It is only Week One and the Colts have the lead in the AFC South. The Colts beat the Jaguars, the Titans lose in overtime to the defending champion Steelers and the Texans embarrass themselves against the Jets. The Colts have a game up on everyone which is a nice luxury. You can look at it as next week is the start of the season and the Colts were spotted a game. It is a very good thing that everyone else is 0-1.
The Colts had what appeared to be a normal first game of the season. Some places looked rusty but some looked very impressive. It was 14-12, but the Colts really did outplay the Jaguars by more than that. An interception at the goal line cost the Colts at least 3 points and a rare Addai fumble in Colts territory also cost the team some points. However, unless if there is some rule change that I am blissfully unaware of, there are no such thing as style points. The Colts weren't pretty, but they are 1-0, which I feel is more important.
What I Liked
The short yardage running game with Addai. There are 3 plays I look at when I analyze how Addai did in short yardage situations in this game. Two of his carries were on a third and short in Colts territory that he showed amazing speed on and got within the five. One of those runs was followed by the Manning interception, but the other was followed by an Addai touchdown. Addai had a good game in short yardage.
The decision to start Charlie Johnson over Tony Ugoh. I was tough on Johnson in the preseason, but he didn't play well in the preseason. Today he played great. He gave up no sacks. Most of the pressure from the Jaguars came from the right side of the line with Reggie Hayward. The biggest hit from Manning on the left side was on his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. Johnson also did well in the running game. Addai's good short yardage carries went to the left side. Johnson did a fantastic job in shutting down Derrick Harvey. Let's see how he does next week against Joey Porter next week. If he can keep Porter from getting a sack, I may have to believe that Johnson is an acceptable left tackle in the National Football League.
Larry Coyer. This may fall under love. Larry Coyer's spin on the Tampa-2 is a thing of beauty. The Colts held Maurice Jones-Drew to 97 rushing yards and they actually got off of the field. Believe it or not, the Colts won the possession battle today. It is amazing. Don't say it is because of the changes in players. Besides Jerraud Powers, all of the starters were starters on the team last year at some point. The starting defensive tackles were Antonio Johnson and Eric Foster, the two best defensive tackles from the team last season. The players were the same. It was the defensive coordinator that was the change. This great performance by the defense was because of the change of defensive coordinator. They went from a bad defensive coordinator who I believe never went to a practice and worked with a team to someone who is looking like the biggest addition to the team this offseason.
Click on the little link below this to read what I didn't like and a position-by-position breakdown of the game.
What I didn't like
Not winning the turnover battle. The Colts had 2 turnovers. The Jaguars had none. That won't work when they play New England or Baltimore. The Colts need to force turnovers. The only time the Colts were even close to a turnover was when Jerraud Powers levitated off of the ground and almost picked off a pass in the endzone which was one of the most impressive plays I've seen from a Colts cornerback. Next week they need to pressure Chad Pennington and force him into bad decisions.
The stretch play. It's not that I have a problem with the play itself, just the guys up front trying to block for it. I think Ryan Lilja might be a little rusty on it, but what is the excuse for Diem and Pollak? Running to the right side was an automatic loss of yards. The Jaguars front 7 is not that good. Donald Brown and Joseph Addai are good running backs who should be able to run all over this defense. There needs to be some changes on the offensive line, starting with the right side of it.
Special Teams. It is still a serious problem even with Coach R here. The wedge rule changes should have helped kick coverage, but the Jaguars still routinely got to the 30 yard line while Simpson only had one good return that was mostly due to great blocking by Ramon Humber.
Now here's a position-by-position breakdown of the team.
Peyton Manning started his 177th straight game and won his 118th game. Those 118 wins tie the team record with Johnny Unitas. Manning did it in 5 less starts. Folks, we are watching one of the greatest players in football history. Even if he didn't have his best game today, he did enough to win it. He made good throws and connected with Reggie Wayne. Let's see what he can do in a few weeks when Gonzalez is back. Peyton Manning had his 300 yards, but that interception hurt. He had some bad passes, but Peyton never plays well in Week One. He's healthy this year and next week we should see the real Peyton we all know and love.
