Several dozen primates were seen running wild throughout downtown Indianapolis on Saturday night. And no, they did not escape from their enclosure over at the Indianapolis Zoo. The newly freed monkeys had been residing on the backs of Colts players and front office executives for the last three years; but thanks to a 20-3 handling of the Baltimore Ravens this past weekend, these monkeys now need a new home. Might I suggest Nate Kaeding of the San Diego Chargers.
The Indianapolis Colts looked a bit rusty during the first quarter of playoff action in Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night. Their opening drive stalled around the Ravens 30-yard line and the Colts were forced to attempt a field goal, which Matt Stover nailed as if he were still in warm-ups.
The Ravens responded with their offensive coordinator Cam Cameron throwing all kinds of gadget and trick plays at the Colts defense, which was very telling of the Baltimore game plan and mindset, “it is going to take everything we’ve got to beat the Colts.” When all B-more could muster was a short field goal of their own, Indianapolis sports fans knew the Ravens were in trouble.
The final score 20-3 might worry some Circle City fans into thinking that the Colts offense can not score enough, that the lack of big plays means we can’t go vertical on teams. Not true.
What Peyton Manning did on offense was fantastic in my opinion. Short passes equal safe passes. Also, short passes are much more time consuming. What better way to limit opposing team’s scoring potential than by keeping their offense off the field?
In the second quarter, which was some of the best football the Indianapolis Colts have played all season, they held the ball for 10:45 seconds, scored two touchdowns and put the Ravens against the ropes.
The Colts first touchdown of the second quarter took exactly eight minutes off the game clock, while ending at the 2-minute warning. During this drive, we saw Peyton & Co. go to work. Manning was hitting different receivers all over the field, Joseph Addai picked up a huge 4th-and-4 and Austin Collie showed he could handle the pressure of playoff football with a nice 10-yard touchdown grab.
In total, it was a 14-play, 75-yard drive that took eight minutes off the game clock. This was the longest –in terms of time consumption– drive of the Colts entire season. With the game tied at 3-3, Peyton Manning took his time and made safe, smart passes that not only kept the chains moving, but it kept the Colts defense off the field.
To show he is as good as it gets in terms of game/clock management, Manning then proceeded to score a second touchdown in the quarter on an 8-play, 64-yard drive that took just 1:23 off the game clock. Oh yeah, he also told his head coach that he wanted one more play with 7 seconds left in the half and no timeouts. Very few coaches would allow their QB to dictate a team’s actions at such a key moment of the game.
What did rookie head coach Jim Caldwell do? He played it like a pro and let Peyton have one more rip at it. The result; a perfect pattern, catch and stretch by Reggie Wayne that put the Colts up 17-3 going into intermission.
The second half had a few heart palpitating moments thanks mostly to Ed Reed, but the Colts did what they needed to do to secure victory. Manning and the offense only took a few shots down field, opting to eat up clock on short passes and keeping Ed Reed, and the rest of the Baltimore secondary, away from the ball and away from making big plays.
If the Colts needed to press and score more points it would have been a different second half, but the need just wasn’t there.
Before we get to the “What We Loved…” portion of the column, let us take a quick look at the Chargers/Jets game since it has an impact on this coming week’s game.
I make no claim to be a wise and great prognosticator of football games. The fact that I am asked to predict the outcome of games played by the Indianapolis Colts really makes my job easy. Nevertheless, I knew the Jets were going to win for a few reasons this past weekend.
- After New Orleans annihilated Arizona, the Colts beat Baltimore and Minnesota destroyed Dallas I realized the Jets had to play the role of party-crasher for the NFL. There was no way that both #1 and both #2 seeds were going to advance to the Conference Championships. I could not even find the last time that has happened in the NFL.
- The bigger issue I had with the Jets/ Chargers game is something Indianapolis fans know all too well. The San Diego Chargers were no longer underdogs. In years past, they were the young upstart team that got hot at the end of the season and were playing like they had nothing to lose. They played this role to perfection the past two seasons against the Colts. Not this year. They were healthy at the end of the year, they dominated their division,–even though it is one of the two weakest divisions in football– they had several years of playoff experience under their belt and they were playing a team that most considered lucky to make it this far. In short, they sound a lot like the Colts from years past. They now had the pressure of being the favorite, of playing at home after a week off, of living up to the expectations of being the hottest team in the NFL. But, even with an 11-game win streak and the title of most likely to advance to the Super Bowl they still had to perform. It is one thing to play loose and win when no one expects you to win. It is something completely different to win when you are the better team and everyone keeps telling you that you will win. They look a lot like the Colts of old who struggled in similar situations in the past.
