There was something truly disturbing about the 49ers game. No, it wasn't the goal-line fumble, the stupid penalties or any single event that happened on the field. It was after the game when Colts players and fans alike were complaining that the Colts only beat the 49ers 28-3. One loudmouth fan even called them a "glorified high school team."
I sincerely beg to differ.
Show me the high school with guys like Julian Peterson, Bryant Young, Tony Parrish, Brandon Lloyd, Kevin Barlow and those other guys and I won't let my son play against them. The fact is the 49ers are a well-coached hungry young team with some pretty solid players who could surprise anyone with a few lucky bounces. The Colts played neither hungry nor well until they got scared. They should remember that feeling.
Things change too fast in the NFL for anybody to be taken lightly. Look at the Chargers. They were 4-12 in 2003 and made few significant changes on the way into 2004 then went 12-4 and into the playoffs. You want some examples closer to home? How many weeks ago was it that the Colts' defense was a pushover and the Patriots were invincible? It's a bad idea to start taking wins for granted. That kind of misplaced hubris will often find its nemesis late in the schedule. And for all you junior Tom Osbournes out there, keep in mind that a W is a W and it doesn't get bold-faced or anything if you beat 'em by 40.
• Edgerrin James has been running fairly hard, picking his lanes and timing his cuts well, but hasn't put up the huge numbers I think he's capable of. You may think I'm petty for complaining about 519 yards rushing (that extrapolates to 1661 over a full season), but against the 49ers, he appeared all too willing to be chased out of bounds or to just go down. He's facing a lot more DBs than DTs these days, and he should be pouring it on. The fumble didn't bother me that much. These things happen.
• It's great to see Dominic Rhodes back at full speed. He didn't get a chance to bring back any kicks, but he did get to run a little. Not only does James need a breather now and then, but the other backs on the roster just aren't capable of anything close to what Rhodes is.
• Yes, Troy Walters scored a TD, but I never had much problem with him as a receiver — I just don't like the idea of him returning punts. Against the 49ers, he brought back 3 for 16 and called one iffy fair catch. For the record, he's brought back 8 for 38 and waved 'em off a league-leading 11 times. The Colts are averaging exactly 2.00 yards per punt he's caught.
• Hey, Ben Hartsock, better hope someone gets hurt because you are clearly fourth of four at this point.
• Against San Francisco, most of the Colts' offensive line looked confused and, occasionally, overmatched. None of the inside guys played all that well — including Jeff Saturday. I still have high hopes for Jake Scott, but he's probably the worst lineman in the league when it comes to hiding holds. They all do it, pretty well every play, but Scott's so flagrant the officials can't ignore it. Ryan Diem, however, is still playing extraordinarily well.
• Although Robert Mathis is getting the stats, Dwight Freeney again graded out higher by my scoring system. Isn't it amazing and gratifying that a player so obviously talented does so much dirty work for the team? Watch Freeney next time, he really works hard even on plays where he has no chance — that's a winner.
• The Colts threw in a few blitzes to make things harder on rookie Alex Smith, and they worked exceedingly well. I think it's a good idea to keep on blitzing (at least every once in a while) even though the front four are mounting a great deal of pressure. Unpredictability wins football games.
• Yes, Cato June got another pick for a score, but did you notice how well he positioned, sealed, contained, pursued and tackled? He's graded out consistently high every game so far. Of course the improvement by the defensive line has helped his game, but you can tell he's turned the corner mentally. And we all thought Gilbert Gardner would steal his job.
• Notice that quarterbacks are still preferring to throw at Nick "the Pick" Harper rather than test Jason David? I would too. David's play reminds me a lot of a young Terrell Buckley, only David's smarter. I still think he'd be better of in a nickel role, annoying slot receivers, but that won't happen until Marlin Jackson is ready to take over outside.
• Bob Sanders hurt one of his strange-looking biceps, but should be back for game 6. That's a relief because with Joseph Jefferson still mending, the options at safety didn't look all that good. The other big injury from the game was Keith O'Neil, who'll be missed on specials. Speaking of specials, you know who's doing a great job out there? Mathis. Sign him long-term, Bill.
• Back to the subject of safeties. Even the most cynical among us has to admit Mike Doss has really upgraded his play over last season. Maybe it was the arrest, maybe it was seeing Jefferson play well in his spot and maybe it's the defensive line again, but whatever it is, Doss is looking like the guy they drafted.
• No, Dave Rayner has not blown us away, but when was the last time a sixth-round draft pick gave Colts fans a feeling of security every time he stepped on the field?
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