It's almost kickoff time to the 2009 season. I feel appropriately nauseous. I'll be checking back in throughout the game with commentary and observations.
- The first quarter flew by as the Colts chewed up ground, but failed to score thanks to an awful pick by Manning in the end zone on the first drive. The Colts have struggled to force the ball to Reggie Wayne who is perpetually double covered, but have still moved the ball thanks to great catches out of the backfield by the backs. To top it all off, Gonzo has left the game with a knee injury. On defense, the Colts had a solid series after giving up a pair of third down conversions, they stopped the Jags thanks to a huge Freeney sack on first down. Apart from the horrible throw by Manning, the first quarter went as scripted.
- And the Colts second drive goes the way of the first. Addai fumbles with the Colts already in scoring territory. Two drives inside the Jags 30 yield zero points. This is the recipe for an upset.
- The Jags ram the ball down inside the 10, but the Colts hold as Session and Hayden make nice plays. On third down, Garrard sails his throw and the Jags wind up with a field goal. The big play was a 22 yard run up the middle by MJD. The Jags are chewing up yards on the ground, but are clearly worried about pass protection. This is a team that HAS to keep games close because they will struggle to keep Garrard upright if forced to pass with regularity.
- This time they get it right. The Colts again mount a long drive, made longer by a sack given up Diem to start the drive. Manning completes a bomb on third and long to Wayne, and they matriculated the ball up field down inside the 10. Three straight runs by Addai gave the Colts a 7-3 lead. They've dominated the game, but it's too close for comfort. The defense needs a quality stand here to give the Colts an extra possession before the end of the half. CJ is playing well, but the right side is still a work in progress both running and passing protecting.
- The Jags third drive almost came crashing to a halt, but David Garrard threw off both Dwight Freeney and Daniel Muir, kept his balance and completed the pass anyway. Later in the drive rookie Jarraud Powers made a sweet attempt to pick off Garrard, but couldn't hang on. The Colts blitzed on third down, and again the Jags screened. This time the Horse was better prepared. Scobee banged home a long field goal with about a minute to play. Indy has more more chance to get points and open up the lead before the half.
- The Colts drive ends on fourth down as neither Collie nor Clark could corral balls that hit them in the hands. Clark's wasn't a drop as Manning just barely overthrew him for what would have resulted in a field a goal. The play was on fourth down and resulted in a 63 yard field goal attempt by Scobee, who didn't convert it.
- The Jags drive stalls out as Mathis knocks down a screen, and on third down Troy Williamson slips to the ground as Garrard's pass sails incomplete. The Colts start deep in their own territory, and need a long drive to get some breathing room. With Gonzo out, Wayne is getting a ton of throws.
- And folks, that's why he's the best. Manning takes the Colts on a MASSIVE drive covering almost 90 yards. On it, he converts several huge third down throws (he's perfect on third down to this point). Finally, he punishes the Jags with a sweet 35 yard toss to Reggie Wayne for a 14-6 lead. Wayne is destroying the Jags to the tune of 133 yards.
- Folks, he's going to be a star. Jarraud Powers just made an incredible play to break up a third down pass to Torry Holt. The Jags go three and out as the Colts successfully blitz on third down. That was a big time stand by the defense. Two runs and an incomplete pass is a formula for victory. It's time for the Horse to put its foot on the throat of the Jags.
- Close but no cigar. Wayne drops a bomb after an incredible diving effort, and then comes up 2 yards short on third down. The Kitties keep breathing.
- Swarming. Freeney forces a false start before the drive even starts, and the Jags have no chance. Mathis and Freeney force back to back incomplete passes, and the Jags punt bounces backward to their own 35.
- The door swings wide open again. The Colts go three and out thanks to three ugly looking plays. AV yanks a 52 yard field goal wide on fourth 9. I wanted them to go for it.
- The quarter ends with the Jags driving. Indy had them stopped on 3rd and 2, but MJD shook off a tackle by Powers and powered for the first down. The quarter saw the Colts widen their lead, but opportunities were missed. The game remains too close for comfort.
