The Indianapolis Colts are 10-0 for the second time in the last 5 years and have run their consecutive streak of 10 win seasons to 8 in a row. They have the second longest regular season win streak in the history of the NFL (19 games). They also are working on breaking their own NFL record of 6 straight seasons of 12 win seasons with their 7th consecutive season.
1.) Finally, this team is working on all cylinders.
YES! For once, the Colts are working together as a team. There is belief in the defense, belief in special teams, and we already believed in Captain Manning. There's not that sudden dread feeling when the defense takes the field, or when we punt the ball. I just feel like this team no longer believes that Manning has to win the game for us, which is huge!
Sure, the team has faults and could be performing better. However, I think we all remember the Steelers and the Patriots teams of this decade. They didn't always win with blowouts. They didn't always win pretty. BUT, they won the games they needed to win by playing solid football in all 3 key areas (Offense, Defense, Special Teams).
The 2007 Patriots won most of their last 7 games by less than 7 pts, in some cases, eeking out wins over teams in the final seconds. They did it because all 3 facets of their team got stops when it mattered. Last year's Steelers?? Same exact methods.
2.) The Colts MUST feature the running game more..
The Colts, and Manning in particular, are a victim of their own success at times. They've gotten so good at calling up the right pass that they have gone to the air more and more over the last 2 years. Sure, the running game isn't what it was with Edge, but it still has functioned. We ran for 84 yards on a defense that generally doesn't allow a 100 yard rusher. The Colts have drastically improved the overall running game since the bye week, with Kyle DeVan's efforts being visibly noticed.
I made this comment in one of BBS's posts today, calling Manning a bonehead. I still stand by that comment. The Ravens and Patriots have always been very solid defenses and we have typically struggled to throw the ball in short fields against them. However, Manning decides to try 3 straight passes on 1st and Goal from the 9 yard line. I understand trying once or twice, but you cannot abandon the run that easily. Didn't Addai just shake Ray Lewis out of his shoes earlier in the game on a goal line run? Didn't Addai have a beast of a run against the Patriots that put us in prime position to score the go ahead TD?
I am as rabid a fan of the Colts and Manning as it gets without being silly and stupid, but even I know the Colts must try to run the ball. I feel like Manning is forcing the pass at times and while successful, it would be nice to see more efforts made to run the ball. That and the Colts need to abandon the stretch play because the 3 RB's on the team can all go up the gut and get tough yards. People are really overlooking the fact that we've played some really solid/top tier run defenses all year long. The few games against bad teams, we've been up 20pts and haven't really needed to run as much.
3.) The Next Man up is alive and well....
Think about all the years where we've lost key guys and our season has tanked, most notably 2007 and 2008. This year, it's a whole different view. We lost a few guys early and the players that have had to step up have done so in a huge way. From offense to defense, you can easily name 2 or 3 players on both sides that have really taken it to a new level. Sure, they still make mistakes, but overall, they have made us all go WOW or they have made us all go We'll be okay!
If any of us had said we'd be 10-0 missing 3 of our 4 starting secondary, AV for most of the year, letting Hunter Smith go via Free Agency, using a rookie punter, and 2 key WR's from last year, we'd have laughed you off the stage and thrown all kinds of food and bottles at you. Some of that is management's eye for talent, that is simply undeniable. However, that also speaks VOLUMES about the level and commitment of our coaching staff and our players. Everyone here is about making the other guy better, not the personal stats or bonus incentives. When a Pro Bowl player leaves our franchise and reaches out to the guy who replaced him, letting him stay with him, mentoring him, that just shows the level of team that this franchise has.
4.) Jim Caldwell has been exactly what this franchise needed.
Tony Dungy was one of the best signings for the Colts franchise in it's history. He did things for this team that I really cannot begin to describe. However, when he retired, there were question marks about how this team would survive. Dungy was a great coach, but personally, the guy was too loyal. He was not an aggressive person in any stretch, and that I think ultimately hurt the Colts to some degree. If you look at what Caldwell did immediately after being hired officially as the Head Coach, he fired 2 long standing coaches. Coaches whose heads we had all been screaming for for years. The results are in....and they are HUGE. Despite the massive injuries in the secondary, the Colts are #1 scoring defense, the run defense is actually in the top 15, and the overall ranking is one of the best we've had ever.
More to the point, the Colts are actually bringing blitzes instead of playing prevent defense half the time. It's such a huge changeup, despite not making huge changes to our player lineups. What's better than that? It's helped us win games that we would have easily lost under the previous defensive coordinator.
Caldwell has been everything that Dungy was to this franchise thus far, and I truly think you have to have him tabbed as a huge front runner for Coach of the Year. To come into what he has, to deal with the injuries early, to having to use rookies the way we have, I just don't think you can count him out because of how great Manning is.
5.) The Colts worst enemy...
Is themselves. A lot of the problems on offense or defense over these first 10 games have been guys trying to do too much or guys focusing on the next thing rather than what they are doing right then. Dropped passes, missed tackles, and worse yet, missed blocking assignments. Some of that is youth and inexperience, but some of that is also poor effort.
This is also something that has hurt the Colts when they've been the #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs. The last 3 times the Colts had a bye, they've coasted for pretty much the remainder of the year. Sure, they were well rested come playoffs, but they didn't have any meaningful playing time for much of those games as they were already 12-2 or 13-1 and had guaranteed the bye.
The last 4 teams to play in the SB from the AFC have done so by playing games out even into the final week of the season. Both the Steelers in 05 and the Colts in 06 played Wildcard games and pretty much never missed a beat. The Patriots in 07 played full out in Week 16 and while they would lose the SB rematch, they still managed to get farther than the teams that rested. The Steelers in 2008 also followed this fairly similar setup in playing out their year. While Big Ben got hurt in their finale, he was able to rest up thru the bye week and played in a big way in their playoff opener.
I'm not suggesting the Colts risk a player's health, but I think we need to play as much game time effort as we can. The Colts are a team that plays well week in and week out, but the layoffs seem to cause us to struggle. Perhaps that is also a thing of the past with Caldwell at the helm, but the regular season isn't what scares me. The Bye week choke job is.