Freeney and Wayne are active today. So is Eric Foster. That's great news for the Horse.
- The 49ers start the game with the ball. Two runs set up third and short. Smith hit Vernon Davis who lazily doesn't get both feet down. The 49ers punt, which Silva (subbing for an injured Rushing) muffs. He atones by recovering the punt inside the 20. Indy ball.
- On first down, Demond calls to complain that the open roof and the wind and sun lead to a bomb to Garcon falling incomplete. The Colts' first drive ends as Clark puts the ball on the turf short of the first down. He was clearly down by contact and Caldwell rightly challenged the play. The fumble is overturned. Indy punts and McAfee drills it. Wheeler makes a great play, and the 49ers are back inside the 30. Unfortunately, the great punt/tackle is for nought as a flag forces the Colts to rekick. The second time leads to a 60 yard punt. The kid is drilling the ball today.
- Worst case scenario. The 49ers run a little draw up the middle, and Frank Gore busts it for a 65 yard TD. Sloppy tackling turned what should have been a short gain into a long TD. Powers and Bethea collide in the secondary to allow the back breaker. Awful. 7-0 49ers.
- The Colts second drive is another three and out as Manning throws a terrible pass on third and 3. The 49ers jump the route, and Manning is lucky to not have a pick 6. The Colts are running the ball effectively, but Manning seems to be throwing too quickly, too short. Abysmal start by the Colts.
- Smith does the Colts a favor by tripping on first down. They blow up a draw on second and Freeney/Mathis forces an incomplete pass. That's two three and outs and one stupid TD for the D.
- Manning hits Wayne on a bubble screen on third and long which busts for 32 yards. He then hits Collie on third down for a huge first down thanks to a big blitz pick up by Addai. Garcon picks up yet another penalty on the ensuing first down. Manning hits Clark for a big gain to set up a third and two, but the line gets no push and Addai goes nowhere. Stover drills the figgie, and Indy is down 7-3. Manning looks out of sync early.
- The 49ers start deep in their own territory thanks to a blowup hit by Silva. The 49ers get a couple of first downs. I literally spend most of the drive vomiting because of nerves. The Zombie calms my stomach by picking off a tipped pass and taking it to the 49ers 35.
- The Colts are driving and have a third and four to end the quarter. The first quarter went as badly as possible for Indy. SF leads 7-3
- Clark loses a ball in the sun in the endzone on third and four begging the question: why is the roof open? The answer: because there is one. Which begs the question: why is there a retractable roof? Stover just slides the short FG inside the upright. 7-6 'Frisco.
- Indy blitzes on third down forcing Smith to throw short. Hayden makes a sure tackle and the 49ers are three and out (again). Frank Gore has 1 run for 64 yards and 6 runs for 12 yards. That's the definition of boom and bust. Indy ball around the 25.
- Three and out for Indy as Wayne is hit for no gain on third and two. Manning isn't reading the defense correctly early on. McAfee hits another huge punt, which is fumbled out of bounds.
- The defense is taking over this game. With the exception of the one bad play, they've owned the 49ers both running and passing. Incomplete pass, holding call, short run, scramble on 3rd and a million, punt. Eventually Manning will figure out the 49ers and the Colts will explode.
- Another drive, another quick punt. Manning takes a sack on second down and Hank Baskett drops a pass on third down. The Colts are having fits figuring out the 49ers scheme today.
- Third and long again for the 49ers, and Crabtree comes back too far to the ball. Punt.
- The Colts have a chance for the "two for none" to end the half as they get the ball to start the second half. The chance goes by the board, however, as Manning underthrows Clark on first down, and that sets the tone for the 'drive'. Frenchy does pick up a first down on third and long, but on the next third down, Peyton rifles it through Wayne's hands. The defense needs to hold one more time this half. The 49ers will take over at the 11, so Indy still has a chance to score if they can force a punt.
- Instead, they allow Smith to slice right through them. Session picks up a "Brady" personal foul, and with ease, the 49ers march 89 yards for a touchdown. Horrible. Unspeakably horrible. The D generated no pressure at all and gave up the most gutless drive I've seen in a long time.
