In front of a crowd Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium that seemed half blue & white, half black & yellow, the Indianapolis Colts put in a great effort that came just short against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite a tremendous showing on defense, the Colts lost 23-20, falling to 0-3 for the first time since 1998, Peyton Manning's rookie year.
Yes, this was a game where the Colts (not the Steelers) were the ones who effectively ran the football and were tough up front in stopping the run. Indy held Pittsburgh to two yards a carry while Joseph Addai ran for 86 yards and a TD on 17 carries.
The offensive line for the Colts, in particular, did a great job. They controlled the 3-4 zone blitz of the Steelers most of the night. Jeff Saturday was especially brilliant, schooling the great Casey Hampton most of the evening.
This game also saw the Colts lose another quarterback. A hit from James Farrior knocked Colts quarterback Kerry Collins out of the game in the third quarter, giving way to Curtis Painter. Much to the surprise of everyone, Painter looked good.
Well, somewhat good.
Sure, during his first series, Painter got sacked by James Harrison, fumbled, and Troy Polamalu recovered it for a TD to give Pittsburgh a 20-13 lead. But, Painter did come back on his next drive and took the Colts right down the field. The drive culminated in a six-yard TD by Joseph Addai, tying the game at 20-20.
However, on the next drive, Pittsburgh drove the ball the length of the field and, with eight seconds left, kicked a 38-yard FG to win the game.
Prior to Collins going down with an apparent concussion, he was pretty much ineffective. He couldn't convert on third down. He couldn't put the ball in the endzone both times the Colts offense got in the redzone.
The putrid play of Collins aside, the story of this game was the defense. In the second quarter, Robert Mathis had a sack-fumble which the Colts recovered and turned into 3 points. Dwight Freeney had a BIG sack fumble, which Jamaal Anderson ran back for a touchdown, tying the game at 10-10.
Freeney had two sacks in the game, and harassed Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger all night.
Again, it was enjoyable to see this team have some life and play with some passion. This kind of overall effort was missing the first two games. Yes, I'm still seeing dumb coaching moves, like having Dallas Clark block James Harrison one-on-one during run plays (seriously, WTF Caldwell?). But, overall, despite the loss, this game was enjoyable. Clearly the issue with this team is the play of the QBs. Painter, while he looked good on the drive to tie the game, is still a turnover machine.
And Collins... he's just not very effective.
At 0-3, there is no realistic shot at making the playoffs. In terms of that, this season is over. 0-3 teams do not make the post-season. Not in the AFC. From October-December, it's now basically about seeing who comes to play every week, and who doesn't.
Today, the defense definitely brought it. Maybe, going forward, this is something to build on.
Talk and discuss the game. Congrats to the Steelers.