Archive for October, 2008

Tape Worm

October 31, 2008

Here are my observations after watching the tape from the Colts Titans:

1. ESPN did a terrible job with replays. Way too many tight shots on replays. I guess they are ‘dramatic’, but they don’t tell you anything. They never replayed the key fourth down incompletion to Harrison. Awful.

2. Mike Pollack really did play poorly. He was dominated all night. Ugoh struggled a bit early, and there were a couple of plays where either he or CJ failed to block the right guy. Ugoh played better as the game went along. Pollack is the weak link right now. (Horray for CJ! He’s off the bottom of the totem pole!)

3. Darrell Reid completely missed blocking the guy who tackled Rhodes in the backfield on the key fourth down play. If he makes that block, Dom has a chance. He didn’t, and he didn’t.

4. Manning actually played significantly better than I initially thought. He was off on a couple of throws, and the Titans made a play or two, but mostly he was ok. There were a lot of plays on early downs where Pollack would miss a block and Manning would quickly dump off. The line was better in the sense that Manning at least had time to unload. It was not better in the sense that he tons of time. I never had a good look at the Clark pick until I just saw it. Yikes. The ball hits him in the hands and then in the shoulder. Gotta make that play, 44.

5. Clint Session played GREAT on run D, but struggled in coverage. On the key 3rd down with the Titans up 17-14, the Colts actually put Bethea in at linebacker, but he made the same mistake Session did. Neither guy got deep enough in the zone to take away the out route to the WR. In all, the linebackers were wonderful. It was easily their best game of the year.

6. On the Titans key drive to tie the game they converted three big third downs. One was on an illegal contact foul (which ESPN never showed). The second was converted on Dante Hughes and Matt Giordano. The third was completed on Hughes and Bullitt. Tell me that injuries in the secondary haven’t killed the Colts. There was also a pick on the second third down play that the officials missed. It should have been offensive PI. Mostly, the officiating was clean from what ESPN showed (which wasn’t much).

7. The score at the end of the third quarter was 14-14. Somehow I forgot how close that game was. It made watching it all the more frustrating. They should have won this game. Now we know why Tim Jennings is the #3 CB…because Kerry Collins completed A LOT of throws on Dante Hughes. The holes in the zone were just too big.

Mostly, I was encouraged by the tape. This looked like a team ready to break out. If so, it had better happen fast. There are some tough games on the back half of the schedule, and 5 losses at the half way mark might be too many to overcome.

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Not excuses. Reasons.

October 30, 2008

Talking about injuries is dicey. No one wants to make excuses for why a team struggles. In the NFL, you are what you are. There are no bonus points for style or playing hurt. At the end of the day, a team’s record speaks for itself. The 2007 and 2008 Colts have seen a stunning wave of injuries, and they have left the team far from elite. Would they be better if everyone was healthy? Maybe, probably, whatever. Players aren’t healthy, so the team isn’t elite.

What injuries do provide is a reason for the struggles. The Colts aren’t struggling because of Dungy’s coaching. They shouldn’t radically change the way they play long term (although obviously adjustments have to be made due to changes in personnel). There is no problem with the Colts philosophies or systems. They’ve been crushed by injuries. That’s the reason they are 3-4. That’s why they are 12-8 in their last 20 games. In the modern NFL, depth is a dicey issue anyway. A team might have a good back up at a couple of positions. The Colts have Dom Rhodes and Melvin Bullitt filling in nicely. Ultimately, whenever a team loses a lot of games by key players, that team will struggle.

It’s fun to try and find the imaginary complex culprit, but it’s right there in front of us. If the injury wave doesn’t abate, the Colts will be washed under by it. There is simply nothing to be done about it. If they get players back and healthy (starting the same offensive line in consecutive weeks will be a great start!), they’ll probably play a lot better. If they don’t, then no other change will help.

By the way, for those who missed it, MJax may be done for the year. Yee Haw. 9 more weeks of Tim Jennings.

Here’s some video from Manning shooting a Master Card commercial

My buddy Tim sent me this. It shows just how huge soccer is here in Argentina. It’s also a little creepy. Seriously…read this even if you don’t give a crap about soccer. It’s hilarious.

Nice work by Shake again. Just in case someone out there was down on the Jaddai Master.

Mike Tanier looks back at the history of Colts-Pats

Congrats Philly

October 30, 2008

It’s about time. Kill that damn monkey already.