- Thanks to a penalty, the 49ers kick from the 15, and Simpson takes it to the 39 with :26 left in the half. The Colts had all their timeouts, but don't need them all. Manning drives them down to the 12 with :06 seconds left, and Caldwell opts for the field goal attempt. It's a debatable decision, but it gets the points on the board. 14-9 at the half.
For the offense it's been a nightmare. For the defense, it's been mostly positive with critical lapses. The Colts start the second half with the ball. It's time to get some touchdowns. The bottom line is that the Oline has been awful. The 49ers are rushing from a standing position, which should be a signal to run the ball. Unfortunately, Addai is getting pummeled in the backfield. Meanwhile, they aren't identifying where the rush is coming from and Manning looks harried. He's 15 for 24 for 175. Note: Jimmy Johnson just claimed that the 49ers are keeping the ball away from Manning. They aren't. Indy has the ToP advantage. I swear he doesn't even watch the games.
- The second half starts off exactly like the first. A short run, a penalty, a sack (Pollack gives it up), but on third and 20 Manning guns a HUGE completion to Frenchy. Manning hits more passes, but the drive stalls as Pollack gives up ANOTHER sack on third and 4. Again, Stover hits the kick, and the Colts trail 14-12. The line play has been disastrous.
- The D does a lot of things well, but stopping third and shorts isn't one of those things. The 49ers pick up consecutive short yardage plays. Fortunately, one of things the D does do is tackle on short passes. Crabtree catches a flanker screen, but is swarmed under and Powers makes a huge play by stripping him. It's ruled a fumble recovered by the Colts on the field, and 49ers lose their challenge. Indy ball. Huge play.
- Despite getting the ball at 42, Manning sprays three straight passes (although in fairness, the first was an awful route by Garcon who got open but then angled to the middle of the field instead of the sideline). McAfee makes his first real mistake punt, and SF starts at the 21. The D has done their part today. The offense is not contributing.
- The Indy D continues to play at an insane level. Two runs, pass pressure, punt. That's a winning formula. Outside of the one long run, SF has 14 carries for 24 yards. That's getting it done.
- The half ends with the Colts slamming it down near the 49ers 20. Manning has been deft on this drive, and Indy has a chance to jump out in front. The Colts won the third quarter, but desperately need to convert this drive into seven points.
- GREATEST PLAY EVER! KID JOE THROWS A TD TO WAYNE! They ran the same play against Denver in 2006, and it was almost picked off. This time he hits a wide open Reggie Wayne for 6. Wayne makes an incredible diving catch. The point conversion fails as Manning sails one over his man in the back corner. Indy leads for the first time today, 18-14. It's up to the D now.
- The problem with taking the lead is that it means that Alex Smith gets to work against a Colts' secondary that no longer has Kelvin Hayden to lean on (he's out with a knee). The 49ers rip right through Indy, getting three straight first downs without so much as facing a third. Finally, after a huge delay of game on third down, Robert Mathis saves the day as he has so many times. The Colts get the sack only rushing three men, and Smith is knocked out of field goal range. The Colts get the ball at the 10 yard line hoping to change field position at the very least. Now is the time for a 'championship drive'.
- Manning hits Clark on a HUGE play for 40 yards. It helps to change the field position, but Manning sails the throw to Collie. Indy punts on 4th and 3. It pays off as the 49ers field the ball inside the 5 and will start 95 yards from the endzone. The D needs one more big stand here.
- Freeney jumps offsides to kickstart the drive for the 49ers. Smith makes some nice throws for first downs, but Bethea helped by dropping an easy pick. Finally, Freeney kept his streak alive by taking down Smith on third and 10. It's incredible, but Freeney and Mathis are easily the most clutch DEs I've ever seen.
