I am going to go against my better judgement and disagree with my editor and actually agree with Bill Polian.
Last night the defense wasn't the problem. Now could they have played better - sure, of course. Overall though, they played valiantly and gave us a chance to win the game.
At halftime I talked with a few friends, most of whom were predictably optimistic.
I, along with one other friend, was not.
I knew something was going to break and I had the feeling it was going to be the defense. It was an ominous dreadful suspicion that our defense was just not going to be able to hold out.
The first drive of the second half confirmed my premonition: the siege was on.
It was like watching the Lord of the Rings when the Elves and other creatures (forgive my lack of LOR knowledge) fortify themselves in the castle before the great battle scene.
You knew the siege was coming and you knew barring offensive firepower we were in trouble: The orcs were upon us.
After the Jets' 7 minute drive to start the half - an agonizing drive from hell that seemed like it lasted 4 hours - I called my friend and told him we needed to score every time. When Vinatieri responded on the next series he applauded, I winced. We needed touchdowns not field goals. The siege was on and we desperately needed reinforcements (points). Unfortunately not enough came.
The thing is, that the defense didn't play poorly, it was the Jet's offensive line that was too big and too good.
What happened in the second half was what the Jets are built to do - pound the football. And just like when Peyton lights up the Ravens defense, people don't leave saying 'wow the ravens defense is terrible,' but instead say something to the effect of 'holy cow, Peyton Manning is incredible' Colts fans shouldn't trash the defense for not being tougher than one of the most physical groups.
You didn't see elves charging at the orcs with clubs because they would get trounced. They attacked with arrows because being more physical wasn't their style and isn't the Colts' either.
The Colts have always been built on speed and preventing the pass. Its what Bill Polian gambled on a decade ago and given that the NFL has trended towards being a quarterback's league, it was probably the right one - as great as Peyton is, Freeney and Mathis aren't bad either. The Jets on the other hand, decided on building around the run. They sacrificed quickness for strength and bulk (although D'brick Ferguson is such a talented athlete you get both) and ran straight ahead at the Colts who were already minus their best run defender Mookie Johnson.
Ultimately, the Orcs were too powerful up front and overran us smaller elves.
Yet when the time came for gallantry and heart, the Colts like the elves made one last stand... and then because of the running into the kicker penalty, made another.
Down 4 and needing a stop, the Colts defense came through. They gave the offense a chance, which is all that you asked for. They made 6 straight plays and forced the Jets to punt - twice!
The problem was Peyton is a little bit too good. With 3 minutes to go, I wasn't worried about the defense needing to hold on 3rd and 5. I was worried that Peyton would have too much time. It doesn't take much for Manning to engineer a scoring drive, especially when all we needed was a field goal and Vinatieri is our kicker. So when the Colts called a time-out with 2:51 to play, I closed my eyes and said 'uh-oh.'
I said 'uh-oh' because Gandolph had arrived to save the day, but they movie wasn't finished. He had come too early.
By being so efficient and Manning-esque, he unintentionally gave the orcs one more chance - something that elves and underdogs cannot do.
And even though our defense was built for situations like this and is designed to close out teams and win games, the
fact is that we were undermanned. The defense had forced 2 passionate 3 and outs. Asking for one more was the
With 10 guys from the defensive unit on IR, we simply ran out of hobbits.
Could we have expected anything different? We sure hoped so. The reality was our hope as fans - who have seen the Colts pull the improbable so many times before - probably exceeded the harsh truth.
As Chris Collinsworth said, having to play Ken Hamlin, a guy who joined the team less than a month ago, and rely on Brown and Tryon (as well as he's played) left us vulnerable against receivers like Edwards and Holmes.
With Hayden, Sanders, Bullit or Powers its a different story. Even with one or 2 of those guys we win that game. Those guys are the ones we built around. Speed off the end and solid cornerback play is how you win with the cover-2. When you play from ahead - as the Colts have shown in the past - it works.
The caveat is, you can't be missing your whole frieking secondary. That is something that no coach, no team can overcome. Simply put - that is really really really bad luck.
Still there were a lot of phases of the game in which we could have played or coached better. Special teams was horrible. The coaching decisions in terms of time-outs was suspect at best. But the reality, as Bill Polian stated last night, was that the defense played hard. Yes it gave up a lot of yards on the ground. Yes they had trouble getting Peyton back on the field. Yes they couldn't seal the game.
Bottom line was they put forth a valiant effort and gave us a chance. With Peyton Manning, that is all you want and usually that is more than enough.