Colts S Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders' replacement and Indy's special team captain, is out for season with broken bone in his right shoulder.
Bullitt had played poorly through four games, but the Colts' couldn't afford to lose him. At some point, you knew the sheer weight of injuries would swallow this club whole, and as another body goes down, you have to wonder if 2010 will be the year.
Bullitt is a leader on the team, a great guy with a good attitude. On the field he's an acceptable safety (most of the time), but not a dynamic performer by any means. The Colts decision not to put Bob Sanders on IR could end up being a season saver at this point.
Once again, we see why it's foolish to ever criticize players for being 'soft' or 'injury prone'. Some guys are injury prone, but they don't deserve vitriol for it. We've seen too many starters go down, only to lose the backups too.
In the NFL, injuries take everyone down eventually.
Moving on from the debacle on Sunday, I want to take a moment to consider the future of Joseph Addai.
Over the past season and a quarter, fan opinion of Addai has taken a dramatic 180. Once considered 'part of the problem' with the Colts' run game, it's now almost universally recognized that Addai is one of the most important players on the team. He does all the dirty work, runs hard behind a questionable line, and is a threat out of the backfield.
His contract is up at the end of this season, leaving all of us wondering what the Colts will do with him.
There are four components to this decision that must be considered:
1. Salary cap rules for the new CBA-If there is a cap next year, it will affect how much Addai could get on the open market. His stats aren't likely to be attractive so, that could help the Colts' odds of signing him for a reasonable price. At the right price, you'd love to have Addai back, but overpaying for a 28 year old running back is not a wise strategy. Polian has a history of parting with backs at this tipping point age, so unless Addai can be had for cheap, the Colts won't be bringing him back.
2. Franchise player rules for the new CBA-The Colts squeezed an extra year out of Edge James by franchising him for a season. The problem is that we don't know if the 'franchise tag' will even exist next year. Or, it's possible that each team will get multiple tags (as in 2010). The Colts could try and keep Addai around for a year using a franchise or transition player tag. The franchise tage means he'd get paid an average of the top 5 RB salaries in the league. That would be roughly $9 million. Addai makes $2.2 million now. That would be a lot of cash to shell out for one year of Addai. The transition tag is the average of the top 10 RBs, but that wouldn't bring the number down that much. I'm not sure this is much of an option.
3. Manning's contract negotiations-The Colts might not have a tag to use (or money to spend) based on what kind of deal Peyton scores and when he scores it. The team franchised Manning after the 2003 season in order to buy time to sign him to his current deal. If they do that again (and they said they would be willing to), then tagging Joe might not even be a consideration.
4. The development of Don Brown-We all like the glimpses we see from Brown, but there's no question we want to be seeing more from him than we have so far. Injuries have slowed his development as a blocker and runner. If Brown suddenly breaks out, there's no question the club can feel better about letting Addai walk.
So it's the proverbial rock and a hard place. You'd love to see Addai hang around for another five or six years like a much better version of Kevin Faulk, always able to block or slip out of the backfield and catch passes. However, you just can't justify paying big money for an 900 yard running back.
Addai is on pace for roughly 900 yards rushing and his typcial 300 yards receiving. Nine other backs hit similar numbers around age 27 and 28. They are:
- Joe Washington (1981-916/558)-last good year
- Herschel Walker (1990-770/315)-3 more similar seasons
- Darren Nelson (1986-793/593)-last good year
- Ernie Green (1966-750/445)-1 more good year
- Clem Daniels (1964-824/696)-3 more good years
- Roger Craig (1987-815/492)-2 more good years
- James Brooks (1985-929/576)-5 more good years
- Donny Anderson (1970-853/414)-2 more good seasons
- Walter Abercrombie (1986-877/395) last good year
Obviously, if you knew you were getting James Brooks, you'd sign Addai to a long term deal. Four of the nine only had one or no good years left. Two more had two decent seasons. Three of them (Brooks, Daniels and Walker), had at least three strong years left in them.
I want to see Addai back with Indy for years to come. I don't know if it will make sense financially, however.
Let's look at the massive fails by the Indy defense in the final 30 seconds of the game:
3rd and 2, Jags go three wide. TE set left. MJD in the backfield.
Indy shows blitz, but drops into coverage. At the snap, Lacey is a full NINE yards off of his man. He clearly doesn't want to get beat deep, which is fine, except for by choosing to take the time out, Caldwell is clearly asking for a stop. By giving a NINE yard cushion, there is no chance to stop a 3rd and 2.
When Garrard releases the ball, his man is at the 42, three yards past the first down marker. Lacey is still five yards off. It's an easy completion for the first down.
