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Unbeaten but not Unbeatable

The big news this week was that the Colts remained unbeaten and the Saints did not.  The Saints were beaten by a good team, that had some heat built up, and Brees was still almost able to bring them back into.  The Saints were alive down to the last few seconds of the game.  If they get demoralized and fold, I will be really disappointed because this team has a ton of talent and the world is their oyster as long as they keep at it.  They have nothing to be upset about. They got beat by a team that only has one real blemish on their record (the Giants aren't good enough that anyone should lose twice to them) and was looking for a signature win.  In reality, Dallas was/is an underachieving team that was getting beaten by better teams and looking for the a win against a better team to get them back into it mentally.  The Saints clearly had the target on their backs.  Congratulations to Dallas and keep your head up to the Saints.  You will get another shot at the Boys I think.

For the Colts, I was having a heart attack.  It was clear on the first defensive possession that Caldwell was not going to take the Jags seriously.  Powers, our rookie corner who has been our best cover man all year, was being held out.  Freeney and Mathis were relegated to short yardage third downs.  Their participation was so minimal that beginning in the second quarter i started counting defensive plays and keeping track of how many they were on the field for.  I think it was something like one out of 10. In addition, Bullitt was only playing part time.  Quite frankly, I think the Colts staff was holding back.

It isn't that I mind resting guys, and I am not entirely convinced of the theory that resting guys prior to the playoffs wrecked some of the recent trips to the post season, but I don't like the idea of holding back while still trying to win.  The one remarkable thing is that the Colts, primarily because of the ability of Manning, can actually hold back and still win.  I don't want to discredit what the Pats did a couple seasons ago.  That was a great run.  The thing about their shot was that they possessed so much talent at so many different places.  They had an unbelievably gifted offensive line, great receivers, a great QB, a great defensive line, a couple great linebackers and a couple good veteran role players, some good cover corners and some good safeties.  It was like a they put together a Madden team.  The result of all that talent was clearly obvious.  They dominated folks.  They drove their heads into the ground.  Only really good teams (Colts, Philly, Baltimore, Giants) were able to hang with them at all.  I do not mean to downplay their effort, simply to indicate that the run the Colts are on is much different and very interesting in an entirely unique way.

The Colts win close games.  They gut games out.  They come from behind.  Good teams do that.  The Colts do it EVERY WEEK.  Manning has something like 45 4th quarter comeback victories.  Certainly those are not individual wins, particularly in this season when the defense is doing a much better job choking late game picks and sacks out of the opponents, but the mental and emotional toughness they have displayed is, for lack of a better word, special.  That sort of ability only comes from a calm and rational belief.  If anything, Colts fans must now begin to realize how the brand of discipline and professionalism Tony Dungy instilled on this team has come to fruition.  Indeed, Coach Caldwell is the man now, but Tony Dungy trained this team to do what it is doing.  In the desperate moments, they don't feel desperation.  That is very special.  The "Stay calm.  Yes, this is bad but it is not insurmountable so keep your head screwed on straight and lets go win it," that he imbued is something we now see every game as our beloved bunch of nobodies keeps it just close enough for stars like Manning and Wayne and Freeney and Mathis to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Make no mistake about it, this team will not win games without the participation of its premier players.  Freeney and Mathis make that defense go.  They make it possible for everyone else to do their jobs.  One or both of those guys have to be on the field and kicking up dirt for the Colts to win.  Mathis may be the biggest star in the league that no one is talking about.

The question, as it has always been this season, is "can they Maintain?"  There can be no doubt, this Colts team can beat anyone, but will they?  Will they keep it together?  Should they try?  I know this about the upcoming end ot the regular season.

- The Colts can beat the Jets and the Bills. 
- The Jets lack the pass rush to dominate the Colts.  They are ranked #1 in a lot of defensive categories, but I do not know if they are tough enough to stop the Colts IF the Colts bring it.  If the Colts run on idle like they did against the Jags...
- The Jets have a couple of good corners who can cover but it takes more than corners to stop the Colts, you gotta have backers that can run with Dallas.  Do they have that?  Gholston has been a disappointment.
- Buffalo is a better team than they look....kinda.  They have a pretty tough schedule, and all of their losses except the snoozathon to Cleveland were to good team or teams that came into the game playing well.
- Buffalo will have nothing to lose going into that game.  Nothing.
- The Colts are close, real close, to being perfect.  The Jets and Bills will not be pushovers, and the weather in Buffalo may be nasty enough that Caldwell could say, "screw this, lets go home".  But they can beat both of these teams, and they fucking owe it to me to beat both of these teams and win the Super Bowl.  I have had a shitty year, and I am tired of having shitty years.  I don't think it would hurt to much for Santa to give this to me.  I have never asked him for anything before, and I behaved.....well...decent enough.  If they get beat playing hard, that is fine.  Die trying, right?  But if they coast it in, I don't think I can forgive them with two such beatable teams on the horizon.      

