a pick in the fourth quarter to kill Ravens drives. Tonight was all Colts, and next week we'll play at home for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Yes, I've very happy. This was a dominant, yet conservative game for the Horse, and those are hard to come by.
Marvin Lewis is the AP Coach of the Year.
He took the award over Sean Payton, Norv Turner, and Jim Caldwell. I am glad for Lewis. He did an amazing job (6-0 vs. the AFC North).
But excuse me while I laugh. Jim Caldwell smashed every NFL record for a rookie head coach this season. He started 14-0 before losing two meaningless games to close the year. Someday we'll look back and joke about this award.
Whether the Colts win the championship or not... this vote should not have been close. Caldwell took over for a living legend. His prior head coaching experience consisted of a 26 - 63 record in the NCAA. Caldwell took the reins of a team most experts expected to take a step back.
The team was without its HoF receiver. The team lost said receiver's replacement in the first quarter of the first game. The team lost its DPoY safety. The team started two rookie corners for much of the season. The team switched Left Tackles just before the opener... And all Caldwell could muster was the third best regular season in NFL history.
If Jim Caldwell wins in Miami it will cap one of the greatest coaching performances ever. In any sport.
Rookie or otherwise.
Today I bring you more great work from Profootball Reference on the real number of fourth quarter comebacks by quarterbacks. Normally, this is the kind of article I would bury in the links, but because it has such special importance to the 2009 Colts, I wanted to put it on the front page.
By now, everyone knows that Manning had 7 fourth quarter comebacks this year. What many don't know is that he now stands just one off the true top spot all time.
The 2009 regular season has presented some more interesting twists and turns in the history and data classification of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. With the playoffs upon us, we could be in store for some memorable moments and a possible record-breaking performance that would be recognized by this website before anyone else catches on.
When I first declared Dan Marino the new King of the Comeback, I knew that Peyton Manning was closing in on the record. I just did not think he would rip off a record seven in one season to pull within one of Marino (36 to 35) so quickly. If this ever reaches the heights I want it to, it will already be too late for Marino to get the recognition he has deserved since he retired because Manning will be hogging it all up. In addition to the record seven in one year, every game played in November by the Colts was won with a 4th quarter comeback. That five-game run of comebacks is also a NFL record. Manning, winner of his record fourth MVP award, said himself that "I have to believe that starting 14-0 and having seven comeback wins has a lot to do with this award coming our way."
Though if Manning is to move past Marino this season, it will have to be done in the postseason. With the way the Colts play tight games, it is not a stretch to say Manning may have the opportunity to finish this season with as many as 38 comebacks. A potential AFC Championship game with San Diego could prove to be difficult for the Colts, and the NFC is wide open and offers several different challengers. Let's not even look past the Ravens in the AFC Divisional round, as they are used to playing some close ones themselves and one of Manning's seven comebacks this season was at Baltimore. It would only be fitting for Manning to break the record in this postseason with the kind of year he has had. The last nine times the Colts trailed in the 4th quarter (and Manning was still in the game), they have won all nine games. That is a record run that I cannot even imagine anyone has come close to in the past. Remember, in addition to the Curtis Painter fiasco, the Colts never trailed in the Wild Card game in San Diego last season. They took a 17-14 lead to the fourth, the Chargers tied the game late, and then won on the only possession of OT. The Colts have not been beaten in regulation with Manning playing the whole game since week 8 of last year against the Titans, which was 25 games ago.
If you missed the earlier explanation of why these 'comeback' counts are more accurate than commonly quoted figures, here's a case in point:
You can expect the Colts to be a tough out in any game they play this month, so pay attention to the inevitable graphic during the game that will show how many 4th quarter wins Manning has led in his career. The number that will likely appear is 43, which is incorrect as the Colts do no count the postseason (so no credit for the 2006 AFC Championship), and they do not count the Jacksonville game from last season where Manning erased the 10 point deficit and the winning score was a pick 6 thrown by David Garrard.
Here's the link to Manning's comeback page which distinguishes between game winning drives, 4th quarter comebacks, and one game in which he deserves no credit (last year's Cleveland game where Mathis returned a fumble for the winning score).
Apparently there are two conferences in the NFL.
Yeah, I know, right? Who knew?
All season we've been exclusively focused in on the AFC because at the end of the day, you only have to play one NFC to win the Super Bowl. Now that the playoffs have advanced a level, we can start to consider the inferior of the two conferences. Let's take this weekend's games as they come.
Arizona @ New Orleans
The Colts already drilled the Cardinals this year at Arizona, and honestly I just don't Zona is that good. The Saints have been slumping, but I'd rather see the statue that is Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl than Drew Brees. I think the Saints win today by double digits, but it would be great to have the Cards still around for one more week. Emotionally, I'm fine with either team.
Dallas @ Minnesota
As long as none of us have jumped off a bridge tonight, and we can still stand the sight of football tomorrow, there should be some good games to watch. The Vikes have been the most overrated team in football for months. Their only victories against winning teams were Green Bay and Cincinnati. I think they are utterly fraudulent, and I would love to see them in the Super Bowl. They are the team I would most want the Colts to face from the NFC. Unfortunately, I don't think they are going to beat Dallas in a matchup of two horrid coaches. Still, I'll be pulling for the home team in this game.