- On the biggest play of the game, the Jags flip wide to Jones-Drew who evades an arm tackle by Freeney and busts through for a touchdown on 4th and 2. The 2 point conversion fails, fortunately, as the Jags run up the middle on a direct snap to MJD fails. The Colts still lead 14-12, but this game is closer than it should be and far from over.
- Jim Caldwell makes his first HUGE decision as head coach. Facing a fourth and 1 from the Jags 43, Caldwell elects to punt, defying my angry screams of "NOOOOOO!". McAfee hits a beauty, and the Jags are backed up on the one yard line. If they are going to win this game, they'll have to do it the hard way. I'm still not convinced it was the right call. Meanwhile, the Colts are wholly unable to run the ball. There is almost no room to move on any of the carries as both Addai and Brown have been largely stymied all day.
- I stand corrected. After a great play by Hayden on first down, Freeney flushes Garrard who scrambles for 7 on third and 8. The Jags are forced to punt from their own endzone. A massive punt (57 yards) knocks the Colts back to their own 35, but the Jags are running out of chances. Indy needs to not give up the ball here.
- Third and one for the Colts turns sour as their inability run the ball sinks the team. Caldwell rightly went for it on fourth down, but Don Brown was stopped for no gain. Once again, the Colts have proved that they are incapable of running the ball with either back, and now the Jags have the ball at the 35 with 2 minutes to play and one time out. It's last year all over again. For the record, Addai carried 17 times for 42 yards and Brown carried 11 for 33. The line isn't up snuff.
- THE COLTS BRING THE HOUSE AND GARRARD FOLDS! Brackett, Freeney, and Mathis come up bigger than large, as the Jags go four and out managing to gain just three yards in the process. Manning takes the knee and the Jags are out of time outs.
Tomorrow there won't be a live in game chat. There's a couple of reasons for that:
1. I want to enjoy the game with my family, and the chats chain me to my office with a two computer setup.
2. The chats aren't re-readable after the fact.
3. I want to start a new feature: Key Stats
Key Stats will seek to track two or three important talking points during the game. Obviously, it won't be hard to follow the YPC for Joe Addai, but if I want to quantify how effective the Colts blitz is, I'll have to take my own notes. For now I'm going to be tracking the play of Charlie Johnson and the effectiveness of the blitz. I'll do a post on the results after the game (Sunday night or Monday).
I will do an old-school in game update blog. Several times a quarter, I'll post thoughts and updates from the game.
Seven of the 11 players who started Super Bowl XLII for the New England Patriots on defense are gone.
Seymour, Vrabel, Seau, Bruschi, Samuel, Hobbs, Harrison have all moved on or retired.
A word of caution to preseason prognosticators and fantasy players everywhere: QBs don't always move forward.
It has come to my attention that a lot of people are expecting huge years out of many QBs based on what they did last year. Lots of people look at a player like Phil Rivers (4009 yards, 34 TDs) or Aaron Rodgers (4038 Yards, 28 TDs) and predict huge 4,000 yard, 30 TD seasons for them.
In fact, 4,000 yard, 30 TD seasons are apparently being tossed out like candy now. Check out this preseason prediction for Peyton Manning:
Peyton Manning, QB
Make no mistake, Manning isn't the same guy he was five years ago. Last season's under-the-radar offseason knee surgery caused him to start slow against a tough schedule, his offensive line wasn't as spry as it once was and the Colts struggled to get consistency out of their running game. Yet in what looked like it might be a "down season," Manning won the NFL's MVP award. He's probably not going to toss more than 35 touchdowns in '09, but he's also not throwing for fewer than 25, and he'll surely get you 4,000 yards and won't hurt you with many negative plays. Even if the elite upside is gone because of personnel, age and circumstance, Manning is worth drafting because he's phenomenally sound and clutch.
2009 Projection: 4,153 pass yds, 31 TD, 13 INT
The Colts play the best players available.
