Well, if you follow at the narrative from the media, and read the writings of several Cowboys fans both here visiting and over at BTB, you know that the Colts have absolutely no chance of winning this football game. In fact, I have yet to read a single article stating the Colts will win the game, with reasons why. Everything written and/or said suggests the Cowboys will dominate the Colts by doing two things: they will run the ball down Indy's throat, and they will back off and play coverage defense, preventing the big play.
It's amazing how, after 9 games with nary a loss, the pundit media continues to sound like they haven't watched a single game of pro football all year long.
Teams like Denver, the Jets, and Buffalo tried this exact same strategy... and lost. Both Denver and the Jets lost at home. Now the Cowboys are going to do it (maybe), and despite what the season has shown us, somehow they will "dominate" the Colts.
Hey, you know what, it's ok. We all knew this is how the season would go. The longer the Colts go without a loss, the more speculation from moron pundits that the next team, whoever they are, are the ones that will beat the Colts. I sat up late last night, dozing off in front of the TV, watching ESPN's NFL Live (I was trying to fall asleep, and was looking for the most boring, meaningless thing on TV to help me achieve that). When Suzy Kolber finally got to the Colts v. Cowboys segment, Mark Schlereth (whose chin is bigger than his brain) and Darren Woodson did a 5 minute stroke fest on Tony Romo. Nary a word spoken about Manning, his MVP-like season thus far, the 9-0 Colts, or anything like that. They brought up that Romo (who has started a whopping 3 games) has the second best QB rating in the league behind Manning. Forget that he's 2-1 as a starter. Forget that he has yet to play against a defense ranked higher than 20th in the league (Carolina was 20th when they played the Cowboys). Forget all that.
What I got was Darren Woodson whacking off on Tony Romo's picture, with Mark Schlereth and Suzy Kolber offering suggestions on how best to stand and where to shoot.
The silly thing out of all this is we have seen it before. ESPN and others like it will talk up Romo as if he's the next Tom Brady. They'll set him up to destroy the undefeated Colts, and should he do so it'll be Romo, Romo, Romo all the time; just like Michael Vick after the Pittsburgh game this year, or Donavan McNabb the first three weeks of the season. However, should Romo lose, they will all but forget about him. It really is sad how these idiots are so friggin' predictable. Rather than do their job, which is to report what is going on, they instead build up a narrative that could potentially pay off. That way, IF Romo wins a bunch a games and takes the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, ESPN will claim they were the first to champion his talent.
But whatever. The Colts have no chance, according to them. Guys like Tom Brady, Jake Plummer, Chad Pennington, and Eli Manning are lunchmeat to a stud QB like Romo. None of those teams the Colts beat were "real" teams. Now, the Cowboys (5-4) are a REAL team; America's team. If you listen to Cowboys fans, Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Julius Jones are the second coming of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. So, fine. The Colts have no shot. They also had no shot to beat Denver or New England on the road. Here are the keys:
Run defense. I know this is a shock to hear folks, but Bill Parcells likes to run the ball. Maybe you've read that somewhere. Because he likes to run the ball, Julius Jones and Marion Barber will get 45 carries and run for 500 yards against our horrible run defense. Because the statistics show the Colts giving up 5.3 a carry, fans think that their teams should just run the ball right at Indy, all the time. Why throw?
Lies. Lies. Statistics. And lies.
The Colts run defense has been spotty all year because of injuries, new faces, and some inconsistent play. However, when the chips are down, the defense has often come up with big plays and big stops to seal the deal (ex: New England). The "X" factor here is Bob Sanders. If he plays, the Cowboys run game is not going to be effective. Booger McFarland is fitting in well on the d-line, and Cato June is having a Pro Bowl season, again. If Sanders can't go, look for Dungy to use Bethea as the "Sanders" safety. If the Colts force the Cowboys to throw more than they want to, the pass rush will pin its ears back and tattoo the horseshoe on Tony Romo's face.
- Special teams. This past offseason, the Colts kicked a certain kicker to the curb because... well, they got tired of him losing games for them. The Cowboys decided to sign this certain kicker because... well, they're kicking game was so bad even this guy was an improvement. Who is this kicker? I'm glad you asked. He looks something like this:
- Remember him now? This is the kind of game former-Colts and current-Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagt lives for. It's a high profile, high stakes regular season game that is personal for him. He wants to kick a long, improbable game winner against the Colts, and then thumb his nose at the press box where Bill Polian is sitting. The Colts must play solid special teams, and win the field position battle. Parcells is a ST nut, which is probably why it is so obvious that he hates Vanderjagt, who couldn't kick a NERF football to the ten yard line, let alone a real one. Adam Vinatieri might be the difference in this game. If his kickoffs are solid, and the coverage units FINALLY do their jobs, the Colts can force the Cowboys into long-field positions.
Dallas Clark. I doubt Brandon Stokely will play, which means Dallas Clark will get lots of snaps. Grizz suggests the Cowboys will put 7 or 8 players in coverage out there in base, and cover Clark with a CB. My answer to that is GREAT! Please do so. This means the Colts will run the football right down Dallas' throat (just as they did to Buffalo, and pretty much everyone else that does this to Indy), and keep Romo and the offense off the field. If teams want to play keep away, then two can play. The difference between other teams and the Colts is the Colts will play the time of possession game, but also score touchdowns doing so. That last bit is the difference. Many teams try to play keep away, but they hardly ever SCORE because they are so concerned with milking clock rather than scoring. The Colts score. Often. And with tremendous efficiency. If a CB is on Clark, the Cowboys can expect Addai and Rhodes to run right through them. And then, when they get tired of getting run over, they'll bring in a linebacker to stop the run. This means a safety on Clark. Manning, play action. Frozen linebacker. TD Dallas Clark. Ballgame.
How the Cowboys handle Clark might determine what the Colts do to attack them.
All that said, it's pretty obvious that Tony Romo is a better QB now than Drew Bledsoe. What is amazing is several people where claiming this during training camp, yet Parcells stuck with Bledsoe anyway. Makes you scratch your head. Obviously, the media will do the whole TO v. Marvin thing. It's not even a match-up. Why not do a match-up spotlight between Tarik Glenn and [insert scrub Cowboys o-lineman here]? It's about the same thing.
T.O. couldn't carry Marvin's jock. Their own contemporaries think so. Marvin is the best receiver in football, and might go down as the best ever, next to some guy named Rice.
In any case, this is a game between a flashy, loudmouthed, arrogant team and a team that just wins, shakes hands afterwards, and goes home. The media will root and play up the loudmouthed idiots because, in their minds, those kinds of guys sell more ad time. They will play up the new guy (Romo) and their poster boy, Owens. Guys like Manning, Harrison, and Dungy are old news. 9-0? Yawn. MVP-like season? Whatever. For them, the Colts have no chance. This is the Cowboys' coming out party.
Then again, all season long, the Colts have done a very fine job spoiling the media's narrative.