To help pass time this off-season, I've reviewed the Colts' regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I'll be sharing my impressions.
Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.
Today’s Game: Week 11 - Indianapolis Pro Football Team at Baltimore Ravens
Setting The Stage
- The Colts come into the game undefeated at 9-0 and coming off a huge comeback win at home against the New England Patriots. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning leads the NFL with 20 passing touchdowns. Quarterback Joe Flacco and safety Ray Lewis lead the Ravens who hold a five and four record; having lost the last six meetings between the clubs. This is Colts kicker Matt Stover’s first visit to Baltimore since being released by the Ravens at the end of last year. Kelvin Hayden returns to the Colts lineup while Bob Sanders and Tyjuan Hagler are still inactive. Dwight Freeney, with a bad hip, sees limited playing time, and Pierre Garçon is hobbled with a bad ankle. With the win over NE, Colts coach Jim Caldwell became the first rookie coach in NFL history to win his first nine games.
- The Field: A sunny, 56 degree fall day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.
- The Crowd: Very loud, rude, and rowdy. Boos when Haloti Ngata is called for an obvious unnecessary roughness penalty after launching himself into the back of a prone Pierre Garçon. At every opportunity, they boo former Ravens' kicker Matt Stover.
- Dear Baltimore, Indy versus Ravens? Really? You know, at some point you just have to take a deep breath and let it go. Sincerely, teej
More, after the jump!
- The Network Coverage: Greg Gumble and Dan Dierdorf on CBS. Not my favorite coverage guys, to be honest. Gumble is smooth but doesn’t add much to the discussion except bad puns about 'Tom Santi Claus' and Pierre Garçon's derriere. Dierdorf interjects some interesting observations occasionally, and they both do know how to pronounce Session and Bethea, so I guess that's something. It's sad, really, but considering their competition, correct pronunciation of Session and Bethea actually earns them points. I will say that CBS has the best NFL music, and I'm chair dancing as I type this.
- On their first offensive series, Peyton Manning gets leveled by Ray Lewis, on third-and-nine, after a completion to Reggie Wayne for 15 and a first down. Protection had been pretty good, but Lewis comes free on a delayed blitz. The run game, however, starts out slow.
- Garçon! Huge play by Garçon on second-and-eleven from the Colts’ 28. Protection is very good, and Garçon beats double coverage to gather in a nicely placed ball by Peyton. Pierre adjusts slightly, takes the pass in-stride, and runs it to the Raven's six; a gain of 66. Nice Pierre, and on a bad ankle.
- TD Clark! Peyton audibles and catches Baltimore in single coverage on Clark. Wayne runs the pick, and Manning finds Clark alone in the corner. Dallas with an incredible one handed, over-the-shoulder grab for six. This reception puts Clark ahead of the great John Mackey for most receptions by a TE in Colts’ history at 321. If you’re gonna pass Mackey, this is the way to do it. Colts 7-0.
- FUMBLE! Ensuing kickoff is run back to the Ravens’ 22. Devon Hall with a great tackle and Jacob Lacey with the strip, recovered by Pat McAfee. Cody Glenn was in on the tackle as well. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh challenges, and the play is REVERSED (runner was just barely down before the fumble). Still, good ST play! I mean, how many kickers are among the first down on coverage? Gotta love Pat McAfee, and Glenn involved in yet another good play after making his presense known in last week's win over New England.
- Ravens driving on their first possession; several completions, a few third down conversions, and some nice runs. Jacob Lacey with a nice play to break up a pass and force a field goal attempt. Baltimore is on the board. Colts 7-3.
- Interception. Manning is a bit over aggressive in targeting Clark amid triple coverage. The ball is deflected into the air, intercepted, and run back to the Colts' 31. Dallas with the tackle, and it's Ravens’ ball. Not sure what Peyton saw, but what I saw was three purple jerseys and one white one.
- Whew. That was almost a Ravens' touchdown. Then again, it was almost an interception. Melvin Bullitt comes THIS close to picking it off in the end zone. Melvin does a good job of reading the play and covers a lot of ground to be in position to knock the ball down. Then, Tim Jennings with great coverage on wide receiver Derick Mason to break up a key third-and-seven and force another Baltimore FG. Two quick Baltimore field goals, and Indy leads 7-6.