Due to recent criticism (and I'm not going to link to the trainwreck article that started it) of Polian, some fans have been up in arms about the team cutting Taylor and Marcus Howard. People have begun to question whether Polian is losing his touch in the draft. There's one massive problem with that claim.
Polian drafted all the players who beat out the players he cut.
Do you think Polian cares if Tyjuan Hagler (who he drafted) beats out Phillip Wheeler (who he drafted) for a starting spot? Polian has egg on his face (right now) over Ugoh, but he also drafted Charlie Johnson who replaced him. The Colts haven't had to erase draft mistakes with bargain bin free agents or casts off from other teams. They've replaced draft picks with draft picks. There are only 5 players on the Colts that have been drafted by other clubs. Two of those were last minute pick ups this weekend. The truth is that when a 6th rounder or a UFA beats out a 3rd rounder, it makes Polian look smart in the long run. When that player becomes a star, everyone says, "Wow! Polian hit on a 6th round pick!". They forget that it means that he whiffed on the 3rd round pick in the same draft. That's the nature of the draft. After the first round, the difference in talent level starts to fall off precipitously. In the end, a 4th rounder and a UFA aren't that far apart. We only perceive there to be a big difference. It doesn't matter that Polain has airmailed almost every 3rd round pick for a decade. He's been money in other rounds.
The only way that Bill Polian could be losing his touch is if the Colts were somehow worse than they used to be. They haven't been signing free agents, so virtually everyone on the team was drafted, or signed as a UFA by Polian. So as long as the team is still elite, Polian can't possibly be getting worse at the draft. A big part of the problem is that fans are paying too much attention to the draft and the preseason. They are falling in love with players before they've ever played a meaningful down. We dream about what a big DT like Taylor could do, and then feel betrayed when he doesn't make the team. It's creating false crises that don't have much to do with wins and losses on Sunday. This is why I hate the offseason. There is simply too much talk about players we know nothing about. In the case of a guy like Marcus Howard, we thought we did know something, and still got blindsided by his departure.
When it comes to the head hauncho, it's fair to attack the Ugoh pick. They traded up to take him. The book on him at the time was that he didn't seem to care about football. Many in the draft media questioned the pick. They questioned his heart and motor. Looks like the book was right. That's one pick, though. It was a big one, but it could have been worse. The Colts did get two years of starting football out of Ugoh, and he's still on the roster, and still might start before the year is up. That's a lot of production for a total bust. There are plenty of first and second round picks who don't even produce that much. There's still time for Ugoh to pull a Rob Morris, though I don't know if he has the guts to do it.
The lesson here is this: we can't have unrealistic dreams about draft picks and then cry when they don't work out. I've been accused of taking the fun out of the preseason by complaining about this before, but this is why. It's not that fans dream or imagine too much. It's that they freak out when their dreams don't come to fruition.
Jerraud Powers was one of the most criticized picks of this past draft. Looks like he might start opening day.
Terrance Taylor was universally lauded. To date, no one has even signed him to a practice squad.
That's the NFL draft for you.
The 2009 Season is just days away, and it's time to take stock of the Colts to see whether this year's team should be better or worse than last year's. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm comparing the team to the START of last season. That means things that happened during the year (like Addai getting hurt) don't factor in.
That's reason enough to hope.
The final cuts have been announced. Among the notables:
Mike Hart, Josh Thomas, Marcus Howard, and Terrance Taylor (4th round pick this year)
This means that Chad Simpson is the back up RB, TJ Rushing made the squad (probably as the return man), Curtis Painter is the third QB, and...
Bob Sanders is off the PUP list.
This means the Colts expect him to play before week 6.
Marcus Howard is the only huge surprise on the list, as he seemed to have great speed and real upside. Painter obviously impressed the team enough to earn himself a roster spot, although the team will have another cut to make when Ed Johnson becomes available. They may chose to cut Painter then, figuring that most teams will have already made whatever QB moves they were likely to make this week, thus making it safer to expose Painter.