Then with the clock running under :20, the Jags run the same personnel, but flip the TE and RB.
Lacey is lined up over Underwood on the outside with a second corner (Townsend?) over the slot. The slot runs a three yard curl. Both Lacey and Townsend bite on it, leaving the outside man to run free. Bethea is late coming over on the wide open Underwood.
Some have suggested that because the Jags had a timeout left, the Colts had to respect the middle of the field. No Jag ran a route to the middle of the field except MJD who released and was standing two yards past the line of scrimmage and was bracketed by two linebackers.
- Lacey's cushion was inappropriate given the situation on third down.
- His pursuit of a 5 yard curl with the clock running and the ball at the 38 was awful. He played up on 1st and 10 with the clock running and way back on 3rd and 2. It made no sense.
- Bethea had no business being late to cover the only WR running on his half of the field. There was no route over 2 yards anywhere to his side.
- It's possible Townsend was supposed to follow Underwood deep and Lacey just did his job.
These were mental or schematic mistakes by the defense in a key moment and are unacceptable.
One more note:If the Colts DBs weren't smart enough to ignore a WR running a short sideline route in favor of a WR running a deep route in that situation, what makes anyone believe they were aware of how many timeouts the Jags had or what that meant strategically? Accusing them of being smart and stupid at the same time doesn't make sense.
Caldwell's choice to call a timeout with :36 seconds left and the Jags facing 2nd and 2 on Indy's 31 after the Jags came out running to just take the game to overtime has gotten intense scrutiny as any coaching choice that strays from conventional wisdom does. It wasn't so much the attempt to get back the ball that puzzled me. It was giving the Jags a shot to win it in regulation based on the idea Indy's D would be able to stop them from gaining 2 yards in 2 tries. If the Jags faced long yardage to-go or were more backed up towards their own end the choice would seem to back more sense.
The win probability calculator on AdvancedNFLStats.com can help get a feel for where the timeout moves from questionable to clearly the right move. None of these numbers account for the the particular teams. So subjectively tilt the odds as you feel appropriate to account for the relative strengths of the units involved.
Tied, with the ball on their own 31 and 36 seconds remaining, facing 2nd and 2, the Jags win probability was 57%. They had a 75% chance to pick up the short 1st down conversion. They had a 26% chance of scoring, but the Colts did have a very good chance to score if they got the ball back, leaving the Jags only 7% above the coinflip of overtime.
If the Jags "give-up draw" had been stopped at the line making the situation 2nd and 10 from the 23 the odds come out even to 50% win probability. A 21% chance the Jags score, but a 48% chance they don't get the 1st down, giving the Colts the ball with time still on the clock.
Examining other possible situations, it's less the yardage to-go making the difference between 2nd and 2 against 2nd and 10 than the field position. If the Jags had started from the 10 rather than the 23 then 2nd and 2 leaves them with a %50 win probability and if they had taken the kickoff out to the 35, 2nd and 10 is better positioning than the real life 2nd and 2 on the 31.
Whether the timeout was the right call in the given circumstance depends on your assessment of the teams involved, but with a bit better play on the Jags give-up draw or having started them a bit more backed up from the kickoff, the odds shift much more clearly towards Indy's favor.
It was the last game I attended before coming back to Argentina.
I'm still not over it. It still makes me mad.
Manning led the Colts on an incredible drive to bring the Colts back. The Jags responded with a hackneyed drive that somehow got them into range for a 50+ yard field goal. Scobee drilled it. It was exactly like when they did the same thing to Indy in 2006 in the Dome.
Reliving that game yesterday was my own personal hell.
I don't think I've ever been quite so sick over a regular season loss before. I literally want to puke every time I think about it.
When the Colts were facing a 4th and 10 with the game all but over, I was busy hunting for a picture of an ugly dude in a bad prom tux. The picture for the game was going to be, "Lower Your Expectations".
This isn't the first time in recent memory the Colts have been 2-2. This isn't the first time they've had some bad losses early in the season. It happened quite recently, in fact: 2008.
In 2008, the Colts lost their first two home games. Ironically, those losses contributed to the erroneous notion that Lucas Oil Stadium isn't as tough to play in as the Dome was. They were the last two meaningful games Indy has dropped there (they did lose the Painter game last year). Given the fact that Indy opened with three of four on the road in 2010, I suppose you could argue that they are no worse off than they were before.
You'd be wrong. This is not 2008.
This is NOT my game summary. I'll write that tomorrow.
I want to take a moment to discuss the controversial decision by Jim Caldwell to call timeout during the Jacksonville drive that resulted in a 59 yard field goal to win the game.
