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Colts v. Cardinals Game Review: Putting the Pieces Together

This was a fun game.  My favorite games are the ones when you know that your team is going to win throughout the entire game, and it makes it even better since I didn't think that the Colts would be able to beat the Cardinals with all of the things stacked up against them (No Brackett, Hayden, Gonzalez or Sanders, short week, tired defense, etc.).  The Colts had a lot of adversity for this game.  They even made the Colts underdogs.  That's unbelievable.  Obviously, the Vegas people aren't going to make that mistake again.  Right now the Colts are probably going to be favored by double digits for the Seahawks game.  I'm very happy that they're back playing on Sunday afternoons.  I know that it is better for the Colts fans outside of the Midwest, but I'm a greedy person and I enjoy sleeping.  The analysis is below.

QBs-Peyton Manning is unbelievable.  He has lost two of his top three receivers from 2008, and he is better than ever.  Besides Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, his other top receivers are a second-year player out of D3 Mount Union and a rookie out of BYU.  Most QBs wouldn't be able to make that work.  Peyton does.  The Brady v. Manning debate is on hold.  We are seeing what Peyton does with only two top targets and a bad right side of the line.  Peyton is second in the league in passing touchdowns and passing yards.  If we are going to be making early predictions, I'll say that number 4 is not out of the stretch of the imagination.  After the Saints start to look human, Manning will emerge past the Brees hoopla.  Bursa sacs were holding Manning back.

The rest is after the jump.

 RBs-This was a huge concern of us all after the Chargers loss.  It was clear that Addai-Rhodes was not going to cut it.  Rhodes was a decent back but nothing special and Addai was always banged up.  Fast forward 8 and a half months, and the running attack is lethal.  Addai is amazingly consistent.  On first down he seems to always get 5 or 6 yards at least.  Joseph Addai has come back with a vengeance.  He is proving haters wrong and he is looking like the Addai of old.  And then there's Donald.  Donald Brown looks like a future star.  There is no questioning this draft pick now.  Brown is very explosive when he gets in the open field.  That 70 yard reception was brilliant!  He breaks tackles which honestly surprised me as I thought that wasn't going to be a part of his game.  For people wondering why he isn't starting right now, look at the differences pre-snap with him in the game.  On multiple occasions Sunday night Brown had to be moved around by Peyton to get into position.  Once Brown gets a hold of the playbook he will be the main back.

WRs/TEs-This is why Polian is a future Hall of Famer.  Somehow he found Pierre Garcon out of Mount Union.  Mount Union plays in a nearly century old football stadium that seats 5,000.  Mount Union is a dynasty, but the fact that Polian found this diamond in the rough just shows his genius.  Garcon is emerging as a great third receiver.  He's very explosive, and to say he is a big play threat is an understatement.  My guess is that once Anthony Gonzalez returns they will continue to give Garcon playing time on the outside with Gonzalez in the slot.  That's why he didn't take Hakeem Nicks or Kenny BrittAustin Collie has become a nice receiver.  He's not the Stokley big play threat yet, but he has good hands and can get the first down.  On third down, going to Collie is a great idea.  He plays smart and he knows where the first down line is.  Garcon is the better receiver right now, but Collie definitely has a future on this team.  Reggie Wayne is also pretty good I've heard.  He's leading the league in receiving yards right now and he makes the most ridiculous plays.  He's working his way onto the All-Pro team.  Speaking of All-Pros, Dallas Clark is the best tight end in the league.  He's left John Carlson, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez in the dust.  Clark is reaching his prime, and I would not be surprised to see a nice 1,000 yard, 10 touchdown season out of him.  Once Gonzalez gets back, Clark is going to be even tougher to guard.  Peyton has the weapons to win yet another MVP.

OL-Left side good, right side bad.  That's the best way to describe this line.  You could use better grammar, but that is as simple as it gets.  Charlie Johnson has been a pleasant surprise and has proven doubters like me wrong.  He's a good run blocker and so far he hasn't given up a sack this season.  Ryan Lilja is reminding us on why he got that contract instead of Jake Scott.  Lilja is a great run blocker.  Running to the left side is better than ever with Lilja back.  He's a sleeper for the Pro Bowl this year.  Saturday is Saturday.  He's been great this year and he did well last night.  No one is doubting him.  The right side is getting ugly.  Whenever a former 2nd round pick is rotating with a former center that most recently was seen with the Boise Burn of af2, it's a bad sign for that former first day pick.  When that former 2nd round pick is in his second year, it's embarrassing.  Kyle DeVan is a good player and there is a reason why he is still with the team, but Pollak was a second round pick.  He's not good at all.  His play resulted in the interception, and he is clueless on the stretch play.  Pollak is a liability, and Diem isn't much better.  Running to the right is a death sentence for the drive.  There is absolutely no blocking at all.  This is the biggest need going into the 2010 draft.  I'm perfectly content with Charlie Johnson starting at left tackle down the line, but I do not want Ryan Diem.  I would support them moving Ugoh to the right tackle position and grooming him into a future starting job.