Here's some more thoughts:
- Hagler and Keiaho both made the cut. It's amazing that just one year ago, both were 'starters' and now they can barely make the squad.
- As was pointed out in the comments, Andrus made the squad (so far). That's probably just for kickoffs, unless the team didn't like what it saw when AV just missed that FG the other day.
- 3 QBs and 3 kickers. Maybe it is a new day in Indianapolis after all. Ed Johnson is coming back in a week, and I have to think that either Andrus or Painter won't last past the Jags game.
The news is that Dom Rhodes didn't make the Bills squad. First, that's sad for Dom. He's a Classic Colt waiting to happen, and we wish him the best, but there's a bigger story here.
Assuming Dom is healthy, the Colts HAVE to take a serious look at him as their third running back. Dom knows the system, and is a superior option to the perpetually banged up Mike Hart and the ineffectual Chad Simpson and Lance Ball. Ball and Simpson averaged 2.5 and 2.8 YPC respectively this preseason. Mike Hart is a fan favorite, but is coming off a blown ACL and battled injuries all preseason. He had 1 carry for zero yards.
Dom Rhodes had 19 carries for 64 yards (3.4 YPC). That's not awesome, but it's essentially what he did last year.
As a third string back, he's a better option right now than anything the Colts currently have on the roster.
Simply because the readers demand it, I'm offering up my review of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. For the record, I'm a sometimes Tarantino fan. I respected both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, but both crossed some lines that lessened my enjoyment of the movies (think: Stuck in the Middle with You). On the other hand, I adore Kill Bill (both 'volumes'), and left the theater in pure awe after seeing Vol. 1. So I came to Inglourious Basterds hopeful, but guarded. I saw the movie with my wife who has seen Pulp Fiction and the Bills, liking both.
Despite my well harbored reservations, it took all of 5 minutes to be convinced that Basterds was a wonderful movie. From the incredible first "chapter" with Christopher Waltz as the unforgettable "Jew Hunter" Hans Lander, the movie is fraught with tension and brilliance. Before I go further, let it be known that just as much as the Best Supporting Actor Oscar was unquestionably going to Heath Ledger for The Joker last year, so Waltz already has two hands on the statue this year. His performance alone is worth the price of the movie, and Hans Lander will be long remembered as one of the best screen villains of this decade (along with Ledger Joker and Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith).
The second chapter of the movie introduces Brad Pitt's team of Basterds, US Jews assembled to beat the holy hell out of Nazis. Pitt's performance is slightly distracting at first, but makes more sense as the movie moves along. He's functioning as a modern day John Wayne, present more to be "the American screen star in a WW II movie" than as a pure 'actor'. Basterds, like most Tarantino films, is a running commentary on cinema itself. Everything he does is calculated and referential. Pitt is a bit ridiculous, but then again, he's supposed to be. You never forget you are watching Brad Pitt (unlike his turns in Snatch or 12 Monkeys or even Fight Club), it was distracting at first, but by the end of the movie, I was glad for it as his amazing Italian accent almost steals the show (just wait for it).
Unfortunately, there's only so much I can say about the movie without ruining it. It is significantly less bloody than Bill, and less objectionable than Fiction and Dogs, but remember that's on a "Taraninto" scale. It's a Tarantino film, which means it's wonderfully, viscerally violent. To be frank, it was as emotionally satisfying to my deep seeded lust for bloody vengeance as any movie could be. If you think it would be fun to watch Nazi's get the crap kicked out of them, then this is the movie for you. The sense of just retribution for the crimes of the Third Reich was immensely gratifying. Tarantino knows what moves young men and plays each note perfectly.
The movie is violent and funny. The ending is brilliant. Tarantino loves to build scenes to a Hitchcockian level of tension, but with him you know the bomb under the table is going off, and when it does, someone is losing a leg.
This movie is not as life altering as Kill Bill, but in many ways was just as enjoyable if not more so. It is much more accessible than Bill, but sacrifices nothing in getting there. My wife and I both loved the movie, and I would pay to see it again in a heartbeat.