The stage was set for the biggest party in Jacksonville Jaguars recent history. The team had ups and downs all season, yet still controlled their playoff destiny. If the Jags could win out their three remaining regular season games, they would guarantee themselves a spot in the 2009 postseason.
The city of Jacksonville spent over $150,000 to throw an extravagant, and creatively named TEALgate party to get Jaguar nation ready for Thursday night’s important Week 15 showdown. Perhaps next time they drop 150k they will invest in more security; because somebody let the party crashers in.
The Indianapolis Colts came to town with the #1 seed in the AFC locked up and little else to prove. Indianapolis could have easily gone through the motions last night and let a hungry Jaguars team win a game that Jacksonville needed much more. Instead, the Colts came out and told the Jags, as well as the rest of the NFL, that Indy eats first.
Indianapolis sports fans really had no clue what to think of the Week 15 game against the Jaguars. Who was going to play and for how long? Should they go for the perfect regular season or start focusing solely on the playoffs? Well, the Colts answered these questions and more last night with their 35-31 come from behind victory. And as a reward, they get 10 days worth of the same questions leading up to their next game against the Jets.
Since everyone who has ever seen a football has an opinion on what the Indianapolis Colts should do in preparation for the playoffs, please allow me to add my two cents.
There are two major thoughts when it comes to the “what now” question. Should the Colts go the route that Tony Dungy established of securing playoff position than rest key players, or should they play like they are fighting for the final wild card position until the final whistle of Week 17? The correct answer is this.
There is only one right way, and that is whatever way ends with the Indianapolis Colts as Super Bowl champions come the first week of February next year. That is it. There are a million wrong ways for the Boys in Blue to proceed, but only one right way.
Rest starters and fall short of a championship, and it will be said that the Colts were not in full game playing mode due to too much rest. Play everyone the rest of the way and slip up in round two or three of the postseason, and they will be lambasted for going against the principals that has made the Colts the poster child for winning in the NFL.
You need to remember one thing and one thing only. This is all just hyperbole created to justify a 24/7/365 sports news cycle that overpays people to over-think recreational activities. Winning is the only correct answer.
All of that being said, this is when Jim Caldwell will truly earn his strips. Many analysts and commentators both in the Indianapolis media and the national crowd have given Caldwell a “yeah but” so far in his coaching career.
For instance, “Jim Caldwell is 14-0, and the only rookie head coach in professional football history to do so. Yeah but, he has Peyton Manning running that offense, and he took over for a team that was already near the top.” Figuring out who to play when and for how long is a task few, if any rookie coaches would really want. From here on out, the only butt the media will be talking about now is Caldwell’s, which is on the line.
Let us get back to the game from last night shall we.
WHAT WE LOVED…
- Peyton Manning showed last night why residents of the Circle City would remove one of their own kidneys with their bare hands if No. 18 asked. First off, he rebounded from a three-interception performance just four days earlier by going 12/12 in the first half for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns. His only blemish came early in the third quarter when he placed a near perfect pass in Dallas Clark’s hands which he bobbled and allowed to be tipped, than intercepted. Manning responded by finding Clark on a crossing route named redemption on the Colts next possession, which the big tight end honky-tonked into the end zone for six.
- Peyton Manning finished with 23/30 for 308 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. This was Peyton’s ninth game out of 14 this season where he has finished with 300 or more yards through the air. His previous best in any single season was six. Last night’s game hopefully showed America why Peyton Manning deserves to win this year’s NFL MVP. In all likelihood, voters will give New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees the nod this year mainly because Peyton puts up numbers like this almost every season. But here is a quick thought experiment as to why No. 18 should bring home #4. If Peyton played for his daddy’s NFL Alma mater down in the bayou, the Saints are still undefeated. If Drew Brees returned to Indiana— he was a Purdue Boilermaker once upon a time–would the Colts still be perfect?
- Last night’s game marked the seventh time this season the Indianapolis Colts were trailing during the fourth quarter and came back to win the game. That means that half of the 14 games the Colts have played, and won, this season have been late in the game fourth quarter come from behind victories. Do you still think Drew Brees keeps the Blue Horseshoes spotless in the loss column?
- Chad Simpson is my favorite third string running back ever. Earlier this year, I backhandedly complimented the Colts special teams for not sucking anymore and becoming decent. While last night’s kickoff return does not erase years of watching kickoffs and punts through the cracks of my fingers, it was a big play. That was Indy’s first return for a touchdown since Dominic Rhodes went the distance in 2004 against the San Deigo Chargers. It was also a big statement to the Jaguars that the Colts where there to play all 60 minutes last night.
