Archive for November, 2008

Let’s never speak of this again

November 30, 2008

Colts 10 – Browns 6

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Colts/Browns Live Game Blog

November 30, 2008

Once again, if you know you are going to participate, please email us at 18to88@gmail.com, and we’ll send you a panelist invite.

Please limit comments to mostly complete sentences about the game and try to limit exclamations.

Eye’ve been busy

November 30, 2008

Hey, so what if Eyes in the Backfield is super late today. No one is reading this on a holiday weekend anyway, right? Here’s a preview:

Another week, another miracle. In what once seemed to be a lost season, the Colts have stormed back to three games over .500 with a chance to put themselves on a serious roll. All that stands in front of them is a matchup with the inexplicable Cleveland Browns. The Browns are not devoid of talent, as proven by their prime time thrashing of the Giants, but still flounder near the bottom of the league, prompted up only by the Bengals in the AFC North. This week watch for:

1. Watch for the back-up who’s really the starter, but only temporarily …probably. The biggest story swirling around the Browns is their inscrutable QB situation. Two drafts ago, they traded up for Brady Quinn, only to start Derek Anderson (after trading Charlie Frye after one game). They then didn’t trade Anderson, but rather signed him to a long term deal before benching him midway through the season, thus killing his trade value. They stuck with Quinn for two and a half games before head coach Romeo Crennel benched him mid-game and brought Anderson back. Now, Quinn is gone for the season with a finger injury, and the Browns have Anderson back. God only knows what Anderson is going to do on Sunday, but Colts fans certainly hope that he’ll be as utterly confused by the cover-2 as he has been by his role in the Browns future.

2. Watch third down. Peyton Manning slaughtered the Chargers on third down last week and the Colts are once again leading the NFL in third down conversion percentage. Manning has made it brutal on teams trying to get the Colts off the field. The Browns have been better on third down than on first and second, which is usually the sign of a team that is actually worse than their record. That’s a scary thought for Browns fans.

Check out the rest here.

Thanksgiving Leftovers…

November 30, 2008

The holiday prevented us from doing the podcast (shocker!), so here’s my thoughts and observations leftover from the Chargers game:

