Wednesday, January 31, 2007
See, I don't like the Chiefs and their fans. I loathe Baltimore for several reasons. First, I didn't have such a great time as an intern in the city one summer. Second, I don't like it when alleged double-stabbing murderers get to continue to play on Sundays. Third, well, they just won't get over the Colts' departure. It's been 23 years, people! Of course, I absolutely with every passionate fiber of my being, hate, HATE the New England Patriots. Their dynastic glory came at the expense of my beloved Colts, and beating them two weeks ago was definitely one of the high points of my life as a sports fan. Burn in hell, Tom Brady. And Bill Belichick. I know you're enjoying your three Super Bowl rings...but doesn't life seem empty without a Super Bowl berth for the second year in a row?
These taunts, these deep-seeded feelings of contempt, don't exist for the Chicago Bears. They never have. I grew up in AFC country, rooting for the Colts and Bengals. They played an NFC team every once in a while, but it wasn't as important as an AFC game. The only time a game between the NFC and AFC is really important is the Super Bowl. To be honest, the scenarios in which the Bears and Colts would meet up in the grandest game of them all were unlikely at best.
Yet here we are, just days away from the game that matters. I can't hate the Bears. They're Walter Payton. Super Bowl Shuffle. Ditka. Da Bears. Heck, my favorite QB of all time, Jim Harbaugh, played for Chicago before coming to Indy. The Windy City is just right down the street. Well, kind of.
Krildog is a major Bears fan, and I don't like to root against his team on Sundays. I mean, the Bears are unbearable to watch most Sundays, thanks to their often lackluster offense. Their defense sure is fun to watch, though. I even pulled for Brett Favre as a kid, and considered the Packers my favorite NFC team. That should mean I hate the Bears, right? RIGHT?
Still, I don't. I can't work up the vitriol and hellacious anger that resonates through a Colts-Patriots game. You know, making jokes about Tom Brady and Belichick is fun. Yelling at the freaking Patriots is fun. It's the well of inexplicable emotions usually reserved for teams like the Yankees, the Detroit Red Wings, the L.A. Lakers, and Duke. I don't have those kinds of feelings toward the Bears.
This puts me in quite a terrible position for the biggest game in Indianapolis Colts history. Or at least the second biggest game in Indianapolis Colts history...that AFC Championship game holds the title of most important for now. If the Bears hadn't sucked for so many years, and been so inept, perhaps I'd spit on them, burn their flag, or urinate on a misappropriated orange Brian Urlacher jersey.
I have to hate Chicago the way I wish the Jacksonville Jaguars would spontaneously combust and pour brandy on themselves to put the fires out. Or the way I wish the Patriots and Ravens would meet in a dark alley some night and kill one another. Or the way I wished J.J. Redick would break his freaking limp wrist while chucking his 40th jump shot of the game.
This is how I must hate the Chicago Bears, at least for one week.
At least it's easy to root for Peyton Manning. I've been just as frustrated as anybody with his play sometimes, his motions and gesticulations at the line of scrimmage. His seemingly endless quest for perfection. He exorcised a major demon by slaying New England. My only fear is that by defeating that beast, he's satisfied.
I surely hope not.
There's a Super Bowl to win, a big game on the national stage for him to prove to everyone once and for all that he's not a choke artist. Heck, he could even have a terrible game, still win, and be regarded up there with the football legends. You know how everyone's always sucking off Roethlisberger for getting Pittsburgh the championship last year? Take a look at his numbers, and they were horrible. He was horrible in that game. It doesn't matter though...he won. I'd like to see Peyton throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns to give everyone that emphatic "screw yourself" middle finger. I'd like to see him cut loose in the postgame interview, setting aside "I'm going to Disney World" in favor of "I'm going to hunt down and kill every sonuvabitch who every made fun of my laser, rocket arm."
That's not Peyton's style. And I don't think he'll put up huge numbers against the Bears. Probably decent numbers, but nothing mind-boggling. I expect it to be a great game.
