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NFL Playoffs Wild Card Recap: Jets 17, Colts 16

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As I stated last night in my quick recap, last night's playoff loss to the New York Jets was a microcosm of the entire 2010 regular season. It had a little bit of everything:

  • Bad run defense
  • Questionable decision-making late in the game by Colts coach Jim Caldwell
  • Pat McAfee playing poorly, especially on kickoffs
  • Ineffective running, except for Joseph Addai

From the first series the Colts defense took the field, one had to know this was a game Indy would lose. I don't say this simply to be negative, though I'm sure a few folks will mindlessly complain my negativity stems from my 'hatred' of the team, or some such nonsense.

No, instead of shooting the messenger, as Colts fans have done all season long when someone like me points a spotlight at obvious weaknesses and disturbing trends, follow along with me as we recap the game that so completely defined what it felt like to watch the Colts in 2010.

Prior to getting into the post-season, the Colts needed to win four straight games in order to qualify. All three teams the Colts played, and defeated, in those four games had top ten rushing offenses, including the Oakland Raiders (who were #2 in all of football). During that stretch of football, the Colts held these powerhouse rushing teams to an average of 66 rushing yards a game. In each of those games, the Colts defense set the tempo early. When the opponent tried to run the football, the Colts stuffed it. To start each game during that 4-0 December march, Indy held the opponent to a three-and-out sequence.

Against the Jets last night, LaDanian Tomlinson's first carry was a 23-yard run.

Right then and there, the Colts were in trouble. They eventually surrendered 169 rushing yards and two rushing TDs to the Jets. The run defense was the reason the Colts lost, despite whatever insanity Bill Polian chooses to utter in his post-game interviews.

But that is only part of the equation. Take a look here at how, for much of last night's game, the ebb and flow of it so perfectly summed up the frustrating ineptness that was the 2010 Colts.

  • Last night, the Jets changed their game plan when halftime ended. They started the second half by switching their run-to-pass ratio to 2-to-1. After collecting the opening kickoff of the second halk, New York marched 63 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive with a one yard TD run by Tomlinson. LT had 82 yards on the night while Shonn Greene had 70. Most of that yardage was in the second half, just like in the Week One Texans game, which saw Arian Foster gain most of his 231 yards in the second half.
  • While the return of the team's inept run defense should not have struck any of us as a surprise (after all, Daniel Muir did start and Antonio Johnson did not play), what also shouldn't have surprised us was Jim Caldwell's decision-making late in the game. Just as he did in the crushing Week Four loss to the Jaguars, a questionable timeout called by the Colts coach with less than a minute left in the game allowed the opponent time to create a play that would get them into game-winning FG range.
  • Kickoffs were poor, especially when it mattered most. If Pat McAfee booms that last kickoff out the back of the endzone, which is what he is paid to do, we're talking about a Colts win this morning. Instead, he sends it to the one yard line, and Antonio Cromartie runs it back 47 yards. Pat's a nice guy, but he has played terrible since his drunken dip into Broadripple Canal and subsequent arrest last year. Last night perfectly summed up just how much he has regressed since that incident.
  • Donald Brown, the team's first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, didn't have a single carry. He was benched for 31-year-old Dominic Rhodes, who was only re-signed to the team a month ago.
  • Jerry Hughes, the team's first round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, didn't play. It was not injury related.
  • Robert Mathis, in THE most important game of the entire 2010 season, had just two tackles.
  • Jacob Lacey, once again, cannot cover anyone. His rookie year last season was a fluke, and last night's game perfectly summed up just how terrible he played in 2010.
  • After battling back from a 14-10 fourth quarter deficit to take a 16-14 lead, the team folds when it counted most. This is not unlike winning four games in a row to make the playoffs only to then lose in their first game.

For me, last night's lose was like watching every game of 2010 rolled up into one.

Now, this is not to say everything was negative.

  • Just like all throughout the 2010 season, Peyton Manning was outstanding in last night's game, especially when you consider what he had to work with. He didn't turn the football over, and when his team needed him to lead a game-winning drive, he did that.
  • Adam Vinatieri was 3-3 on FGs, including what should have been the game-winning 50-yarder. For all those who said Adam was 'done' and could no longer hit 50-yard FGs anymore, kindly shut up and sit down now.
  • I cannot say enough positive things about Justin Tryon. His INT before halftime was clutch, and he did a nice job limiting Santonio Holmes all night.
  • Blair White and Jacob Tamme also did their jobs in the workmanlike fashion that deserves much respect. They combined for 11 catches for 100 yards. Can't ask for much more from these guys. They did their job.

While we plan to do our normal post-mortems for the season, I'm not going to sugar coat things: This was a terrible season for the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, they made the playoffs. Big deal. One-and-done for the seventh time in Peyton Manning's career. Making the playoffs and then losing the first game in the playoffs makes fans like me wish we hadn't even gotten there in the first place.

One-and-done, for this franchise, is just as bad as not making it at all.

Expectations in Indy aren't satisfied simply by making the post-season. The expectation is Super Bowl or bust. Anything short is, in my opinion, a loser's mentality. And if anyone at West 56th Street is happy with this game, or with how this season was conducted, then they are the kind of people who will not help us win another Super Bowl with Peyton Manning still under center.

That said, I'd like to thank you all for your wonderful contributions all season to Stampede Blue. This season was a rough one for me, but I appreciate all the comments, FanPosts, and others contributions each of you made to our wonderful blog.

Oh, and as always, Go Colts!