New York Jets @ San Diego
I have no fear of the Chargers, but I've made my opinions known about the Jets. I think they are no better than 13th best team in football. I think the Colts would rip them to shreds. I think the Chargers are vulnerable and not nearly as scary as the media does, but please. In this case, any sane person would want the Jets ten ways to Sunday. Mostly, I'm hoping for a triple overtime game with lots of injuries (none serious, just the kind that leave half the winning roster unavailable for a week). Again, if I'm picking this game, I pick the Chargers.
So there you have it, I'm rooting for all three teams I expect to lose. At this level, it makes sense. I want the weakest teams going forward. In my estimation those are the Cards, Vikes and Jets.
18 Things to Watch for During Saturday Night's Colts/Ravens Game
It's playoff time
It's finally upon us. All the talk, all the waiting, all the hopes and fears of an entire season will come to a head on Saturday night at the Luke. We'll all be watching. Here's what to keep your eye on:
1. Watch the shift. The Ravens have undergone a total makeover since last we saw them. Early in the season, they let fly with Flacco. Check out his attempts and passing yards per game:
Through Week 13: 34 attempts, 240 yards
Week 14-Playoffs:21 attempts, 153 yards
40% fewer attempts and 34% fewer yards
They leaned far more heavily on their running game:
Combined Rice, McGahee rushing attempts and yards per game:
Through Week 13: 21 attempts, 96 yards
Week 14-Playoffs:30 attempts, 191 yards
43% more attempts and 100% more yards
This isn't the same Ravens offense we faced in November. It's a run first attack. Tip to Rick for the stats.
2. Watch the goat. Last year, Gijon Robinson's inexcusable failure to lay even a mitt on Dobbins ruined the Colts season. He was inactive for the first game with the Ravens, but his replacement, Tom Santi, had a huge day catching the ball as Dallas Clark was largely shut down. Robinson could once again be a huge factor in a playoff game and has a chance to redeem himself.
Crap like this has been going through my head all week:
Bad Demond: Baltimore! I can't believe the Chargers get to play the Jets.
Good Demond: Chill out. The Colts are healthy. The Colts are fresh. Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Dwight Freeney, Pierre Garcon, Charlie Johnson, Robert Mathis, Jerraud Powers, and Clint Session are in much better shape today than they were four weeks ago.
Bad Demond: Healthy? Fresh? The Colts have lost each time they've had a bye in the Manning era.
Good Demond: Those were all close games.
Bad Demond: So? They lost. Manning is 7-8 in the playoffs.
Good Demond: Two of those losses came in overtime. Dude, he won the Super Bowl. What more do you want?
Bad Demond: I'd like to see him beat the Ravens this week. Otherwise it is back to the same old talking points.
Good Demond: I can't remember the last time he lost to the Ravens. I think he hates them.
Bad Demond: Well he's going to have to do it without the fans. All signs point to a luke-warm Luke on Saturday.
Good Demond: I don't believe that. It's a primetime game on a Saturday. The fans will be loaded for beer, to coin a phrase. The fans will be emotional... and that's not a bad thing. They're angry. They're bored of meaningless games. They're out for blood. I pity the team that walks into that stadium.
Bad Demond: Yeah, I'm thinking the Colts might get booed, too.
Good Demond: That's not what I'm saying. I think the Indy players and fans will have an emotional edge that the Ravens won't be prepared for.
Bad Demond: If Peyton and the offense come out cold... look out.
Good Demond: There's a chance the Colts O will come out slow, but I think there's a greater chance the Colts D will come out like madmen. Turnovers equal short fields equal easy points.
Bad Demond: Sounds like Ravens-Pats game to me. Talk about an impressive win.
Good Demond: The Pats sucked. We all knew that. Even JC knew that.
Bad Demond: JC is awesome. Surely, you heard about all the Ravens fans that are going to be there on Saturday? Tickets are so cheap.
Good Demond: I don't see it, sorry. I'm sure a few Ravens fans will show, but deep in their hearts they know it is a waste of time, effort and money. Besides... the low ticket values mean most Colts fans will actually resist the urge to sell for big bucks and just go to the game instead. That's exactly what dad is doing.... and he never goes to the games.
Bad Demond: Can you imagine the look on Polian's face when he is forced to relive the invasion of the Titans fans from the '99 season? And... it... will... be... all... his... fault.
Good Demond: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
Bad Demond: I can see it now. You're going to be sitting next to a Ravens fan. They're going to celebrate in your face.
Good Demond: This is getting kind of morbid. Did I mention Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are 100% healthy?Bad Demond: Yeah, but what about Joe Flacco?
Good Demond: What about him?
Bad Demond: Yeah, you're right. He sucks.