Oh, but what happens if Peyton wins this one? Well...it'd be kind of like the end of Return of the Jedi. Like Anakin Skywalker, he will have redeemed himself. And no one could take it away from him. He'd be up there in the Pantheon of Football Heroes. We'd get to see more endorsements, more MasterCard commercials. I know we're all looking forward to that. Manning can't help it if he's the most marketable figure in the NFL. I just hope the Sprint people are able to come up with another great commercial in the vein of his "porn-stache" one. Just using the term "laser, rocket arm" gives me a chuckle. Yes, that's why I used it again.
The Colts are easy to root for, and so is the city of Indianapolis. Unless you live in Boston, and are still in denial about the outcome of the AFC Title Game, you kinda hafta admire the Colts, at least a little. They win with class, consistently, and don't talk or taunt. They're as polite as the city they represent. Heck, even Marvin Harrison came off as a nice guy during his deer-in-the-headlights Media Day session.
Under this shroud of niceties, lies a football team desperate to prove it's one of the NFL's classiest franchises. Successful in the regular season, no doubt. But playoff harmony has eluded the Colts, who've watched the Steelers and Patriots beat them, only to win the Big Game. But they've played some smashmouth football in these playoffs, and the defense, once clueless, seems to be getting it. Gee, it only took a whole season! I'm as passionate about the Colts as pretty much anything in my life. That's why I make these silly pictures, and write long diatribes about them.
Rooting for the Colts is easy.
Rooting against the Bears is hard...
There...that's much easier.
I just have to imagine the person I hate the most in a Bears uniform.
Yeah, it would look something like that.
I know that's a nightmare and a cheap shot, Krildog.
In fact, it gives me the chills and I'll probably get the night terrors for just thinking of it.
I mean, if you were to stick, I don't know, Ray Lewis in a Colts uniform, well...that would be very upsetting.
I needed this, I know you understand as a passionate fan. To prove I'm still your buddy...here's a much more flattering shot.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I haven't been this inspired by the Indianapolis Colts since the 1995-1996 team. That's when Harbaugh (my all-time favorite Colts QB) and company gritted their way into the playoffs, and managed to get into the AFC Championship Game. That was the little team that could, relatively devoid of star power and dependent upon a quarterback who had his own mystique. They did it the hard way, man. Road win in San Diego. Road win in Kansas City.
What did that earn them?
A trip to Pittsburgh.
You remember the play. Harbaugh, battered, bruised, bloodied. He was a Sunday afternoon gridiron gladiator, hoping the inspiration tank wasn't on empty yet. He lofted the ball high up into the air, and a thousand players jumped, pushed, cajoled for position as the ball arced downward, spelling either doom or destiny for the Colts.
Destiny is a fickle mistress, my friends. She teases us, taunts us, tests us.
"He caught the ball! Aaron Bailey caught the ball!"
Those were the words of Bob Lamey.
Then, seconds later, "Incomplete. They're ruling it incomplete."
Just like that, it was over. The magic of that 9-7 season, and that playoff run remains with me to this day. It's perhaps my most vivid and tangible memory as a Colts fan. Bigger than TD pass #49 to Brandon Stokley. Bigger than the Tampa Bay Comeback. Bigger than anything else I've ever remembered as a proud Colts fan.
Then came the New England game, a new memory so fresh, I can almost touch it, feel it. I replay it all back in my head, and it's so magnificent, so timeless. Just before halftime, the Colts score. It's 21-6.
And the Patriots are afraid. They're up by 15 points, and they're afraid. They know, somewhere deep down, they've awoken the sleeping giant. They know Foxboro Playoff Peyton is gone. In his place, a new fire burns in AFC Champion Peyton. We all saw it in that last drive before the half. For this stadium is not Foxboro. There's no snow on the field here, no supporting fans. If the Patriots are afraid, then the Colts are mad as hell. And they're not going to take it anymore.
No more Foxboro Folly.
No more Wide Right.
Nothing's gonna stand in their way now. Not Brady, not Belichick, and certainly not playoff history. No team ever rallied from an 18-point lead in a championship game before January 21, 2007. The history-making Colts did it. Now, they're Super Bowl Bound.
