Photo: AP Photo/Chris Park
TE Dallas Clark
DT Keyunta Dawson
RT Ryan Diem
DE Dwight Freeney
WR Anthony Gonzalez
LB Tyjuan Hagler
WR Marvin Harrison
LT Charlie Johnson
LB Freddie Keiaho
KR TJ Rushing (was cut to make room for a back-up LT, who did indeed play last night)
LT Tony Ugoh
So, to put some perspective on this, this means that fourth and fifth string WRs were starting, the two starting DTs were rookies either undrafted (Johnson) or drafted in the 7th round (Dawson), the third string LT (signed just this past week) was out there much of the game, and Jake Scott was moved from guard to RT in place of Ryan Diem while Dylan Gandy took his spot. The third string WILL backer was in there. Rocky Boiman, who was benched earlier this year, was in there. With the way things were going, I half expected Justin Snow to actually lineup at TE (something he's never done even though he's listed as a TE) and catch some passes.
And yet, despite all these injuries, the Colts should have won this game. This team should be 9-0. Instead, they're 7-2 and for some reason people are already dismissing them... just like last year. And while a lot will be made of Peyton's 6 INT game, unlike the people who will criticize them, we watched the game. And we know (or, at least I know) that even with the picks last night's game was one of the guttiest, toughest games Peyton has ever played, and it further added to his legacy rather than detracted from it. And anyone who disagrees is wrong. That simple. Here's the recap:
- Dear Coach Dungy, fire your Special Teams coach Russ Purnell. I know you're loyal, Coach. It's admirable. But this incompetent moron has now cost this team a win. If not for those two returns for TDs early in the first quarter, the Colts cruise through this game easily. If not for those returns, the Colts could have stuck to their game plan and beaten the snot out of this truly pathetic Chargers team. Yes, I know there were injuries. I don't care. The offense and defense had injuries, and they played like gangbusters despite them; especially the defense. The ST units are not coached by Tom Moore or Ron Meeks. They are coached by Russ Purnell, and it is his job to make sure his guys perform. When they don't, it's on him. Year, after year, after year Purnell gets new players (faster, better players) and the results are the same. I want him fired now. If not, I'm calling on fans to boo his name (Fire Russ!) at the Dome whenever the ST screws up.
- If anyone here thinks Adam Vinatieri is not a clutch kicker, there's the door:
If you really think that based on one bad game, you have now left the world of the rational and sane and entered the Wonka-Zulu Dimension, a place that delusional fans descend to after they take things waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of perspective and make stupid, dumb judgments based off a small, recent sampling of work. There is no one in the history of professional football I'd rather have kicking my team's FGs than Adam Vinatieri. Yes, he had a rotten game. Tell me, of all the people in this league, was Adam not at the top of the list for players due to have a bad game? Adam has a bad game once every lunar eclipse. Every other leap year, Adam has a bad game. Last night, Adam had a bad game. A really bad game. That miss was Vanderjadt bad, but unlike Vandy (who missed EVERY big kick), Adam will bounce back and make the big ones when they matter most. Anyone who thinks otherwise may kindly leave our reality-based dimension and enjoy your stay with the crazies.
Last night was one of the best games I've ever seen Peyton Manning play. Yeah, yeah, yeah write me off, call me stupid, call me crazy, call me a homer, call by Al. I care. Peyton Manning threw 6 INTs on the road, something he's never done. Some of those TOs were killer, like the one in the endzone in the first quarter. People will point fingers and laugh at Manning because... well, they're silly and pathetic people hoping and longing for the day when others listened to their insane gibberish. I watched that game. So did you. You saw receivers like Aaron Moorehead dog his routes. You saw Reggie let up and not fight for the ball, resulting in yet another Antonio Cromardie pick. You saw Moorehead (again!) run the wrong route and kill another drive. Of the 6 INTs, four were the result of Manning throwing to receivers who didn't know what the fuk they were doing. One was a tipped ball at the line, and the last was a desperate heave with 0 seconds left in the game. Despite all these TOs, Manning led his team down the field on three brilliant drives, one of which was the failed FG attempt by Adam which should have won the game. Manning had a third string LT protecting his blindside. He had Jake Scott as his RT. He had a guy named Craphonso catching his passes. He had a guy named Moorehead drop a gimme TD, the ball slipping right through his hands.
Despite all the odds (the bad officiating, the injuries, the horrid execution, and playing from behind all game), Manning got his team in position to win, and the team came up short. Even normally brain dead announcers Al Michaels and John Madden stood in awe of Manning's play, despite the picks. It's yet another example of stats not telling the whole truth of a game. Manning was brilliant in this game, and if Adam makes that gimme kick, this would have been a comeback on par with the TB game in 2003.
So, after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, what can we fans take from this game? Well, for starters (because right now all of them are hurt; wakka, wakka, wakka!), we know we have a gutty team that refuses to quit regardless of circumstance. Most other NFL teams would have folded up their tent after halftime. This team didn't. We know the defense is one of the best in football, if not the best. Ed Johnson is a monster, Bob Sanders makes it hurt through the TV, and both Marlin and Kelvin continue to impress. I cannot say enough about guys like Clint Session (2 INTs) and Keyunta Dawson. These are two rookies playing important positions on the defense, and they dominated.
On offense, our QB is pretty decent, our running backs have no fear, and our favorite pre-season player has a good future with this team. Guys like Moorehead should be cut at 4pm today. When the team needed guys like him to step up, he has consistently failed. Meanwhile, rookies and undrafted guys continue to step up and play Colts football.
As always, people will right the team off after a 7-2 start playing a schedule Atlas would find grueling. Despite this gut wrenching loss, I am still proud of the team and like Blueisgood I have not lost any faith. If anything, last night's game, and the NE loss, re-affirmed that faith more so than any of the seven wins. This team, when even reasonably healthy, is the best team in football. Right now, this team is decimated with injuries, and the focus is not homefield or anything stupid like that. The focus is get healthy, win the division, and move forward from there. Lots and lots of football left to be played. When this team gets healthy, it will be scary good.