- Manning deftly takes the clock to double zeros, doing what they couldn't do week one against the Jags. Manning twice converts third down throws to Dallas Clark, and Joe Addai finishes off his yeoman's day of blocking, passing, and grinding with 19 yards on the final drive, including picking up 4th and inches at gun.. Indy took over with 5:45 on the clock up by four points, and didn't give the ball back to the 49ers. That's beautiful football.
END OF GAME SUMMARY:
Great day by the defense. The offense struggled mightily all day (Manning posted a rating of 86), and the line was suspect, but at the end of the day the incredible performance of the defense carried the day. Four sacks, two huge turnovers, and they didn't even give up 100 yards to Frank Gore, despite his big run. Ultimately, this is the kind of gritty win a team has to have during the season. Had the Colts been able to convert even one of the 4 field goals into a touchdown, things would have felt much more comfortable. Ultimately, this will be remembered as the day that Joe Addai threw a game winning touchdown pass. Wow.
The Colts begin a three-game homestand this week against San Francisco. If Indy can sweep the homestand they will take the AFC by the throat. Let's look at some of the other key games of week eight.
Houston at Buffalo: The Texans should win this game easily -- which means they are going to lose. After Sunday, two of Houston's next three are against the Colts. Time to start taking them seriously.
Denver at Baltimore: The most important non-Colts game of the week, and probably the month. Denver needs to pick up a loss. I think it happens here against the desperate Ravens.
Miami at New York (A): It is a bit of a stretch to call this an important game to the Colts. It isn't. Neither of these teams are going to win the AFC East. Neither is going to win a wild card spot. But I'll be rooting for the Jets to keep some pressure on the Patriots.
Jacksonville at Tennessee: As much as I am enjoying the Titans' implosion... it is time for them to do something useful. If the Jags lose to Vince Young and the winless Titans it would end their season and any shred of self-respect.
AFC Playoff Standings
1. Indianapolis (6-0)
2. Denver (6-0)
3. New England (5-2)
4. Cincinnati (5-2)
5. Pittsburgh (5-2)
6. New York (4-3)
7. Houston (4-3)
8. Baltimore (3-3)
9. San Diego (3-3)
I know that Friday morning usually means Eyes in the Backfield, but I'm behind schedule today. Computer problems have derailed the podcast today, but fear not, we've written up our thoughts on Sunday's game. Check back later today or tomorrow morning for Eyes.
1. 3-6-STL 22 (9:45) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short middle to 87-R.Wayne to SL 6 for 16 yards (24-R.Bartell).
DS: Rams bring a delayed blitz which is picked up by Addai. Manning has plenty of time and he hits Wayne on an in route.
DZ: Indy goes four wide, trips left with Collie in closest to the O line. Clark is lined up next to Reggie. It was hard to see the route, but I suspect his presence opened things up.
2. 2-8-STL 36 (7:01) 10-M.Bulger pass deep middle to 17-D.Avery to IND 14 for 50 yards (41-A.Bethea).
DS: Flea-flicker Great play call. Bulger takes the toss from Jackson and hits Avery deep. Should have been a touchdown, but Bulger doesn’t hit him in stride.
DZ: Sometimes the other team just makes a great play call. Both safeties are up on the play, so Hayden has no help deep. He gets beat like a drum as both Sanders and Bethea charge on the run. It's easy to forgive the safeties, this isn't the same as biting on a run fake. Hayden has to keep his man in front of him.
3. 1-10-IND 33 (4:40) 31-D.Brown left tackle to SL 22 for 45 yards (21-O.Atogwe).
DS: Like most long runs, this play is set up by great blocking by several individuals. Clark, Johnson and Wayne create a great lane. The MLB can’t slide over quickly enough and Brown is off. I love his power at the end of the play. Very tough to bring down. Nearly runs through it.
DZ: Stretch play left. CJ, Clark and Wayne all get great blocks. No one touches Brown for about 30 yards. Beautiful blocking.4. 1-15-STL 27 (3:39) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 44-D.Clark for 27 yards, TOUCHDOWN [91-L.Little].
