For the second straight week, the Colts have dialed up the big play to guide them to another primetime win. And, once again, the second year WR Pierre Garcon provides some serious highlight material with his second big TD reception in two weeks. But this game was more than just Garcon's coming out party, or Donald Brown's "hello" to the league, or Reggie Wayne's continued dominance as a premiere WR.
This was about the league MVP, Peyton Manning, reminding everyone why he is the best player in the NFL.
The game started with sloppy play by both offenses. One one key play, Peyton's arm was hit as he threw by Alan Branch, which resulted in Antrel Rolle getting an INT. The Cardinals took the field on offense, drove into the red zone, and promptly turned the ball over themselves with a Tim Hightower fumble. The Colts took Arizona's mistake as an BIG opportunity to go for the throat. Indy drove 95 yards for a touchdown.
They took the lead 7-3 at that point, and they never looked back.
This game was a case of the Cardinals simply not matching up well against the Colts. The Cards like to throw and play fast. The Colts love it when teams throw, because they have (arguably) the best pass defense in football. Colts defenders Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis feasted on Arizona's offensive line, with Freeney taking Cards tackle Mike Gandy out to the woodshed on just about every play. Gandy might have had vertigo by the end of the game, Freeney's spin moves still fresh in his mind.
The Colts sacked Warner four times, forced one fumble, and harassed him into two very costly INTs. I wrote this in my game preview a few days ago:
To attack the Cardinals, a defense must attack Kurt Warner. His story is amazing and inspiring, and while he can often be deadly accurate with the football, the fact is the man is a walking turnover waiting to happen. He is horrible at protecting the football both in how he receives the snap and how he holds the ball in the pocket. Also, his decision making is sometimes suspect. Many bash Brett Favre for his "gunslinger" mentality. Warner is just as bad. Look no further than the Super Bowl to witness Warner throwing a bad, game-killing INT at a crucial moment.
Well, much like last season's Super Bowl, on first and goal on the one yard line, Warner was pressured into throwing an INT in the endzone to Antoine Bethea, killing any and all chance of the Cardinals realistically getting back in the game. At halftime, NBC analyst Tony Dungy was all over the Cardinals for not running the ball on first and goal. It was a costly mistake.
After intermission, the Cardinals drove the length of the field to score a TD, but Indy's defense did not allow them into the endzone for the rest of the game. The Colts eventually responded with a three yard TD pass from Manning to Joseph Addai. Both Addai and Donald Brown played very well Sunday night. Addai ran for 68 yards for 4.8 a carry. His pass blocking and blitz pick-up was also outstanding. Donald Brown only averaged 2.9 a carry, but don't let that fool you. Brown had several big plays in the game, including a 72 yard gain on a pass play from Manning.
For Brown and Garcon, this game showed the rest of the NFL just how fast this Colts team is at the skill positions.
But, the two engines that made all this go were Peyton and Dwight. Manning abused Cards cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, targeting him on numerous big plays, including two big TDs plays. Freeney lived in Arizona's backfield. They utterly dominated the Cardinals from their respective positions.
Well, penalties are becoming bothersome. 7 flags for 69 yards is not Colts football. Also, special teams kick blocking was dreadful. Utterly dreadful. On a PAT, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie rushed off the right end and nearly blocked the kick. In the third quarter, the exact same thing happened again, only this time on a 32 yard FG attempt. Adam Vinatieri missed it, and some Colts fans (predictably) overreact and want him cut or kicked off the team, for some reason.
No offense to people screaming for Adam Vinatieri's head, but ya'll don't know what you're talking about.
Ask the Seahawks (who the Colts play next week) if they'd like our kicker over Olindo Mare. Or ask the Steelers last week, when they saw their "clutch" kicker Jeff Reed shank two big kicks. Pittsburgh is 1-2 now, and those missed kicks might cost them their season! So please, save the FanPosts saying Vinatieri is "washed up." They don't hold up, especially when you look at the facts (bad blocking, coming back from hip surgery, etc.).
The other negative was, once again, short yardage running was dreadful. On later plays, the Colts finally figured out that people are selling out to stop Indy on short yardage, and ran a reverse to Dallas Clark to get a first down.
However, when you blow out the NFC champions in their house, nit-picking is just not all that appropriate. The Colts hosed (arguably) the best team in the NFC, if not one of the best. Tough to take anything bad away from that.
Thanks to Revenge Of The Birds for some great cross-blogging.
The Colts are 3-0, and Big P is playing at another level. Defense stepped up big to dominate a very potent offense, and the running game is gaining steam (4.1 a carry tonight). And they are winning these games without players like Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders, Gary Brackett, or Kelvin Hayden.
Very impressive. Go Colts!