Even though they only got 75 yards, they got me excited. Donald Brown is an animal. I honestly believe that he is going to be an elite running back in this league once he gets the offensive line he deserves. Addai is going to rejuvenate his career as a short yardage back if he keeps it up. I support starting Downtown Donald Brown but playing Addai on short yardage plays and in the goal line. That's where Addai does best. Brown does best with space. I want to see Brown have five catches a game. When he gets in the open field he is magic. He jumped over defenders, broke tackles and did whatever he could to get the first down. By Week 17 the Colts running game will finally be good again.
Anthony Gonzalez's injury is a bummer. He was ready for a breakout year but he will have to wait two to six weeks. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon did okay in his place. Collie had 2 catches for 15 yards and Garcon had 3 catches for 24 yards. However, neither of those guys are Anthony Gonzalez. I expect Taj Smith to be signed on Monday from the practice squad and hopefully Tim Jennings will be cut. He is useless. He doesn't contribute on special teams and with Jerraud Powers on the team he has no chance of getting time on defense. Jacob Lacey and TJ Rushing are better cornerbacks. Jennings wasn't good last year and he doesn't deserve a roster spot. With Taj Smith off the practice squad it would open a spot for Terrance Taylor. I would support that greatly. On the tight end side, Jacob Tamme got some action. On the only time he was thrown to he had a nice 6 yard reception. With Gonzalez out he may see more of the field in a slot receiver's role.
The pass blocking was fine. Peyton was only sacked once and he was never under a lot of pressure. The run blocking was horrendous though. It might have been worse than last year. The right side of the line is a mess. Mike Pollak is looking more and more like a bust. The stretch play to the right side is a death sentence. Any run to the right side is a death sentence. Almost every decent run was to the left side. Right tackle and right guard are the two biggest concerns on the team. There was no run blocking on the right side. Peyton got clobbered by a Jaguar coming from the right side of the line. I'm worried about the O-line.
Here's a line I am not worried about. The defensive line was phenomenal. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis got great pressure on Garrard. Freeney had one sack and a bunch of hits on Garrard. Mathis got pressure on Garrard on the final drive. The defensive tackles also did well. They stuffed the two point conversion that ended up being the difference. Eric Foster and Antonio Johnson did a great job of clogging up the middle. All of the big MJD runs were outside runs. He didn't get anything up the middle. Think of how good the line will be with Fili Moala and Ed Johnson back next week. I'm excited to see Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams stuffed multiple times eight days from now.
I wasn't thrilled by the linebackers but they weren't a problem. Sure they had a little bit of trouble stopping MJD at times, but Session and Hagler had some nice tackles while Gary Brackett did well blitzing on the final drive. I am much less worried about this unit than I was going into the game. As long as Freddie Keiaho doesn't have to see the field they will be fine. I'm looking forward to seeing Philip Wheeler get out there and blitz. He could absolutely dominate in Coyer's system. He will be starting soon.
Jerraud Powers is amazing. What a steal he was. I think he has earned a starting job over Marlin Jackson to be honest. He shut down the Jaguars' receivers. It is impossible to overstate how pleasant of a surprise he has been. He is a future star at cornerback. The third round curse is over, people. Kelvin Hayden also had a great game. There is a reason why the Colts only gave up 6 touchdown passes last season. It's because the Colts secondary is the best in the league. Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea didn't do anything of note, but they didn't mess up anything either. Hopefully Bob Sanders will be back in the next few weeks or so. This defense will be one of the best in the league with a healthy Bob Sanders.
Stinks. The return game stinks. The kick coverage stinks. The punting was amazing though. Pat McAfee is thousands of times better than Hunter the Punter. Opponents are averaging starting at the five yard line with him punting. Obviously we can't expect that to continue, but we can expect no big returns off of McAfee punts. He is the best punter the Colts have ever had and I think he may be one of the best in the league.
Next week the Colts travel to Miami to take on the 0-1 Dolphins. The Dolphins didn't play well against the Falcons, but they have an extra day to prepare for it. That's right. It's a Monday night game. I'm not a fan, but it is nice for the out-of-town Colts fans on Stampede Blue. Everyone will be able to watch the game. Maybe we will surpass the 1600 comments we had today!
Good game today. Hopefully a good game next Monday.