In twenty five years, when someone is writing another history of the Colts, they'll write about the big games and watershed moments. Chances are, they won't remember to include a 30-17 victory over the Texans to move to 5-2.
What a mistake that will be.
The truth is that in so many ways, Monday night's stomping (and that's what it was) of the Texans is exactly the kind of game that Peyton Manning has been winning for a decade. When they talk about performance in big games or clutch moments, trolls and analysts rare remember nights like last night, because after you win the game, everyone erases from their mind what was said before hand:
The Colts aren't contenders.
The Texans are rising.
The South has caught up to Indy.
The window has closed.
All these things were foolishness 24 hours ago, and they remain foolishness now. The difference is that after a remarkable performance from the Indy pass rush and Peyton and the Seven Guys No One Outside of the 317 Has Ever Heard Of, everyone can agree that this is still a top tier team in the AFC. With a season, a division, a dynasty on the line, the Colts came out and dominated a solid team. How soon will everyone forget that they once doubted the Colts? If they ever remembered at all, I'm guessing it'll go the way of Sammy Jenkis by noon.
By the end of the game, the Colts were down to: 5th string running back, 3rd string TE, 5th string WR, 4th string corner, 3rd string safety. They had a backup punter.
They won by 13.
Losing Dallas Clark will have an effect, but there are only two to four utterly indispensable players on this roster. As long as Manning and Freeney are playing, Indy has a chance. I'll put Saturday and Mathis there as well. Those guys are the engine. Everyone else is gasoline.
This was a big game. This was a clutch performance. No one will remember 30-17 as the building blocks of legend, but at worst it's the mortar holding the house together. Without wins like this, there would never be any playoff games, any Super Bowls, any glory.
Notes and Thoughts:
- This game was won by the defense. They maintained control of the game and gave the offense time to be patient. Specifically, the pass rush lead by Mathis and Freeney was the culprit. Dwight Freeney has been everywhere the last two weeks. I think he loves prime time too.
- The biggest difference between the defense in week one and last night was Clint Session. He had a horrible game, worst of his career, in week one. Granted he was hurt, but last night he showed what a force he can be when healthy and playing within the confines of the defense. If this is what we are going to get from him each week, we'll see this defense continue to play dramatically better.
- Kelvin Hayden's pick six was the turning point of the night. The game was never closer than 10 points after that. It kept Kubiak (WORST GAME PLAN EVER) from ever being able to go to the run.
- The real difference Clark made was that it seemed like the safeties had more time to react to long passes. Garcon didn't have much room to operate, and a couple of times that Manning tried to hit him long, the safety was there to break it up. This concerns me greatly.
- Blair White looked like a real live punt returner.
- This was a big game for Mike Hart, but before I write him any letters of apology I need to see him do it against a decent defense. Hart looked amazing, no question, but I still don't believe he's the Colts 2nd best back. I don't buy 'running down hill' in general. That works really well if you have good blocking. I like Mike Hart. I hope his ankle is ok. He showed a lot last night, and is quickly marching up the list of most popular Colts ever. We all did a dance when Indy drafted him. He's overcome a lot. Let's hope he doesn't have another injury set back.
- Don Brown was clearly playing when he shouldn't have been. He does not look healthy. Don't underestimate the fact that he went out there, ran hard (picked up a key fourth down conversion), and kept Indy from having to play Jarvis James significant snaps. Indy won because they didn't turn the ball over. Brown didn't generate much heat running the ball, but he beat the alternative. I just hope he didn't hurt himself worse.
- What is it about the Texans that is Kryptonite for the offensive line? That was another awful performance pass blocking. The line had been solid since week one, but they were a mess last night. Manning had little time to throw and was hit regularly. Oh, and the penalties. In all the offense scored 23 points on five scoring drives. That's ok production, but it could have been more if the blocking had been reliable. Manning's YPA was in the toilet last night, and time was a big reason why.
- On the balance, Gonzo had a solid night. His spectacular diving grab was incredible. He had a great block on Wayne's touchdown scamper, and the OPI call on him to negate a first down looked to be a bad call. If the WR doesn't touch the defender, it's not interference! Considering this was the most action he'd seen since posting 100 yards in the first half of the 2008 playoff game w/San Diego, I'd say it's a nice return to action.
- Manning's throw to Gonzo on that play was incredible. That was a running dart deep downfield. There's nothing wrong with him, thank heavens. I think his 16 picks last year got in his head, and he's playing a lot more conservatively with the ball. He's on pace for four picks on the year.
- That was a horribly officiated ball game. They had two obvious calls overturned. Missed multiple personal fouls and contact in the secondary. Not a strong game from the zebras.
- Huge move by Polian to trade for Tryon. Considering that everyone was worried about secondary depth before the season, I'd say last night's game was proof that Indy is plenty deep there.
- It was great to see a Jerry Hughes sighting. He had pressure on a few plays, including a nice read of a play action bootleg to force an incomplete pass. The personal foul call was bad.
- This was a good win for Coach Caldwell. The team survived the McAfee incident. He went for it on fourth down around mid-field when he should have, and I was supportive of the field goal on fourth and one. The only bad coaching moment was wasting a timeout when the defense expected a punt, but the Texans were going for a long field goal.
- I'm not buying Matt Schaub at all any more. The more I see him, the less I like him.
- Angerer was as invisible as Wheeler had been last night. He did get credited with a forced fumble, but I'm guess it was that weird sideline play. Just two tackles.
- I hope this team has enough healthy bodies to play on Sunday. I've been all for stashing Bob Sanders on the inactive list, but the Colts are rapidly coming to a decision point with some of those injured players. You reach a limit where you just have to fill the roster spots.