This was as impressive a win as I have ever seen as a Colts fan.
Oh sure, you had the wins in 2003, where Peyton Manning carved up teams to the tune of 5 or 6 TDs a game, or the wins in the 2006 playoffs, which are still the gold standard. But this win against the Seattle Seahawks was a dominate team effort involving all three phases, and it has been a long time since we've seen something like that.
Before we get to Peyton Manning, who after four week leads the league in passing yards, I think the defense deserves a little love from us fans. Two weeks after many of us were ready to trash this group and give up on them, they went out and imposed their will on Seattle's offense. Yes, the Seahawks were hurt. Matt Hasselbeck was out with cracked ribs. Their tackle situation was shaky, and their once great rushing attack is a shell of its former self. However, prior to the Colts pulling starters in the mid-fourth quarter with the score Colts 34-Seahawks 3, the Colts defense had surrendered a total of 159 yards of offense, 3 points, and only 45 yards rushing. In fact, nearly half of Seattle's total yards for the game (279 total yards) and almost all of their points (14) came in garbage time.
Defensively, the Colts were damn near perfect.
For the second week in a row, the Colts run defense held an opponent well below 100 yards rushing. Wait, I'll go a step further. For the second week in a row, the Colts held an opponent under 50 yards rushing.
For a run defense that looked so terrible against the Miami Dolphins in Week Two, that is the kind of bounce back effort and execution that defines words like character, toughness, and will.Colts defensive coordinator Larry Coyer deserves a lot of credit for Indy's 4-0 start. While many in league circles will sing the praises of Mike Nolan, who as defensive coordinator for the Broncos has transformed a bad football team into a 4-0 football team, Larry Coyer deserves equal praise. All throughout Tony Dungy's great run as Colts coach, we rarely saw the defense play as well as this current group is currently playing. Colts players, like the warrior known as Dwight Freeney, seem to agree:
We are gelling together very well. Everybody is playing together. DBs, linebackers, d-line are putting pressure at the right times. Playing coverage at the right times. Play calls at the right times.
Robert Mathis seemed to re-iterate Freeney's sentiments after the game as well.
We've just developed a lot of continuity. It's a relationship that, the back seven and the front four, we all are one.
Despite several fans wringing their hands over Dwight Freeney playing this week despite an injured quad muscle, Freeney's efforts to play was seen as inspirational:
"I thought Dwight Freeney coming back was inspiring," Colts QB Peyton Manning said in the wake of Indianapolis' fourth consecutive victory to start the season. "At least to me it was. I know how much better I feel when Dwight is playing and I don’t play defense. I got to imagine our guys in the secondary appreciate it.
"A great credit on his part. He was around the clock rehab all week. Everybody is kind of saying he isn’t going to play and I think even some of our medical people didn’t think he would play. That gets me excited when a guy like that has that ‘want to’ inside of him to get out there and play and be there for the team.
"I thought he played great today."
Just to emphasize something: This was a game the Colts did not necessarily "need." The Seahawks are a non-division, non-conference opponent. They were hurt, had traveled thousands of miles, and had not played the Colts since Week 16 of the 2005 season. Without Freeney, the Colts still should have beaten the Seahawks. So, if there were any game where Freeney could rest and gear up for the "important" games, like next week against the Tennessee Titans, this was the game to do so.
Freeney would have none of that.
Dwight's presence on the field was the difference between a potentially solid win and a dominant win. Indy's defense stoned Seattle's running game early, allowing the pass rushers to harass Seneca Wallace all afternoon. Timely blitzes mixed with consistent pressure from the front four totally shut down Seattle's offense. With Freeney in the game, the Seahawks could not focus on Robert Mathis, who recorded 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in the game.
The fact that the Colts are doing this without Kelvin Hayden, Gary Brackett, and Bob Sanders makes this all the more amazing.
But enough on the defense and how they are dominating opponents. Let's get to what wins championships, offense.
- Peyton is so on fire he is leaving scorch marks on The Luke's turf. For the first time in his brilliant career, he has thrown for over 300 yards in four consecutive games. Only six players in NFL history have ever done that. He currently leads the league with 1,336 yards. He's also completing 70% of his passes. His lone error on Sunday was an INT after he tried to trick the Seahawks on a quick count. But, the score was 28-3 in the third quarter at that point. So, the INT was meaningless.
- Another week and another great day for Joseph Addai. Amazing how some impressive play can shut up many of his haters. 46 yards and a TD for Addai to go with some rather impressive pass blocking. Addai's score (a 12 yard run straight up the middle) was a thing of beauty.
- The two back offense has given Indy a scary good dimension of attack with Addai and rookie Donald Brown. Brown takes short gains and turns them into long ones. His burst and acceleration are something this team has not had since Marshall Faulk.
- Route running by Colts receivers is almost as impressive as watching them catch passes. Pierre Garcon continues to provide "wow plays," with catches that remind many of us old Colts fans of a young Marvin Harrison. Austin Collie is also starting to find his groove playing mostly in the slot. His 21 yard TD catch (over the left shoulder) with 3 seconds left before halftime was textbook execution. It was also the execution of the Seahawks, who never seemed to recover from that drive.
- Right now, Reggie Wayne is the best WR in football. He has 26 catches for 399 yards and 3 TDs. I realize players like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Randy Moss have more talent, but none are playing better now than Reggie. Teams are doubling him nearly every week and he still makes plays. As the TV announcers astutely pointed out, when was the last time a "#2 receiver" developed into a #1 receiver? I personally cannot think of one.
- I cannot say enough about the offensive line, in particular Charlie Johnson. I was dead wrong to question the decision to start him at left tackle. Charlie is playing out of his mind, and both he, Jim Caldwell, and Howard Mudd deserve a lot of early season praise.
We also saw some impressive returning ability from T.J. Rushing, who was sprung on a nice return by a crafty block from Mike Hart. Clearly, the Colts do not miss Chad Simpson, who was cut prior to the game.
Pat McAfee continues to boom kickoffs into the endzone, and coverage units continue to do a good job containing good returners.
Without question, despite all the offensive plays and the great defense, the best moment of the game was the video tribute to Edgerrin James, who ran for 16 yards on 4 carries (4.0 a carry) for the Seahawks. Edge is the best running back in Colts history, and his place in Indy's Ring of Honor is secure. Mike Hart, who currently wears #32, needs to consider a number change.
Obviously, if there is a goat in this game, it's Tim Jennings. God bless the dude, he's playing his guts out. He did an excellent job breaking up a screen early in the game, and his tackling has been damn near text-book perfect. He's also played well in run support.
The problem is teams are picking on Jennings. He gives way too much cushion and is unable to recover to the ball fast enough when he does so. When he gets up in receiver's faces, he sometimes gets flagged for interference and holding calls. In the second half, the Colts rotated in rookie Jacob Lacey at corner, leading many to speculate that Jennings was benched.
Much like Rob Morris in the early 2000s, Tim Jennings will have to fight through this rough patch. He is not a "bad player," as many people seem to want to label him. He is simply a flawed player who is working through his flaws with hustle and determination. That is admirable. Hopefully, it will pay off.
After the first quarter of the 2009 season, the Colts (sans Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Ron Meeks, etc.) are 4-0 and are playing dominant football. Jim Caldwell has been very impressive to start his NFL head coaching career. Equally impressive was the number of gameday comments this site generated yesterday: 3058 comments on all open threads. Jeez, you guys just can't shut up!
Oh, never mind. Our team is 4-0 and looking damn fine. Talk all you want.