3-1-IND 42 (6:10) 18-P.Manning pass deep middle to 87-R.Wayne to SD 32 for 26 yards (32-E.Weddle). Clark and Addai stay in on max protect to pick up the blitz. Wayne beats a double team off the P/A fake
3-2-SD 25 (:20) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass deep left to 80-M.Floyd to IND 44 for 31 yards (33-M.Bullitt). 6 man blitz, LT picks off on of them. No one gets there. Bethea gets beat in single coverage which is obviously a bad matchup.
1-10-IND 44 (9:40) 18-P.Manning pass deep middle intended for 88-M.Harrison INTERCEPTED by 23-Q.Jammer at SD 11. 23-Q.Jammer to SD 11 for no gain (88-M.Harrison). Great pocket, the ball was terminally underthrown, unless there was some route issue we can’t know. Bad throw.
3-7-SD 14 (8:46) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass deep middle to 80-M.Floyd to SD 37 for 23 yards (31-K.Ratliff). Rivers slides wide of Freeney, as both ends cut to the inside. This left no one pursuing Rivers to the back side (think Rosenfels in Houston on the Mathis play). It’s a simple hole in the zone on coverage.
1-10-IND 39 (5:05) 17-P.Rivers pass deep middle to 83-V.Jackson for 39 yards, TOUCHDOWN. P/A fake, no rush at all. Brackett just can’t get deep enough. Either Bullitt or Bethea was late coming over.
3-1-IND 38 (4:13) 29-J.Addai left tackle to SD 39 for 23 yards (32-E.Weddle). Great block by Reid, and Addai cuts back inside.
3-2-SD 13 (:43) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 11-A.Gonzalez for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN. It’s a simple pick play that was legal thanks to the defensive chuck on Wayne.
3-12-IND 14 (11:08) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers sacked at IND 24 for -10 yards (98-R.Mathis). FUMBLES (98-R.Mathis) [98-R.Mathis], RECOVERED by IND-79-R.Brock at IND 25. 79-R.Brock to IND 34 for 9 yards (79-M.Goff). One of the plays of the game for sure. The D made two great run stops to set up the passing down. Mathis flat beats his man, and Rivers tries to slide (see play 5) and starts to square his body to throw. Big mistake there Phil.
3-4-SD 46 (8:10) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short right to 11-A.Gonzalez ran ob at SD 17 for 29 yards (42-C.Hart). No rush, AG is wide open due to an ankle breaking juke. This was a Harrisonesque route by Gonzo. He’s getting better all the time.
4-1-SD 1 (3:54) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 38-D.Rhodes for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN. Simple juke and cut by Dom, with EXPLOSIVE speed out of the break. Ugoh blocks no one, but 18 still gets the TD.
2-6-SD 48 (1:44) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers sacked at SD 45 for -3 yards (sack split by 98-R.Mathis and 68-E.Foster). Freeney beats the double team, and Mathis and Foster clean up the mess.
3-7-IND 45 (14:04) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass incomplete short middle to 44-D.Clark (42-C.Hart). PENALTY on SD-42-C.Hart, Defensive Pass Interference, 5 yards, enforced at IND 45 – No Play. Manning is pressured (Ugoh gets beat again), and throws four yards short of the first down. The confusion on the PI call is becuase it was called on the wrong guy. 20 actually does interfere with Clark. He’s chucking Gonzo, who drives him into Clark as he makes his cut. Thus the DB contacts the intended receiver which is…Pass interference. Tough call, but a right one.
3-12-IND 48 (13:35) (Shotgun) 18-P.Manning pass deep left to 11-A.Gonzalez ran ob at SD 33 for 19 yards (42-C.Hart). This is just a sick throw as Gonzo beats the zone.
1-10-IND 45 (9:30) 17-P.Rivers pass deep right to 83-V.Jackson to IND 27 for 18 yards (58-G.Brackett, 26-K.Hayden). Great throw and catch by the Chargers. Hayden plays it perfect, and even tries to jump the route. No complaints. The Bolts earned this. Great D, better O.
3-1-IND 39 (4:06) 29-J.Addai up the middle to IND 37 for -2 yards (95-S.Phillips, 94-J.Tucker). Phillips just abuses Dallas Clark to make the play. CJ and Ugoh had the play blocked for a first down run, but Joe never had a prayer. Dallas barely touches him.
3-15-IND 42 (1:49) (Shotgun) 17-P.Rivers pass short left to 86-B.Manumaleuna to IND 29 for 13 yards (23-T.Jennings). Freeney stunts to force the check down (again…Rivers got scared of him in the second half). Jennings and Bethea ALMOST blow the tackle. At the end of the play Norv utterly loses his mind.
Timeout #1 by SD at 01:35.
4-1-SD 48 (:26) 18-P.Manning pass short left to 88-M.Harrison to SD 34 for 14 yards (23-Q.Jammer). See note at the end of this list.
3-9-SD 33 (:02) 4-A.Vinatieri 51 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-48-J.Snow, Holder-17-H.Smith. Money.

Some thoughts on the big fourth down conversion: Almost everyone but the Colts screwed up this play. First, I believe Indy’s intent coming out of the review was to let the clock wind down to about 10 seconds, run fourth down, call timeout and kick the field goal. This would have prevented the Chargers from having time to run a play and kick. This strategy SHOULD have been countered by Norv Turner who had two time outs left. He should have called one once the fourth down was measured. This would have forced Indy to punt. You can’t go for a fourth down with 26 seconds left at midfield. Norv effed up royally. Oddly enough, so did the officials who NEVER WOUND THE CLOCK. Had the Colts not gotten the first, San Diego would have had around 16-18 seconds to run multiple plays becuase the officials did for Norv what he was too stupid to do. Fortunately, Marvin was wide open. Much was made out of the pick with the official. It was clear on tape that Marv had ALREADY lost his man at that point. By the way, it was Williams (who almost won this game by himself) that forced the quick throw by 18.

Other thoughts:

  • No one could watch that game and tell me that Dom runs better than Addai.
  • Dungy as magnificent in the final minute.
  • Rivers really is painfully accurate. He made nice throws all night. Conversly LT is not the same player anymore.
  • Sessions played great in spots, but missed some tackles too.

Links:
Hmmm, someone familiar snuck one into Ask Vic. Gratifying answer from a guy who mocked the Colts for drafting four centers and also declared Manning to be done during his live game blog in September.

Judge gets more Manning V Manning hype rolling. Whatever. I’d be thrilled with it.

Kurt Warner for MVP?

November 28, 2008
Nah gah dah

Kurt Warner for MVP?

