Welcome to this week's edition of the Devil's Take. The Colts, wounded and battered, won a hard fought game against a mistake prone Cincinnati Bengals. Make no mistake about it, the Bengals made this game a lot easier for us. Still, the score and the stats do not tell the real story of this game. The Colts now sit atop the AFC South at 6-3 with a full game lead over the Jags/Titans.
In 2000, there was a movie that came out called the The Replacements. Basically, it was a fictional movie about a group of football nobodies and castoffs (scabs) playing the final games of a strike season. During the final game of the movie, the coach (Gene Hackman) is approached by the sideline reported asking what it will take for his team to get back into the game. His reply: Heart.
Despite the injuries, mistakes, and inconsistencies, these Colts are all heart.
Colts grade for Week 10: A+
Offense: Looked like the injuries finally became just too much. Yes, they played well despite it, but the fact is the lack of practice and being on the same page is showing. We should be better moving forward, but if any game came at the right time, this Bengals team helped us out HUGE!
Defense: Wow, just wow. 5 turnovers, 1 TD on an interception, 17 total points off turnovers, 3 sacks. That's one of the best complete games they've had all season. Yes, they got beat on a few plays, but this was a game that could have been all Bengals if not for the effort of the defense.
Special Teams: Overall, it was a very solid effort. They only had 1 really good return against us, and the onside kick at the end was a joke. However, the Colts did what they were supposed to do.
Overall, there was a lot of things I could harp on and bitch about. I can't do that. This was a team that could have easily packed it up in the 1st quarter and quit. They could have made excuses. They didn't. They came to play and play they did. It was ugly. It was certainly not Colts football. What it was however, is a character building win. The kind of win a champion is expected to make.
Next Man Up
It would be very wrong of me to award this game's MVP to any one player. This week, you had guys coming out of the woodwork making plays all game. Tyjuan Hagler, just re-signed a few weeks ago, almost runs a pick back for a TD. Jacob Tamme, our 3rd string TE, led the team in receiving yards. Javarris James, cut, signed by the Patriots, re-added to the team later in the season, scored the only offensive TD for the Colts. Aaron Francisco, filling in for 2 guys, catches a critical interception late in the game. Brandon James, made several catches on the Colts final drive before the half to setup for a FG. Conner, out with a foot injury for much of the year, forces a fumble.
All of these players are just a big part of why the Colts won. It would be very easy to hand the MVP to a guy like Hayden or Freeney, but to me, I have to award it to the guys whose effort made it possible. The next man up...and to illustrate my point, please look on down below...
The Colts had 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string players lining up as starters in this game. Hell, in some cases, guys that weren't even on the opening day roster or practice squad. The Colts were missing 8 starters for this game.
- Jeff Linkenbach/Kyle DeVan - Linkenbach started at RG today for Mike Pollak, and he's a tackle! DeVan was demoted in the offseason in favor of Richard, whom has since been out for the past 3 games and 4 of the last 5.
- Donald Brown/Javarris James - Our #1 and #3 RB's were in street clothes, our opening day #4 RB is on injured reserve. James, was cut, re-added to the PS, and promoted to the active roster. Brown, who's been hurt, showed some flashes of finally being healthy today.
- Gijon Robinson/Jacob Tamme - Our #1 and #2 TE's are on injured reserve, our #4 TE is out with a rib injury. Our #3 TE had 6 career catches to start this year. Robinson was cut earlier this year.
- Kavell Conner/Phillip Wheeler/Pat Angerer/Tyjuan Hagler - Our #1 MLB, was out with a turf toe injury, his replacement? A rookie. Session, our starter at OLB, out with an elbow/forearm injury. Humber, out for the season. Hagler? Wasn't even on the roster to start the year. Conner? He's missed about 6 games due to an injury.
- Aaron Francisco - This guy gets a lot of flack, despite filling in for arguably 2 of the most talented safeties in the league. Bob Sanders? Out since week 1 with a biceps injury. Bullitt, his backup, out for the year. Brandon King? Out for the year. Francisco wasn't even with the Colts until a few weeks ago.