DS: Clark runs a deep post from the Tight End position. Blanket coverage, but just a brilliant touch pass by Manning, who is hit from behind, after he throws
DZ: How sick was this throw/catch? He dropped it in a six inch window from 30 yards out. Incredible. The only bad part is that Diem gave up the hit on Manning. Still 18 had time to make the throw...barely.
5. 4-9-STL 45 (:14) 5-D.Jones punts 51 yards to IND 4, Center-45-C.Massey. 40-J.Silva to IND 4 for no gain (53-P.Lenon).
DS: Great punt. Hits at the five and is downed by the Rams. Silva picks up the loose ball and attempts to advance it, but is tackled immediately. A great example of the kind of field position the Colts were dealing with most of the day.
DZ: Smart play by Silva. Because the punt had been previously touched, he could return it without fear of reprisal. Even a fumble would have returned to the Colts. Basically, after the punting team touches the ball nothing bad can happen to the returning team if they touch the punt. This punt was the prototype for why the game seemed so conservative. Indy had some bad field position thanks to a series of nice punts and goal line turnovers. They played smart and safe...and won by 40
6. 2-7-STL 11 (7:08) 10-M.Bulger sacked at SL 2 for -9 yards (93-D.Freeney).
DS: Freeney beats the Rookie Left Tackle Jason Smith to the outside. Just runs past him and strips Bulger at the goal line. The refs say Bulger’s forward progress was stopped before the ball came loose. Kind of bizarre.
DZ: Terrible call. Whether his knee was down...I don't know, but to rule forward progress? Cop out call. It was good to see Caldwell ready to throw the flag. I would describe what Freeney did to Jason Smith as criminal abuse.
7. 2-10-STL 41 (5:32) (Shotgun) 31-D.Brown up the middle to SL 28 for 13 yards (55-J.Laurinaitis). IND-31-D.Brown was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.
DS: Really patient run as Brown makes a quick side step, waiting for the lane to develop. He goes untouched for about 10 yards and then finishes the run strong, picking up extra yards after contact.
DZ: The whole idea that Brown just plows ahead while Addai dances is BS...both ways. Brown shows great vision and patience here. The run looks like it's designed to go left, and Brown patiently waits for the action to pass and cuts back through a gaping hole. If he was just slamming into the line like Dom, he would never have picked up 10 yards on this. Likewise, if Addai was such a dancer, why is he one of the best short yardage backs in the game? Easy answers both ways. Wrong answers both ways. Great block by Diem. Brown is the complete package, but was also injured on the play.
8. 3-1-STL 6 (2:00) 29-J.Addai right tackle for 6 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
DS: Addai runs through a pair of nice blocks by Diem and Pollak. Nice and easy. Addai’s fifth total touchdown of the season.
DZ: 4 for 4 on third and short on the day running the ball. See my previous point. Clark and Saturday had great blocks too. The Indy O line blew open a big hole on third down. Gotta love it.9. 2-6-IND 41 (:59) (Shotgun) 10-M.Bulger sacked at IND 45 for -4 yards (68-E.Foster).
DS: The Rams are on their best drive of the day. Bulger drops back, can’t find his first option, and then feels pressure from all sides thanks to a nice rush from the Ends. Foster cleans him up with help from Mathis.
DZ: Bulger sees Mathis coming, gets scared. Foster had GREAT push in the pocket, which gave Bulger no place to go.
10. 3-10-IND 45 (:52) (Shotgun) 10-M.Bulger pass incomplete short middle to 39-S.Jackson [93-D.Freeney].
DS: Great coverage by the LBs and secondary. Mathis does a great spin move to flush out Bulger. Freeney spins from the other side back into Bulger who does well to get a lame pitch away.
DZ: Um, HOLDING! Good Lord, they grabbed Freeney by the neck. That was an unbelievable no call.
11. 3-12-STL 49 (11:57) (Shotgun) 10-M.Bulger pass short left to 39-S.Jackson to SL 48 for -1 yards (68-E.Foster).
DS: I think it was Mark Twain who once said, “Screen plays are the last resort of liars and scoundrels.” Foster must have had that in mind when he sniffed this one out. He is playing at a very high level right now.