November 28, 2008
Nah gah dah

Things for Which I am Thankful

November 27, 2008

I suppose it’s cliche to do a thankfulness piece on Thanksgiving day, but seriously, I do this for free so you don’t get to complain about a lack of creativity. I am immensely grateful for the myriad of true blessings I have received in my life, and will dedicate the rest of this day those. But for the purposes of a football blog, I am thankful that:

Bart Peterson wanted to keep the Colts in Indy, and we got the new stadium built before the economic roof caved in.

Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in football.

We don’t need Bob Sanders for at least a month.

Jeff Saturday has played hurt all year.

Dwight Freeney has picked up right where he left off.

Norv Turner is such a terrible coach.

For the sack/strip.

Tony Dungy didn’t retire last January.

Anthony Gonzalez is such a hard worker that he visibly improves every week.

That Charlie Johnson isn’t our left tackle anymore. He’s played really well at guard.

For Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati.

For the right leg of Adam Vinatieri.

For winning in Pittsburgh in my lifetime.

For not losing to the Texans at home in my lifetime.

For Bill Polian. And consequently, that my team is not run by Ted Thompson.

That Jack Del Rio signed a 3 year extension in the offseason, and is all but impossible to fire.

For at least a few more weeks of watching 88 in blue and white. I hope that isn’t all we have.

For tiebreakers breaking our way.

For one of the great seasons in Indianapolis history, despite all odds and logic.

Links:
There is so much unintentional comedy in Vic Ketchman’s Happy Birthday Jags column, that I laughed out loud three times. There wasn’t a joke in the piece…except for the Jags themselves.

Whitlock KILLS ESPN. Wow. There’s some real hatred there.

How great would a Manning bowl be? Mostly freaking awesome, except that I don’t think the Colts would have a prayer of stopping the Giants run game. Still. . . we can dream.

Demond Sanders: Vic’s article sounds more like a farewell than a happy birthday. Maybe he’s caught wind of something. The Whitlock article is awesome on so many levels. He’s dead on about ESPN. Also, I watched the CMU game he refers to and it was the most biased, poorly called game I’ve heard in a long time.

Learning to Love Football (all over again)

November 25, 2008

For a decade now, Colts fans have gotten used to making the playoffs and being considered a contender. We’ve gotten used to historically fast starts and having our team bandied about with the greatest teams of all time. We’ve gotten used to insane arguments with Patriots fans who couldn’t seem to understand what made their own team so great. Somewhere along the way, a lot of the joy of the week to week was drained out of the game for us. Colts fans in general became more concerned with only winning titles rather than celebrating and enjoying each win.

Then came this season. We were all geared up for another title run with what Bill Polian called ‘the most talented team’ he’s ever had. Then, disaster struck. One injury after another decimated that talent, and left the Colts in trapped in a coffin gasping for air while many outsiders prematurely danced on their half dug grave. It was easy to get despondent when watching the Colts play because their flaws have been so obvious and consistent almost every week. It was like watching the fall of Rome from your barcalounger every Sunday.

Then, almost shockingly, something clicked. The flaws? They didn’t disappear, but suddenly they didn’t matter as much. The offensive line gelled just enough. Manning gritted his teeth a little more firmly. Freeney spun out of one extra hold. 88 picked up just one more first down. Without warning or reason, a team that had been torture to watch started to win games. They haven’t won them pretty, but they’ve gone up against some of the most talented squads in the conference and walked away on top.

The 1995 Colts are on the top of most long time fans’ lists of favorite Colts teams. They repeatedly pulled off amazing comebacks. Their quarterback defied logic with his play. They entered the playoffs as a wildcard team, and beat a poor west coast squad, before knocking off the best team in football, and walked into Pittsburgh and should have left as conference champions. There was no burden of history with that team. They just wanted to win every game they could and make the playoffs. Then when the time came, they were battle tested and ready to win in any way necessary.

The 2008 Colts seem to be their natural brothers. In 2007, Indy played a total of 4 games worth watching out of 16 (@Ten, NE, @SD, @Oak). Already, in just 11 games, the Colts have played seven games that went down to the wire (winning 6). They have played 4 different games that could challenge for our Greatest Wins list. I can’t find a way to rank the Minnesota, Houston, Pittsburgh and San Diego games because they were all thrilling. Finally, it dawned on me yesterday…I love this team. They are make all the wrong kind of mistakes, but somehow 18 and 4 and 93 and 98 and…always seem to make the one play they have to. No team this beat up should be 7-4 against a tough schedule. This Colts team has made it fun for me watch football again. Forget championships for a minute and just appreciate rooting for a team that won’t quit.