- How about the fact that they had a kicker in Keading that was lights out during the regular season but only so so in he playoffs. Keading only missed three field-goals all season. However, the little man with the big leg was not famous for playoff heroics. Keading was 3-for-6 in the playoffs and had missed a game-winner against the Jets in 2004. He is now 3-for-9 and Mike Vanderjagt’s new best friend.
- Also, it is hard to win when Norv Turner is your head coach. And they just extended his contact through 2013…good luck with that San Diego.
Back to why we are all here…
WHAT WE LOVED…
- Pierre Garcon made the play of the Colts postseason so far when he ran down Baltimore’s safety Ed Reed in the third quarter and stripped him of the ball after Reed intercepted Peyton Manning. Not only did this cause Lucas Oil Stadium, along with every Hoosier watching in Indiana, to erupt in their seat, it also killed any chance the Ravens had of getting back in the game.
- Reggie Wayne’s hands deserve their own plaque in Canton, OH when his career is over. He made three catches on Saturday night where he looked like a frog snapping its tongue out and snagging an unsuspecting fly in mid-air before the fly even knew what happened. He was so quick that you needed to see these plays in slow motion to see all of the action. His TD catch at the end of the second quarter can not be executed and better. He stayed out of the end zone, giving himself an extra yard of buffer from the Baltimore defense which was sitting a yard in the end zone ready to make a play. After catching the ball, Reggie made sure the ball crossed the plain of the goal line and then he got down to minimize contact. I know it is only a game, but that was a beautiful play.
- Both Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon handled their first playoff game well. It is important that these two continue to play well and shake off the added pressure of postseason football. Defenses will be looking to minimize Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in the coming weeks, so it is crucial that these two young guns can get open and CATCH the ball.
- Peyton Manning had a rather pedestrian day at the office on Saturday with a final line of 30/44, 246-yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT and a QB rating of 87.9. What those numbers don’t tell you is that he controlled the ball for much of the second quarter on, and distributed the ball all over the field. Wayne had 8 catches, Clark 7, Garcon 5, Collie 4, Addai 3, Donald Brown 2 and Mike Hart 1. That is a nice way to keep defenses guessing.
- The Colts defense is finally starting to get some of the recognition that it deserves. Knowing that the Ravens were going to pound the ball as much as possible with breakout Pro Bowler Ray Rice and back up Willis McGahee, the Colts D made solid contact near the line of scrimmage and finished tackles to minimize Baltimore gains. They made Joe Flacco win the game, and it is apparent that he could not.
- The Colts defense held Ray Rice to 13 carries fro 67-yards, and Willis McGahee 2 carries for 7-yards. They knew they needed to stop the run game of the Ravens and they did.
- Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney looked very well rested on Saturday, and even though they did not sack Joe Flacco, they pressured him on several plays and forced Baltimore to move quicker than they were capable of doing. Gary Brackett had the only sack of Flacco while having a great game in the middle with fellow linebacker Clint Session.
- Both Jerraud Powers and Antoine Bethea had interceptions in Saturday’s game. If the Colts can force Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw one or two picks in this weekend’s game, the Jets will find themselves in a hole to deep to dig out.
- It was good to see Matt Stover hit from 44-yards out on the first drive. In a playoff season where kickers have been failing left and right, it is great to have an experienced kicker on your team. Stover is not just a great performer in the regular season; he is a proven veteran who was one of the main scoring threats for the 2000 Ravens who won a Super Bowl. The Ravens of that year were lead by one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. They also had one of the worst offensive teams to win a Super Bowl. Stover scored a lot of game-winning points that season, good to know he can come through in the clutch.
- The Colts are one win away from playing in the Super Bowl…that is nice.
WHAT WE COULD LIVE WITHOUT…
Not too much to nitpick about when your team only gives up three points, and the game was never all that close in the second half but…
- Peyton Manning taking a delay of game penalty in the second quarter was shocking, and he almost had another in the first quarter. This is something you never see from Peyton, it is only a five yard penalty but your better than that Peyton, that is the kind of thing your younger brother is known for, not you.
- It was great to see Antonie Bethea come down with an interception in the fourth quarter, but in the playoffs you have to take advantage of every opportunity given you. In the first quarter, during the Ravens opening drive, Bethea had a chance –in fact, he had the ball hit him on the hands twice– to pick off Joe Flacco on the 1-yard line and had nothing but green field in front of him to take it to the house. During the playoffs, you have to take advantage of these opponents miscues.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?…
It means that the Indianapolis Colts will have a change to revenge their Week 16 loss, by way of lay down, to the New York Jets this Sunday at 3 p.m. in downtown Indy.
I will have a full breakdown of this game come Friday morning, so come on back to FunCityFinder.com and see what you have to watch for come game day.