Before I get to this week's post, I'd like to clear up something from last week that I didn't get to address in the comments because I was out of town all weekend. When I said that I was thankful that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis don't rotate in and out like most other linemen, that was overstatement. They do rotate in and out like most other linemen, but they don't rotate nearly as much as other linemen and they burn a lot more energy on every play than other linemen do every single down. That's what I was trying to get at in the post, but I went a little overboard in getting the point across, and I apologize for that.
Anywho, this week I'd like to talk about a painful, but great moment for the 2006 season (since my computer is still on the injured list). The moment comes from Week 7 when the Colts were hosting the Redskins. It was Peyton's second-toughest moment next to when he returned to a game in 2001 one play after fracturing his jaw.
At a time when the cries about Peyton being "soft" were at their highest, Peyton showed just how much grit he had. He probably would have preferred to crush a can on his head or eat glass, but when two linemen decide to make you into a human catapult, you don't get to veto. Even more impressive than the fact that he was didn't miss a play after nearly being folded like origami is that he threw three touchdowns in the next quarter to put the game away.
The Colts were 6-0 after the win, so the NFL knew that the Colts were for real, but this was the game that set the tone for the rest of the season. In one play, Peyton exhibited the toughness the team would rely on to get them through the difficult moments in that Super Bowl year.
When the team slumped near the end of the regular season and let notable rushers such as Travis Henry (93 yards), Alvin Pearman (71 yards in garbage time after Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew had their fun), Rudi Johnson (79 yards), and Ron Dayne (who tallied up 153 yards!) raked the Colts defense, they were tough enough to stick with the system and know things would work themselves out. When the team had to play on the road in a hostile Baltimore environment, their toughed out those yards late in the game to seal the deal. When the team had to face an 18 point deficit in the AFC Championship, they stiffened up and pulled out the win. When it came to the big game, gutted out the win in the pouring rain, shedding their image as a soft, indoor team once and for all.
I see a lot of that grit and toughness in this year's team. They may not have that signature moment of toughness they did in 2006, but they've shown the ability to deliver again and again in tough situations this season. Six different times this season the Colts have been down in the fourth quarter, and all six times the Colts have come back to win. They've managed to win at home, on the road, while holding onto the ball for less than one-fourth of the game, without a touchdown pass from Peyton Manning, and without the services of several key players in most games.
Just like '06, the key to this success goes back to the captain, Peyton Manning. He still sets the tone, and everyone else gets on board with him. Hopefully this year he won't have to bend over backwards (literally) to show that to the world.