I really look forward to the games now; gone is the nagging dread of a loss. I’ve accepted that this team isn’t the best in the NFL this year (NY Giants have been from week one). They still might win it all, or at least more than they ought, but they don’t have to in order for me to feel good about this year. It’ll take a nice playoff run to unseat 1995 in heart, but if a team ever had the chance to, this is the year it could happen.

Thanks 2008 Colts. You made it fun again.

Links:
This isn’t really a link, but here are the updated projections for Manning and Cassel:
Cassel (link to last week’s post for comparison)

Comp Att % Yards YPA TD INT Rating
346 522 66.3 3804 7.3 19 12 90.5

Manning

Comp Att % Yards YPA TD INT Rating
387 617 62.7 4106 6.7 28 15 87.2

The biggest change for 18 is that his completion % is now within normal limits. The only number he has that won’t fully recover by the end of the year is his YPA.

SI’s Playoff projection is sort of lame.

IU gets off without anything worse happening. That’s all that matters.

Never in the history of man has anything been more predictable than Easterbrook’s comments on Sunday’s game.

18to88.com makes another appearance in Walk Through. He confuses Demond and I because of the whole Facebook presence, but whatever. It’s a great piece anyway, and mostly my fault he was confused.

Demond Sanders: Mostly your fault? LOL. You created a Facebook account with my name and operated it as if you were me. Yes, I’d say the confusion was mostly your fault. For the record: I don’t believe in Facebook as a concept. I thought awkwardly bumping into people you only know tangentially or haven’t seen in 20 years was a bad thing. . .

DZ responds: It’s not my fault that Facebook wouldn’t accept Zombie as a last name. They are bigoted against the undead.

A look at the MVP Race

November 25, 2008

Anyone who has crunched the numbers knows the AFC South division title is over. The Titans won. Tennessee can clinch the division by winning any two of its final five games. Trust me, I ran the tie-breaker scenarios and did the math.

So besides the wild-card positioning what is left to root for? I suggest rooting for Peyton Manning. He has a ridiculously good shot at his third MVP award. Here is my unbiased look at the front-runners. If you think you have a better candidate in mind, I’d be interested in hearing about it. Keep in mind that this award is nearly always won by a QB or RB.

1.) Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Stats: 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 3506 YDs, 102.4 Rating
Team Record: 7-4, 1st place NFC West
Last week: 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 Lost Fumble in a loss to NYG
Remaining Games: @Phi, STL, MIN, @Pats, SEA

Warner is still the odds on favorite, but he didn’t help himself any with his second uneven performance in a row. The NFC West is horrible, but Warner will still get the credit for the Cardinals first division title since 1975. If no one emerges with a serious case Warner may be the default winner of this award.

2.) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 19 TDs, 10 INTs, 2823 YDs, 87.2 Rating
Team Record: 7-4, 2nd place AFC South
Last week: 2 TD, 1 INT in a win at SD
Remaining Games: @Cle, CIN, DET, @Jax, TEN

Manning’s stats are not eye-catching, but his growing list of clutch wins is very impressive. He certainly deserves to be in the conversation as long as the Colts continue their winning ways. If the race is tight Manning may have an advantage because of his consistently great play since his last MVP win in 2004.

3.) Brett Favre, New York Jets
Stats: 20 TDs, 13 INTs, 2461 YDs, 94.1 Rating
Team Record: 8-3, 1st place AFC East
Last week: 2 TD, 1 INT in a win at TEN.
Remaining Games: DEN, @SF, BUF, @Sea, MIA

As a wise man once said, “Brett Favre is Brett Favre.” I could have easily put him in second place. He is leading arguably the best team in the AFC in the biggest media market in the world. The media wants to give him this award, but he’ll probably need to win the East and finish with 30 TDs.

4.) Eli Manning, New York Giants
Stats: 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 2319 YDs, 91.6 Rating
Team Record: 10-1, 1st place NFC East
Last week: 3TD, 0 INT in a win at AZ
Remaining Games: @Was, PHI, @Dal, CAR, @Min

I know I recently said there was no way Eli would win the MVP, but 3 touchdowns against a decent Cardinals squad changed my mind. Is he important enough to his own team? I don’t think so, but he is the leader of the best team in football. I don’t ever remember an MVP race this balanced, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the voters gave it to a member of the far and away best team.