Life Below Sea Level

October 29, 2008

It’s been a long time since the Colts were under .500 for more than one week in a season. We are now going on our fourth week below the break even point (after Chicago, 2 weeks after Jacksonville). Demond complained to me that he didn’t even want to go to the game Sunday, and it occurred to me that we all might have forgotten what normal life was like in the NFL. We have seen a historic run of playoff football and 10 win teams, and we’ve forgotten what it was like to follow a franchise that drafts in the top 5 all the time. So here’s a fans survival guide for rooting for a mediocre team.

1. Have fun-It sounds simple right? We all watch football because on some level we like it. The problem is, once your team hits a certain level, it’s easy to mistakenly think that the only way to have a good season is to win it all. Thus, for whole months at a time you feel bored or tune out, just waiting for the games that really matter. Now? Just go have fun at the games. Realize that your team isn’t that good, and that they’ll lose some. We have a beautiful stadium and a great down town. Go tailgate, enjoy a lovely fall evening…whatever. Just have fun. The pressure of getting a #1 seed is off.

2. Look on the brightside. Every game means something now? Remember all those useless December games we had last year? They matter now. If you have season tickets and can’t make it to a game, you have a chance to sell your ticket for better than face. Plus, because Tom Brady is hurt, a lot of the venom has gone out of this week’s Pats game.

3. Remember the bad old days. 3-4? I’ve been to enough games when we were 1-6, that 3-4 looks good. We root for a team that has some talent and hope for the future. About half the franchises in the NFL would trade places with Indy this season. There were years when 3-4 had everyone excited because if we could just get hot maybe we could finish at 9-7 and make the playoffs. Remember everyone’s favorite Colts squad? The 1995 Colts were…9-7.

4. Remember that we won a Super Bowl. I agree with Bill Simmons 5 year moratorium on bitching about the team after winning a title. We won it all. Polian, Dungy, and the rest brought us something we had NEVER seen. This week, if you are the Luke, glance up at the banner and at the Pats on field and smile because we’ve won more recently than they have.

5. Look to the future. Eventually, even if it’s next season, this team will get back to an elite level. For the last 12 months everything that could go wrong has. The following players have had serious injuries:
Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Dwight Freeney, Ryan Lilja, Tony Ugoh, Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Rob Morris, Tyjuan Hagler, Robert Mathis…oh yeah and two DTs are gone for various reasons.
There is no reason not to assume that in a month or two, or at the worst by next season this team will be right back to where it was. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, things will be ok next year. Plus, a weak season this year means better draft picks next year. Woo hoo.

6. Remember the Giants and Steelers. At this point in the season of their Super Bowl runs, both teams seemed to have played their way out of contention. Oops. Don’t jump ship just yet. Having said that, there’s no reason to play Pollyanna either. It’s reasonable to doubt that this incarnation of the Colts will turn things around. They are very average. They have about two weeks of leeway before the shark has officially been jumped on 2008.

7. It could be worse. We could be 5-2 and Peyton Manning could be lost for the year. Everyone critiques every throw by Peyton and blames it on his knee. Imagine what it’ll be like for Tom Brady next year? He’s coming back to an offense that will have an even older Randy Moss, and there’s a good chance he won’t have as stellar a season as the media expects. Pats fans can expect to face AT LEAST one more year of nothing but Brady’s knee talks. And if he never throws 30 TD passes again (and the odds are against him), they’ll hear about his knee forever. Pats fans are in a no win scenario. If they win it all this year with Matt Cassel at QB, their immortal favorite player automatically drops several notches in prestige. If they don’t win it all, they’ll hear all offseason about Brady’s rehab, and have to sweat his comeback well into next year.

We could also be San Diego fans at 3-5. Yikes. Worst of all, we could be Jags fans (if there were such a thing). The Jags are watching the Colts come back to earth just as they always dreamed…and they are muddling along at 3-4 utterly incapable of running the ball. Indy stumbles, and they couldn’t take advantage. Ouch. That’s got to hurt.

I don’t know about you guys…but I think I can be thankful for 3-4. At least a little. At least until 8 o’clock on Sunday night.

Links:
Hugging Harold Reynolds wants to know why #18 so popular with gang bangers

Paul Kuharsky has an EXCELLENT post about the Colts ‘window’ not being closed. He says if anything, the Colts are too young.

