I gave myself 48 hours to digest Indy's masterful playoff performance against the Chiefs just to make sure I wasn't dreaming the whole thing up. The way the game was won seemed so surreal, so shocking that it was hard for it even to register with me. Put simply, I have never seen a Colts defense dominate another team quite like that.
Hell, I've never seen ANY defense dominate another team like that. Not New England, the '85 Bears, or Tony's Bucs in the 1990s had ever done to another team what the Colts did to the Chiefs. Kansas City was without a first down until about 2 minutes left in the 3rd quarter! Please take a moment to let that sink in. It took me 48 hours. When have you ever, EVER seen a defense do something even close to that in a regular season game, let alone a playoff game? What the Colts did Saturday had not been in done ever in the modern NFL. You have to go back to 1960, when friggin' Dwight Eisenhower was president, to when another team held an opponent to no first downs for 3 quarters of play.
The performance of this defense was one for the ages, and I believe it took everyone (including Dungy) by surprise. Despite this surprise, Coach Dungy deserves a lot of credit for this win. Dungy gets bashed often for not making "playoff adjustments." This is an unfair and uninformed criticism, and Saturday proved just how silly such criticisms are. Here's the recap:
Dungy closed practice all week leading up to the game because he did not want to show his hand to the Chiefs and Herm Edwards, and for good reason. The Colts switched from a base Cover 2 defense to a base Cover 3 defense. What this means is rather than keeping their safeties two deep in a zone, the strong safety (Bob Sanders) rotated down near the line of scrimmage pre-snap and helped against the run. Employing this defense essentially meant the Colts had zero respect for KC's passing game and their WRs, and for good reason. Kansas City's receivers caught zero passes on Saturday. With Sanders down in the box, Larry Johnson was controlled. This strategy, essentially, destroyed Kansas City's game plan, which was the same game plan employed by the Titans, Jaguars, Texans, and Dolphins the last four weeks of the season. Without a strong rushing attack to control the game, the Chiefs were left helpless. Before they knew it, the score was 16-0 in the third quarter and they didn't have a first down. The images below (from a great site called CoachYourKids.com) illustrate this:
Cover 3 defense as they line up. Bob Sanders is the SS. Cover 3 defense right before the snap. The SS walks down to the line of scrimmage.
The Chiefs were able to score eventually because they have one of the best TEs in football: Tony Gonzalez. However, the Colts responded by scoring on a TD pass from Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne. This made the score 23-8. When that happened, the Chiefs had to abandon the run and throw every down. Doing this is like throwing blood into a pool of frenzied sharks. When the Chiefs abandoned the run, the Colts switched back into a base Cover 2 defense and turned lose their pass rush. Game. Set. Match.
- None of this fancy defensive scheming crap works without the defensive line playing well, and did they ever! Booger McFarland was a man possessed. This is exactly why the Colts traded for him. He wrecked the interior of the Chiefs defensive line, and allowed his linebackers to roam and tackle. Both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have their helmets permanently tattooed onto Trent Green's face. Unlike previous games, Freeney and Mathis shot down the defensive line, not straight to the QB. This clogged Kansas City's running game.
- I don't care if he's healthy or not, Bob Sanders plays. If he knee hurts or swells, I don't care. He plays. If his knee is busted and broken, saw it off and replace it with a peg leg. Bob. Sanders. Must. Always. Play. No doubt about it, this is a different defense when he is in the game. The players feed of his energy, toughness, and insane ability to create violent collisions. When people call certain players "difference makers," they often have no idea what the term means. A "difference maker" is a player that can make a bad defense great just by being on the field. Sanders is a difference maker, and he was lights out against the Chiefs.
- Joseph Addai was the best rookie RB drafted in 2006. I know folks are all over Maurice Jones-Drew and Reggie Bush. Jones-Drew is home picking his toes in January, and Bush isn't even a starter. Addai is. Unlike Edgerrin James, Addai actually did something for the Colts in the playoffs: 122 yards and a TD, averaging 5 a carry. Heck, Dominic Rhodes kicked ass running the ball as well. The Colts ran for 188 total yards on the Chiefs, controlling the clock and the tempo (which is exactly what the Chiefs wanted to do). Oh, and I like Jones-Drew. He's a helluva back. It's just Addai is better.
