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No let up with the Colts

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I've spent a lot of time recently bashing media like ESPN for their bias towards the Patriots. For much of this season, the narrative will meander on that the Patriots are the best and they will beat everyone and that no has a chance to beat them, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's week three, and already Tony Kornheiser (who gets more annoying and obnoxious by the minute) is saying the Patriots will go undefeated. It's enough to make you go bald.

Tony Kornheiser: Annoying and bald.

That said, when someone writes a good article on the state of the NFL, I'm inclined to pump it up, like Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel. Small side note: Yahoo Sports has surpassed ESPN.com as the #1 traveled to sports site. Maybe that's because Yahoo has done a better job reporting on the sporting events than ESPN, who trumpets a storyline with ever. single. chance. they. get. Wetzel's article focuses on the Colts and how, unlike teams in year's past, there is no let down or complacency with the world champs:

There has been no championship hangover. No loss of hunger. No overconfidence. No chemistry issues, despite a bunch of new faces.

The Colts actually have been better this year than last, even if their margins of victory (a two-point victory at Tennessee last week; 30-24 here) aren't spinning heads like the New England Patriots'.

But last year the Colts lost at both Tennessee and Houston. By silencing a boisterous crowd here at Reliant Stadium and running right through a suddenly hyped Texans defense, they just completed a road sweep of those AFC South rivals.

"I think we will be better (than last season's team) by the end of the year," said coach Tony Dungy, who always has thrived on optimism.
Indianapolis may not be humiliating opponents the way the Patriots are, but Dungy may wind up being correct.

After watching Tennessee's defense destroy New Orleans last night, it's pretty safe to say that the AFC South is now a premier division in 2007. Houston and Tennessee are very much improved over last year, Houston especially. So, for the Colts to walk into both those houses and come away with tough, hard fought wins says something. They are doing this with a rookie starting at LT and a rookie starting at DT. They've done it overcoming injuries (Morris and Keiaho did not play in the Tennessee game) and they've done it with defense.

Therein lies the rub: The Colts defense is very, very good. Or, at the very least, much improved over last season.

I chatted with Tim at Battle Red Blog prior to the game this past Sunday and one of the things that "scared" him about the game was the Colts defense looked much better than last year's. As always, Tim is very perceptive. Tim remembers what this defense was last year when it walked into Houston and then, in kind, Houston walked all over them. Dan Wetzel also remembers that game:

Late last season the Colts lost here 27-24, and everyone wondered if their defense could hold up in the playoffs. The lowly Texans (almost no relation to this year's solid club) controlled the game. Manning ran 45 plays (as opposed to 59 this Sunday), and the Colts had six meaningful possessions.

"It's not like basketball where guys can play both sides of the ball," Manning said then in this same locker room. "You can only control when you're out there."

That was taken as a rip of the defense, Manning letting his frustrations flow. While winning has a way of making everyone forget the negatives (just the way losing does the opposite), the glory of February was not the result of a year of flawless play.

Just four regular-season games later, Manning didn't sound like he wished it was basketball anymore: "I think defensively these guys are doing a great job forcing turnovers and making stops," he said.

Don't let the downcast talk fool you; the Colts are rolling. They racked up 362 total yards with no turnovers, few penalties and one sack allowed against a tough rush, and they scored 30 points, which will win virtually any game.

All of this in a contest dubbed the biggest in Texans history. "A big-time atmosphere," Manning said. "Houston was kind of waiting for us."

Manning was 20-of-29 passing for 273 yards and a touchdown, yet afterward went on and on about three red-zone trips that ended in field goals. "We've got to keep working on getting into the end zone," he lamented.

This can't be comforting for the rest of the league. Manning looks no different than before shedding his "can't win the big one" label. He appears just as hungry, just as committed, just as focused, just as fiery.

It's nice to see articles like this, especially when we are all drowning in a sea of "Go Pats" journalism. Teams like Green Bay are also 3-0, and have beaten more quality opponents than the Patriots have. Pittsburgh has done the exact same thing New England has: Beat the crap out of crappy clubs. Where's the ra-ra love for them? I mean, forget the fact that the World Champs are 3-0, won two road division games, have ranked up an average of 31 ppg (even though the offense clearly isn't clicking on all cylinders, which is scary), and have a great defense. If you watched PTI last night, Tony Kornhollio actually talked about how Houston losing the way they did was a "moral victory" for them. He didn't talk about the 3-0 defending Champs and how they went into a hostile environment and gutted out another tough win. That's boring. That's not "the story" for Kornbuttface. The story is Houston losing well.

How stupid is that?

So, thanks Yahoo Sports for giving us some refreshment in this desert of journalistic integrity. We fans of the other 31 NFL teams appreciate it. And can ESPN please FIRE Tony Kornheiser from MNF? I'm reduced to watching the game and listening to my IPod. It's pretty sad when Death Cab for Cutie sounds better while watching Monday Night Football than the announcers do.