Post Mortem

October 28, 2008

Sometimes it’s difficult to enumerate all of the things that suck, but I’ll give it a try:

  • I can’t believe that the game got preempted on ESPNI for a World Series game that only went 6 innings. Then they never switched to the game even during the rain delay.
  • I can’t believe I was constantly as many as 5 minutes behind on the chat last night. I eventually gave up.
  • I can’t believe that I woke up 6 hours after going to bed when I could have slept in
  • I can’t believe we lost to that Titans team

And that’s the one that really sticks with me. I watched most of that game thinking: ‘Tennessee isn’t very good’, and ‘This is exactly the type of team we used to beat’.

Ultimately, last night revealed nothing we didn’t already know. This Colts team is painfully average on both sides of the ball. On offense, Indy got into Titan territory 4 times (and to the 50 another) with no points to show for it. On defense, they had Kerry Collins in 3rd and 8, 9, and 10 in the third and fourth quarter. The defense gave up 51 passing yards on those three plays, and two different drives ended in touchdowns. That’s the game.

Random thoughts from someone who didn’t get enough sleep:

  • I take it back about Marvin. If he was truly ok, he wouldn’t be blanketed by likes of Nick Harper. I never thought I’d see the day. He and Reggie Wayne have become completely invisible. Marvin is still drawing coverage, but he’s also still drawing throws…which aren’t being completed. I’m sick over it.
  • The line showed signs of life last night, but for the second time this season, the Colts ran a huge fourth down play at midfield, only to see Dom get swallowed for a loss. That’s not acceptable. I liked the decision to go for it there, because it felt like the defense was broken by the previous drive in which the Titans held the ball for nearly 8 minutes and went 4-4 on third down. The game was tied, but the Colts HAD to answer. The offense had four possessions in the second half, scored two touch downs and failed on two fourth down conversions. In other words, they were right there. The defense saw the field four times giving up 3 touchdowns and a field goal.
  • We never had a hero last night. Manning didn’t come through, and I felt like he played one of his worst games. The defense never forced a turnover despite having at least four balls right on their finger tips.
  • This was exactly the kind of loss I was dreading yesterday. The in-between loss. This is the kind of loss that says, “the season isn’t over, but it might be soon”. Now we face a weird Patriots team that isn’t good at anything and is 5-2.

I’ll have to watch the tape before saying anything else. I expected to be ready to jump off the bridge after that game. I never expected the bridge to collapse right out from underneath me.

Links:

ESPN breaks down Manning’s night by distance. Basically, they couldn’t hit the deep ball.

Collapse

October 28, 2008

Titans 31 Colts 21

Titans Live Blog

October 28, 2008

Huge game tonight. This week we are participating in a live blog with some of the MVN writers. This should be fun. At least until Demond goes nuclear, taking out everyone within a 14 mile radius.

Interview #2

October 27, 2008

Here’s a link to the second interview I did for MVN. The worst part about watching this game in South America is that it won’t start until 10:30 my time. It’s not just that it’s late at night, but that I’ll wait all day for it.

The biggest consequence of yesterday’s AFC massacre is that Indy can still make the playoffs even if they lose tonight’s game. A loss tonight, and the Colts are still only a game behind the Jets and Ravens. No one wants to be on the outside looking in, but we all have to be careful not to jump off any bridges if the game goes the wrong way. More than a win or a loss, this team needs to play well. Another crap-fest on the heels of last week’s dud, won’t bode well for the rest of the year. If the team plays well, but loses on a freak play or bad call, it’ll hurt, but in terms of record, won’t necessarily preclude a playoff run.

Let’s face there’s a lot of teams that would love to be in Indy’s shoes this morning. Jacksonville and San Diego have to have serious doubts this morning. Even the Jets have to wonder what is going on. Indy is only 3-3, but they wake up this morning with a chance to set their season right. Lots of other teams are wondering if that chance will ever come.

One note on tonight’s live game blog. We’ll be participating in a chat via MVN with some Tennessee bloggers and MVN people. They invited us to participate, and we said yes. They said they want interaction with our readers. Just so you all know, we won’t be ‘running’ the discussion, so if some of your comments don’t make it in, I’m sorry. It should be lively and interesting, and you can access it right here just like last week. As always, we appriciate both your participation and feedback, so if you find this format limiting let us know about it. The interface will look just like last week, and will be posted sometime before game time (as soon as they send us the data).

Links:
FO says defensive penalties don’t hurt as much as offensive penalties. I’m sure it’s true overall, but don’t tell Tim Jennings that.

Kravitz likes the Colts. More importantly, he refers to Lucas Oil Stadium as “The Luke”. You may wonder why this is so important to me. I have two friends who named kids after ballparks. One named his son Camden and the other named his daughter Wrigley. For an odd combination of family and bizarre Argentine legal reasons, if I have a son, we are naming him Lucas and calling him Luke. I just want to fit in the trend. Yet one more reason to root for another boy.

