Wins are wins, pretty or otherwise. And as we know, the ability of Peyton Manning to out-smart and out-execute opposing defenses and defensive coordinators masks a lot of weaknesses within the Colts. Indy's 27-13 win over Denver on Sunday was very much the Peyton Manning to Austin Collie show, and if not for the inspired play of these two players, the Colts likely would have been blown out.
Now, before people get mad about me throwing ice water on a quality road win, calm down and hear me out. I'm happy this team is 2-1, and I'm happy with several things that I saw:
- Peyton is, right now, on pace to win his fifth MVP. Nine TDs. Zero picks. The man is hurt (yes, he is), and still playing at 'Demi-God' level. Then again, this guy once played with a broken jaw. Toughest guy in the league, period.
- Austin Collie, right now, is the leading receiver in football in catches, yards, and TDs.
- Colts run defense showed up for the second week in a row (47 rushing yards, 2.8 a carry).
- Colts defense, overall, had several impressive defensive series against the Broncos, in particular the four stops inside their one-yard line. Gary Brackett and Philip Wheeler collaborating to stuff Laurence Maroney along the goal-line to prevent the fourth down TD was especially awesome.
But despite some excellent play by several players, there are just far too many consistent, annoying, and all-to-familiar weaknesses on this team that are to glaring to ignore.
One week after playing outstanding against the New York Giants, the Colts offensive line regressed into the sad, sorry bunch of nobodys we truly know them to be. This is the worst o-line since 1997, the year before Peyton was drafted. Healthy. Injured. Doesn't matter. Please do not flash the 'injury' excuse for their poor play on Sunday because the guy who stepped in for the deactivated Charlie Johnson was rookie Jeff Linkenbach, and he played the best of all of them!
Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard simply suck. There is no other way to accurately describe their horrible level of play. Denver played base nickel for much of the game, with their linebackers and coverage guys five yards away from the line of scrimmage. Despite this look, which was DARING the Colts to run, guys like Pollak and Richard were consistently getting mauled by Denver's d-line.
1.8? Seriously? WTF is that?
No disrespect to Denver's defense, but they aren't the '01 Ravens. 1.8 yards per rush is a disgrace. How Jim Cadlwell can trot Richard and Pollak out there and tell all of us, with a straight face, that they are 'good' is beyond me.
The other glaring weakness right now is our secondary, and unlike the offensive line (which is a rag tag mishmash of no names), the defensive back field has a lot of money invested and definitely should NOT suck. Antoine Bethea and Kelvin Hayden are rich men. Bethea played OK today. Hayden was terrible, and Jerraud Powers wasn't far behind him. For whatever reason, defensive coordinator Larry Coyer thinks these two guys (who are zone coverage DBs) can play man.
The results are another long touchdown pass off a broken coverage.
In straight Tampa-2, plays like Brandon Lloyd's 48-yard TD simply did not happen. Last week, even in a blowout, we saw the Giants burn the Colts DBs for two long touchdowns. Coyer needs to stop calling for man coverage because, quite simply, Powers and Hayden are not good at it. The Colts allowed a staggering 519 yards yesterday, a majority of which came through the air. Moving forward, let's see more Cover-2, Tampa-2, Cover-3. Enough with this man coverage crap.
Despite the inept play of the offensive line and the putrid execution by the secondary, the people who willed this win to happen were Manning (325 yards, 3 TDs), Collie (12 catches, 171 yards, 1 TD), and rookie Blair White, who was called up from the practice squad on Friday to replace the injured Pierre Garcon. White caught his first NFL touchdown today, a nine-yard, corner-of-the-endzone route for six in the third quarter.
It's for games like these that we writers at Stampede Blue take so much care in following all players brought onto this team's roster. The Colts have raved about White since rookie camp immediately following the NFL Draft. Now, we know why (and so does Paul Kuharsky).
Regardless of the errors and the obvious weaknesses, two wins in a row feels better than that awful Week One disaster against the Texans (who got their butts whipped at home by the Cowboys on Sunday). Until these issues we've (repeatedly) discussed are resolved, the Colts are going to have to rely on Peyton to throw the ball 40 times to win. He had 43 attempts today, and that is far too many. Peyton is 34, not 24. The Colts coaching staff needs to fix this offensive line, and but quick, or they are going to get Manning killed. Maybe Bill Polian can (finally!) help them out by making a trade for a quality lineman, because right now these guys that he's given Caldwell and line coach Pete Metzelaars simply cannot cut it.
It's games like this that make me appreciate just how other worldly Peyton Manning is. No running game. Average pass blocking. Far too many clean hits. No left tackle. No Pierre Garcon. What does he do? He lights up the scoreboard. Games like these justify whatever record-setting contract the Colts are likely to give him.
Thanks to everyone here for the great game chat on Sunday. Special thanks to John Bena and the team at Mile High Report for a great week of cross-blogging.