Colts Overcome Eerily Familiar Start

Fourth down, one yard to go. It's a phrase that makes a Colts fan cringe. It is a hurdle they can't seem to clear. With the best offensive weapons in the NFL, it is one yard that feels like a mile.

On the Colts' first drive against the Ravens, they faced that dreaded situation and I thought of how the Colts must change their philosophy in these situations. I thought of a bootleg, a screen, play-action, a pitch – or, gasp --a tight end, maybe big Ben Hartsock, leading the way for James from the fullback position.

But out came their "fullback" -- if you can call 5'9 James Mungro that -- blocking his little heart out into a sea of black shirts. It was a play doomed from the start.

It was a play out of an old nightmare Colts fans have tried to forget.

In fact, the entire first half felt like a replay of the final game of the 2004 season. Well, minus the bad weather and, luckily, the Patriots.

Just like in that game, both teams moved the football and both defenses bended but refused to break in the first half. Again a scoreless first quarter and a halftime score with the two teams separated by three points. Again the Colts settled for three points in the final seconds of the half inside their opponents' 5-yard line.

The first half statistics of the Colts last two games were eerily similar.

First Downs:  Colts 10 – Patriots 7
Colts 10 – Ravens 7
Total Yards:  Colts 159 – Patriots 161
Colts 180 – Ravens 148
Third Down Conversions: Colts 3-7 – Patriots 2-7
Colts 2-7 – Ravens 1-6
Time of Possession: Colts 13:43 – Patriots 16:17
Colts 14:23 – Ravens 15:37

Had defenses finally figured out a way to slow the Colts' offensive juggernaut? With an unprecedented three defensive tackles and four linebackers dressed for their opening contest and missing key defensive players like Mike Doss, Marlin Jackson and Montae Reagor, was it simply a matter of time before the Colts' traditionally sub-par defense caved in?

Five minutes into the third quarter, Manning made it clear the Colts hadn't picked up where they left off last season by firing a perfect strike over Marvin Harrison's shoulder in the back of the end zone. Minutes later he tossed another touchdown pass to backup tight end Ben Utecht who was filling in for the injured Dallas Clark.

From there, it was a defensive showcase, drive after drive ending in disaster for the Ravens. Larry Triplett became possessed, knocking Ravens QB Kyle Boller out of the game on a sack. Later in the same drive he sacked backup QB Anthony Wright for a nine-yard loss forcing a long field goal that kicker Matt Stover would miss.

On the Ravens' next possession a 68-yard drive was ended on Gary Brackett's second interception of the evening, showing signs that the Colts search for a MLB may be over.

Cato June picked off an errant Wright throw on the next series returning it 30-yards for a game-sealing touchdown.

Showing no mercy, Robert Mathis sacked Wright on the following series, knocking the ball loose to be recovered by Raheem Brock.

No, this was not the New England Patriots offense the Colts faced Sunday night. All right, it wasn't even the Texans' offense. And yes, the Colts did give up a whopping 401 total yards while their tackling at times looked like a Three Stooges routine.

Many football fans and experts like to throw labels on teams, players and units after one game. I refuse to do that, but maybe, just maybe, this defense finally gets it.

If they can play this way this early in the season, what happens when Corey Simon learns the system or when Doss and Jackson get on the field? How about when Reagor re-joins the DT rotation?

With a soft early season schedule, perhaps they can build the confidence and swagger to finally exorcise their demons in week eight when they travel, yet again, to Foxboro.

Only time will tell.

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