I almost used this headline last week.
This week, I mean it in a completely different way.
There were a multitude of stories out there denigrating the Colts' 19-9 victory over the Chiefs. It showed the Colts weren't dominant. Some said Manning looked hurt. The Colts were sluggish. Most of the praise went to the Chiefs for managing to lose a game by 10 points.
Yeah, I think we need to adjust our expectations. There's nothing wrong with the Colts' win.
There might be something wrong with us.
Indy beat an undefeated team by double digits at home. They even covered the spread (for those who care about such things or use it as a benchmark). The Colts had five scoring drives on the game and moved the ball with ease throughout the game.
On the opening drive, Joe Addai was tackled just inches short of the goal line. The Colts eventually settled for the field goal. I contend that had he pounded the ball in on that first play, everyone would have viewed this game in an entirely different light. Indy never trailed in the game, and much of the media angst seems to center on the fact that the Colts only put up 19 points.
First of all, the offense is not a trouble spot for this team, so no one should worry about a slightly down week in which the Colts moved the ball well, but suffered a few mistakes in the red zone. Secondly, there were many comments that Indy was out of rhythm or sync. Frankly, it's would have been amazing if they were in sync. Last week alone, Wayne, Collie, Addai, and Brown missed practice time or were injured. Garcon was just coming back after a several week layoff. Any rhythm or sync issues are as easily attributable to the physical state of the Colts as anything else.
The standards for Peyton Manning himself have become impossibly high. Writers asked if he was hurt. Readers wondered if he was sick. My question is why?
In the first half, Manning was 9/13 for 107 yards (69.2%, 8.2 YPA). Crennel's vaunted defense had done nothing at all to slow Manning. The Colts had three potential scoring drives in the first half. The first ended at the two yard line as Manning was unable to throw in rhythm thanks to a missed block by Charlie Johnson. The second ended as Garcon was lined up on one of the three best corners in the game, who did a great job shutting him down. The third ended after Jamie Richard forgot the snap count, never got out of his stance, and Addai was stopped on fourth down, on an otherwise well blocked play.
There was NOTHING wrong with Manning in the first half.
His first drive of the second half was also good, but it ended as a block was missed on what would have been a touchdown pass to Wayne. The pressure as he was hit forced Manning to throw short. Then on third down, Pierre Garcon ran the wrong route earning a laser stare from Manning. The real 'trouble' part of the game for Manning came over three drives late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. During this stretch, Manning was 5 for 14 for 41 yards and a terrible interception.
That stretch corresponded with Joe Addai's injury and Indy ran the ball 6 times for just 19 yards in that stretch. If anything, the story should have been how uncomfortable Manning got without the security of Addai in the backfield with him. Still, the Colts managed a field goal among those three drives, and might have had more had Garcon not dropped a third down completion that hit him in the chest.
On his final drive, Manning went 7 for 9 and the Colts scored a touchdown.
Three drives where the Colts were out of sync. Three. Without either of the top two running backs.
On the basis of those three drives (one of which netted a field goal), a narrative sprang up around this game. Manning struggled. Manning looked rattled. Crennel had his number.
It's time to adjust our expectations. The Chiefs looked like a well coached team with a good defensive plan and excellent athletes coming off a bye in which they had two weeks to prepare for the Colts. Indy had a bevy of injured players, had guys make inexcusable mental mistakes in scoring territory, and still won by double digits.
Who could possibly expect more?
- Dwight Freeney was run at early in the game, and I could see how fans would blame him for some big gains. However, I don't think those were actually his fault. On at least one of the plays, Fransisco was supposed to have the edge and missed. On another, Session was out of position. Freeney played a wail of a game, and was disruptive in both the passing game and the run game in the second half. The peril of analyzing NFL tape is that you don't always know who is to blame in the event of a blown assignment. In this case, I think the culpability was on other guys, even though the network focused on Freeney.
- Garcon was a liability. He struggles to get open. He blows routes. He drops balls. He has to get better.
- Every member of the offensive line struggled. CJ missed a block that cost Indy a touchdown. Richard forgot a snap count that cost Indy 6 points. Pollak cost Indy a touchdown. Diem gave up a sack fumble. Even Saturday failed to get a block on a key conversion. The line had played very well in the last three weeks. Yesterday was not that day.
- However, on the game sealing touchdown by Hart CJ, Richard, and Saturday opened a huge hole. Every back in the NFL would have likely scored on that play. You could have driven a truck through it. Hart only got tackled at all because he's not very fast.
- Bethea is the glue to this defense right now. If he goes down, all is lost.
- I hate Caldwell taking the field goal on the one yard line early. Hate it.
- Dwane Bowe had some drops, but on the one in the endzone officials missed an obvious Offensive Pass Interference call.
- The D forced four 3 and outs in five second half drives.