DZ: Foster jumped to everyone's attention with his brilliant play against the Steelers last year, and showed up all day on Sunday. Nice pressure by Brock on the stunt. Simply a great read by Foster to blow up the play.12. 1-10-IND 37 (7:46) 39-S.Jackson right tackle to IND 24 for 13 yards (26-K.Hayden).
DS: Jackson follows right behind the full back who takes out Bethea. Jackson then steps out of a tackle by Brackett, who appears to be held from behind by the Left Tackle. Hayden finally brings him down.
DZ: This run came in the middle of a series of big runs by Jackson. Each was a little different. A couple were just sick moves by Jackson (including an incredible spin away from Session). On another, the safeties ran backwards at the snap, ignoring the run because of the big lead. On this one, the LBs were slow to react. They were blocked to the left, and the run was back to the right. Bethea gets crushed by the fullback to open a huge hole. This was one of the only runs that would 'worry me' as a Colts fan. Most of the others were just great individual plays by a great player.
13. 2-11-IND 25 (6:28) 10-M.Bulger sacked at IND 35 for -10 yards (sack split by 90-D.Muir and 55-C.Session).
DS: Colts blitz Session, which appears to help Muir force his way through the line. Session and Freeney pile on. Very physical play by the starting DT.
DZ: The Colts come with the blitz, but it's the DT that makes the play. The blitz has lead to some additional sacks by the Dline, but the blitzers themselves are rarely, if ever, getting home. Muir just makes a great individual play here and Session helps him clean up.14. 1-10-STL 24 (1:10) 10-M.Bulger pass short right INTERCEPTED by 27-J.Lacey at SL 35. 27-J.Lacey for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN. PENALTY on IND-27-J.Lacey, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs.
DS: Freeney gets a great rush and is about to kill Bulger when the quarterback releases the ball. Lacey gets a nice jump on the poor throw and it is all over.
DZ: Bulger is scared witless at this point. He knows the pressure is coming, and just telegraphs one. Lacey's dreams come true. He's proved to be quite a find. The penalty was absurd. That was not a disrespectful celebration. The NFL needs to get a grip. It's like they had SEC refs working this game.
15. 4-7-IND 11 (10:36) (Shotgun) 10-M.Bulger pass short right intended for 14-K.Burton INTERCEPTED by 26-K.Hayden at IND 1. 26-K.Hayden to IND 7 for 6 yards (14-K.Burton).
DS: Strange route by the receiver on the play. Burton loops around behind Hayden and is in no way open when Bulger throws the ball. It is fourth down and Bulger has to chuck it. Nice to see #26 back in action.
DZ: Again, pressure and fourth down lead to a pick. He sees Mathis looping around, freaks and chucks it. Awful route, Hayden makes the play. Maybe he doesn't even throw it if it isn't fourth down. Hayden would have been better served batting down the pass, but who can blame him for wanting the stats.
16. 3-16-IND 49 (3:52) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete deep middle to 85-P.Garcon. PENALTY on SL-21-O.Atogwe, Defensive Pass Interference, 43 yards, enforced at IND 49 - No Play.
1-8-STL 8 (3:46) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short middle to 17-A.Collie for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
DS: Manning goes deep to Garcon, but there’s pretty good inside coverage by the safety. He ultimately commits the penalty to set up a first and goal. I though St. Louis actually did a nice job in coverage, although they had extra defensive backs most of the day.
This is about the easiest looking touchdown you’ll ever see. Collie makes a nice cut and finds himself wide open.
DZ: This was clearly PI, the guy grabbed Frenchy's arm. I should have actually listed the previous PI penalty on Frenchy here too. He gives and he takes away. His speed opens things up, but he makes a lot of mistakes.
17. 4-1-STL 31 (2:41) (Shotgun) 10-M.Bulger pass incomplete short right to 17-D.Avery.
DS: Lacey provides very physical coverage on Avery who drops the ball on an in route.
