Mid way through the third quarter, we all were having the same reaction: this game is a grind.
The Colts' defense was uncharacteristically giving up big plays. The offense was stuck in molasses, and the Broncos were on the verge of erasing a 13 point Indy lead.
Then an hour later, you look up at the scoreboard to see Indy 27 Denver 13. The Colts won by two touchdowns on the road, in tough conditions (crazy heat and altitude). They won while using a practice squad wideout, a undrafted rookie left tackle, a 7th round linebacker, and various and sundry other loose parts.
We spent most of the day lambasting the secondary. The truth is they allowed one touchdown and gift wrapped the offense with one of their own. Kyle Orton threw for approximate 10,000 yards, but scored just 13 points. The offense was missing pieces left and right and put up 27 points on the road. The defensive line was mugged and never so much as breathed on Orton, but turned in a remarkable run stuffing performance led by Gary Brackett's clutch goal line tackle.
As much as I questioned the coaching in week one, week three showed why this team continues to win: they don't beat themselves. To date, the Colts have exactly two turnovers on the year. One was a triple hit on Collie and the other was Devin Moore's garbage time fumble. The Broncos turned it over twice just yesterday. The Colts had just four penalties on the day for less than 30 yards (the Broncos had double). The Colts' redzone execution was impeccable. The Broncos' was imperceptible. Denver piled up yards. Indy piled up points.
Tip your hat, Mr. Caldwell. You have a well coached team.
Here are my random observations first the good, then the bad. I reserve the right to change my mind after I watch the tape.
- Peyton Manning is the best quarterback I've ever seen. I was tracking his passer rating as the game went along. It started modestly and steadily spiked. As everyone else wore down, he just kept getting better. Amazing. No running game? No starting wideout? A cardboard cutout of a football player protecting his blindside? Third and 15 in his own territory? No problem. The long completions to Collie and Wayne were simply amazing throws. Sometimes we focus too much on how smart this guy is. He also throws the ball incredibly.
- Kudos to Blair White showing up and playing well.
- Jacob Lacey's pick was probably the play of the game.
- Gary Brackett was everywhere in the run game.
- The corners had an up and down game. After the long TD pass to make the score 13-10, Indy went three and out. Denver had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Three passes. Three incompletions. Punt. Manning then stuck a knife in them with a 79 yard TD drive for a 10 point lead. Our corners had some brilliant moments and some ugly ones. I chalk that up to a total lack of pressure more than to bad play by the corners.
- People will point to Josh McDaniels' two fourth down gambles as risky coaching. Let me point out that the first one was a no brainer and cost Denver nothing. The Broncos got stopped, which meant they didn't get a field goal. However, because they had Indy pinned deep, they got the ball in good field position on the next drive and converted the field goal anyway. That's what happens when you go for it on the goal line. Same thing worked in the Super Bowl. You have to figure that when you pass on the field goal, the odds are good you are going to get another crack at it.
- Nothing more has to be said about Collie.
- 6 kickoffs. 6 touchbacks.
- Larry Maroney had a great game for the Colts. He's a hard guy not to love in the uniform of the team you are playing against.
- I didn't notice Linkenbach late in the game, but he seemed to struggle early. I can't wait to focus on the Oline when I watch the tape. The running game was back to being non-existent.
- Yesterday showed why we should never mock players who are hurt. You never know when the guys who replace them are going to get hurt. Garcon and Charlie Johnson are tough while Gonzo and Ugoh were injury prone, or wusses. It makes for nice copy right up until Garcon and CJ go down. The Colts are already wearing thin injury wise and it's only week three.
- No pressure on Orton at all. Everything for the Colts' D begins and ends with pressure.
- Punt return yards: 4 for Indy. 57 for Denver. Denver did have a muffed kick though.
- I counted six passing plays over 20 yards. All last season, the Colts only allowed 27 passes over 20 yards (best in the NFL). The Colts have given up 12 already this season. That's 26th in the NFL. This needs fixing.