There were so many moments that turned this battle between Indianapolis and New England into one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history. Shot for shot, blow for blow, these teams matched one another. The Colts showed an indomitable will to win. The Patriots displayed a tenacious stubbornness to hold onto their dominance. In the end, it was not enough to keep the Colts down.
Several things worked against the Colts. Kickoff coverage, injuries, fourth down conversions. Manning played with a bruised thumb, chucking some shaky wounded ducks into the air. But he played hurt. And he made the throws, directing the offense so efficiently, the Patriots never had a chance.
After a brilliant drive that started at 2:17 and ended at 1:00, the Colts defense decided it was time to put Brady in his place. In domed stadiums, Brady hadn't lost a game, they say. Until January 21, 2007. That's the day Marlin Jackson picked off a desperate throw from #12 to end the game.
An unexpected hero. An unexpected outcome. Unexpected glory on a day that began so ominously.
38-34. This time, Willie McGinest was nowhere around to stop Edgerrin James. And James wasn't around to run it at the goal line either. That was up to Joseph Addai.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
I speak of revenge again today.
There are so many types of revenge possible for Peyton Manning and the Colts this Sunday.
There's revenge for Colts fans. They've had to spar with Patriots fans over which team is the trademark team of this salary cap era. They've won three Super Bowls, yet all they do is antagonize others. I see Belichick's "class" extends to the fans.
There's revenge against the Patriots. Remember when the little dynasty-that-could won the Super Bowl in 2001, and it was kind of neat? Of course, after that, there was nothing but darkness. And we've all had to hear how great the Pats are. They're the Yankees of the NFL. Gee...if that's not a left-handed compliment, I don't know what is.
There's revenge against the critics. They've poked, prodded, and picked apart this Colts football team and its quarterback. They come out every week, win or lose, commenting on the Colts' defense, or an offensive struggle, or a personnel decision.
There's revenge against fate. For playoff history hasn't been kind to the Colts in Indianapolis. Some call it a curse, others a choke, still others purely bad luck. Seems like the Colts go up against the "hot" team every postseason. This year, they are the hot team, playing with a passion and drive I've seen only once before in a Colts squad. That was the Year of Harbaugh, my high water mark for any NFL team.
There's revenge against time. Time slips by gradually, yet so quickly. The Colts' window supposedly closed when Edgerrin James had knee surgery. It closed again when Edge left for Arizona. Here it is again, Father Time slowly pulling the window shut on a quarterback whose "legacy" remains clouded. Marino? Elway? Certainly not Montana. Apparently, they cloned Joe Cool, and named him Tom.
There's revenge against perception. That the Colts are a soft team, a leaky defensive bucket through which running backs pass right through. It certainly looked that way for 85% of the season. Now, we're the Steel Curtain or something. I chided Bill Polian and Tony Dungy when they insisted the defense was fixable. I guess I should have believed them.
If the Colts win this one, they'll have exorcised a major demon, the most evil and malevolent force in the football world. Manning will no longer be regarded as a massive choke artist. Of course, that will last for about two weeks, when the final Super Bowl history will be written. That's all, of course, if they win.
I am a diehard fan. I know what the Colts are up against from a philosophical, psychological, and logistical perspective. They've approached greatness so many times before, only to fall short, often in a shocking and embarrassing way.
This time there's no Foxboro.
No Ty Law.
No Willie McGinest (the jury is still out on "day-to-day" Rodney Harrison).
There is only revenge.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Colts-Patriots, Round Three (at least in terms of recent playoff games).
The Colts have no excuse, absolutely no excuse this time. They get to play the AFC Championship Game at HOME (that third seed was pretty important, eh?) against their most hated rival. There's no way I want to see the Pats celebrating their conference championship at the Dome. That would once and for all, in front of the whole football world, show the futility of the Colts in the playoffs. Trust me, the city and the team would never recover from that blow.
So, what do the Colts have going for them?