18. 1-10-STL 31 (2:37) 35-C.Simpson left end for 31 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
DS: Foster, Johnson and Clark seal off the left end and Simpson turns on the jets. Very fast. He runs away from Laurinaitis, who didn’t have a very good game.
DZ: It was a nice moment for Simpson who has been cut once already, and could always be cut again.
I'm going front page this time:
in Bloguin's awards. Our category is best football blog. Seriously. Vote for us.
This team is virtually flawless.
Honestly, what is there to complain about? For someone desperate come up with angles to cover on a daily basis, I know that flaws and problems make for better copy than just praising the same guys 7 days a week. The Horse is undefeated and has played so well for so long, that we've virtually run out of superlatives. All of us know better than to start getting giddy or to look too far ahead. All that matters is the playoffs, and with Indy making a strong case that they are going there with a high seed, there's only so much to talk about. This next list all but proves it.
Here's a list of the 5 greatest weaknesses for the Colts. Bear in mind, this is a sliding scale. These problem areas are not proportional to the Colts strengths, but they are real weaknesses.
1. Kick Returner-Chad "The Human Touchback Simpson" is the walking definition of below average. He is currently 51st in the NFL in kick off yardage averaging 21.6 yards per return. Footballoutsiders puts the Colts return game in the bottom half of the league. On every kick off, we all just pray that no one will fumble. When you have a prolific offense, it's not necessary to have a dynamic return game, but it would be nice to sniff the 30 once in a while.
2. Kicker-Matt Stover is 41. Vinatieri is recovering from surgery. If the Colts should need a 52 yard field goal to win a game, would anyone feel confident about it?
3. Defensive Tackle-I know. At this point I'm nitpicking. That's a good thing. The general consensus is that the DTs have played pretty well. They have. Still, Indy ranks 31st in the NFL in stopping power runs and LAST in the NFL in stopping runs for losses. The run D has looked better because the Colts are 5th in allowing the fewest big plays in the running game. Some of this is the result of playing with a huge lead. The safeties are back and shut down long runs. All these numbers imply is that the LBs and the safeties are playing better than the DTs. In fact, rank 27th, 27th, 28th in runs over the LT, up the middle and RT. On runs wide, the Colts are 15th (DON'T RUN WIDE ON THE COLTS!). All this shows is that the DTs still have a ways to go, though we are all glad for their progress.
4. Run blocking from the tackles-It's hard to criticize the O linemen. Manning leads the league in YPA and has been sacked only twice. That says he's getting time to throw and throw long. Still, the run game has been pedestrian. Oddly enough, the Colts are 4th in the NFL converting 77% of their "power runs" defined as the "percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer." Digging deeper we see that Indy has been respectable running up the middle, but is 24th and 21st running around the left and right ends. They are actually better around right end than last year when they were 31st in that area. As well as Charlie Johnson has played as a pass blocker though, Indy was 10th around left end with Ugoh last year and has dropped off dramatically running wide left this season.
5. Luck-The Colts have actually had some bad game luck this year. The Outsiders track 'hidden' special teams yards. It "represents the advantage teams have received from elements of special teams generally out of their control: opposing field goals, kickoff distance, and punt distance." Indy ranks 31st in football in this category. Sunday was a good example of that. Indy couldn't control what Josh Brown did punting the ball inside the 10 repeatedly.
A list of team weaknesses that includes a kick returner, place kicker and luck means one thing: this is a great team.
Three years ago, Vic Ketchman of 'Ask Vic' fame predicted that the Colts time on top would be short. He hilariously declared that the Colts were the perfect model of how not to build a franchise. Reading this article will be the highlight of your day.
Six weeks later they won the Super Bowl.
At the core his argument was that Colts had mismanaged the cap.
Pointing out that he was so very, hilariously wrong is not the point of this post. But I thought I'd point it out anyway.
The other day I linked to the recent updates done at Coltscap.net, but I feel like they need some more attention.
