NFL Analysis: Indianapolis Colts Finally Earn a Win

They won.

In the span of three minutes in the third quarter, the Colts emerged from their long winter's nap. Dan Orlovsky finished off a touchdown drive with his only good throw of the day, but what a throw it was. He dropped the ball into the outstretched hands of Reggie Wayne who was double covered in the endzone. The fans went crazy, and notably so the did the players. There was a mini-mob scene around Wayne in the end zone and on the bench afterwards. The Colts wanted, needed this win.

When Jacob Lacey ripped a pass away from Chris Johnson and forearm shivered his way to the endzone, everyone in the building could feel it...the Colts were going to win.

Take a walk out in the snow
And hear Santa's "Ho ho ho!"
He's got a million miles to go

There were ominous rumblings in the air before the game. When you are 0-13, these things tend to happen. The afternoon kicked off for most Colts fans with Jay Glazer reporting that Peyton Manning conducted a post practice work out Wednesday.  By the time the afternoon was up, Bob Kravitz was talking about 'growing gaps' between Peyton and management. He's right.

Peyton Manning isn't healthy, and he's not all that close to healthy. He wants to play, but he's not ready. He wants, needs to get out on the field and show he can still do it, because he knows what's coming. The Colts need to get as much emotional distance on this thing as possible. I love Peyton Manning, but the front office needs there to be a gap. This decision on what to do with Peyton must be made dispassionately and at a safe distance. The equation is simple: if Peyton Manning isn't upwards of 80-90% by D-day, the Colts have to cut him. They have to. That growing divide is healthy for this team. This is a time for the head and not the heart.

As of now, Peyton has a long, long way to go.

Sing a carol to your mom
Because she knows what's going on
And she knows if you've been bad or good

Getting that one win was huge. A run of the mill 1-15 or 2-14 season is bad and ignominious enough, but the stench of 0-16 would linger in the mind of the casual fan. The educated fan can rationalize that the difference between 0-16 and 2-14 is slim, but the NFL is all about the 99% on the fringe. Convincing the casual fan in Indianapolis that the Colts aren't the most embarrassing team of all time matters in the long run. The NFL is about creating happy Sunday afternoons. The Colts have gone a long, long way toward establishing a permanent bulkhead in Indy, but as the Pacers and Hoosiers try to rekindle the fire of lost love amongst sports fans, the Colts had to respond with something.

And if you get what you deserve
To be graded on the curve
Oh, you got a lot of nerve

Peter King reported that maybe Jim Caldwell is safe now that the Colts have won a game. I can only pray it's not true. I can't imagine that it is. No one is more inclined to love Caldwell as a person than I am. I admire lots of things about him. I think he has value as a coach in some circumstances. But the game plan the Colts had yesterday (under no circumstances is Orlovsky to throw), was about 10 weeks late. Caldwell coached this season in denial of reality, and no matter how much everyone loves and respects him, he simply does not deserve to come back.

Since the year is almost out
Lift your hands and give a shout
There's a lot to shout about today

Dark times are coming. Jeff Saturday recovered a fumble yesterday, and the crowd gave him a raucous ovation. Freeney was honored for reaching 100 sacks. Mathis had a sack. Wayne caught a touchdown. Addai caught a big first down. The crowd cheered each man enthusiastically.

That's good, because it may be their last chance to do so.

I know everyone wants Peyton to be ok and for the Colts to just carry on in 2012, but that's just not the most likely outcome. The most likely scenario is that Peyton Manning isn't coming back. If he's not back, Wayne and Saturday aren't back. If the Colts are stripping down to the bone then there's a real chance guys like Mathis (free agent) and Freeney (last year of a deal and due $16 million) aren't back either.

There's a good chance this team is going to be gutted after the season. If Peyton isn't back, then I doubt anyone is.

Since it's Christmas, let's be glad
Even if the year's been bad
There are presents to be had
A promotion for your dad
Don't be angry don't be mad

There was a lot of joy on Capital Avenue yesterday afternoon. A win didn't fix anything. The Colts are still faced with epic and impossible choices in the next few weeks and months. But for one afternoon, the team gave us something we all needed. They wrapped up a happy Sunday in a bow and placed it under our tree. This was the first win I've seen at the Luke, and one of the last pieces I'll write for 18to88.com. I'm grateful to be able to write up one more win at least here.

Yes, the year's been bad.

But hey, it's a win.

Let's be glad.


  • The Colts plan to not pass the ball at all after the 9:45 mark of the 3rd quarter was brilliant. I know it felt conservative, but it was the only way to win that game. Orlovsky threw one great pass and one great block yesterday. I'm so glad he did. The rest of his day was not pretty. The Colts won with 82 yards passing. Running every down is the same formula they should have been using all year. No, it's not creative or exciting. But it kept the ball out of the hands of the one guy who could have ruined it. I don't want to rip him today. He had a big day in his career, getting that win, and he contributed on two plays.
  • In the first half, the Colts moved the ball on the ground only to have a drive stall out after three straight passes. It was a microcosm of everything wrong with the philosophy of the team all year. I'm glad they fixed it in the end.
  • Donald Brown is good, and I'm baffled why some people refuse to admit it. Will Carrol had a weird series of Twitter exchanges about Brown yesterday. It's like people neEd Brown to be bad or the ridiculous drafting narrative starts to crumble. He's averaging 4.9 YPC over his last 16 games with a touch and will likely be in the top two in DVOA when the rankings come out tomorrow. He's good, people. Get over it. Find a new narrative.
  • The Colts hit hard yesterday, all day. The defense earned that win.
  • I watched the game with Tom Gower of Total Titans and the Football Outsiders. I feel bad for him because Chris Johnson is a total dog. On the big hit by Kavell Conner, a massive, and I mean literally massive hole opened up. Gower started to giggle. I yelled. It was an 80 yard touchdown for sure. To my shock, Johnson jogged through the hole right into the arms of Conner. It was insane. There were huge holes for him, but he was disinterested in running through them. I don't like to question the motivation and drive of players, but it was shocking how lackadaisical he was. Gower was beside himself. That contract was a mistake. They need to cut ties with Johnson and do it soon.
  • Another epic day by Pat Angerer. I have a feeling he's going to be a popular man in Indy for years.
  • Addai shouldn't be the starter. He just shouldn't.
  • Great day blocking by the line.
  • Nice to see a Gonzo sighting. Too bad it was on one pass that was a yard off target.
  • By my unofficial count, I think the Colts have clinched the tiebreaker should they finish with two wins. I have to run the numbers one more time, but I think they are safe.


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