The Colts are finally in the driver's seat: After weeks of
chasing the leader in the division, Indianapolis finally is in control of their
own fate. If they can win out, they win the division. If the Chiefs
hang on to win their division, the Colts would enter the postseason as the No. 3
seed with their head-to-head win over Kansas City.
But, with two wild card
teams currently at 10-4, the division crown is the only real shot Indianapolis
has at making the playoffs. That would make up for the 12-4 Colts needing
to travel to the 8-8 Chargers following the 2008 season, hopefully with the home
team pulling out the victory.
Special teams giveth, and special teams taketh away: Regardless
of whether Mike Thomas signaled for a fair catch on his punt return touchdown —
to me it looked as though he thought the punt was going to be short and was
trying to waive his blockers off — the Indianapolis coverage unit gave up on
the play way too early. There's a reason that coaches are constantly
talking about "playing to the whistle" and that return was yet another example.
Even if Thomas had called for a fair catch, the whistle would have blown when he
caught the ball. The kicking game has repeatedly taken a back seat to the
other two phases of the game for the Colts the last few years and that play was
yet another example of their futility on special teams.
The silver lining was the fantastic play Tyjuan Hagler made on the onside
kick late in the fourth quarter. If he had simply just fielded the ball
cleanly and fallen down, it would have been a heads-up play. He did
Indianapolis one better by scooping the ball and scoring, putting the game away.
With the Raiders and Titans — two excellent special teams units that tend to
prey on lesser units — looming on the schedule, it will be important for the
Colts to get sharper, play harder, and pay more attention to the kicking game.
Sunday proved the importance of special teams in tight games later in the season
and the games will only get tighter.
It will hurt the offense, but the Colts need to shelve Austin Collie for
the rest of the season: With two concussions already this year, Collie
may literally not be able to survive another one if it happens this season.
Indianapolis needs to win out and Collie would be an important part of that run,
but some things are bigger than the game.
Collie is a competitor and will
want to get back on the field, but there is too much at stake. If he
suffers another concussion this season, his best case scenario could put
him out of football, with more pessimistic scenarios either putting him in a
coma or killing him.
The only way to keep him off the field is to put him
on injured reserve, which is what the Colts should do. With time and
testing, he might be completely healed for the start of the 2011 season, but the
risk is too high at this point.
Aaron Francisco proved himself: He's still no Bob Sanders (when
healthy), but Sunday's game was Francisco's toughest test of the season and he
passed. The Jaguars isolated on him and tried to get the ball to tight end
Marcedes Lewis whenever they had a one-on-one match-up with Francisco.
Lewis had six receptions for 63 yards on seven targets, but Francisco kept him
out of the end zone and kept him from making any big plays. Lewis was
going to be involved in the offense regardless, as he has become more and more
involved throughout the course of the season and David Garrard has grown to
trust him, so six catches and 63 yards counts as containing Lewis.
Francisco got off to a rocky start, but has settled in nicely.
Don't jump on the Donald Brown bandwagon just yet: Brown had a
very favorable matchup and Peyton Manning fed him the ball early in the game up
the middle, but he did get 49 of his 129 yards on one carry. He still
averaged 6.1 yards per carry on his other 13 attempts, which is impressive for a
regular back for a regular team, but unheard of for Brown running the ball for
He also fared much better than Dominic Rhodes — who still
probably needs to shake some of the rust off — as Rhodes averaged only 2.9
yards per carry against the same defense. It's encouraging that Manning
trusted Brown early and also trusted him near the goal line, but one performance
does not erase the better part of two seasons of futility. Brown ran with
confidence and decisiveness and needs to continue this momentum next week, as he
has another favorable matchup against the Raiders.
If Indianapolis can
continue to run the ball well, then they should be able to overcome the loss of
Collie, especially if Rhodes rounds back into shape and Mike Hart and Joseph Addai come back at 100 percent for the playoffs.
Don't expect Jacksonville to roll over: The Jaguars far exceeded
expectations this season, but finally succumbed to the better team on Sunday.
They can't be expected to just mail in the rest of the season now, though, as
all it would take is one slip up from the Colts for them to be back on top of
Indianapolis needs to keep pushing and keep winning.
They are in a strange situation for them, needing to win games at the end of the
season, but they need to maintain focus and keep their foot on the gas now that
they are in the driver's seat.
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