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Cobra said

Is the worst case scenario that the Colts go undefeated in the regular season and then lose their first playoff game?

I think that their best scenario is to lose a game because A) who cares about an undefeated season and B) it would allow them to rest their players which obviously they want to do. The Colts are in an odd position because they really can't win with the media, or football experts, unless they pick a strategy, stick with it and win the Super Bowl. They've been down this road so many times before without winning that anything less than a World Championship is probably going to cause 'experts' to call for the burning down of the Colts decision making paradigm.

Bruce Paine said

I think the best case scenario is to win every game they play. They are going to get a week off to rest their guys, anyway. What I wouldn't give for a power back who could put games away.

Cobra said

Since I haven't been alive while a team went undefeated in the NFL I'm going to say it's impossible. Hence, not a possible scenario in my mind.

It's like the Bible....yeah, some folks wrote it but I don't know them and I wasn't there so I'm not just going to take what they say and run with it.

I haven't seen the Colts play much this season but there really aren't many of those power backs in the NFL these days that can close out games. Or they aren't given the chance, depending on opinion.

Bruce Paine said

You are right, the number of guys who could come in and just take the game over is very limited. The Colts used to have that in Edge James. He could close out. I think Peterson can, I think MJD can. I think Ray Rice could if he was part of a stable and wasn't needed so badly early. LaDanian could close out a game. One thing all these guys have or had, though, is a QB that can make playaction work. I would be willing to give this coming draft's 2nd rounder on a a specialist back for short yardage. Presuming that Gerhart goes in the first 40 to 50 picks, then I think Anthony Dixon from Miss State or Ryan Matthews out of Fresno State. Both were productive with good size. Dixon is not blessed with dynamic speed but is rather complete and can catch out of the backfield.

We are getting itnoa personnel discussion, though, and this is about whether or not the Colts should or could go undefeated. I think they can and should.

Cobra said

I'm not sure there is a coach in the NFL that would give his RB the 30+ carries they'd need at the end of a game in order to carry a team the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter. You do detail some pretty good RB's though, as we all know, being a closer is a different animal at times. You have to have that killer instinct and the guts to keep going four yards at a time. These days guys seem happy with two yards and not fumbling.

I think they lose to Buffalo. Could be tough weather and I doubt the starters play much. I think they are better off losing.

Arin said

Does losing to Buffalo really do anything for the team though? If the starters don't play the game, they don't really care if they lose that game or not, so it does nothing to help the team. The Colts needed to lose one of the close games to see where they needed to improve in late game situations.

As far as bruising backs, Jonathan Dwyer out of Ga Tech might be another guy the Colts could grab. I love Dixon's size and his ability to break tackles.

Bruce Paine said

It doesn't take 30+ carries to finish off a game. If you have a guy come in with fresh legs that is able to carry the ball eight times for positive yardage on each drive he can close out the game. Mike Alstott wasa great closer but TB was rarely up enough for him to be used. To close it out, you have to ge able to get a positive gain, break tackles, and finish the run going forward. That is all. I think Dixon would be a solid attachment. He wouldn't carry every down but could be a third down replacement in the fist half, hit the bike to warm up his legs midway through the third and then come in and take a 7 point lead and start running down hill. Of course, everybody for the Colts gets hurt and we haven't really scored in the early rounds of the draft lately so fuck it.

I fail to see how losing a game would make them hungrier. If they aren't hungry with an undeafeated season within reach, then throwing a game won't help win the Super Bowl.

Cobra said

I'm not saying they need to lose to be hungrier but maybe I'm saying they need to lose in order to breathe a little easier. You've explained how the Pats were supremely talented during their run and they couldn't do it and I don't think that this Colts team is close to that Pats team was in terms of talent.

Also, with all of the quick playoff losses the Colts have had over the past decade I think it would be greatly disappointing to see them run the table during the regular season and then fizzle out during the playoffs. I imagine every columnist in America would have a field day with this and it could harm the Manning/Dungy/Caldwell/Polian legacy negatively. It certainly wouldn't be fair but it almost certainly would happen.

I say 30+ carries because I doubt a coach would let one guy carry the load for three quarters and then bring in another in the fourth. Although, you are correct, Alstott did kind of have that job description at times but the 'main' back they had, Dunn, always had durability question marks or something. When it comes to closing out a game I think of Emmitt Smith getting four yards a carry well past his 25th carry of a game in the fourth quarter to close out a victory for the boys.

Kelper said

I think the main point has been lost on everyone here. The point of this article was for Paine to sneak in a pic of his true loves. He throws you all off week in and week out with the pictures of half naked women. Behind that front though is his love of large black men that are faster than their size should allow. Rumor on the street is that that very photo is on his headboard to keep him focused in the heat of feaux passion!

Bruce Paine said

Ladies and gentlemen, I just got pwned. Proper pwned. That was a marvelous bit of prose. Its true, too, I do love fast black men.

mcbias said

I know I have no room to talk, seeing how lazy my blogging has been, but do we get a preview of this week's play-offs?

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