DL-Talk about a nice recovery.  Against Miami the defensive line was pretty bad.  Obviously Dwight Freeney played well in Miami, but no one else really did.  Ed Johnson looked lost (and high), and Antonio Johnson was always getting pushed off the line.  On Sunday night, I was almost sure that Big Ed was starting in the backfield.  How a man that big can get off the line that fast is beyond me.  Eric Foster is also becoming a nice rotation player.  He played some defensive end as well as defensive tackle last night, and he did great at both positions.  He is probably the best at batting down balls on the defensive line, and of course he is great at stopping the run.  Antonio Johnson was not as impressive as Foster or Ed, but he didn't do anything to hurt the Colts, which is better than what we could say about the defensive tackles from 2007 and 2008.  Without Dwight Freeney for the next two to three weeks, the defensive end position will be very different.  As we saw Sunday night, Freeney is superhuman.  On almost all 51 passes he hit Warner.  He embarrassed Mike Gandy out there.  With Freeney out, we will see more of Raheem BrockRobert Mathis will take over for Freeney in the "Embarrassing Offensive Tackles" department, but there will have to be a rotation.  Philip Wheeler played some defensive end Sunday night, and I have always thought that he would be a nice fit at defensive end.  Throw in Keyunta Dawson and I can go two games without Freeney.

LBs-Freddy Keiaho didn't suck last night?  I know, surprising.  He didn't do anything terrible.  I am still stunned.  Everything I've seen from him would suggest that Kurt Warner would have torn him apart.  Keiaho still should not be playing, but it does make Gary Brackett's injury less scary.  On the outside, I am very content with Tyjuan Hagler and Clint Session.  There is a reason why Hagler is starting over Wheeler, and Session has continued to play well.  They are doing very well in stopping the running game.  Obviously right now they are no David Thornton or Marcus Washington, but I feel fine with them back there.  Jordan Senn did not impress me at all last night.  If they have to play a backup linebacker, I would prefer to see Ramon Humber.

DBs-Once Kelvin Hayden and Bob Sanders get back, this will be the best secondary in the league.  Jerraud Powers didn't play as well last night as he did against Jacksonville, but he is still the future of the cornerback position along with Hayden.  Marlin Jackson did well as the nickelback last night.  Is he worth re-signing?  I'm not sure.  Without a salary cap next year, I say go ahead.  It pains me to say this, but Jennings did not suck last night.  I still do not want him out on the field since we've all seen what happens when he is sucking.  With Hayden hopefully coming back, it won't be a problem.  Jacob Lacey is becoming one of my favorite rookies.  He was very clutch Sunday night.  His stop at the one yard line was HUGE.  The next play was the Bethea interception.  If Lacey can keep it up, he will work his way into the 4th spot above Tim Jennings.  At safety, Antoine Bethea has played well this year.  He still isn't the Pro Bowler from his second season, but he is a very good player and a quality starter.  Melvin Bullitt has always played well in place of Bobzilla, but he isn't Bob Sanders.  Once this team gets Sanders back, it will be even better in pass and run defense.  Hopefully Bob will practice this week.

STs-Adam Vinatieri may be losing it.  He is very, very close to being 2-5 this year, and he doesn't even kick off anymore.  I think that this is the last year for Vinatieri.  Next year Andrus will be the kicker.  Vinatieri has not looked good this year.  In fact, the whole field goal unit has looked bad.  The blocking is weak and Vinatieri has been weak.  On the other hand, McAfee is still great.  On 11 kickoffs, he has 3 touchbacks.  McAfee is still punting well.  He's averaging about 45 yards per kick and he has 2 kicks inside the 20 on 9 punts.  The return game is as expected.  Simpson cannot return kicks and Rushing is a decent punt returner.

Top 5 players from the Colts-Cardinals Game

5. Pierre Garcon: Garcon is definitely stepping up when he has to.  With Marvin Harrison and Gonzalez gone, he needed to become an acceptable target for Peyton.  He's gone above and beyond that.  Garcon had his great touchdown where he burnt the corner, and he played well for the rest of the game too.  Garcon will end up getting more targets as the year goes on.

4. Reggie Wayne: Wayne is leading the league in receiving yards at this point, and last night he made one of the best catches of his career for a touchdown.  He is a big target, and he has shown that he can get it done without Marvin on the other side of the field.

3. Joseph Addai: On 13 carries he got 63 yards and he made two big catches.  One was the touchdown screen and the other was when he had to extend his body to come down with a pass that easily could have been a pick.  Addai is getting back into 2006 form.

2. Peyton Manning: Manning is the best QB in the league.  He is a favorite for the MVP again this year, and he is on pace to throw over 35 touchdowns and 4900 yards.  He's pretty good, and Sunday night was his best game so far.  He is doing this without Anthony Gonzalez.  WOW.

1. Dwight Freeney: Even though Peyton was phenomenal, holding a very good offense to 10 points is a great feat, and Freeney was the main reason.  His constant pressure got Warner to make bad throws and it got some sacks too.

Next up, Seattle Seahawks.