- Tom Santi with a nice pickup. On first-and-ten from the Colts' 22, Ray Lewis falls for the play fake while Santi breaks free over the middle. Peyton hits him in-stride for 13, and Tom shows good speed, adding 18 more in YAC. How awesome will it be to have a dependable second TE to compliment Clark in 2010? Makes me excited to see what Brody Eldridge brings. First-and-ten at the Ravens’ 47.
- Joseph Addai with a great blitz pickup just saved 18’s butt. What should have been a sack becomes a simple throw-away. I’m tellin’ ya… Don’t Hate Addai! And Colts' coach Jim Caldwell makes his first risky decision by going for it on fourth-and-one from the Raven’s 32. Colts are three of seven on fourth down conversions thus far in 2009. Addai weaves and bounces to gain two, but center Jeff Saturday is guilty of holding. Jeff was badly beaten and had to resort to basically tackling the DT. Loss of ten, and the Colts punt.
- Collie with a key reception on third-and-long. Nice comeback route and dive to bring in the ball. With a three yard completion to Santi, Manning goes over 3000 yds for the season. It’s the 12th of his career, behind only Favre with 17. Colts driving mid-way through the second quarter.
- Dang! Another Manning interception. On second-and-ten from the Ravens’ 40, Peyton targets Wayne down the left side. Ed Reed slides over, has perfect position, and steps in front for the second interception of the game. Ed returns the ball to mid-field where Donald Brown runs him down from behind. Dierdorf points out that Manning’s eyes never left Wayne. Watching the replay, he appears to be right.
- Blitz! On third-and-seven, Gary Brackett, Antoine Bethea, and Raheem Brock join the front four to rush the QB. Ravens' quarterback Joe Flacco passes earlier than he’d like, and the pass is incomplete, setting up yet another Ravens’ FG. Blitzing may not change this defense into a premier unit, but it sure makes it more exciting to watch. The players seem to be hyped about it too. Nice play to stop a Ravens' drive, but Ravens with their first lead, 9-7.
- Addai for 15! Great containment by Santi while Charlie Johnson pulls to lead Joe around the left end! Clark and Wayne with good down field blocking to allow Joe an additional seven or so. The Colts CAN run! And another catch by Santi on first-and-ten on the Colts' 40. Santi open over the middle, and he leaps and twists to haul in the pass. An athletic move to gain 23 to the Baltimore 37. Santi is four of four, for 61 yds, and looks very comfortable today, although he really got clobbered on that tackle and temporarily leaves the game.
- Perfect pass to Wayne on third-and-five for 15 to the Ravens’ 18. Nice footwork, Reggie! We don’t see it, but Gumble says Harbaugh threw the challenge flag. The refs stop play and discuss the issue with the Ravens’ coach, and he decides not to challenge. Gotta wonder why that’s legal. Seems like once a flag is thrown, the coach should be committed to spending the time out. Then, Manning with a quick out to Garçon, and Pierre carries tacklers for four more yards. Nice to see a Colts receiver with some size and power. Makes me wonder what someone with size like Blair White could do in 2010. First-and-goal from the Raven’s four.
- TD Addai! Nice blocking by Kyle DeVan to open up the hole, and Joe jukes Ray Lewis big-time. Ha! Lewis has been schooling offensive players for a long time, but Joe made him look like a rookie. Gotta love it. Colts regain the lead, 14-9.
- Nice pressure by the Colts D with Brackett blitzing, and Brock comes THIS close to a sack. Man, I like Raheem Brock. Why is it that we pull so hard for some players? Brock seems to be one of those guys, and I'm really gonna miss him. Raven’s FG to end the half. Colts 14-12.
- Colts driving on their first possession. Second-and-seven from the Colts’ 36. Big pressure on Manning as he back pedals and finds Santi open over the middle. Gain of 13. Tom has gained more yardage today than the previous nine games combined. Peyton then finds Wayne wide open on the left for 20. With this reception, Wayne and Clark up their combined receptions total to 137, breaking a three-way tie with the Bears’ Morris & Ditka and the Lions’ Moore & Perriman. Manning audibles to a run, and Ryan Diem and Kyle DeVan pull to lead Addai to the right for a gain of seven. Nice to see good run blocking.
