I'm usually pretty even-handed in presenting my position on nearly every topic. Not today. After today's loss, plenty of people have issued cautions against turning Chicken Little: "It's only one game," "At least it happened now and not Week 14," "All these problems are fixable," and my personal favorite, "Don't worry - many Super Bowl winners, including the Colts, have dropped their first game." My response to that? A big SCREW THAT!
The first game of the season is INDEED important. A game against a division rival is ABSOLUTELY a must-win. While we patted the proverbial heads of Texans fans as they called this game their "Super Bowl," most Colts fans trusted that the preseason didn't matter, that "The Sheriff" would march into town and grab the win, that the offense and defense would somehow come together and prove overwhelming for the Texans. Well that didn't happen and the Colts now sit at the bottom of the division, looking up. Think about that for a second.
I am well aware that there are 15 more games to play, and that "anything can happen," but I'm not going to justify my way out of why I think this game was so important. More after the jump...
1. The first game sets the tone for the season. It's one thing to move on from a loss when the game doesn't matter. It's an entirely different feeling when you were TRYING to win. A win would have started the process of removing the bad taste that's sat in the Colts' mouths since February. This loss puts the toothbrush further out of reach.
2. Division games are the most important deciding factors in playoff seeding. You can't get that coveted first round bye without winning the division. I don't understand the rationale that it's ok to lose a division game, at any time. Sure, there are 5 more division games to be played, but it's possible that the Colts will have to win all 5 of them to reclaim the lead. This will not be easy - I'd rather the Colts have the "luxury" of dropping a late division game, having already claimed the AFC South title. And don't forget that in response to the late-season decision to sit players last year, the Colts face division opponents in 3 of their last 4 games.
3. The Colts put recovering players Jeff Saturday and Charlie Johnson in the game, potentially risking an injury setback to try to win this game. Not only did they show a diminished ability to protect the team's greatest asset, but they put more wear and tear on these critical players, AND they lost. Now they will have to play the next game (and the next, and the next) without the luxury of resting these players for recovery purposes. It's like unplugging your laptop with 80% battery and hoping you can make it through the rest of the week without another charge. I expect that we'll see CJ and Saturday sitting out practices this week, costing them even more time to gel with the other players on the line, perpetuating the issue.
Do I think the errors are fixable? Maybe. Do I still think the Colts can win it all? Right now, no (and I'd of course be thrilled to eat my words). Am I still going to watch every game and root for my team as much as ever? Absolutely.