I'm on record as saying I believe the salary cap system is leaving and not coming back. Like everyone else, I pray I'm wrong. The salary cap has provided the Colts with a massive competitive advantage. Because Polian drafts so well, Indy is constantly stocked with cheap, talented players. This allows the Colts to pay their stars big money, while keeping the team rolling. What's truly stunning when examining the contracts of the Colts biggest stars is how well they are constructed.
First, note how Polian has organized the salaries. On a team you want your best players making the most money. It enforces the idea of merit in the locker room. When was the last time Indy had a player (not a new pick) hold out in camp? I don't think it has happened on Polian's watch. The best players make the most money, and that keeps guys in line. Here's Indy's top 10 cap numbers:
My philosophy has always been to build your team into a consistent playoff contender, and then wait for the one year when you get hot at the right time and everything falls in your favor. The Colts are the perfect example of that. My expectation for next season will likely be for the Jaguars to be a playoff contender. That’s as far as I can look ahead at this point.
In looking at the table of the leading passer ratings in the NFL this year, I was disgusted to find how easy it has become to post a huge rating. Take a look at the top 10 passers in the NFL:
Last year, there were 5 QBs who finished the year at 95 or better. Peyton Manning won the MVP with a passer rating of 95. Now, I realize that his rating was a bit lower than a normal MVP, because he was rewarded for his work over the final 8 games of the season, but still, it's mind blowing to see that there are 10 QBs essentially playing at an MVP level right now. Dig a bit deeper and you find 4 more QBs over 90. It's early in season still, and as the weather worsens some of these ratings will begin to drop on their own, but this is ridiculous.
We've all grown accustomed to the growth of the passing game in the NFL, but this is a quantum leap even from last year, and there is no discernible rule change to cause it. I don't like the 'Brady rule', but I seriously doubt it's the sole reason QBs are posting massive numbers all over the league.
In fact, the culprit is obvious. There are a crapload of bad teams. Just check out Sunday's Hangover (ho ho! I snuck that plug in on you. You are permitted to feel violated.). It's one blowout after another.
My theory is that the 6 worst teams (those with zero or one win) in the NFL are so bad that they are skewing the passing stats. Check out the top 10 QBs by passer rating against the other 26 NFL teams and verses the Sh***y Six (Cleveland, Detroit, Tampa, Tennessee, the Rams and the Chiefs...a combined 3-37):
|Rating||Other 26||Sh***y Six||Games against the SS
The six worst teams in football are ruining the game. Take out the Six, and you have 7 players over 95 (compared with 5 last year) and just three over 100. The only guys who haven't benefited from the 6 are Manning (who is incredibly at 114.5 against the other 26 and 114.5 against the 6) and Kyle Orton (and nobody knows what the hell is up with him). Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Aaron Rodgers have feasted on the 6, and their numbers are greatly inflated.
We see three players over 100 (verses 7 this year) and 8 over 94.7 (verses 10 this year).
I think it shows that:
1. There is clearly inflation this year (although i suppose it could be argued that it's largely just the result of Brady and Manning being healthy).
2. There will be some regression (see Campbell, Jason and Edwards, Trent)
For the record, here are last year's final standings:
|1||Philip Rivers, QB||SDG||105.5|
|2||Chad Pennington, QB||MIA||97.4|
|3||Kurt Warner, QB||ARI||96.9|
|4||Drew Brees, QB||NOR||96.2|
|5||Peyton Manning, QB||IND||95|
|6||Aaron Rodgers, QB||GNB||93.8|
|7||Matt Schaub, QB||HOU||92.7|
|8||Tony Romo, QB||DAL||91.4|
|9||Jeff Garcia, QB||TAM||90.2|
|10||Matt Cassel, QB||NWE||89.4|
On a scale of absolute metaphysical certitude, predicting today's 42-6 win over the Rams ranked somewhere closer to positing that F = mg than guessing that Barack Obama will suddenly resign the presidency so as to fulfill a life long dream of playing minor league baseball. There was never any sane reason to suspect the Colts would do anything but hammer the Rams. In the end, there isn't much to do but shrug your shoulders and prepare for the slate of semi-competent to good teams that coming soon...