First, let me say that this is not a pure defense of the decision because it's not something I would have done. Secondly, I'm discussing it separately from the rest of the game because I don't think it is the reason Indy lost. I don't want a serious discussion of the game to be overwhelmed by this point.
The Jags opened their final drive apparently content to play for overtime. As events would later show, this was a colossally stupid decision (one of many) by Jack Del Rio. After an 8 yard gain on first down, Jim Caldwell called timeout with :36 left. Indy had two timeouts. At this point, the Jags elected to try and play offense. A second down pass was incomplete. Then on 3rd and 2, Garrard hit a 6 yard pass followed by a 22 yard pass to put the Jags in field goal range.
Many fans are irate about the decision, because the Jags seemingly were content to put the Colts into overtime.
It is my position that the move is quite defensible, and not responsible for the Indy defeat.
Personally, I would not have called the timeout after a gain of 8 on first down. Had the Jags been held to a shorter gain, I would have been quick to call timeout. However, I consider this point academic, because if you had told me that Jacksonville would face a 3rd and 2 with :33 left, I would have been happy with the outcome. There seem to be three primary objections to the time out:
1. If you trust your defense to stop them on 2nd and 2, you should trust the defense to stop the Jags in overtime as well.
2. After the touchdown, Indy was was hoping for overtime. If the other team is willing to give you the outcome you want you should take it.
3. Even if you got two stops, the odds of Indy responding with a score were slight.
The first point is certainly logically consistent. However, I think Caldwell actively wanted Garrard to start throwing the ball. He was daring the Jags to take a shot. Obviously, that backfired, but had Kelvin Hayden simply caught the interception that hit him in the hands, it would have been a good call. Caldwell bet that Garrard would screw up. He did. The Colts merely failed to capitalize on the mistake.
Playing for overtime is dicey. In overtime, the Jags would surely run if they got the toss, but in the situation Caldwell wanted they were throwing.
Finally, there's the issue of what Indy could do if they had gotten the stop. Assuming that the 3rd down pass had been incomplete, there would have been roughly :30 left. If the Jags then had an average punt (39 yards on the day), it would have been Indy ball at their own 30 with two timeouts left and roughly :20 on the clock. Given the Jags' secondary and the incredible game Manning was having, that would have been an interesting scenario for sure. In fact, he pulled off a similar miracle in Miami in 1999,
The question is one of risk verses reward. Obviously, it was an aggressive decision. That's why I support it. Any time a coach proactively tries to win the game, I will praise the decision as long as the risk verses reward is not too strongly imbalanced.
In this case, there were essentially four plays that sank the Colts AFTER Caldwell's call.
- The defense failing to get the Jags off the field on 3rd and 2 (admittedly difficult)
- The inexcusable allowing of a 20 yard pass to the side with :11 to play. There is one place you can't allow a completion in that situation. The Jags were out of timeouts. How you allow a WR to get 20 yards downfield and be wide open on the sideline is beyond me.
- Kelvin Hayden dropping a potentially game winning interception.
- Josh Scobee improbably hitting the third longest game winning field goal of all time (fyi: 2nd longest was Baronas in 2006).
So, was there real risk in Caldwell's strategy? There was obviously some risk, but it took two terrible plays and 59 yard field goal to beat the Colts. It's hard to call his move reckless considering all that went wrong to give the Jags' the opportunity to win.
I would argue that those circumstances were so improbable that there's just no way to pin this decision on Caldwell. Had any of a number of players just done their jobs after the timeout, Indy would have been playing in overtime.
Decisions like this are always a balance of risk verses reward. The risk was small. Unfortunately, on a day when so many Colts played terribly, the mistakes of players were too much to overcome.
The time out call was a defensible one and by no means cost the Colts the game. I would go so far as to say it had no real impact on the Colts' loss. There are plenty of scapegoats to be had, but Caldwell's timeout should not be one of them.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Jacksonville finished the game still holding a timeout. It's hard to argue that Caldwell's timeout gave the Jags anything. Had they called the timeout, the rest of the game plays out exactly the same. The Jags gained nothing at all from Caldwell's decision.
Jaguars 31 Colts 28
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There's not going to be a ton of news, and I don't cover college football. So, for no other reason than that I feel like it, I've decided to raid my DVD (and VHS) collection to bring you 18 Movies that I Own (and by definition love or at least like a lot) that Maybe You Missed. Some of these are incredible movies that maybe everyone has seen, but seeing as how many are now a decade old, I don't want to take it for granted. These aren't my favorite movies of all time, just awesome movies that I don't know whether everyone else is aware of.
If you think a movie on this list is too well known/popular, let me know. I'll replace it with something else good but more obscure. The Red Violin anyone? Feel free to share your own...do me a favor though, and embed video clips in the comments.