Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Colts Lose, Colts Lose!

I’m going to get to my more in-depth analysis of the game in a moment, which is colored by my being a Colts fan. So before I expose myself as the total homer that I am, let me publicly say the following:

The Saints won that game. They earned it, and they deserve it. I can’t think of any other team I’d rather see beat the Colts than this year’s Saints. Hard not to like those guys except for the fact that they were opposing my favorite team. Drew Brees was lights out, and deserved the MVP. Congrats to them.

Now, my blood turns blue for a moment… here’s why the Colts lost, in random order:

1. The Colts receivers lost this game. There’s no other way for me to look at it.

A. Aside from two of the most glaring Super Bowl drops in history (Garcon on the 3rd down play and then Wayne at the one yard line near the game’s end), there were two or three other drops that I saw that should have been catches. Unacceptable in the Super Bowl to have this kind of sloppy receiver play. Dallas Clark was the only receiver who looked like he belonged out there.

B. Wayne was off all game. He re-aggravated his injury a few days before the game, and I can’t help but wonder if that contributed to his drops and general stale route running.

C. Hank freaking Baskett should have had that onsides kick on the first hop. I’m personally ashamed that he bobbled it so badly.

Manning played really well. Really well. He made throws fading backwards, running to his right, and repeatedly put the ball in pinpoint-perfect position for his receivers. Take away the interception, which I’ll address in a moment, and he played like an MVP. More on Manning in a moment too.

2. The interception wasn’t necessarily what it looked like. I’ve seen them run that play to Wayne a few dozen times, and he was not where he was supposed to be—again, perhaps a symptom of his injury. I’m not saying Manning is blameless for the INT, but Wayne was not where Manning expected him to be, and it allowed Porter to make the great play. Maybe Manning could have seen that Wayne was off the route, and held the ball, I don’t know. But high profile analysts like Chris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson (both of whom do have a tendency to be complete idiots, I understand) have publicly mentioned they thought the INT was Wayne’s fault more than Manning’s—that Wayne appeared to be dogging it a bit.

No matter. The Manning haters are still going to call it a choke. Because that’s what you do when Manning loses… you say he chokes. Nevermind the 2 playoff games he won to get here… those games aren’t “big games”… unless he’d have lost them, that is. Nevermind that he’s won as many postseason games as he’s lost. Oh well. QB’s get all the glory… so I guess it’s mildly fair for them to get all the blame.

Also… comparing this INT to the one Favre threw in the NFC Championship game is laughable. Favre was running to his right and throwing against his body (something you’re never supposed to do) and he didn’t even need to throw the ball… not to mention he had room in front of him to run. That was a stupid decision. Manning’s Super Bowl INT was maybe a ball he shouldn’t have thrown, in that he maybe should have seen that Wayne wasn’t coming back to the spot… but it’s not the same thing whatsoever.

3. How the freaking crap does this Colts team get the ball back with over a minute to go in the first half and freaking run the ball three times?!?! This might be the biggest WTF moment for me in the entire game. Manning has written the book this season on late-first-half scoring drives. What the hell were they afraid of? The play calling on this drive is unforgiveable. I don’t understand how it can even happen.

4. The Onsides Kick. You know what? The Onsides Kick was gutsy. It was bold. It changed the game’s complexion. It might have been the biggest play of the entire game.

And all that would be true… if the Saints had actually recovered the damn ball.

I have watched this game twice now, with particular attention paid to the onsides kick, and it’s pretty clear that the Saints player loses control after grabbing at the ball, and a Colts player falls on it. He’s immediately jumped on by about 20 people, and half a dozen penalty-worthy hits and punches are thrown in the scrum, and somehow the ball changes hands by the time the refs pull them all off. Incidentally, how the hell does the NFL let that scrum take place with all that shoving and violence and not issue a single penalty to either team?!

Sour grapes time: it’s always annoyed me that this “scrum” thing is part of football. That a game that prides itself on inches and being exact, and using HD replays to “get it right”, can let fumble recoveries come down to who twists the other teams testicles the best inside the scrum. There isn’t a better way to find out who recovered the ball? Because there’s at least one official who audibly says “Blue Ball” on the tape, only to be overruled a couple minutes later by another ref.

People are talking like this play is the new “The Catch” or something… but it was just an onsides kick, and one that the receiving team actually recovered, only to be robbed of it in a pile-up.

Summary: That’s my four keys to the loss. Any one of those things goes the opposite way, and we might be looking at a different outcome. We might not be. The Saints were going to score. They were dominant all year. And they earned their victory. I truly don’t believe that any one play makes or breaks a game… and throughout the whole game, the Saints made more plays than the Colts did… and it crushes me to say that.