- Ugh... fumble. Santi with a nice completion over the middle at the Ravens’ five. As he secures the ball, he turns and runs for three more before being hit hard by Ed Reed. While he’s rotating in the air, Lewis clobbers him in the back, knocking the ball loose at the one foot line. Ravens recover at their four, and Santi lays dazed. I feel bad for Tom. He's been playing a great game; a career game. That was some kind of hit.
- Big reception. Powers with great coverage on Mason, but Flacco with a perfect pass to the Colts’ 48. Jerraud and Mason fight over the ball for several seconds, but the tie is awarded to the offensive player. That was really close to an INT.
- Fumble! On first-and-ten from the Colts’ 48, Flacco hands to McGahee who runs free for 14. Lacey is involved in the stop and rips the ball loose. 27 chases the ball, batting it at his feet, upfield almost 20 yards before it goes out-of-bounds. The ruling is Ravens’ ball, second-and-WAY LONG, but Baltimore challenges the fumble. The play is overturned, and the Ravens get the ball, first-and-ten, at the Colts’ 32.
- Baltimore driving, but on third-and-one from the Colts' eleven, Dan Muir with penetration to stop the RB in the backfield and force yet another Baltimore FG attempt. Wide right! Colts retain the lead and get the ball back at their 20, but they go three-and-out. Colts punt once again.
- Brock with a great read on the naked bootleg by Flacco containing and ushering him to the sideline where Jennings runs him out of bounds. Loss of three, and a nice play by Raheem to end the third.
- Ravens move the ball well, but on first-and-goal from the Colts’ one, the defense comes up big: a Flacco sneak for a half yard (Muir & Johnson with the stop), a Willis McGahee run for loss of a half yard (Brackett with a huge play to make the tackle), a McGahee run for loss of a yard (Session gets good penetration), and Baltimore settles for… you guessed it… a FG. Ravens retake the lead, 15-14.
- Simpson return to the 33! Tony Ugoh and Jacob Tamme with great blocks, and the Colts start with good field position. On first-and-ten from the Ravens’ 40, Garçon loses 13 on a terribly executed reverse. But there’s an unnecessary roughness penalty called on Ngata, so the Colts end up with a first-and-two at the Ravens’ 33. The hit, while Pierre is on the ground, is particularly nasty. The crowd does not like the call.
- Reggie! Wayne takes a three yard pass, accelerates out of one tackle, outruns three more defenders, and carries the ball 21 additional yards to the nine. Good speed, nice footwork, great desire. First-and-goal Colts!
- Nope, the offense can't compete a single pass, and Stover is brought in to kick the FG. Matt makes the kick, the crowd boos, I snicker a little, and the Colts are up by two points with 6:57 remaining. Having regained the lead, it’s up to special teams and the defense to put this one away. McAfee’s kicks reaches the goal line. Devon Hall makes a nice tackle but not until the returner reaches the 32. This would have been a great time for a big play, Special Teams, but it's up to you, Defense.
- This Baltimore O-line is really good. Ray Rice runs, practically untouched, for 22 yards, then Flacco throws completion after completion to move the ball to the Colts’ 12 before the Colts’ can stop Rice for a loss to force a third-and-long at the Colts’ 14.
- Brackett INT! Flacco with a nice pass over the middle, but Gary shows great anticipation, dropping back into coverage and stepping in front of the intended receiver for his first interception of the year. Colts’ ball on their 21 with 2:42 remaining. The D does its job, and the offense comes on to run out the clock.