- Justin Tryon - He didn't play the last 2 weeks due to a foot injury, but he was brought in on a trade to bolster our depth at CB. Instead, he's been playing in a starters role for several weeks due to injuries to Lacey and Powers.
- Blair White/Brandon James - When you only dress 2 starting day WR's, there's a problem. Gonzo? Out for the year. Collie? Out for this week at least. White? Out for this week at least. Brandon James? He was a practice squad player last week and was our #3 WR today. He was also our punt returner. Meanwhile, White and James have stepped up to fill voids left by Collie, Gonzo, Garcon, and White.
With all of the players out due to injuries, it's easy to sit here and complain about the play calling, miscues, and mistakes. DON'T!!!!! Guys, we won a game that a lesser team would have gotten their ass handed to them. The Bengals are a team that could have easily won this by 30pts. Instead, the Colts next man up group of players made all the critical plays down the stretch.
It would be soooo easy to complain about this missed throw, that missed block, but it would serve no point. The Colts lined up a team on offense that would not be a starter on most teams in this league outside of Manning and Wayne, and possibly Garcon. They lined up a defense missing 2 of the 4 most critical players to its success (Brackett/Bullitt). We won't even begin to mention the amount of position shuffling the Colts have had to do just to get something positive going.
Today we saw the Colts using Jeff Linkenbach at right guard. For those of you not familiar with him, he has primarily played left tackle. It was extremely odd and he definitely looked out of place. Still, the guy played his ass off. He got beat on a few plays, but the best running today came between the tackles. The effort was definitely there, but I think this was a bad decision by the Colts personally.
Seriously, why is this guy even the starting RT anymore? He's been beat badly every week for much of the year. He's directly responsible for allowing almost all of the sacks on Peyton Manning. He has been flagged for like a good dozen false starts this year. Bottom line, WTF?!!?!?!?!?! If he's still a Colt after this year, I'd be absolutely shocked.
For those of you who have followed my posts, you know I've been very critical of the officials through the course of the year. Surprisingly, this game was fairly well officiated. As always, there's holding going on in the trenches, against both teams. That seems to be something they just won't call unless it's so blatant that they have no choice. I've pretty much given up on that. However, there was one bad call in this game and it actually went against the Bengals.
Right before half time, a Bengals defender was flagged for pass interference. Unfortunately, every replay I saw never showed anything like it. In watching one replay, the ref who throws the flag appears to have a bad angle on it. This enabled the Colts to convert and continue driving for a FG. Keep in mind, this game was decided by the Bengals needing a TD. If they were going for a FG, the outcome is completely different. Having said that, the turnovers by the Bengals sealed their fate. This game was not decided by one bad call.
- Peyton Manning - By far, his worst game of the year. 2 sacks, no TD's and held under 200 yards passing. Still, no turnovers, directed his team on 3 scoring drives. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't easy, but for once this year, the defense backed him up.
- Brandon and Javarris James - Both guys played great for the lack of playing and practice time they've gotten. Jr. Edge has 3 TD's in 2 games. Brandon had some critical catches on a FG scoring drive and played solidly at returning punts. He may not have broken one, but he certainly didn't turn the ball over.
- Tyjuan Hagler/Kavell Conner - Guys, welcome back! Both had significant impacts in this game. Hagler, who's been injured over the last few injuries, clearly still has it to play in this league. If the Colts can get healthy moving forward, the depth here could be scary good.
- Jacob Tamme - This guy...seriously... Dallas Clark 2.0. Coming into the season, he had 6 catches for 47 yards. Since Clark went down, he's caught 24 catches for 245 yards and 2 TD's. This guy is our 3rd string TE.
The Colts next week are on the road at New England. The Patriots are looking vulnerable as of late, and Randy Moss is no more. The Colts should have several guys back for this game, with a possible Sanders sighting in this one. To be blunt, I'd be shocked if anyone except Collie misses this game. Considering the impact this game has had on the Colts seasons over the last few years, it's a HUGE game for both teams.
Lastly, before I wrap up, I just wanted to say thanks for all the great comments I've received over several of my fanshots. It's always appreciated and in some instances, surprising. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and if you like what you are reading, please be sure to show some love! Thanks!