Colts Put On A Show

Excuse me, I need to catch my breath, gasp....

...Well, it was pulsating. It was heart-bumping, spine tightening and sweat inducing. It was nerve cringing. It was eye-crossing, hair pulling and fist pounding. It was bruising. It was battering and abusing -- but yet, yet it was so amusing.

It was about time.

After nine straight cookie cutter victories over sub-par opponents, the Colts put on a show Sunday, defeating the Bengals, 45-37. There was action from start to finish, filled with gripping suspense that would not let go. All four quarters were fun to watch, bringing me off the comfort of my sofa several times to get a closer view.

I haven't been that close to the television since my parents cancelled Cinemax when I was 13.

Here are a few of my favorite couch poppers from Week 11 in chronological order. Each one of them was crucial to the Colts' victory. If Indianapolis doesn't make these plays, the Colts' may not be undefeated today. Enjoy.

First quarter

David makes a play
There are a lot of Jason David critics out there.

Granted, he's not the most talented defensive back in the league. And I'm not to say I never criticize. But he's what the Colts are working with right now, so we must support him. Agree with me or not, early in the game Sunday he made a big play. There is no arguing that fact.

After a long, 11-play drive, covering 83 yards and eating up more than six minutes of clock, the Bengals were driving. Set at the Colts' 26-yard line, Carson Palmer set under center with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter on third-down and seven.

Palmer rocks back looking for Chad Johnson, who runs a slant route with David covering. Step for step, David follows, while Johnson makes his cut to the inside. Palmer launches a pass, with David still following, and Bob "Sawman" Sanders just waiting to slice Johnson in half.

He doesn't need to.

David makes a great playing, cutting under Johnson's arm and deflecting the ball before it hits his mitts.

The play forced Cincinnati to kick a 43-yard field, making the game 7-3. At the time, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. But in a game separated by only eight points, it turned out to be huge.

To the bat cave
Reggie Wayne continued to turn heads in the league Sunday. He is growing force in the league, with the ultimate quarterback throwing the football to him.

OK, so you know where I'm going with this one. Yes, it's obvious, but there is no way to leave it out.

After the Cincinnati field goal, it only took the Colts' one play to answer back. From first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 34-yard line, Peyton Manning set in the single-back formation with Edgerrin James back deep. Wayne was along the left sideline with Dallas Clark in the slot, while Marvin Harrison was set along the right sideline. Bryan Fletcher was at the right end of the offensive line set up as the tight end.

Manning takes three steps back. Harrison goes deep, Fletcher comes off the line, while Edge runs a route toward the right sideline. In the meantime, Wayne runs deep with cornerback Tory James covering him, while Clark runs a short out toward the left sideline drawing single coverage.

Manning pump fakes – boom. James bites, coming off Wayne, anticipating the pass to Clark. Manning recognizes and delivers to a deep, deep, I mean deep Wayne wide open. The play went 66 yards for a touchdown, making the game 14-3. In two drives, the Colts' offense looked unstoppable.

Second quarter

Clark shines
Excuse me while I praise the work of the Colts' tight end again, but Dallas Clark has done it all this year. Once a walk-on linebacker at Iowa, Clark is now one of the best tight ends in the league. I wasn't sure what the Colts were doing when they drafted him in 2003. They already had Marcus Pollard, and their defense needed help.

But, man, I am glad that the Colts have him now. Without him, Indianapolis is not undefeated. I'm taking credit for creating the bandwagon, anyone who agrees can jump aboard.

With the score at 21-17 in the second quarter, Clark made one of the biggest plays of the game. There was 8:30 remaining in the first half, Manning was in the single back formation with Edge back deep. Wayne was along the left sideline, while Harrison was along the right sideline with Clark in the slot. Fletcher was set on the left end of the offensive line as the tight end.

Manning sits back, while James runs a swing pattern to the left, Wayne goes deep occupying a cornerback and safety and Fletcher comes off the line drawing the single linebacker coverage, running toward the right sideline. Harrison runs a short route, while Clark begins his deep slant.

Manning pumps to Harrison, Clark cuts behind rookie linebacker Odell Thurman. Safety Ifeanyi "can I buy a vowel" Ohalete recognizes a window is open, but can't find enough time to close it. Manning seals it, hitting Clark in stride at the 36- yard line, Clark shakes off Ohalete and rumbles another 30 yards.

That was Clark's fourth catch of the day for 85 yards. The interesting thing was that James was wide, I mean wide open, with no one within 15 yards of him. Fletcher also had his man beat, but Manning had confidence in Clark.

Three play later, James ran in the end zone for a Colts' touchdown, and the Indianapolis was up 28-17 with 7:11 remaining in the second quarter.

We were looking golden.

Jackson gets in the fun
On Cincinnati's next set of downs, after offensive explosion, after offensive explosion, someone finally got a stop.

Thanks to Marlin Jackson.

With 5:56 remaining in the half, from the Cincinnati 37-yard line, the Bengals faced third-down and seven. Covering T.J. "I can't even pronounce it" Houshmandzedeh, Jackson reached in and denied the Bengals a first down. The pass was on point, the opportunity presented itself, but the rookie cornerback just simply made a big play. This marked only Palmer's second incompletion of the game, and the first time either team was forced to punt.

The Colts' scored on the ensuing drive, when Manning hit Clark for a 21-yard touchdown pass, making the score 35-17. It appeared the Colts were running away with the game. They had the ball five times, scoring five touchdowns. But you have to give them credit, the Bengals refused to say die.

Fourth quarter

Jackson's big pick
From the 35-17 lead, the Bengals scored 17 unanswered points, making the game 35-34. For the first time, in a long time, Colts fans were a little bit nervous.

After an explosive first half, things cooled down, with both teams only scoring seven points each in the third quarter.

With just over 11 minutes remaining in the game, with the Colts leading 42-34, Jackson made yet another big play in the Colts' secondary.

On third-down and 12, Carson Palmer makes his first big mistake of the game -- throwing in the direction of Jackson.

The interception gave the Colts good field position for their next big play.

Getting Stokley some
After the pick, maintaining a 42-34 lead with 9:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Colts faced third-and-14 from the Cincinnati 45 yard line. Indianapolis was out of field-goal range, with only a touchdown and a two-point conversion lead, and in need of a big play.

Out of nowhere, quiet the whole game, Brandon Stokley came through when his team needed him most.

Set in the shotgun with James to his left, Manning had Wayne along the left sideline with Stokley nearside in his slot. Harrison was set along the right sideline, while Clark was set on the right end of the offensive line.

Rocking back, Manning fakes a handoff to Edge, while Wayne and Harrison go deep. In the meantime, Clark runs a short out to suck in the attention of Harrison's cover man. The safety creeps in to compensate, covering Harrison's deep route. From the opposite side of the field, Stokley comes across on a slant, running behind the linebackers, and in front of the fading safety. Manning recognizes, fires and Stokley brings it in -- a first down at the 21-yard line.

The play gave Manning a season-high 350 passing yards on the day, and led to a Mike Vanderjagt field goal with 6:19 remaining, giving Indianapolis a 45-34 lead.

In conclusion…
The Colts went on to win by the skin on their chin, 45-37 after a Cincinnati field goal. Robert Mathis made a huge sack toward the end of the game to seal the victory, and the Colts cruised to a 10-0 record.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of all these plays. There were so many more -- but without these – flat out, the Colts don't win.

Let's do it again next week.

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