Editor's Note: Had to remove the pic because of copyright stuff when we promote a FanPost on the frontpage. Otherwise, enjoy Devil's great recap. --bbs
Welcome to another rendition of the Devil's Take here on Stampede Blue. We saw the good, the bad, and the ugly during the Colts 31-26 win over the Raiders. Nonetheless, the Colts won this game by pounding the rock and playing stellar run defense.
Welcome back Dominic Rhodes.
It's not very often I get to discuss a Colts running attack that is seemingly on fire, but that's the case today. Two weeks in a row, the Colts have come out and put up 150+ yards on the ground against two of the better running teams in the league. On top of that, our much maligned run defense returned the favor against two of the best rushing offenses in preventing either team in gaining 100 yards on the ground. And if not for the kneel downs at the end, Rhodes probably becomes the 2nd Colts 100 yard rusher in 2 weeks.
Colts grade for Week 15: B+
On paper, this game looks better than last week's game against Jacksonville. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. Unlike last week, the Raiders had the benefit of playing game tape of the Colts against a very, very similar opponent in the Jags. Instead of utilizing the Jags failures to help them win, the Raiders came out determined to make the same mistakes as the Jaguars did. This, more than anything else, is why the Colts won this game.
Colts Rushing Offense: What can I say? Simply put, the best rushing effort I've seen since we won SB 41.
Colts Passing Offense: Could have been better, but the Colts cashed in when it counted. 4 of 11 on 3rd downs?!?!?! WTF!!!!
Colts Defense: For the most part, a very well played game. Wasn't thrilled with the prevent defense late in the 4th.
Special Teams: WTF!!!!!!!!!! The only saving grace for this unit all game was the hard running of Rhodes. Consistently missing blocks and tackles, and you let the Raiders score on the opening kickoff. I thought last weeks game was the worst I'd seen all year, and then you go and let me watch this game. I hope the coach has you guys running sprints all week. This was flat out no effort by a majority of you.
For the second time in 2 weeks, a Colts RB is my featured game MVP. For many of us, Rhodes could have easily been voted the MVP of SB 41. Today, he showed us all exactly why. He consistently lowered his pad level and went after the Oakland defense. He gained 98 yards on 17 attempts. He only had 1 attempt all day that failed to gain yards. When the Colts needed a ground game, all of our RB's came to run. Rhodes has pretty much always done well in a Colts uniform, and I truly believe this Colts team can win in the postseason if we continue to run the ball this way.
The Colts rushing attack produced quite the staggering result this week:
191 yards rushing on 39 attempts for a 4.9 yard per attempt average
Only the second time in forever (this season and many others) that the Colts rushing attack gained more yards than the passing offense
Gained 10 first downs running the ball
Every Colts RB had a 3.8 yard per carry average or better
Well, after last week, I would wager many of us couldn't have predicted that the Colts ground game would be the difference in the game. In fact, most of the "real" media pundits bet against us for that very reason. Bottom line: The Colts ground game and run defense is shaping up just in time for the playoff run. Sound familiar? It should. We got our ass handed to us by a firestorm Jaguars running game in 2006, and then went on to record one of the greatest defensive runs in the postseason EVER.
This was pretty much a gimme here. The Colts Special Teams (excluding Adam "Money" Vinatieri) was absolutely garbage. For the second week in a row, the blocking was absolutely horrid on both punts and kickoffs. For the second week in a row, we got torched for a touchdown. Missed tackles, bad angles, piss poor execution. No matter how you label it or call it, the fact is this is unacceptable. Against any opponent, this can kill your season or game. Just ask the now going to be at home for the post season Chargers how vital special teams can be.
Am I alone in noticing the Colts offense and defense seemed to play with a bit of a chip on their shoulders? I saw guys laying lumber all game. Yes, they had their own mistakes and breakdowns, but I just saw throughout the game that players seemed to show a lot of fire or spirit. Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I've become so sick of the lack of attitude that the Colts have had. Maybe if they'd play a little of the "bully" role, they may have a legit shot moving forward.
- Peyton Manning - second week in a row he's played average football. Still, he throws for 3 TD's and directs the offense to it's best rushing output of the year. If the Colts can produce on the ground like they have been, the rest of the NFL needs to take significant notice.
- Reggie Wayne - 3rd overall 100 catch season, 2nd in a row. He leads the NFL in catches for a first down with 68 receptions.
- Colts Offense - Up until the kneel down by the Colts to end the game, the Colts had scored on 39 straight Red Zone trips.
- Colts Run Defense - 2nd week in a row they have held a top 5 running attack to under 100 yards total. They did it today despite missing Dan Muir, who has come on greatly as the season has progressed.
You almost can't read my segments without some kind of dig at the officiating. Today, is a rare exception. I felt the refs really called a pretty clean game. There were a few holding calls I felt went missed, but with D-Free and Mathis on the field, it's almost a given. Still, I felt the referees made good solid calls. Just about every call was called correctly to the letter of the book. Yes, there were a few questionable calls, but even those were pretty much called right. Today, I tip my cap to the officials.....now if we could only get this on a regular basis and I'd be happy.
For the second week in a row, we got the crappy announcing crew of Dan Dumbdorf (kudos to whoever coined this, because it's legit) and Greg Gumbel. I just cannot stand these two. Dumbledorf is pretty much a moron, and Gumbel is almost as bad. I was watching one play where the Raiders player landed on top of a Colts defender and Dumbledorf was like,"What an athletic move to make that play." What exactly is athletic or special about a player when you aren't down because you landed on a player? Please, please, call the game right. It wasn't special, it wasn't athletic, hell it wasn't even all that much of a play. Realistically, it was simply he never landed on the ground.
