Well, we got another 'all timer.'
Mark this down as yet another thrilling chapter in the ever evolving 'War of 18-12,' the battle between the two best quarterbacks of their generation. Notch it right along with last year's thrilling win in Indianapolis, or the Patriots goal-line stand in the RCA Dome in 2003.
Games like these shape the NFL, and we are a part of it. Feels special, and it should.
Special thanks to Pats Pulpit for being a great blog and doing great work all week long leading up to the game.
For the Colts, this recent chapter in their feud with the Patriots was their game to win. They simply could not complete what would have been another amazing comeback. Not enough rounds in the clip, gas in the tank, or whatever other metaphor you want to use.
And yes, if you want to lay blame for the lose at the feet of one Peyton Manning, that is fair to do. He'd agree with you.
We start off by saying hats off to the Patriots. Granted, like last year, they wilted in the second half and proved, once again, that the 'clutchness' of Bill Belichick and his defense is over-rated. Even Tom Brady played small in the clutch, including the fourth quarter. When it came time for him to match Manning score for score in order to maintain his team's lead, he and the Pats offense responded with two consecutive three-and-outs.
What this game boiled down to was the Colts defense playing like garbage on the road again. They needed another miracle finish from their quarterback who has made his career bailing out his own team's bad defensive efforts. At a time when the Colts defense was needed to come up big and dominate a Pats v. Colts game, they came up small again.
Manning will get the blame, but in the final analysis the reason Indy lost is because this defense simply does not perform well on the road. And their is no excuse for it.By halftime, the Patriots were 6-6 on third down and 2-2 in the redzone. On the Aaron Hernandez touchdown grab from Brady, that play was on third and ten from the ten. Seriously, at what point do players like Kelvin Hayden start earning their contracts? Did tackle Fili Moala even play? I know he started, but he notched only one assisted tackle. Robert Mathis, who made a big stink about his contract this past off-season, was dominated by Pats right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Mathis logged only two assisted tackles. Come on, Robert!
In a big game on the road, when the offense has third and fourth stringers out there playing their guts out, making plays left and right, this defense (which has a ton of money invested in it) allows the Pats to complete 63% of their third downs for the game and fails to generate a single turnover.
Putrid effort. Putrid.
I'm almost about down thinking this defense can work. time and time again, they fail to come up big when the team needs them. It goes deeper than injuries. Yes, the reason Danny Woodhead was able to scamper 30-plus yards for a touchdown in the third quarter was because Aaron Francisco whiffed on a tackle. Francisco is a garbage player, and the only reason he is in there is because the safety position for the Colts has been decimated.
But, it isn't him that's the reason this defense is so bad away from The Luke.
It's guys like Dwight Freeney, who had a sack and... well, pretty much nothing else the entire game. It's guys like Mathis. Two assisted tackles? Two? It's guys like Tyjuan Hagler, who is playing well overall but COME ON MAN! That INT in the fourth quarter was right in your friggin hands! CATCH IT!
Sigh. So frustrated with this group.
Anyway, at a time when the Colts absolutely need their multi-million dollar defensive investment to step up and carry this team, they simply cannot do it. Lots of money wasted on mediocre players.
Here are my other observations:
- I bash the hell out of the defense, but that doesn't mean certain people did not play well. Tip hat to Pat Angerer. The rookie showed up with 12 tackles, 9 solo.
- The Colts allowed 168 rushing yards at 4.9 a carry. Our DTs suck. At what point does Daniel Muir get sent to the bench Mile Pollak style?
- Blair White is clutch. Those two TDs in the fourth, especially that last one, were amazing. Did he cross himself while sliding across the turf with the TD ball in his hands?
- Pierre Garcon played well. Yes, he did. Manning himself took blame for the INT that everyone was pushing on Pierre. Garcon broke off his route and was wide open. Manning threw it deep anyway. Pick. Peyton's supposed to make that read. It's a rare instance of Peyton making a mistake. Garcon also had 62 yards on five catches. His blocking was especially good. He did have two drops though.
- Donald Brown quietly had a good game, especially in the second half. In the first half, it made no sense to run. Brown danced too much at the line. Cut and go. In the second half he did that. Thus, we saw him break a few runs.
- Ryan Diem is awful. The final pick by Manning was a direct result of Diem being unable to single block a marginally 'OK' defender one-on-one. Diem has been awful all year. Why didn't Polian cut his sorry butt over Ryan Lilja's? Maybe it was a mistake! Maybe Bill told his son Chris, 'Hey, call Ryan in here! I'm cutting his sorry ass,' and Chris sent in the wrong Ryan.
- Another good game for Javarris James. He's a keeper.
- The Patriots defense is awful. Truly awful. They allowed 478 yards and nearly coughed up the lead at the end. The supposed 'genius' of Bil Belichick as a defensive coordinator is highly over-rated. He's a great coach, don't get me wrong. But 'genius?' Please. If Joseph Addai and Austin Collie had played the entire game, we beat these guys by 14 points.
And finally, we dedicate the last little bit to Peyton Manning. He is going to get beat up a little bit in the press today, and he should. But, in the second half, he outplayed Brady. Brady's 186 yards were done mostly in the first half. In the second half, Brady played poorly.
Back to Peyton, the INT that burns the most was the last one. It was a terrible throw and a terrible decision. The Colts were well within Adam Vinatieri range, but Peyton pressed. He needs to not do that. With so many new players in due to injury, Peyton's 'trust factor' is all off. He feels he has to do everything himself. It's a mindset that limited him early in his career. When he learned to trust his teammates, that's when Big P became dominant.
Also, please take this with whatever grain of salt you want, but we reported a bit of small rumor several months ago that Peyton Manning was playing hurt. We talked about how, in months like November and December, the rumored injury could effect Peyton's ability to throw the ball.
Well, that last INT was a bit of a head-scratcher, wasn't it?
After the game, Peyton talked at the podium about not being able to explain the throw, as if it got away from him.
“I certainly didn’t get everything on the throw that I wanted,” Manning said. “We had the matchup that I wanted and I took a shot at the end zone and I just did not — I can’t tell the reason — I just did not get everything I wanted on the throw.”
Asked specifically about the last throw, Manning said, “If you’re asking if I’m stewing about it right now, the answer would be yes.”
He had to toss up 52 passes yesterday. You can't tell me that last throw looked particularly good. In the past three games, Peyton has tossed 5 TDs and 5 INTs to go with 875 yards, completing 64% of his passes. Not 'terrible' numbers if you are, say, Rex Grossman or Ryan Fitzpatrick. But if you are Peyton Manning, those numbers are poor.
Again, I leave it to you to decide. Peyton has been off in recent weeks. That we know. Part of it is the injuries to other players. The other part is the undisclosed injury to Peyton himself. Just my two cents.
Overall, this was another great chapter in a great rivalry. I got several emails from Pats fans after the game, but this one was my favorite (I'll leave the author's name out):
As a Pats fan, just wanted to say the Colts scared the crap out of me tonight. Peyton is the best QB in the league and I was convinced he was going to win until Sanders made that last-second pick. At any rate, mad respect to Peyton and the Colts. Have a good night man :-)
After watching this game, the Patriots do not scare me as a possible post-season opponent the way the Steelers or Ravens do. But, that doesn't mean they cannot beat the Colts again in Foxboro. Indy's defense is not portable. I don't even know why they bother to punt on the road.
The Colts are 6-4, and considering how bad their defense is and how injured they are, that's a positive. The San Diego Chargers game next week is a must win. With the Texans losing four in a row and the Titans now permanently benching Vince Young, the Colts must win the AFC South to qualify for the playoffs. If they don't win the South, they won't get in. It's that simple. And the Colts won't win the South if they lose and the Jaguars keep winning.