Well, they've beaten the Patriots twice in a row. Considering how badly they'd played at Foxboro in the past, we can be thankful for that. This time, there will be no snow to deal with, no wacky winds, no poorly groomed turf to complain about. There will be no Ty Law, no Rodney Harrison, no Willie McGinest. Yet, there will be Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi, who I swear are the only two players the Patriots really need. Oh, and they've got the tactical genius of Bill Belichick.
How much of a genius is he? Well, word from some Patriots fans on certain message boards has it that the Pats rolled over for the Colts earlier this year. That the proud New England team baited the Colts by employing a wacky game plan in no way reminiscent of their playoff plans.
That's a load of crap, people. Do you really think Bill Belichick and Tom Brady want to lose to anyone? Of course not! Especially if the team's quarterback is Peyton Manning. I think Belichick has just out-thought himself in the last two games against Indy. Last year, he was so scared of the offense, he went on it on some fourth downs, even called for an onside kick. And this year, instead of using Dillion and Maroney, his powerful running duo, to slam the ball down the defense's throat, Belichick called a lot of screen passes and pass plays in general. Instead of attacking the Colts' weakness in the run game, he tried to exploit the D with the passing game. It's a mistake he can't afford to repeat.
Of course, then there's the "NEW" Colts defense. Even though poor Peyton has regressed into Foxboro Playoff Peyton, the defense has kept him in the game. I don't think Indy figured out what a three-and-out was until the Kansas City game. Since that first series, guys have been gang tackling, controlling their gaps, and stopping most of the cutback runs that killed the defense earlier this season. Make no mistake, though, the Patriots have a much more powerful offense than the likes of the Chiefs and the Ravens. Regardless, it's amazing that the Colts have surrendered a single touchdown in the postseason thus far.
Offensively, the Colts have struggled. They've played ugly, and Manning has yet to have a completely golden performance yet. The Ravens confused him, and he made some terrible throws. But there's still hope. After all, despite his struggles, Peyton had to be brimming with confidence when he completed the key third-down pass to Dallas Clark (you know the one I'm talking about). Of course, I'm not sure if it was bravery, courage, arrogance, or stupidity that made Manning throw that ball. It sure as hell convinced me he's one of the most confident quarterbacks ever.
I look for Indy's offense to get back on track this week. I know the Patriots will throw everything they've got at Peyton. He's seen it before, though. I still think Belichick will come up with some great wrinkle that will leave Peyton confused. New England's pass rush will also cause problems. I think the Colts will be able to work through this.
It's early in the week, but here are my keys to the game.
Run, run, run. It's hard, but San Diego did it. The Colts have to do what they've done the last two games: commit to the run. The play action game hasn't reaped huge rewards from this yet, but the way the line controlled the line of scrimmage against the vaunted Ravens defense tells me they can do it against New England.
Don't let up on the gas. If the Colts score, they need to keep pressing for touchdowns. In fact, the whole offense needs to get it together inside the redzone. Five Vinatieri field goals won't do it against New England. There's no way Tom Brady will ever play as badly as Steve McNair did.
Stay tough, both ways. This means several things. The Colts have to make the tough grabs and hang in there on offense. That means Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Ben Utecht, and company must be willing to take a shot. The defense must tackle well, and punish the Patriots running backs, receivers, and Brady. Most importantly, the Colts must stay mentally tough. If something goes wrong, they must rebound, and make it right. Get a stop defensively if there's a turnover. Come back strong on offense if they give up a score. That's the key right there.
Stay on target. Peyton must put the ball exactly where he wants it. If there's nothing there, throw it away. New England will try to confuse him, and he'll have to stand strong in the pocket against the rush and deliver the ball.
Mix it up. Let's see plenty of Addai and heck, even Dominic Rhodes. Their roles have reversed a bit in the playoffs, since Rhodes has been coming off the bench and giving the offense a spark. Use them in the short passing game, run 'em up the middle, and keep trying the stretch play.
And above all...let's beat the bastards, okay?
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Question #1: What would you do for a Super Bowl championship?
Peyton Manning: "Break all of Dan Marino's records and play linebacker to help stop the run."
