NFL Week 12 Under Review: Colts Struck By Lightning

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts waits for a play to come from the sidelines during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28 2010 in Indianapolis Indiana. The Chargers won 36-14. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Well, the Pacers beat the Lakers...

That was about the only good news sports news Sunday night. The game was painful to watch. So painful you woke up Monday and you felt sore, as if we were the ones who had just endured getting crunched by the Chargers defense.

Did the Chargers - who are quickly catching the Patriots on the most hated list - really just beat us that badly? At our new stadium? Where we were 13-3? At night in 'Prime Time?'

Unfortunately they did. And it was uncomfortable throughout. 

The Sunday night crew made it a point to highlight how Manning cringed before several throws as if expecting to be hit every time he threw. Imagine if the cameras had focused on the crowd instead. They would have captured 63,000 people grimacing and turning away in nervous trepidation. That's not supposed to happen!!! That is how Titans fans watch their games. We Colts fans expect better. We Colts fans have been spoiled. For the past decade, every snap has been a potential first-down, every pass a potential touchdown.

This year, that is not the case. As fans we must temper our expectations. This year is a dog fight and we are currently wounded, cornered and outnumbered.

During the game, two friends sent me emails. The first said "Panic. The dynasty is dead"

My second friend wrote "I feel like with Addai and Collie and Bracket and with that penalty called (the one where Wayne was accosted resulting in Manning's second pick) we win"

While the first message probably better reflected the mood Monday morning, the second is more prophetic. The Colts are not done. The season is not lost. In fact, just the opposite. There is definite reason to be, at the very least, cautiously optimistic.

Yes, Clark is done for the year. He is a huge part of our offense and it will be extraordinarily difficult to compensate for his loss. At the same time, Collie, Addai, Hart, Brackett, Sessions and  Sanders (believe it when I see it) are returning or will be soon. Garcon is also showing signs of shaking his hamstring issues. These guys are all critical pieces that the Colts have relied on heavily.

Collie makes all the difference. He is the key to the stampede; to letting the Colts open up the field and run. Without Collie, and no run game to speak of, defenses can swarm short over the middle, cover deep and corral the receivers. With him, defenses can't cheat deep and outside. If they do, Collie is quick enough and crafty enough to burn the linebackers on seam plays deep down the middle. You have to believe that he gives Colts at least two more 15+ yard catches a game.

Addai is one of the best backs in the NFL in terms of picking up blitzes. He is also one of the more complete backs who is smart enough to break to the flat or stay in and block. You have to believe he makes one chip block or blitz pick-up that prevents Manning from getting hit.

Brackett is the heart and soul of our defense. Angerer has played well, but with Bracket in there you have to believe the defense gets confused on a play or two less (maybe even confuses Rivers occasionally).

Session is one of the Colts' more reliable tacklers. He is also tough and strong enough to stop a big back like Tolbert. With Session in there you have to believe that the he makes San Diego remember a few hits and wraps up on one or two more of those missed tackles.

It was a painful game in many respects. The saving grace was that nobody got seriously hurt. 

We lost the game but fortunately the cavalry is returning. Football is a game of inches. It's a game that is decided by a few plays here or there. These guys have made huge game-changing plays (remember Brackett popping the ball from Bettis on the goal line during the 06 playoffs?) and will make them again. Yes, we are a disappointing 6-5, yes we played a horrible game - probably one of the worst in the past decade and yes, our offensive line is in a major funk with major issues. But we are still in the thick of the race. In fact, we can almost certainly control our own destiny. The season is not lost - we have to believe: Believe in Blue.

And for the more pessimistic type, remember, at least we aren't the Cowboys.

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