Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Valuable Lesson: Hold Onto the Ball

Still seething from the loss the Colts just experienced on their own home field at the RCA Dome, the venerable venue's final Colts game. I say let's just implode the thing right now to get rid of some of the ridiculously bad memories that have plagued the Colts in the playoffs. I'll get to that in a minute.

Before I extoll the evils of the RCA Dome and how the Colts play in it during the playoffs, first let me make a comment about today's game. Hold onto the ball. That's something the Colts failed to do. Three turnovers killed the Colts at key moments in the game. I'm not going to play the "if" game, but let's just think about how key Marvin Harrison's fumble was. That really let San Diego back into the game; and when you let someone hang around like that, they're bound to beat you. A couple of bad breaks on balls from Peyton Manning also doomed the Colts, with deflections from failed catches by Kenton Keith and Reggie Wayne. Those turnovers turned out to be huge, and Harrison's fumble cancelled out a brilliant interception by Kelvin Hayden.

Perhaps more alarming was the play of the defense. While the Chargers have some offensive weapons, the way they were able to do whatever they wanted against the Colts was disheartening. I couldn't believe it. Where was one of the NFL's top-rated units? Where was the defensive player of the year? I know they missed Freeney, but the lack of a pass rush was embarrassing. The Colts got beat by Billy Volek. That's something I'm not proud of.

When the New England Patriots won last night, it meant today's game was the last at the RCA Dome. There have been some great moments for the Colts there, most of them in the regular season. There was a great playoff performance there last year against Kansas City and of course the greatest comeback I've ever seen, the AFC Championship Game against the Pats. While that's a big moment in Colts history, I can't say I'll miss the Dome when it comes to the playoffs.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three HUGE losses the Colts have had in the Dome during the playoffs. The first was in 2000, when the Colts finished 13-3 and lost to the Tennessee Titans. I can still see the 68-yard run by Eddie George and the punt return TD from Terrence Wilkins that was called back when a sliver of his shoe grazed the out-of-bounds line. Then there was the game two years ago against Pittsburgh, when the Colts had the table set for a deep playoff run. They lost that one 21-18 when the offense and defense failed to show up. I can still see Mike Vanderjagt's career and the Colts season go right down the toilet on a kick best remembered as "wide right." Now, the latest debacle. At home and healthy against a beat-up San Diego team, the Colts failed to show up on defense. While Peyton was pretty darn impressive, there was no running game (and no attempt to establish one), and the offense didn't come through when the team needed it the most. Failing to get a score after first and goal inside the ten was heart-wrenching. Fans didn't get a reprieve either when the defense actually held for once and the Colts got a last chance for redemption. Once Reggie Wayne went down and the Colts lost their last timeout, it was fourth-and-five and no one was feeling good about that.

Man, no one's stopping New England now. I honestly thought the Colts were the last best hope for that. But they couldn't even beat Billy Volek and the San Diego Chargers. The Super Bowl championship seems really far away now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Playoffs!?

You can already hear Jim Mora's voice, can't you.

"Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs!?"

It's the most wonderful time of the year, as long as you're team has made the playoffs. It can quickly turn into the most miserable time of the year if your team happens to fizzle. Officially, of course, the playoffs began last weekend with four reasonably good games. But if you're a Colts fan, the playoffs really begin tomorrow.

The Colts will know their opponent when they take the field Sunday at the RCA Dome. It could be the last Colts game there. The possibility exists that another game could be played at the Dome. That would take a big effort from the Jacksonville Jaguars against New England. In fact, the game between these two teams puts me in kind of a conundrum. For as much as I dislike Jacksonville, I hate New England more. Rooting for the Jags seems wrong; rooting for the Patriots is unholy.

That's why I'm just going to take ye olde "wait and see" approach for the Jacksonville-New England matchup. The Jaguars always talk a good game and they always play the Colts close. They're pretty stinking annoying. If you listen to some of the stuff that comes out of the mouths of Jags players and their certifiably-crazy coach, you'd think they were the undefeated team this season. In fact, you'd think they'd never lost a game, ever. It's only things like referees and cheating that have kept Jacksonville from winning the Super Bowl every year. Never mind the fact the Jags have a rap sheet nearly as long as the Bengals' or that they show the maturity of a 12-year-old girl who can't get Hannah Montana tickets. No team shoots itself in the foot quite like the Jacksonville Jaguars. I've seen it all: roughing the passer, pass interference, late hits out of bounds...many times in crucial situations. And then of course Crazy Jack gets that crazy look in his eyes. Geez.

Of course, compared to how I feel about New England, I just basically gave the Jags a nice big hug. I loathe the New England Patriots. There is not one single thing I like about that organization or their team. Their coach is a jerk who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar (and still won coach of the year, nice job Associated Press), their star quarterback is a pretty boy who has never met a girl he didn't bang, their star receiver is a "reformed" miscreant who's found salvation in Belichick, their star safety is a monstrous hitter with a prescription for pain...and HGH. Their fanbase makes me sick, and the insane amount of media coverage they get also makes my stomach quiver. I think we hit a low point when Cris Collinsworth decided the Pats were the best team he'd ever seen. If he'd said it a week ago, or two weeks ago, maybe I'd understand. But he said it several weeks ago, way too early. Then again, maybe he was being genuine; I have the sneaking suspicion he was just being smarmy, making sure he'd look like a "genius" by the end of the season. So many times, the Patriots have stomped on my beloved Colts. Then, one glorious January day, the Colts punched 'em in the face.

I'm not predicting anything about these playoffs. The Colts could lose, the Patriots could lose, it could all set it up so that we get a Jacksonville-Seattle Super Bowl. You just don't know what's going to happen over the next two days.

Personally, I want another shot at New England. I want the Colts to go in there, full strength, and work them over. It'd be poetic justice, and therapeutic for me. I guess we'll just see what happens. It's a crazy time in the NFL. It's what we like to call...

How does it go again, Coach Mora?

"Playoffs!? Are you kidding me!? PLAYOFFS!!?"