Somewhere in the media frenzy that is sure to ensue over the Colts 10-0 start versus their perceived defensive collapse, I hope columnists are smart enough to realize that not only are the Bengals a very talented offensive team, but the Colts did indeed -- as Tony Dungy referenced last week heading into the game -- go into a real "hornet's nest." This was an early Super Bowl for the young Bengals and their home crowd. A chance to knock out the top team in the league and stake a claim that Palmer, Johnson & Johnson were the new Manning, James and Harrison.
"We got these guys' best shot," coach Tony Dungy said after the game.
"This place was rocking," Manning said.
Indeed. And the Colts maintained their poise throughout, even after a blunder late in the second quarter with an interception that helped the Bengals string together 17 unanswered points. Many teams would have crumbled as the momentum shifted in front of a hostile home crowd and a national television audience. But the Colts just kept playing Colts football.
"We seem to adjust to whatever is put in front of us," Dungy said.
That's why this team continues to be unlike the Colts teams of the past few years. And that's why they will keep winning.
C. Trent Rosecrans at the Cincinnati Post has a good column worth reading
that adds an important point; Colts
Defense Rises When It Has To.
Made me laugh
While his column was filled with quotes and references already found elsewhere in our News Blitz, Hank Gola of the New York Daily News made me laugh with this opening to his column.
"The Bengals took an interesting approach to the undefeated Colts yesterday at Paul Brown
Stadium," he wrote. " They decided they were going to stop Edgerrin James and dare Peyton Manning to beat them.
That's like taking away Scottie Pippen to take your chances with Michael Jordan."
Turnovers a key to victory
The Colts managed to emerge from Cincinnati, a team with a league-leading +20 turnover ratio with a draw as each team gave up one interception. And if you look at the Bengals under head coach Marvin Lewis, that's a big deal in determining whether his team wins or loses. The Bengals are 15-1 when they come out ahead in turnovers and are just 5-5 when they finish a game even with their opponent.
Dungy not happy with clock management
A sideline shot of offensive coordinator Tom Moore chatting with a somewhat exasperated Peyton Manning late in the game may have been the result of some unhappiness by Tony Dungy with Manning's play selection with just a few minutes remaining. The Colts were in position to do some serious damage to the Bengals hopes of having enough time to get back in the game. But the Colts threw three incomplete passes, subtracting a minimal amount of time.
"If we had to do it again, we certainly wouldn't do it that way," Dungy said. "We knew they were blitzing but we should have just run the ball three times and made them use their timeouts. Then we wouldn't have punted and wouldn't have to be defending an onside kick at the end."
Making an impression
That said, Peyton Manning's performance on Sunday left the Bengals amazed and dazed. Their comments in Untimely errors cause problems by Colleen Kane at the Cincinnati Enquirer will give you an idea of what it's like to have to face the incredible Mr. Manning.
A difference of opinion
Bengals cornerback Tory James, who was torched by Reggie Wayne early in the game for a long touchdown pass, pointed to an early penalty as a significant moment for the Bengals -- an offsides penalty called against fellow cornerback Ifeanyi Ohalete that allowed the Colts to avoid a punting situation on their first possession.
"They scored right after that," James pointed out. "That changed the whole flow of the game. Those penalties hurt us. We had them stopped. You can't give a team like that a second chance."
Ohalete disagreed with his teammate's perspective by saying, "It was the first series of the game. It was a big deal, but it didn't change the game."
Not only did the Colts convert 57% of their third-down opportunities, they converted an incredible 66% of their third-downs when they needed ten yards or more. They moved the chains in six of the nine opportunities when needing double-digit yardage to maintain possession.
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has to be a bit more polished with his responses to the media. Last week he was one of the few people -- at least publicly -- still referring to the Colts as a finesse team. That couldn't have sat well with the Colts.
After the game, while trying to provide a compliment to his offensive line, who certainly did a wonderful job of protecting him, Palmer said, "I didn't even see Freeney on the field, and he's always around the quarterback. I didn't see Mathis. I didn't see Corey Simon. Seldom do I get surprised by the things our offensive line does, but I was shocked. It was unbelievable the way those guys played."
I guess he didn't see that Mathis was the player who pulled him to the turf
for the Colts only sack
of the game. And beyond that, he just gave the defensive line some great
bulletin board material if these two teams meet again in the playoffs. Palmer
should learn that you can compliment the play of your own guys without calling
out names of your opponents. Next time they'll work even harder to make sure he
The Colts made a significant shift in the second half, moving away from the aggressive passing game and giving the ball to Edgerrin James more often. Did the late first-half interception of Manning cause the Colts to rein in their attack a bit? Not according to head coach Tony Dungy. The real difference was the Colts shifted their game plan to match up better against a change the Bengals made. The Bengals shifted to more nickel coverage, adding a defensive back to the mix. So the Colts decided to challenge that by letting James pound away at their defense.
Palmer (105.6) and Manning (104.6), who combined for over 700 yards of passing, finished with top quarterback ratings in the league for the day.
On the road to Good Enough
Paul Daugherty at the Cincinnati Enquirer put together a good article on where the Bengals stand in comparison to the Colts. And he suggests, "This game makes the rest of the Cincinnati schedule, except at Pittsburgh in two weeks, look like grade school." Take a minute to read, Loss has fans crying boo-hoo dey.
Two tight-end formation returns
For the first time since the Titans game earlier this season, the Colts went almost exclusively with their two-tight end formation. That move left wide receiver Brandon Stokley on the sideline for much of the game.
"Talk about unselfishness, you've got to talk about Brandon Stokley," Peyton Manning said. "We said 95 percent of the time we were going to go with two tight ends. He didn't play (much) but he was ready all of the time.... And, boom, Stokley might have had the biggest third-down conversion of the game, setting up that field goal (that put the Colts up 45-34)."
Head coach Tony Dungy explained how it was by design as the Colts put their game plan together for the Bengals.
"We came out with the idea that we'd play two tight ends and try to keep them in base defense," he said. "Then it's just a matter of reading the safeties. We knew we were going to get Dallas (covered) by either a linebacker or a safety."
The Steelers have lost just three games this season. Two of their losses have been in overtime, and the third came down to the final play of the game. But their losses have been to three teams that the Colts have beaten: Jacksonville, New England, and Baltimore.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on November 3rd is hoping to play his first game in a month when the Steelers head to the RCA Dome next Monday.
"I'll do everything I can," Roethlisberger said yesterday. "Every day it's getting a little better."
It'll be interesting to see what the Colts decide to do against the Steelers defense. It could be their second-week in a row playing primarily out of the two-tight end formation. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 22 consecutive regular season games, 24 total if you include playoff games. The flexibility provided by Dallas Clark and Bryan Fletcher in the blocking scheme could be an asset in assuring that the Colts are able to move the ball on the ground.