- Colts need a couple first downs. Addai for three, Garçon for six (Lewis with a huge hit on Piere. Yikes! But Garçon bounces right back up). Then on the key third-and-one, Manning bootlegs and tosses short to Wayne who lunges and reaches for the first. The ball is spotted, but apparently, Dallas thinks the refs got it wrong. So with Reggie still trying to recover from a big hit and Peyton looking on, he picks the ball off the turf and moves it about a half yard. Yeah, I don't think you're supposed to do that, Dallas. The ref re-spots the ball and assures the Ravens' sideline they've got things under control. It's very close, but it’s ruled a first-and-ten on the Colts’ 31. Baltimore calls their second timeout and eventually challenges. When the play is upheld, the Ravens lose their final timeout. Colts with a first-and-ten with 2:19 remaining. A Santi false start makes it first-and-fifteen. We're going the wrong way, guys.
- Colts can’t run against that Ravens' O-line, and they punt with 28 seconds left. Boy this happened a lot last year. I remember when the offense could consume the final five or more minutes if necessary. Ugh. Poor, poor punt. Reed takes it at his 37, is tackled by Foster at the Ravens’ 40, and then tries to lateral the ball. Keiaho reacts quickly and falls on the ball with 17 seconds. Colts’ ball. Colts’ win. Whew!
- The Offense: I don’t know what to think. They strike early with an impressive seven play, 87 yard drive for a TD on their first possession, then they can’t get any kind of momentum going. Too many turnovers; two INTs and a Santi fumble. Not many teams can lose the turnover battle, average less than 3 yards per rush, and commit more penalties, and still win the game. Too many critical mistakes; drops, penalties, and throwing into tight coverage against a very good secondary.
- The Defense: Bend but don’t break? I guess so. They did have a couple key stops like the first-and-goal from their one which ended in a FG. But they allowed several key third down conversions (two of two on the Ravens’ first possession). Still, holding a QB like Flacco (yes, I’m impressed with him) to zero TDs with an INT, with very little pressure all day, is pretty darned good. Freeney and Robert Mathis are held in check; that’s how good the Ravens’ offensive line is. But the run defense did well against a pretty good running team. That, plus a handful of big plays, at the right time, was key to forcing field goals.
- Special Teams: Colts get the ball first. Simpson takes the ball at the goal line and returns it to the 13. It's a bit sad, but that pretty much sums up the Colts’ special teams play today. Most appear to play hard, but the big play, the wide open lane, the huge run back just seems to allude them. Still, there are highlights; McAfee continues to come up big, and a few players like Glenn, Humber, Tamme, and Jennings continue to provide good coverage against run backs.
- Personal note: My wife and her family are from Baltimore, so whenever the two teams play, I'm even more psyched. Depending on which brother in law you ask, it's a friendly competition between us. Add to that the long standing (and silly, IMHO) hatred by Baltimore fans toward the Irsay-owned and transplanted Colts, and this becomes one of the more anticipated and emotional games on the Colts schedule. Two good teams with Pro Bowl talent, a power offense against a pounding defense. Yeah, I like this series, and this game didn't disappoint. It was hard fought, physical, and laced with big plays. While I get more enjoyment out of watching my team totally destroy an opponent (it's also easier on the heart), it's good to know they can pull out the close ones when they have to. And today, they had to.
- It pretty much came down to this; touchdowns for Indy, field goals for Baltimore. The offense did enough to win. The defense did enough to keep Baltimore from winning. It wasn't pretty, but it's a win.
- Peyton with two interceptions after throwing three last week. I find myself wondering if predictability is a problem, if Peyton realizes this, and if this is why he's pushing for a more balanced approach in 2010. If I was him (yeah, right), that's what I'd want.
- Gary Brackett, Dan Muir, Jacob Lacey, and Tim Jennings stood out on the defensive side. All made big plays. Offensively, Wayne was huge, Addai made some big plays, and Santi (despite the fumble) really looked good. Tom, if you could only stay healthy...
- Oh look! The Lions won! No, really. I checked it twice.
Colts win 17-15 to go 10-0.
Total Run Yards:
Total Passing Yards:
Manning: 22 of 31, 299 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Garçon: 6 receptions, 108 yds
Wayne: 7 receptions, 89 yds
Santi: 6 receptions, 80 yds
Collie: 1 receptions, 12 yds
Clark: 1 receptions, 3 yds, 1 TD
Addai (receiving): 1 reception, 7 yds
Addai (rushing): 19 carries, 74 yds, 1 TD
Brown: 4 carries, 10 yds