One thing that I've noticed popping up in comments is this notion that "resting starters" in Week 17 was the reason the Colts lost to the Chargers. I can understand fans being angry and frustrated by the loss, but to even suggest (let alone state) that resting starters in Week 17 killed the Colts 2007 season is asinine. It's a quick, cheap way to simply blame something, or someone, for an unexpected loss. The reason Indy lost was simple:
San Diego was better.
I know that is hard to take, but it is the truth. It's got nothing to do with coaching, effort, or even execution. San Diego had more overall talent than Indy, and it showed. Look no further than how both teams had to deal with injuries. Injuries are never an excuse for losing overall. The Colts suffered more injuries than any other team in the league, including woeful Miami and St. Louis. Injuries didn't give those two teams a combined 4 wins; crappy coaching and bad drafting the last few years were the culprits for them. It's the reason why Miami's entire football operation has been purged and replaced with the Tuna Machine. The Colts, meanwhile, pieced together 13 wins, a division crown in the toughest division in football, and a first round bye while several key starters missed a combined 88 games.
However, when you get to the playoffs, it is essential that you get healthy, because if you aren't you will lose to a good team that is.
In the SD game, the Colts came out red hot and dominated early. Manning started the game 14-14, and was blowing SD's defense away. Knowing that, the whole "resting starters" excuse becomes silly and cheap because Indy certainly did not look lethargic. Then, late in the second half, the lack of depth and compounding injuries took their toll. Marvin Harrison, who should have been IRed a loooooooong time before, fumbled after getting hit for the first time in three months. SD took the football, and it was the start of their comeback. Add to this the fact that both Dwight Freeney and (essentially) Robert Mathis were out. Yes, Mathis played, but he was a shell of his former self. He could only play RE because his knee was too weak to play LE. SD doubled the hobbled Mathis all game, and he was a non-factor. Raheem Brock was also hurt, playing at about 60%. Neither Mathis nor Brock played much on the Billy Volek TD drive which, essentially, ended the game.
So, if you want a reason why Indy lost, look no further than the injury report. All the Colts major pass rushers (Freeney, Mathis, Brock, and Anthony McFarland) who played a GIGANTIC part in the Colts 2006 Super Bowl run either didn't play or were playing hurt. You are not going to beat a team like San Diego with this many injured players on the d-line.
What's frustrating to me is that we fans did not know the extent of Mathis's or Brock's injuries. Those two coming back 100% was essential, and it didn't happen. Both simply could not play in Week 17, and both hadn't played since early December against Baltimore. So, basically, both Mathis and Brock took five weeks off... and STILL weren't healthy enough to make a difference. That's how hurt they were, and both guys are known for playing through pain.
So, I don't want to hear any more crap about "resting starters." There were no starters to rest against Tennessee. The guys that played in that game also played heavy minutes in the SD game, and it's a reason why Indy lost. The Chargers are a deep, veteran team and they were going up against a defensive line with Ed Johnson (rookie), Quinn Pitcock (rookie), and Keyunta Dawson (rookie). Give the rooks some credit: They played their guts out and did not quit. But, if you want to beat a team like SD, you have got to be healthy.
The silver lining is these rookies (Big Ed, Pit, Key, and others) got very valuable experience and could make a gigantic leap from 2007 to 2008. Add to this the fact that Freeney, Mathis, Brock, and McFarland are all expected back 100% healthy, and the defense could really dominate the NFL in 2008. We shall see. In the meantime, I'm sick of reading about "resting starters." It's a tired, inaccurate critique.