- Ladies and gentleman, Reggie Wayne is back in the building. Not that he ever really went anywhere, but people were starting to question his productivity over the last month of play. I should not even dignify such accusations with a response, but since I don’t have to be anywhere for a few hours, I will. Enough cannot be said about how Reggie affects opposing defenses and their game plans. It is because Reggie is so good that Austin Collie and Peirre Garcon look better than their years. He constantly draws the best player of the defense’s secondary and usually has a double team or protection to his side. Also, even though his numbers have not been great, Reggie has come up with at least one big play every game this season, and you can’t say enough about his selflessness. That is not a term that is associated with too many #1 receivers in the NFL. Reggie gets it; he understands that he is a part of a much bigger picture. Call me crazy but I see no need to worry about a wide out that has 5 receptions for 132-yards which included the game-winning 65-yard touchdown.
- Dallas Clark solidified his first ever Pro Bowl selection last night. Due to the timing of this year’s NFL all-star game, hopefully he won’t be in attendance, but it is nice to see he will get the recognition. While he has had a horrible case of the dropsies the last three weeks, he is like a new puppy that pees on the floor. Yes you get mad when it urinates on the carpet, but when it comes running over to you five minutes later with those puppy-dog eyes, all is forgiven. Substitute urinating for dropping a pass, and puppy-dog eyes for scoring a touchdown and the analogy is spot on. The Colts carpet-wetter finished last night’s game with 7 receptions for 95-yards and 2 TDs.
- Eric Foster is just the latest Indianapolis Colt defensive player to be the best on a particular Sunday err… Thursday. Can’t say enough about the way the Colts defense has played this year, and thanks to Peyton Manning not a lot will be said about them either. But that is OK, they don’t mind. They will keep doing what they do regardless. Even last night when they Indy D was not playing all their starters on every down, they made the big plays when it counted. Bend don’t break might keep games close, but I can give you 14 reasons why it works.
- Jacob Lacey and the rest of the Indianapolis secondary gets another tip of the cap. Most notably for Lacey’s interception to seal up the Colts victory, but really all season these guys have come up big at the end of every game.
WHAT WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT…
- It is hard to find many flaws in a team that is considered flawless in the parlance of overall records. However, I will try anyway.
- If you watched any of the post game news conference, you most likely heard Peyton Manning talk about how the Colts have had several opportunities this season to finish out a game on offense but failed to convert an all important first down or two. The cause for this in at least two games this year, last night being one of them, is that the Colts have taken a false start penalty. So instead of a 1st and 10, the Blue Ponies are left with a 1st and 15. When you want to run the ball to eat up game clock and lower the risk of a turnover, 15-yards is a long way away. These are the types of issues the Colts hope to work out in the last two weeks of the regular season.
- While I will point directly at Dallas Clark here, much of the offense is guilty of dropping passes that need to be caught. As mentioned earlier, Dallas has had moments of stone hands in each of the last three games, but Indy needs to eradicate this on a team-wide scale. Especially when you consider that Manning often throws into such tight coverage that a batted ball could end up as a turnover. In the last two games alone, three Peyton passes have deflected off the hands of a teammate and ended up in the opposition’s possession.
- I told you we didn’t have much.
- And the beat goes on…
- The Colts extended their regular season consecutive wins record to 23 games. In doing so, they became just the third team in NFL history to start a season 14-0. Indianapolis also extended its record of most wins in a decade to 115 here in the aughts.
- Jim Caldwell is the first rookie head coach ever to start a career with 14 straight wins. I don’t care what system he walked into or who his quarterback is, this is still nuts. The fact that he has not made one wrong decision when it really counts in 14 weeks is ridiculous.
- Peyton Manning has now thrown for 4,000-yards in a season 10 times. The second closest number and player is Dan Marino with six seasons.
- Speaking of Dan Marino, Peyton’s four touchdown tosses last night marks the 21st time in his career that he has had four or more passing TDs in a game. That ties him with Marino for second on the all-time list.
- Dallas Clark set a franchise mark for touchdowns from a tight end when he pulled in his 10th of the season last night. Just stop dropping the ball.
- Place kicker Matt Stover became the fifth player in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark. I have like Stover since his days in Baltimore, but I suggest he ask for nothing this Christmas. He was retired and out of football until midway through this season before Bill Polian came calling, sorry Matt but no more gifts for you this year…well maybe one more.
The New York Jets of New Jersey come to downtown Indianapolis for a Week 16 showdown. This is the Indianapolis Colts last regular season game of the year at Lucas Oil Stadium. Hopefully it will be a nice warm up for both the players and crowd since the next time the Lucas Oil will be rocking will be during the NFL playoffs. We will have a full preview a week from today…yup I’ll have something for you even on Christmas. When Uncle Tom is making farting noises with his armpit and you need a break, I’ll be here waiting…my gift to you.
Next time the Colts take the field is after Christmas. So on behalf of FunCityFinder.com, I would like to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas Day.