Sunday, January 07, 2007

Finding the "D" in Indy

There are times when the outcome of a game shocks you. And there are times when the way a game progresses surprises you. And then there are games that make you feel like you're inside of some warped alternate universe.

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.

No comments: