1. Reggie Wayne — he's good: Of course, we all knew that, but he once again came up huge in a big moment when everyone was looking for him to save the day and keep the passing offense in tune.
Peyton Manning targeted Wayne 14 times on Sunday and Wayne came away with ten catches for 162 yards and a touchdown — plus a red zone interception, but that one is on Manning.
Fortunately for the Colts, Wayne was able to pick up the slack for the rest of the offense after Anthony Gonzalez left the game with a knee injury.
Unfortunately for Wayne and the Colts, he won't be able to match up against Derek Cox every week. That was certainly a mismatch and Indianapolis certainly took advantage of it time and again, even after they got burned in the red zone early in the game.
But, the fact that Wayne will now draw the other team's best defender and will be the player who, aside from Manning, gets the most attention, will be a rough transition for the Colts.
They will play more two tight end sets, mixing in Tom Santi, Gijon Robinson, and Jacob Tamme. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon are two talented young players, but they are not ready to shoulder the responsibility of being the number two and number three guys for this offense. Indianapolis will need to take it slow and not put too much on either player.
Garcon replaced Gonzalez and got five targets, but only converted those targets into three catches for 24 yards. Collie had three targets, two catches, and 15 yards receiving. They'll need to step up production so that defenses can't focus on Wayne and Dallas Clark.
2. Before we start talking too much about the blitz...: The announcers placed quite a bit of emphasis on the blitz and what it meant to the course of the game. They discussed new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and how he's willing to take more chances than the departed Ron Meeks. Gary Brackett came on the blitz fairly frequently and had two hits on David Garrard.
Garrard was only sacked once, though, and that was by defensive lineman Dwight Freeney. Indianapolis had a total of six quarterback hits and four of those were registered by defensive linemen.
On both plays in which Brackett had a shot at Garrard, either Freeney or Robert Mathis had a shot at the quarterback first, or their pressure brought Garrard to Brackett. This is still a defense that thrives off of pressure from the front four and will only mix in the blitz here and there to change things up.
Granted, this was only the first game and Coyer no doubt has some surprises in store for future opponents, but it would be unrealistic to expect the Colts to suddenly turn into the blitz-happy Steelers or Giants. Still, it was nice to see some variation and pressure coming from several different angles.
3. The offensive line is in midseason form: In both pass protection and in the running game, this unit reminds me of the offensive line from the midpoint of the 2008 season. Considering that that team finished second to last running the ball, that's not a compliment.
Manning will always help out his line's sacks allowed numbers by virtue of the fact that he is decisive and has a quick release. But, Donald Brown and Joseph Addai actually also made their line look better than it was, which is pretty sad considering that the Colts had only 75 yards rushing on 28 carries.
There were a number of times that Brown and Addai made something out of almost nothing and a number of times when nothing at all was available to them. With the injury to Gonzalez, the passing game may struggle and may not be able to open things up for the running game.
The running game needs to be able to stand on its own and should be able to do so with the number of high draft choices the team has invested in backs and linemen in the past four drafts.
It's entirely possible that the Colts have another 12-win season in them, even if they finish 31st in rushing yards per game again. It's entirely possible that Manning has another MVP-type season left in him. It's also very possible that the season may once again come down to needing to gain two yards in order to sustain a drive and close out a game.
The Colts couldn't do that in 2008, couldn't do that in January, and couldn't do that on Sunday. If they continue to struggle in this area, it will come back to haunt them.
The good news is that the pass blocking really was in midseason form. Manning or no Manning, this was a unit that would have kept their quarterback's jersey clean. It's true that they'll face greater challenges and more talented pass rushers throughout the course of the season, so not all games will go as well as this one, but Sunday was an awfully good start.
4. It's not all bad news, though: This was a game that the Colts dominated in terms of total yards, yards per play, time of possession, and offensive and defensive efficiency.vThey were 8-for-14 on third down, Manning averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, and the defense stepped up when it counted.
Sure, they could have been more efficient on third down, where the Jaguars converted 40 percent of their chances. They had an opportunity ring up four or five sacks and let Garrard slip away. They averaged a paltry 2.7 yards per carry.
They also got a win. They also overcome two costly turnovers and a late failed conversion attempt on fourth down to beat out a very talented and pesky Jaguars team. Jacksonville deserves a great deal of credit for continuing to persevere, for being able to run the ball despite ideal depth at the position and a banged up tailback, and for being able to hold a very potent Indianapolis offense — with or without Gonzalez, this is still a very talented squad — to 14 points.
Given how dominant they were at times and their overall success and efficiency, the Colts probably should have scored 28 points or more. But, they came out of this game with a win, Collie and Garcon got some live game action under their belts, and Manning got to make a critical mistake without it coming back to bite him. He doesn't make many per year if at all, so it's good news that a red zone turnover came in a win, not a loss.
After a week of practice and repetition, everyone should be on the same page and Indianapolis should be ready to come after the Dolphins. At this point, they need to tally and enjoy this win and move on, knowing that a win is in fact a win.
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