On Friday, I wrote that if the game came down to Vick verses Manning, Indy would win.
I was wrong.
Quite simply, despite all the reasons the Colts had to lose yesterday, the game boiled down to this:
Mike Vick played as fine a game as a quarterback can play yesterday. I don't think any other QB in the league would have beaten Indy's defense yesterday. Vick shredded it with his legs and with rocket throws cutting through the Philly wind.
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Peyton Manning played his worst game in more than two years. He played stubborn, foolishly continuing to chuck the ball deep downfield despite no success. On the day, Manning was 1-14 for 33 yards and 2 picks on deep throws (he did pick up two penalties as well). Manning has never played well in windy conditions, and the ball routinely sailed on him. It was never more evident than on his final three throws of the game. Instead of trying to hit a 10 yard pass, Manning went deep three straight times in an effort to get into field goal range. The throws were unnecessary and foolish.
1 for 14. 33 yards. Two picks. No other analysis is necessary. You know what you need to know. The Colts were never going to win this game without a top shelf effort from Peyton Manning, and they did not get one. They lost. At the end of the game, Peyton had a chance to pull out the victory against all odds. He got impatient and tried to make throws that he was physically incapable of making. The issue isn't length; it's force. Manning has never thrown the ball hard enough in a stiff wind. That's not a new development.
Vick throws a laser spiral, and torched the Colts on long throws, going 3 for 6 for 98 yards. Despite his good velocity, the Eagles smartly limited the downfield shots. It just didn't make sense given the Indy pass rush and the weather. Manning, on the other hand, never adapted his game and continued heaving the ball long despite no success at all. It was as foolish a game as I've ever seen from Manning, and as spectacular a game as I've ever seen from Vick.
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- As losses go, this one was difficult emotionally, but not particuarly destructive in terms of the standings. Indy's still a game out of the top seed in the conference and tied for the division lead. This was an out of conference loss, so it doesn't hurt in the tiebreakers. The deck was so stacked against the Colts coming in that a win was tough to envision. The fact that they had it there for the taking only makes the loss that much more acrid.
- The Colts offense never recovered from the loss of Collie. Pierre Garcon is just not a viable second receiver for this team. In bad weather, he's useless. Manning was 2-7 for 15 yards targeting Garcon, with one drop (tough, but very makeable catch). The Colts came out of the locker room at half time, dead on their feet offensively. The wind looked to bother Manning, as did the fact that no one could get open.
- It was another rough game for the offensive line. After a string of solid outings, the line has been awful in pass protection for consecutive weeks. Manning was harassed, hit, and sacked all day.
- McCoy's first carry went for 62 yards. His next 15 went for 33. I'll take that. The rushing numbers will be skewed by a few long runs by Vick, but on the whole, the Colts' D forced the third and longs. Vick just Vicked them.
- This team is much better than the 2008 Colts with whom they are often compared. That team had a hard ceiling especially after Brackett went down. I left yesterday's game feeling great about the defense in general. There's only one other QB capable of doing the sorts of things that Vick did yesterday. Unfortunately, we have to play him twice. Hopefully, the Colts go to school on this tape when they play Vince Young.
- Brown played fine. He left a few yards on the field on a play or two, but in general the line was a mess yesterday. His 3 catches for 47 yards were a big help. I still think he's running at less than 100%.
- The sequence of the game came at the end of the third quarter. Trailing 19-17, the Colts' D had to get Philly off the field. Indy would have had the wind in the fourth quarter down two. The Colts got the Eagles into 2nd and 26. Vick hit a laser throw into a good zone for 22 yards. Then on third down, he escaped pressure for 32 yards. 54 yards by Vick in two back breaking plays. There's only so much a defense can do. If a superior athlete makes superior plays, some times you have to tip your hat.
- Given the wind, I was fine with Caldwell not onside kicking. The odds of recovery were slim (around 10%). The defense (eventually) got the ball back at the 26. That's probably 10-15 yards better than they would have had. Given that they only needed a field goal, I think playing for the yardage made sense. Indy had the ball at the Philly 41 with :27 seconds left. You expect to win the game at that point.
- Punting on 4th and 1 from midfield is ridiculous. It 'worked' temporarily as the Colts finally downed a ball inside the 1. Of course, when you give up a 58 yard pass play three plays later the move doesn't look so good.
- I hope the same people who complain about Gonzo being "injury prone" start using that same stupid standard for Austin Collie. Let's see: random hand injury. Check. Hurt by a defender on a boarderline illegal hit? Check. Such comments are ridiculous. Injuries happnen in the NFL. Be careful who you tag as 'injury prone'. It will come back to bite you. In the long run, every NFL player is injury prone.
- No team in football loses that many top players before and during a game on the road against a tough team and comes close. This Colts' team is an elite team. I saw nothing yesterday to dissuade me from that. They are every bit a Super Bowl contender, and anyone who thinks otherwise isn't paying close attention.