5.) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 1088 YDs, 13 TDs, 4.3 YPC
Team Record: 7-4, 3rd place NFC South
Last Week: 117 YDs, 4 TDs in a win over CAR
Remaining Games: @SD, @NO, TB, @Min, STL

Turner is a sleeper pick whose candidacy is dependent on his team finishing strong and winning the division. His quarterback, Matt Ryan, deserves a lot of credit, but he is a rookie and his numbers are pedestrian. Turner has been a revelation in Atlanta and could steal this award with a late season surge.

Others in the conversation: Drew Brees (needs wins), Randy Moss (needs stats and wins), Clinton Portis (needs wins), Adrian Peterson (needs wins), Brandon Jacobs (needs stats)

Make a note of it

November 24, 2008

I finally got a nap after only 2 hours of sleep last night, so I think I can form a few coherent thoughts about the game.

  • What kind of a season has it been when this is possibly only the third or even fourth most exciting game of the year? How do you rank these wins? The Colts are the best watch on TV. Between Minnesota, Jacksonville, Houston, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, the Patriots game (which was decided in the fourth quarter on a 50 yard AV FG) seems like crap. Amazing every week. I’m ready for a break.
  • This was a valiant effort by the defense. Yes, they completely wilted in the fourth quarter (which we all saw coming), but again, you have to feel like Bob Sanders stops at least one of those scoring drives. Bullitt is a solid replacement, who makes plays and mistakes. He’s not Bob Sanders.
  • Tony Dungy is a great coach. He had the guts to try and go out and win the game, not once but twice on tough fourth down decisions that could have cost him. He coaches mostly without fear. I still wanted one more fourth down try early in the game, but I have no problem with what he did. His team has been destroyed by injuries at literally every position on the field in the last 12 months. He’s going to post another double digit win season and guide his men to the playoffs. If this is it for him, he could not have gone out better.
  • The Colts have to get better to have a chance to win it all. The truth is that they are winning almost every game at the wire on Manning’s will, Freeney’s spin, and AV’s cannon leg. The problems last night were obvious. There is no pressure at all ever up the middle. If Freeney and Mathis don’t break free, there is no pressure. The secondary isn’t sound enough to hold up under that kind of strain. On offense, Manning still is underthrowing deep balls which is making it tough on the offense. Jamey Richards played valiently, but wasn’t as effective as Saturday. The O dominates on third and fourth and short, but at a key time Dallas Clark failed to block his man, and it almost cost Indy the game.
  • The Chargers have talent all over the field, but are run by clowns.
  • Tom Moore’s passing routes have been amazing in their design.
  • When 18 says that 88 was the first option all the way on the two most important passes of the game, that says something. It’s still hard for me to get away from how weak his numbers are, but who am I to argue with Manning.
  • No drops last night. The Chargers dropped the ball late and it cost them the game.
  • If we never see the Chargers again, it’s all right with me. Oh crap, we’ll most likely see them next year. Sigh.
  • For my money, the best team I’ve seen in the AFC all year is still Pittsburgh. I don’t buy the Jets, but I really don’t by the Titans. I think New England will be a nasty out by the end of the year. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see 5 and 6 meet for the AFC Championship. If you don’t chop the head off of Dungy and Belichick teams, you’d had better be ready to lose.
  • The numbers still say the Colts are pretty average. The PF/PA against isn’t strong. They’ve won a lot of games they have no business winning, largely because everytime they play they have the single best player on the field. If that isn’t the definition of MVP, I don’t know what is.
  • I’ll post updated projections for Manning and the new golden boy Matt Cassel tomorrow.

Links:
Peter King is all over the board. He puts the Colts behind NE and Pittsburgh this week, and at #6. He still has Manning at #2 on the MVP list. He says the Zombie is a great guy…just before he eats your brain.

ESPN says that Manning was unconscience on third down. Yup. That’s our boy.

CHFF thinks the Patriots have to start asking some tough questions. No kidding. Especially because it will likely take Tommy boy all next year to really be himself. Can they really afford to just like Cassel walk?

They also have a great stat on the dominant four in the AFC.

Audibles is good this week. Tanier thinks the Colts O must drive teams crazy.

Ask Vic is a miserable place to be. I love it.