PK has a great quote from the Titans Mike Munchak on Freeney
“Freeney’s the best rusher we face in the league,” said Munchak. “He changed the game. You don’t understand his speed until you play him. What we do is go heavy on speed during practice before we play him, and then hope we can get ahead of them and just pound the ball.”

Dallas Clark talks to Mike Tirico

Tarik Glenn offers his thoughts on the men who have replaced him. He’s wrong. CJ has not ‘played well’ by any standard unless you compare him only with himself. He’s playing better than he used to. This does not qualify as ‘playing well’.

Does the AFC suck?

October 26, 2008

It is a good thing the AFC kind of blows this year. It is no coincidence that the Colts had maybe their best day of the season without stepping on the field:

Miami 25 – Buffalo 16

New Orleans 37 – San Diego 32

Cleveland 23 – Jacksonville 17

New York 21 – Pittsburgh 14

Two teams got their second loss and the Colts gained some significant ground against much of last year’s playoff field. Is it kind of sad that I’m so excited about these results? Yes. Do I care? No. The Colts need a lot of luck to get back on track and a bunched up AFC should do the trick. Hey, I’m just looking for a reason to care at this point. This was big.

Of course this day will only matter if they go on the road and beat the undefeated Titans tomorrow night. The Colts have won 8 of their past 10 against the Titans. Manning sat out last years finale and thus Tennessee’s only “real” victory came on a 60 yard field goal by Rob Bironas. A win saves the season and sets up an unconventional Manning – Cassel showdown. Winner gets momentum and a potential tiebreaker.

We know how big this game is to the Colts, but what about the Titans? How about this: if they win this game they win the South. That sounds like hyperbole, but it is not an overstatement. They would be four games up on the entire division. Stunning, because we are just seven games into the season. They would also have a two-game lead on in the race for the AFC’s one-seed. So, yeah, they have a lot to play for, too. If the Titans lose? The Colts would be two games back with the rematch taking place in week 17 in Indianapolis. Two games is still a comfortable margin, but Tennessee has a tough month ahead. After MNF they host the Packers before heading on the road to Chicago and Jacksonville. I think Monday night’s game is as big as it gets in the NFL regular season.

For the Great Unwashed

October 26, 2008

All of you who read 18to88.com regularly know what we think about the state of the team. For everyone else, it requires some explanation.

Here’s one of my two interviews through MVN. I do my best to cut through the usual sound bite nonsense and illuminate what’s really going on with the Horse. I really think that it’s tempting as fans to get tired of talking about injuries becuase we have had such a nightmare 12 months. Just because we are tired of saying it, doesn’t change the fact that this team isn’t close to healthy and it shows. It’s not an excuse; they HAVE to find a way to get it done. But let’s not go all crazy if they don’t. Sometimes you just don’t have the horses on the field to win. It drives us nuts when Tim Jennings gets four penalties in one game, but it shouldn’t surprise us. He’s a below average nickle back. When he’s on the field more than usual, he’s going to look awful. Same with CJ, and Session (who has improved a lot actually), and the half dozen rookies that have started on offense.

By the way, we haven’t really talked about it much (at all), but 18to88 is now part of the MVN Network, at least in theory. There have been platform problems that have delayed the launch, but eventually, we will re-launch 18to88 as one page instead of the site/blog division we have now. Someday, you’ll just head straight to 18to88.com for everything. That day was supposed to happen several times now…but hasn’t. They are having problems importing all the blog/website archives into the new format. Anyway, we’ll keep you posted.

Also many of you may have realized that 18to88.com has a Facebook presence. Feel free to look up Demond Sanders (they wouldn’t accept Deshawn Zombie as a screen name), and befriend us if you are in to that kind of thing. There is also a group called “Friends of 18to88.com“.

Demond Sanders: You’re right about the injuries. It is that simple. They need Ugoh back at his 2007 level or better. He was very solid last year, both run and pass blocking. This season has shown us that having healthy playmakers (Wayne, Harrison, Gonzalez, Clark) does not trump having healthy linemen.

Is there reason to panic? Yes, in the sense that they are playing a MUST win game tomorrow night. I think the worst part is that we have no idea what to expect from the team on a given Sunday. They have to win these next two, at a minimum. If they can do that they’ll be right back in the playoff race, if not the division. I’m rooting for the Bills and Steelers to trip up today.