Bob Sanders: "Eat a person."
Ray Lewis: "Start Trent Dilfer at quarterback."
Steve McNair: "Cut off my own leg as a motivational tool to prove I'm the toughest quarterback in football and then play one-legged."
Question #2: What's the key to beating this week's opponent?
Peyton Manning: "Mace and tasers. And my laser rocket arm."
Tarik Glenn: "Anticipating the snap count, even when I know it."
Jamal Lewis: "Staying away from drugs and/or selling them. Or brokering a deal involving them."
Todd Heap: "Reading the Book of Mormon, a different testament to the life of Jesus Christ. This message brought to you by the Church of Latter Day Saints."
Question #3: What's the worst that could happen in this week's game?
Marvin Harrison: "Getting hit over the middle while trying to catch a pass."
Ben Utecht: "Angering Ray Lewis in any way, shape or form. Have you seen what the guy looks like when he's mad? It's like M. Bison from Street Fighter II. See the proof at http://www.baltimoreravens.com/."
Sam Koch: "Having someone mispronounce my name while I'm punting. It's COOK. COOK, you immature little bastards."
Kyle Boller: "That McNair gets hurt, and I have to come in to hand the ball off."
Question #4: What's your opponent's biggest weakness?
Joseph Addai: "NFL rules prohibiting players from using sharp objects or other weapons on the field."
Montae Reagor: "Lack of caller ID."
Ed Reed: "An arrogant, trash-talking persona that rings false."
Art Modell: "The fact they stole a team from another city."
Question #5: What's the problem with the Colts defense?
Tony Dungy: "There's no problem. Didn't you watch the KC game?"
Bill Polian: "There's no problem. Didn't you watch the KC game?"
Brian Billick: "Undersized linemen who can be pushed off the ball, poor tackling from linebackers, overpursuit, poor gap control."
Gerome Sapp: "Poor personnel decisions. Like sending me to this hell hole."
Question #6: If Marty Schottenheimer coached Peyton Manning in the playoffs...
Tony Dungy: "I'd be out of a job! You're kidding, right? Right? Guys?"
Jason David: "It would create a rift in the space-time continuum, obliterating the universe as we know it."
Samari Roll: "It would be the anti-Belichick and Brady, cancelling them out. Ray-Ray would inherit the throne as King of the World."
Adalius Thomas: "Peyton would run a lot of naked bootlegs, the Colts would go for it on every fourth down, and not even LaDainian Tomlinson could save them."
Question #7: How do you celebrate a big win?
Reggie Wayne: "I like to head to Club Rio with the boys. But if the Pacers are there, we have to wear special vests like in Iraq."
Dominic Rhodes: "By pretending the title of 'starting running back' actually means something."
Steve McNair: "By retiring to my hyperbaric chamber for rest and recovery, getting massages, and watching romantic comedies. 'Sleepless in Seattle' will immasculate even the toughest of men."
Derrick Mason: "By calling Kevin Dyson and taunting him about the Super Bowl game against the Rams. It makes everyone feel worse. I would've gotten the damn yard."
Question #8: If you could play for the other team, would you? Why?
Peyton Manning: "No, I don't think so. They just don't have the expensive offensive toys I get to play with every week."
Bob Sanders: "I'd think about it, but only if Ray Lewis promised not to party with me."
Kyle Boller: "Sure, in a straight up trade for Jim Sorgi. He's got the easiest job in the world."
Ray Lewis: "I'd take a stab at it, I think. Just to see if I could toughen everyone up. Allegedly, of course."
Sunday, January 07, 2007
That would be how I feel following the Colts-Chiefs game.
Maybe I read and heard too much this week, about how the Colts' porous run defense, one of the worst in NFL history, had no chance of stopping Larry Johnson. Maybe that pre-game montage of previous playoff failings by Manning & Company made me skeptical. Or perhaps I was thinking of the last time the Colts hosted a home playoff game with a first-round draft pick at running back (his name was Edgerrin James, and the Colts lost a terrible game to the upstart Tennessee Titans).