But the Colts did enough to shoot themselves in the foot (dropped passes, horrific play calling at the half) that the Saints didn’t need to be perfect. I truly expected the Colts to win. And they probably should have. But apparently the receivers spent the prep week watching Braylon Edwards highlights and the coaches brushed up on the Jeff Fisher School of Frustratingly Conservative Play Calling. Ugh.

On the plus side… Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark looked downright manly in that game. There is plenty to be optimistic about for the Colts franchise. Just wish it would have come together well enough to win this game.


At 2/09/2010 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I guess in ways I'm a Manning hater but that only stems from the fact that he's so damn good. I mean if he had been the Raiders QB for the last 12 years I wouldn't be bitching about him, ever. So it's a bit hypocritical.

He played a fine game despite the interception which, as you said, might have been less his fault than most people are stating. And it's not like he can do much when he doesn't have the ball for the majority of the 2nd quarter and the first half of the third. The three running plays do boggle the mind. There must have been something they were reading in the Saints defense that just didn't prove helpful but who knows.

Sorry your team lost; that always sucks. It was a fun game to watch for a non-fan of either team.

At 2/09/2010 03:23:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Well, believe it or not, it's good to know that the game was entertaining for people who aren't fans of either team. It's impossible to view the game impartially like that when your team is in the game.

And you're right. The Saints absolutely played well enough to win. I just think the Colts took a game that was fairly evenly matched, and made it far easier for the Saints to win by screwing up so many different ways.

The agonizing thing about this game is that they did the things they are known for not doing. The receivers in Indy are known for catching the ball... except in the Super Bowl on Sunday. The Colts are known for TD-scoring drives late in the first half... except during the Super Bowl. Manning isn't known for interceptions (this year, at least) and Wayne isn't known for sloppy route running... except for the Super Bowl.

It was almost like bizzaro day for the Colts. Maddening.

At 2/09/2010 05:38:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I hate to be a disenting voice, as I was one of the few cheering for the Colts, eager to declare Manning an elite. I was totally sold on him, and picking the Colts was the only thing I'd gotten right on the playoffs. But, no, I don't think he was sharp. The receivers weren't great, but he has overcome that several times in the regular season, and didn't Sunday.

He threw into coverage several times, sometimes triple coverage, giving little chance for a reception. A few of his other passes simply missed. On the drive with the turnover, he had already thrown one poor pass that should have been intercepted. I didn't have the confidence in him that I'd had in the regular season. I think he freezes up, and it affects the entire offense.

Manning has had trouble in big games. Is it because he raises his recievers beyond their level, and that is exposed on Super Bowl Sunday? Maybe. He looked so sharp with Clark at times, but not often the rest. The issues he had with Wayne he also had with Harrison.

A few more things. How many suprise onsides kicks have we seen this year? How are you not ready for that? I agree that the play calling at the end of the first half was awful. Childress was overmatched, and not just in those instances. I don't like the long halftimes that change the normal routines of a game. And I think a very good team beat another very good team, but dammit, I wanted greatness, and I wanted it from Manning. Too bad.

At 2/10/2010 09:34:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

It's weird that we can both be rooting for Manning and watching the same game, but come away with conflicting views on his sharpness. Just goes to show you that it's all about perception, I guess. Maybe the pinpoint throws to Clark clouded my view of his other throws... it's possible. I just felt like he was pretty sharp, and his receivers were dull. But it's completely within reason to suggest the opposite might have been true.

Regardless... I just can't accept the "Manning chokes in big games" argument. I think it's a lot like the "George Bush is stupid" argument... one that's just been repeated so many times that people start to see it as true even though there's not as much evidence for it as it seems. He's 9-9 in the post season as a professional. How is that a choke-artist's record? Wouldn't a choke-artist have way more losses than wins?

A lot of it is dependent on how "big games" are defined. I think if the Colts had lost to Baltimore or the Jets, people would have called it "more evidence that Manning can't win the big game". But because he won, those same people don't see them as big games.

And in the truly "big" game--the Super Bowl--he's 1-1, with an MVP award.

Take everything I say with a few grains of salt, man. I'm a Colts fan, and Manning is my favorite player. I'm not Switzerland here.

At 2/10/2010 01:19:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Maybe saying he is bad in the big games is too broad a brush. At some point in the playoffs he's going to crap the bed. You no longer expect that in the regular season, and now I don't expect it until the Super Bowl. I bet he's working on that.


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