Reasons To Smile:
- Three more TDs for #18. He's on pace for 40 TDs. He's good.
- 4.0 YPA passing for the Rams (including sacks).
- 6-0 for the fourth time in five years
- Jacob Lacey putting the game away.
- Dwight Freeney continuing to dominate opposing QBs
- 6.0 YPC for the Colts backs, led by Brown's sweet run on the stretch play.
- With the game still in question, Steven Jackson had 8 carries for 20 yards.
- 4/4 rushing the ball on third and short.
- Foster and Muir making plays all day. They were hard to miss out there.
Reasons to Frown:
- Pierre Garcon had another rough game. Yes, he did get the big PI call late, but he picked up another penalty, fumbled, and was targeted at least 8 times with only 3 catches for just 24 yards. Frenchy adds an element to the passing game, but I think this team will be better when Anthony Gonzalez comes back.
- After the Colts took a 21-3 lead, Steven Jackson's next 11 carries went for 106 yards. Now, my first instinct is that I saw some sloppy play from the corners in run support on some of those plays which is to be expected. Indy was content to let the Rams run all day, it wasn't going to help them come back. Something seems to have clicked, however, because Jackson's last 4 carries went for 6 yards. I have a feeling this will be an over played story line this week.
- Pollack, who had some nice blocks, gave up another hit-as-he-throws on Manning. Wayne caught the pass, but it could have been a pick 6 easily.
- Three more zero or negative yard runs for Joe Addai. Runs for losses are on the O-line. While this was a good running day for the Colts, the negative plays are still too prevalent.
- Harlen and Wilcots were a mess. They babbled through penalties, got things wrong (like Wilcots insisting that Sanders was responsible for safety help on the flea flicker-which he called a play fake-when it looked like Bethea was supposed to be deep), and generally made a mess of the game.
- Field position. Indy started at the 10, 22, 4, 14, STL 41, 7, 2, 31, 7, and STL 31. That's 6 drives starting inside the 15 yard line.
Throwing the challenge flag on the horrible spot on Addai's third down run. I'm not sure why they needed to run the clock down, take a timeout and then throw it, but whatever. I'm glad it was thrown.
Punting on fourth and a short one from the 44. I know it worked out, and Indy gained three yards on the quick exchange, but it was the wrong call anyway. The Colts were 4/4 on third and short all day. The odds were very much in their favor if they had gone for it.
Reasons I'm Flyin':
- It's hard to play better than this.
- Hayden and Sanders were rusty early but they are back, and that's going to be a very good thing.
- The defense allowed 6 points. SIX. Three of them were basically due to a trick play call (the flea flicker). The D scored 7. That's enough to make me happy any day.
- This team is just starting to get healthy. Knock on wood.
Reasons I'm Dyin':
- Injuries to Brown and Wayne. Reggie came back, so that's good, but still. Injuries terrify me. We all know why.
- Manning's 300 yard game streak was snapped. Ok, so I'm not really dying about this, but I had to write something here.
The Bottom Line:
This was a bit of a fluky game. Indy jumped on the Rams early and then got pinned deep over and over again. The Horse played it close to the vest and didn't make mistakes deep in their own territory. Those kind of turnovers are usually how a weaker team pulls the upset in a game like this. The Colts were up by so much, so decisively, so early that the game felt like a sleep walk.
It would be easy to jump on the wrong story here and focus on the Rams getting good yardage on the ground (cue Bob Kravitz making a snarky and wrong comment about Ed Johnson being needed...you can bet on it) or the passing game 'only' generating 235 yards, but that's all a distraction. UPDATE: Kravitz did just the opposite. Good on him.
The only story on Sunday was that the Colts have won 15 in a row for a reason: they are an incredible team. The Rams have lost 17 in a row for a reason: they are a horrible team. Today, the incredible pummeled the horrible team.
The Colts are 6-0 (again), and they have three straight tough home games. The 49ers are slumping, but Houston is not, and New England will be a war. The meat of the schedule is coming. This was just the appetizer.