Whatever the reason, I wasn't feeling good about this game. I expected the Chiefs to run, run, run the ball effectively, shortening the game and keeping the Colts offense on the sidelines. Well, the Chiefs did run, run, run the ball, but they forgot the effectively part. From the very first play of the game, the Colts defense was swarming, gang-tackling, and controlling the line of scrimmage. It was something I hadn't seen for most of the season.
When it was all said and done, the Colts had held KC to less than a hundred yards rushing, something they hadn't done for the other 16 games of the season! The Chiefs came in with the attitude that their crushing running game would get the job done, but they never tried anything else. One successful drive netted eight points, making it a one possession game, but that was about the only threat all day. And it was all about the passing game, not the ground attack.
It's not like the Colts played a perfect game, either. Peyton Manning turned in Foxborough Playoff Peyton, throwing three interceptions and letting his old nemesis Ty Law get two of them. It looked like he and Marvin Harrison had a couple of communication problems. The other was a forced throw up top to Aaron Moorehead that the safety swiped. Hunter Smith had a terrible fumble that ended up being a non-factor.
The offense took what KC gave it for the most part, and that meant the wide receivers had so-so games. But Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai came up big in the passing game on short, safe throws that kept the chains and the clock moving. Addai was a revelation again this week, getting the start (great call, by the way Colts coaching staff) and energizing the ground game. Heck, even Dominic Rhodes seemed to look fresher, making a couple of eye-popping runs while coming in for Addai.
Kansas City also showed why everyone insisted the Chiefs "backed into" the playoffs. They were clueless, and didn't make adjustments. They missed a short field goal, let Addai run right through them, and generally played like a team that didn't belong there. Having said that, I'm a little concerned about how inefficient the offense was for the Colts in the first half. There's no way they shouldn't have scored a touchdown, and the constant problem that is short distance running will come to get them eventually.
But I still can't believe what I saw Saturday. I saw a veteran team play like a Super Bowl contender, more or less. Even when the offense struggled, the defense picked it up for a change. That didn't happen for most of this season. How many games did the offense have to win at the end this year because the defense couldn't stop someone, or the special teams surrendered a big play? If you answered, "too many," you win the Mystery Box (remember, a boat is just a boat, but the Mystery Box could by anything. It could even be a boat!).
All in all, I'm mighty proud of the Colts, who should be able to sit back and enjoy this win for like three minutes before obsessively scouring through Baltimore Ravens game film. That game's definitely going to be a challenge, and it will be interesting to see what the team manages to do next week. Will we see this Bob Sanders-fueled defense tackle and dominate like Saturday? Is this the "real Colts?" Or is this strange entity that we experienced against the Chiefs a one-time diversion from the "real Colts," who can't stop anyone and give up big plays while letting other teams physically dominate them?
We'll find out soon.
Quoth the Ravens, Baltimore.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I mean, we had an exciting year of cutting-edge content prepared for 2007. But you know, it's just not going to pan out. Here's what got nixed:
Krildog Cam. A 24-hour view of Krildog's apartment. Peak traffic times would be during Bears games, when viewers can vote on which obscenity Krildog will yell next, and place bets on which household item he'll throw first. My vote goes to "son of a bitch" and I'll place $20 on the coffee table.
Cheeseburger Charlie. We were hoping to score an exclusive deal with Charlie Weis and Notre Dame to get an official count on how many cheeseburgers he eats during the season. It didn't work out, but I did utter "steak" during last night's awful game.
Where's the ring? This was going to be an exclusive series on how long it would take me to notice if someone took the wedding ring off my finger. Now that I've had it on for several months, I don't think this would last very long. Oh, and it's a stupid idea.
Season on the Drink. I was going to document, game-by-game, how my created college basketball team did during the season, posting drunken rants as my post-game press conferences. However, once I found out there was no uniform editor on NCAA College Hoops 2K7 for the Xbox 360, I got pissed off and scrapped the idea. If anyone finds the uniform editor, let me know. 2K Games tech support insists the feature doesn't exist, even though it's on the BACK OF THE BOX. Those dirty whores.