- Pierre Garcon - For the better part of last year and early parts of this year, the guy has caught nothing but flack from just about everyone on here. Despite being hurt, despite missing time, despite being targeted mostly on the deep routes, the guy hung in there and has quietly developed into a much better receiver over the course of the year. He's done this, despite having the defense already knowing the Colts are going to air it out. The kid is not a finished product yet, but for those of you who still doubt the kid, it's time you gave him his due. The only mistake I can fault the guy for over the last half dozen games is a bad catch that resulted in an interception today. To go a step further, he's finally been invited to join Wayne and Manning's pre-game Route Tree passing routine. To give perspective, only Harrison and Wayne have ever done this previously. In my opinion, that means Manning realizes how crucial this kid can be for the Colts and is bringing him in like he did with Wayne years ago. Wayne did not play as well as Garcon has in his first few years, and we all complained about him. It's just time to give the kid a chance to prove it without constantly bagging on him.
- Colts Running Game - It's quite possible that the Colts may very well have found the winning combination of plays that make the Colts a ground game once more. If they can continue this kind of play, even if they're only gaining 110-120 yards on the ground, it will be HUGE for the Colts offense and defense. With the potential return of all the injured players still on the roster by the playoffs, the Colts could be prepped for a run.
The Colts control their own destiny at this point. Win next week, and we win the AFC South and a date with the Ravens. Lose, and we have to hope the Jaguars choke it out. It really is that simple. The Colts have a very eerie playoff journey ahead of them should they reach it.
Colts (4) @ home vs. Ravens (5)
Now, it's a new year and the past means nothing. However, the Ravens haven't beat the Colts in forever, and the Colts still are getting healthy at a time when the Ravens are struggling to stop teams from scoring. So for the sake of my post, we'll give the Colts a win in a close fought battle.
Colts (4) vs. Patriots @ home (1)
Ironically, this would be the 2nd time in recent memory the Colts would face the Patriots after facing the Ravens. In both games, the Colts were considered underdogs going into both.
Now, if the Chiefs were to knock off both the Steelers and Jets, a tall order for anyone, the Colts would then face every team they faced in the 2006 playoffs. That's not only eerie, but downright hysterical. It's not crazy for me to even think about this, because this is a Colts team that is very much getting healthy at the right time. Sure, we're missing guys that won't be back for the year. Sure the team still has issues that need to be fixed. However, there are several positives moving forward. We have all the defensive players coming back that will be back for the year either next week or the playoffs should we beat the Titans.
Our offense is not only getting as healthy as it's been all year, they are finally starting to run the ball effectively. This may be only a tease, but given who they have played the last two weeks, I don't think it's the case. The Colts have been being dared all year to run the ball and teams have exploited that. They cannot continue to do that. To be honest, this really feels like the 2005 Championship run by the Steelers. They hit a point in the year where they were 7-5 and after being destroyed by the Colts. They would go on to lose to the Bengals the following week landing at 7-6. They would then rip off 8 straight victories (including playoffs). They would win ugly, they would win convincingly, and they would of course get help from the officials in SB 40. Still, it was one of the most impressive runs by a team in the last 20 years. The Colts are fully capable of this. It may be wishful thinking, it may be optimism, but it's still not completely out of the question.
Regardless of the outcome, there are a few things this season has proven:
- Manning can make people look like superstars. All season long, Manning has been missing players, key players, on offense. Despite this, he has put up historic numbers. He's broken several of his own records, despite opposing teams knowing the Colts can't run the ball. He's done it despite having guys who had never started a game in their life getting the ball. He's done it despite injuries claiming his 2 best receivers from a year ago (Collie, Clark). Say whatever you want about Brady, but Manning is always showing people why he is the better quarterback.
Outside of the Colts offensive line, this team is loaded. Yes, I said loaded. Next season the Colts will yet again be one of the NFL's youngest teams despite the few senior players they have on the squad. We will have all of our injured players back in uniform to start the year. Think of the valuable experience guys like Brown, Angerer, Tryon, Linkenbach, White, and Tamme all got this season. Now, imagine this team next year with everyone back healthy. Sure, the Colts will be in the market for a safety and some offensive line help, but outside of that, the Colts are pretty solid across the board. They may be looking for some help at corner, but even that is questionable given that Kevin Thomas could play outstanding next year when healthy. Add to that mix the trade that brought Tryon over and the kid could be our starter next year.
- Colts ground game has proven itself finally. In the last few years, the Colts running backs have all taken shots at being average or just plain pathetic. Sure, there was some knocks on the offensive line, but we all overlooked it because of the outstanding pass protection and Manning's ability to mask it some. Still, this year when the line has blocked the way it should block, the ground game has been quite effective. Next year will be a big year for the Colts should they be able to get some quality linemen. We still have a developing player in McClendon who could be playing guard next year while learning to play Saturdays position in practice. We still have that hella big OT in Joe Reitz who is another big body that could be factoring into the Colts plans next year too. Just don't be surprised if those guys are your starters at a position next year, I won't be.
All in all, this was a good win for the Colts. It'll help their mindset going into next week knowing all they have to do is win and they are in. Still, there cannot be a let down next week. They need to come out ready to kill, and I do mean that literally, kill the Titans for all 60 minutes of the game. Do that, and they will win their 9 straight season of 10+ wins.
***The playoff scenarios are pretty much already set as the only teams that can move up in the standings are the Colts and Ravens. The Colts can only move up in the standings IF the Chiefs lose their final game and the Colts win theirs. This would alter all my previous "what ifs" earlier in the post (Tip to Lell87) However, since the Ravens play the Bengals and the Steelers play the Browns, it's almost impossible for the Ravens to move up. Yes, the Browns could stun the Steelers, but I find it very unlikely. The Ravens are pretty much guaranteed to play the #4 seed.*** EDITED