Colts fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief yesterday as Adam Vinatieri's 53 yard field goal sailed cleanly through the uprights. All was well in Coltsland - Andrew Luck won the first game of his career, Head Coach Chuck Pagano picked up his first win, Adam Vinatieri improved his Hall of Fame credentials (as if it was needed) and the Colts had officially begun 'Building the Monster'.... and was it just me, or did the field turf actually look greener?
It got me thinking, what if Vinatieri had missed the kick? What if the Colts had lost in overtime?
That's what we love about sports, isn't it? A play here, a missed tackle there and the whole game shifts - our entire perception shifts. Think about it.
Pagano's conservative approach in the second half would be questioned, broken down and blamed for an anemic offense.
The defense would be getting destroyed for allowing two touchdowns in a span of 4:36.
Andrew Luck running backwards for a 22 yard loss wouldn't be as easy to dismiss.
We'd wonder if Vinatieri was losing it after missing two field goals as time was running out over the last two weeks.
The team's inability to run the ball would be a much bigger deal today.
The great thing is, none of that happened. In fairness, if the ball that was batted twice on fourth down and miraculously found the hands of Stephen Burton (who?) had fallen incomplete we may be talking about a 20-6 route today. All because of one play.
I don't think anyone is planning the Super Bowl parade yet, but it important that we recognize what happened yesterday.
- Andrew Luck can lead a two minute offense. So far this season the Colts have given Luck the ball with time running out three times - each time he has delivered a drive that could generate points.
- Robert Mathis seems very comfortable in his new role. Already this season Mathis has 12 tackles and 3 sacks, putting him on pace for 96 tackles and 24 sacks. His previous career highs? 60 tackles and 11.5 sacks.
- Donnie Avery seems to be everything the Colts hoped he'd be. When (and if) Austin Collie returns Luck should have a lot of great options to throw the ball to: Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery, Austin Collie, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.... Wow.
- The Colts young linebacking group is really good. Jerrell Freeman, Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner... This could be a dynamic group for years to come.
- The offensive line should probably be put in the 'ugly' category but I gave them a break with all the injuries. The line was without three starters for most of the game yesterday (Winston Justice, Joe Reitz and Samson Satele) but can't open any running lanes or protect Luck. It's a good thing Luck can move in the pocket - we needed it yesterday.
- I think Pagano had some first win jitters and went conservative WAY too early. The crowd started to boo play selection in the fourth quarter as they sensed trouble ahead. This team is young and needs to learn how to win and how to put teams away - nothing to fear here.
- There were several blocks of empty seats yesterday for the home opener. I realize that is was a 'sell-out' but you can tell a lot about how much a fan base has bought in looking at the crowd. Fact is, during the fourth quarter of a close game at the home opener those seats remained empty. Heck, the couple next to me left at halftime saying it was too hot with the roof open. Not all fans have bought in... yet.
- The Colts running game is embarrassing. Donald Brown may become the focal point of my frustration this season, but I recognize it's not all his fault. I had dreams of the consistency of Baltimore's and Pittsburgh's running attack going into the season - not anymore. The Colts should use their first round pick this year on a running back.
- The defense still needs a lot of work. Raise your hand if you knew the Vikings were trying to get the ball to Percy Harvin yesterday.... me, too. How about last week when the Bears wanted to get it to Brandon Marshall? The Colts have no answers and don't seem to adjust their gameplan when getting burned.
- Kick returns. This will remain a source of frustration until someone, anyone, can return a kick. I'm not giving up on TY Hilton yet, but he made some bad decisions yesterday and showed little explosiveness.