- Remember your high school Shakespeare class? Remember when the teacher would play some dumb pre-recorded radio production of Julius Caesar, and make you listen to it? Despite how bad the voice acting was, whenever I heard an actor utter Mark Antony's "Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!" line, I wanted to run out into the street and bite someone's leg off. Russ Purnell must have played something like the for the special teams unit, because they played inspired football. Dante Hall is a truly great returner for the Chiefs. In the 2003 playoffs, he ran a punt back for a TD on the Colts. This time, Hall was completely shut down. Dungy opted to use starters like Robert Mathis and Rob Morris on special teams, and it made a world of difference.
Kelvin Hayden'sTyjuan Hagler's hit on Hall was insane. I felt the pain in my nose hairs.
- I've gone through four bullets without mentioning Peyton Manning and the wide receivers. It's not because they played bad. They didn't, despite what Manning haters and general moron pundits think or say. Manning went 30-38, and his late game TD to Wayne iced the game. His two INTs to Ty Law were a result of Harrison running the wrong route. That's it. Nothing more to it than that. The Chiefs blitzed often, and Manning was hardly touched. Mega props to the o-line. However, on two blitzes Manning made a hot read to Harrison. Harrison didn't make the read, ran the wrong route, and Law was there both times. Despite these lapses, Manning was good. He controlled the tempo, and often checked down to runs (which is why Addai had 122 yards). Dallas Clark was huge in the game. His presence makes all the difference. Forget wannabe TE stars like Jeremy "Whiny Bitch" Shockey. Dallas Clark is an elite TE.
This was a tremendously well coached game on Dungy's part, and what continues to frustrate me to no end is the idiocy on the part of the pundit media to recognize this. Most are blaming the loss on Trent Green and Herm Edwards. Green was inept, according to Jason "Hi! I'm really fat" Whitlock, and Edwards' game plan was pedestrian at best. For Green, I have to come to his defense. He had no running game, a banged up o-line, and his wide receivers are so bad they probably couldn't cut it in Arena Football. What the hell is the guy supposed to do? Magically levitate the football into Eddie Kennison's hands? And regarding Edwards' game plan, it was the exact same one that allowed the Jaguars to run for 375 yards on Indy, and win 44-17. It worked for them, the Titans, and the Texans. It didn't work this time because... well, the Colts stopped it. FINALLY! They stopped it. Tony Gonzalez even criticized it:
I really don't know what Gonzalez is doing whining about the game plan. If your playoff game plan is thwarted and your running game neutralized, what do you do? YOU THROW THE BALL! And that's what the Chiefs did, and it played right into the strength of the Indianapolis defense. It is always amazing when you read some moron pundit like Jason Whitlock or see an idiot on ESPN like Sean Salisbury, aka a man that likes to take pictures of his penis, talk about how the Chiefs didn't have a back-up plan. If you ask these idiots, "Ok Einstein, what should they have done?" they would probably give no answer. They'd stand there with a glazed expression, mouth open with drool pouring out, scratching their asses and wondering where the buffet is.
Edwards' game plan was the exact same game plan any team would have used against the Colts. It made sense. It was proven. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. This time, the proven game plan was stopped by the Colts. Larry Johnson summed it up best:
Remember, they do pay people to play defense, and the Colts have great defensive players. However, such details interfere with the overall narrative these media idiots create. "The Colts defense sucks. Therefore, if they dominate another team defensively, it must be the other team's fault because... well, the Colts defense sucks. It has to. We said it does. We can't be wrong! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"
This defense played inspired football, and this game, in many ways, made the season for me. As fans, we have suffered through an entire season of horrible defensive play. It started with the Giants game in Week One, and didn't stop... until this past Saturday. Against the Chiefs, this defense woke up. Dungy and Meeks deserve a ton of credit. I piled on them during the regular season when things were bad. For the sake of fairness, I have to give them their props. This was an outstanding coaching job.
As always, the only thing bad out of beating a team like the Chiefs is the fact that Chris at Arrowhead Pride is bummed. His team's season is over. Chris has done a great job blogging the Chiefs in 2006, and his writing is top notch. The Chiefs are still building, and regardless of how he played against the Colts, Larry Johnson is a great RB. The Chiefs are on the up, and Chris will be right there covering them.
Next up, the Baltimore Ravens. We'll have coverage leading right up to the game. Go Colts!