In the wake of the Indianapolis Colts disappointing 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV last weekend, Colts team president Bill Polian let his feelings be known as to why the Boys in Blue could not bring home Lombardi Trophy number two.
“Our offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game,” Polian told NFL.com. “They were outplayed by the Saints’ defensive line. Our special teams, in terms of handing the ball — both in the return game and on the onside kick — were outplayed by the Saints. Therein lies the result. It had nothing to do with strategy or preparedness or toughness or effort.”
Polian said the Super Bowl simply came down to execution.
“There were certain situations throughout the game where we didn’t execute — most notably, the failure to get the first down and run the clock out at the end of the first half after a magnificent goal-line stand and then, of course, the failure to handle the onside kick,” Polian told NFL.com. “We had four things we could have done positively on that play. We didn’t do any of them. That absolutely changed the game. It went from our getting the ball on their 40-yard line to having them march down for a touchdown. Then, our inability to punch it in from first-and-goal on the 3. Those situations, we did not execute.”
Polian is absolutely right about this. However, just because he accurately described the reason as to why the Colts lost the Super Bowl, he should perhaps look in the mirror when assigning blame.
Before you tell me where I can stick this idea as well as this article, take a walk with me. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Polian have built one of the greatest teams to every play in the NFL. The Colts front office has done this by sticking to tried and true methods of building championship caliber teams under Polian’s guidance.
One of Polian’s first moves as Colts president was to draft all-universe quarterback Peyton Manning and build an offense around his brain and arm. During the past decade the Colts have used their early round draft picks to add to Manning’s offensive arsenal with such players as Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez and even during last year’s draft with first round pick up Donald Brown.
With the exceptions of Dwight Freeney, who was an 11th overall pick by the Colts in 2002, and Bob Sanders, who was drafted midway through the second round of the 2004 draft, Indianapolis has relied on great scouting to find diamonds in the rough to hold down their defense. Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis was the 138th overall pick in the 2003 draft class. And team captains Gary Brackett and Antoine Bethea were both undrafted out of college.
Special teams has always been the thorn in the side of the Indianapolis Colts dominant roster. For the past decade, Indianapolis has piece mealed their special teams out of back up and developmental players–hoping they could get the job done. The fact that the Colts special teams were OK this past season was a welcome surprise to most of Colts country.
Looking back on this past Colts season, the one play that stands out the most was not Dallas Clark’s or Pierre Garçon’s big touchdown catches against Miami, or even Joseph Addai’s touchdown pass against the 49ers. It was by far Chad Simpson’s kickoff return against Jacksonville in Week 15. I guarantee most Colts fans had a colorful adjective or two when describing that play, “I couldn’t @#%&ing believe it!”
Since Polian is the head of the Colts monster, shouldn’t finding stronger players for this crucial third aspect of a complete team fall to him? Seems like it would have helped last Sunday.
Also, while the offensive line did not exactly part the Red Sea for Addai at the end of the second quarter on 3rd-and-1, it was just a bad play call. All season long Indianapolis Colts fans had seen Manning run play action, fake a handoff and throw a quick pass to Clark across the middle or a wide receiver in a short pattern to the outside.
You can’t say they were worried about the pass falling incomplete and stopping the clock because the Saints still had time outs to use. The result could have been a new set of downs, an assurance that the Colts could run out the clock and a possible score before halftime to extend their lead.
Again, I am not ripping Polian, the man has forgotten more football than I will ever know and he has proven for decades that he can put together a winner. But if he see such problems with special teams,–as do all Colts fans across Indiana–then come up with a solution this offseason. Hoosiers everywhere will thank you for allowing them to actually breathe during kickoffs and punts next season.
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