Pierre Garcon was having a miserable season.
He was hurt and sat out two games early in the year, couldn't find his rhythm and was losing touches with the ascension of Austin Collie. His confidence looked shaken as his production floundered. Worst of all, he kept dropping passes.
The New England game was the culmination of his struggles.
In one of the biggest games of the season, he had one of his biggest drops (albeit on an under thrown pass).
The press and the blogosphere (me included) gave Garcon an earful. The magic from last year's playoff run was gone. His head wasn't in it. Something was wrong. Or worse. Maybe nothing was wrong. Maybe he wasn't as good as we hoped...
Peyton kept coming to his defense "He is still young, he's learning something new every week." "He ran the correct route. I made the mistake" Even Manning's support wasn't enough. The questions and the negative press kept coming. "Why aren't Pierre Garcon and Peyton Manning Clicking?" "Trying to get a fix on What's Up with Pierre Garcon." Bad press from the Indy Star, harsh words from the blogosphere, and plenty of blame from me here on Stampede Blue.
Then something happened. Garcon got his mojo back. The results weren't immediately noticeable, but the change in his attitude was. He came out fired up and with something to prove.
Against San Diego, he ripped off a 30 yard gain and finished with 5 catches for 72 yards. Nothing particularly amazing but the signs were there that he was on his way back. Lost in the massacre that was San Diego, was the way Garcon played. He ran smoothly, was more involved in more plays and showed a determination that we hadn't seen in some time.
In the Cowboys game that same heart and passion bubbled up again. Garcon was pissed and out to prove something. Before Peyton self destructed with the 4 picks, the storyline could have easily been the grit and courage Garcon was displaying. When everyone else seemed to come out flat, Garcon came to play.
On the Colts' first scoring drive after already staking The Cowboys a 17 point lead, Garcon caught a pass and spiked the ball hard out-of-bounds. For a guy you kept his cool, it was a statement. He was back. Later, Pierre capped of that same drive with a touchdown - his first since week 6 and only his second of the season.
Last Thursday night Pierre continued to prove his doubters wrong by putting up monster numbers including the first 2 touchdown game of his career. (His first TD snag in which he plucked a bullet right out of the air was a beauty).
More telling though than the numbers was the way he played and the heart he showed. If you don't think Garcon is carrying a chip-on-his-shoulder, than you weren't paying attention to how hard he spiked the ball when he scored. If you don't think he is out to atone for poor start, then you don't understand how difficult and improbable that crucial 3rd down conversion was late in the 4th quarter when he broke about 4 Titans' tackles got to the first down line and then turned and flew up the field. That play was not about skill, rather passion and determination. He wanted that first down more than the Titans wanted to stop him.
Jim Cadwell must have been thrilled. Garcon's newfound emotion and drive is what fueled the Colts Thursday and what will carry them going forward as they make their playoff push.
Was the criticism justified. For the most part yes. He may have been injured and slowed by hamstring problems, but Garcon was dropping passes and not on the same page with the offense. He is still young, and his numbers are similar - if not better - to last year's, which may be the problem. The expectations were high and should be. Garcon can be really good. Some people argue that Reggie has dropped a lot of balls this year too (6 catchable ones to be exact) and that we were too hard on Garcon. True, but Garcon hasn't put up 7 straight 1000 yard seasons (btw Reggie is having a hell of his season - maybe his best yet). Hopefully he will, but until he does that he can't expect the same treatment.
Just like for the Colts, things haven't been going Garcon's way. Sometimes things don't work out the way we invision. Garcon knows that. He also knows what is ahead.
"No, there been no pressure" he said during an interview, "but I always want to improve on it, do well, but these things haven't been going my way. I've got to just stay fighting, got to keep fighting against it."
More than anything else, that quote shows the Colts Garcon is back - which is great news and something we've all been waiting and for.