Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
In general, losing a game is like that. Sort of.
This time around, I don't feel that. I used to get really depressed when Indy would lose, especially to New England. I'd crawl away somewhere dark after a game and do my best to calm my frantic heart rate. This time around: Yeah, I was upset they lost. I never like seeing the Colts lose. But I didn't collapse into a crumbled heap after this one. Part of it is the Colts have proven they can win. I've seen them bounce back before, many, many times. Part of it is the character and talent of the team. This is one of the most talented football teams I've ever seen. Now, those are part of the reason I'm not upset. The main reason I'm not upset, aside from the fact that this was just a regular season game and not the playoffs, resides in a very real, very stark observation I noticed both before, during, and especially after the game:
The Colts are in the Patriots heads.
Seriously, when have you ever seen so much whining, so much complaining by a team after they just won a very tough, hard fought game on the road by both the Patriots and their fans. Add to that the kind of cheap, thuggish stuff New England pulled during the game (10 penalties for 146 yards, many of the personal foul penalties), and I saw a team that clearly is influenced by the Colts. From Welker's mouthing off after he caught the game icing first down to Rodney Harrison spiking the Manning fumble off the Colts helmet emblem at mid-field, this Patriots team seemed to come unhinged pretty damned easily. After the game, they hooted and hollered as if they won the Super Bowl. I joked with a friend that a parade was scheduled today in downtown Boston to celebrate the win.
Tell me, does a confident team, a championship-caliber team, act like that after a regular season win?
Did the Pats do that from 2001-2004, when they owned the Colts? Nope. They won, and then walked off the field; kind of what the Colts have done the last two years. These Patriots are clearly bothered by the Colts. Why else would Bob Kraft act like a whiny dumbass (other than the fact that he IS a whiny dumbass) after his team won? They know, as I do, that the rematch (if indeed there is one) will have a different outcome.
The Colts limped into this game, minus Marvin Harrison, Tyjuan Hagler, Freddie Keiaho, Tony Ugoh, and at one point Gonzo. Dungy, as per his MO, decided to rest players in a game that, when all is said and done, just isn't all that important. I know fans said it was "Armageddon," and truth be told I was a little disappointed that Jesus did not return to Earth at halftime and judge the living and the dead prior to the Colts' mascot, Blue, stampeding across the dome field shooting tee shirts up fans. Dungy, meanwhile, saw this as a non-Division game, and in Week Nine you are not thinking about homefield advantage, playoff seeding, or anything dumb like that. Get your horses healthy to win the division; then, worry about that other stuff.
Despite these injuries, the Colts defense smothered New England's offense. For this game, I had no idea how New England's offense would react to the Colts. I had a good feeling that Gary and the boys would lay a serious whopping on the Pats offense, but I had no tangible proof it would work. Now I do. The Colts defense smacked around New England's soft, finesse offense that relies very heavily on big plays from the passing game. Take that big play away from them, and they struggle big time.
What undermined the Colts was a simple lack of execution on offense. Five big, key drops sealed the win for New England. Gonzo's drop in the end zone was the biggest, followed closely by Reggie's whiff in the third quarter. Both those catches would have resulted in TDs. Moorehead's drop in the fourth would have given Indy a first down, and eaten off another 1:30 from the game, preventing the Pats' comeback. Not having Marvin Harrison allowed New England to blanket Reggie and Dallas with double coverage, and Ugoh's absence meant Charlie Johnson had to protect Peyton's blindside, and he failed; miserably. Twice Manning was hit from behind, and both times it resulted in drive killing fumbles.
When it's all said and done, the Patriots executed and the Colts didn't. They deserve credit for getting it done. However, I saw something in New England that I've never seen from them: Fear.
The Patriots are afraid of the Colts.
This was confirmed by a talk I had with a good buddy of mine, who is a Pats fan, after the game. This friend saw what I saw: The Colts defense is potentially the fastest D ever fielded, and New England got lucky on Sunday. The Colts were more physical, faster, and hit harder than New England. They ran the ball with tremendous efficiency, and Joseph Addai is an animal. Tom Brady was pressured because of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Peyton Manning was pressured because his left tackle was missing. Again, my friend saw what I saw, and despite his team winning, my friend didn't like what they saw. Yahoo's Jason Cole saw it as well, as did most of America.
We will likely have the fortunate pleasure to play the New England Patriots again, and please don't be surprised to see them back in the RCA Dome in January. Between now and then, there's a lot of football left to play. And, like bluegirl said, it's now time to think about the San Diego Chargers. Despite the loss, I think we can all agree that this is one of the best Colts teams we've ever seen. They could tackle the Flash for a loss. They are physical, tough, and relentless. Despite the loss, I don't feel sad, depressed, or suicidal. I actually feel happy that the damn game is over and, interestingly, I feel better. Now that it's over and I've seen what I've seen, no team in this league scares me.
I now have absolutely no fear of any team in this NFL. None. Go Colts!!!