If you noticed a slight slow down at 18to88 in recent days, you aren't imagining things. I'm on vacation with the family and am limiting my 18to88 time. On top of that, I'm working feverishly on the book about the Colts, so what spare time I do get goes into that. I hope to have the book largely completed by March 1st. Honestly, the project is exciting, and I think every die hard and casual Colts fan will love it. If you've been a fan for 25 years, you'll love that someone remembers the same details you do. If you are a new comer or a young fan, it will fill in the gaps in your Colts knowledge and give you a sense of the heritage of the team and how it has transformed Indiana. I appriciate your patience with me as it will temporarily divert my attention to the site. I'm still reading every comment and email, but if I'm slow to respond, please understand why.
So, in consideration of that, I'm printing the work of a reader today. TJ Thompson picks every game in the NFL before the season, and has had very strong results. During the season, he ran at about a 70% clip. This year he had
7 8 of the playoff teams right before the season Today, he's contributing a breakdown of every game this weekend.
Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints -- "The Greatest Show On Turf" Revisited?
To Retire, or Not To Retire? That is the question for Kurt Warner. And last week against the Packers, Warner looked like a College QB slinging 5 TD's and completing 29 of 33 passes for 379 yds. Warner and the Cards could almost taste the champagne in last season's Super Bowl, and I think Warner is looking to "Pull an Elway" and retire on top.
Look for another shootout this week in The Big Easy. The Saints and QB Drew Brees are a reflection of Warner's Super Bowl Champion Rams a decade ago. Warner, once again, has a stable of young, quick, enthusiastic talent around him - and the same Sniper Arm.
Keys To Victory:
- The Arizona D needs to create turnovers exactly like they did against Green Bay. Forcing a few punts are also imperative in this mayhem-filled matchup. Warner and the offense are perfectly in sync, and I see no reason for that to slow down.
- Pressure Warner. Pressure Warner. And then Pressure him some more. Kurt Warner has never been the most mobile QB, especially now. Force Arizona into 3rd & long situations. Get Drew Brees comfortable in the pocket and utilize Reggie Bush in the passing game.
Result: Warner Too Tough On Turf. *Cardinals 35 - Saints 31*
Baltimore Ravens Vs. Indianapolis Colts -- Indy Rusty after month in the shed?
Colts Coach Jim Caldwell have been blasted, beaten, & battered in the media for choosing to rest the starters for basically a month leading up to this week's match-up. I believe this is the smartest move Caldwell made all season long. The 2nd String players get the much needed experience to carry with them into the playoffs. This gives the Colts the confidence to make more frequent substitutions to keep both Offense & Defense relatively fresh through 4 quarters of play. Only 2 words need to be said about Indy's team -- Peyton & Freeney. 'Nuff said.
Baltimore is fresh off of a woodshed whipping of the New England Patriots. The Ravens defense is still what we've known for a decade - physical & dangerous. Baltimore's most powerful weapon is a running game that is twice as scary as the Super Bowl XXXV winning combo of Jamal Lewis & Priest Holmes. Tailbacks Ray Rice & Willis McGahee spearhead a backfield that also includes Fullback Le'Ron McClain.
Keys To Victory:
- Do not give Peyton Manning a chance to read your Defense. Keep the D-Line in a 2-point stance and draw linebackers close to line of scrimmage. Offensive Line MUST contain Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and allow RB's to get to the second level. QB Joe Flacco needs to take his time, keep offense on the field as long as possible, to keep Peyton on the bench as long as possible.
- Avoid Ed Reed. Keep passing plays to the 5-10 yard distance and let Wayne, Clark, & Garcon create yardage with their feet. The Linebackers & Secondary are speedy enough to keep deep plays in check, yet still contain the run - maintain Cover 2 Defense. The key is tackling. The Colts have shown poor tackling all year. They MUST wrap up the ball carrier.
Result: MVP Reigns Over Ravens. *Ravens 13 - Colts 24*
New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers -- QB Battle: Green Rookie Vs. Sparked Veteran
Philip Rivers is a man on a mission. He wants not only a Super Bowl appearance, but he wants to Win it. In 2007, the Chargers were one step away, but lost in the AFC Championship game. Last season, they lost to the eventual Champion Steelers in the Divisional Round.
San Diego is streaking White-Hot coming into the playoffs, and have no intentions of cooling off. However, the Jets "Gang Green" defense infects opposing offenses and cuts off the lifeblood of success - the Run Game. New York will suffocate LaDanian Tomlinson and put the game in the hands of Rivers. To make things tougher for Rivers; Darrelle Revis is one of the best Cover Corners in the NFL.
The Chargers are no slouch on Defense, either. Shawne Merriman will pressure the Jets Rookie QB Mark Sanchez - and as we all have seen, Sanchez is less than stellar under pressure - forcing the Jets fierce run game to take center stage. This game will be 100% SmashMouth Football.
Keys To Victory:
- Give Sanchez time to let play develop and make accurate passes. Establish run game to keep San Diego Defense honest. Stop LT & Darren Sproles, let Revis become a factor.
- Again, establish run game: especially against NFL's Top Defense. Special Teams play might be the game-changer.
Result: Rivers looks to make it 3 for 3 against Peyton in Playoffs. *Jets 17 - Chargers 21*