Once again, it was time break out the junior mints, pour some extra butter on the popcorn and suck down a large soda Monday as the Colts put on yet another show.
It's becoming a theme every week. The Colts put on an incredible display of athletic ability, combined with intelligent field maneuvering, awing fans and opponents alike.
It is not even football anymore.
There are no winners and losers, only those that entertain and those that sit back and watch. The Colts are the Harlem Globetrotters of football, with the moves, grace and eloquence to light up a city. If they were a holiday, the Colts would be the Fourth of the July. Here are a few of the fireworks from the 26-7 show.
The bomb heard round the world
It was the most exciting offensive play of the year – hands down. The Colts defense was looking tough, forcing Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers to three downs and out. In his first game returning from injury, Roethlisberger looked destined for another trip to the doctor. It was time for the offense to do their job.
In one play, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and company held up to their end of the bargain.
From first-and-10 from the Indianapolis 20-yard line with 13:26 remaining in the first quarter, Manning set up in the single back formation with Edgerrin James back. Wayne was out wide along the left sideline, while Clark was in the slot with Harrison along the right sideline.
Here it is.
Manning snaps. The Pittsburgh linebackers smell run, as Larry Foote and Clark Haggans are just waiting on the handoff. In the meantime the Colts' receivers are off. Harrison is sprinting down right sideline drawing single coverage from cornerback Ike Taylor, while safety Chris Hope is back, waiting for the play to develop. As Taylor and Harrison are neck and neck at the Colts' 30-yard line, Taylor and Hope sense the run and focus on James.
Manning fakes the handoff; both the cornerback and safety bite, shifting all their weight toward the running back. In the meantime, Harrison keeps booking past them. Manning recognizes, throwing a bomb past the defense. He hits Harrison at the Pittsburgh 40-yard line, and the Colts have seven points in one play.
It was one heck of a way to start the game. After the defense looked inspired, the offense offered a little magic of its own.
The Colts looked too good, too early, and it was almost too good to be true. All the Steelers could do was walk with their heads down, hands on their hips.
To look at Bill Cowher was to look at the funniest of funny faces. Come on Bill, that under bite nearly swallowed your face.
Bringing the heat
The first quarter was nearly the best quarter of Colts' football this year. Until an offensive breakdown late in the quarter, both the offense and defense were flawless. Never before had the Colts come together so well on both sides of the field.
On the Steelers third drive, with the Colts leading 10-0, the Indianapolis defense answered yet another call. Pittsburgh had not earned one first down in the game, and the Colts were not going to make it easy.
After an Indianapolis offsides penalty, the Steelers set up on their own 42-yard line. Roethlisberger was set in the shotgun with 4:17 remaining, on third-and-two, facing the fearsome foursome – Robert Mathis, Raheem Brock, Montae Reagor and Dwight Freeney.
Immediately, Freeney and Mathis sprint to the outside, burning their blockers. Reagor bulldozes his way straight ahead, barreling through the right guard and center. Brock waits, uses Reagor as a blocker and sprints around the defensive tackle, making his way to the quarterback.
In the meantime, Bob Sanders, Gary Brackett and Cato June form a wall in the middle of the field, daring Roethlisberger to throw in their direction. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi – Roethlisberger only has three seconds to make a decision.
The heat is coming.
Under pressure, Roethlisberger can only attempt to get the ball off in the area of a receiver. Incomplete pass.
The Colts' forced their third straight three-and-out. Roethlisberger was being hassled in the pocket by the defensive line alone, letting the defensive secondary focus on the receiving threats.
The Colts' were playing perfect football. Although Manning threw an interception on the following drive, until then, Indianapolis was playing flawless football on both sides of the ball.
After the Manning interception, the Steelers earned their first score of the game on a Hines Ward touchdown grab, making the game 10-7. Little did I know, that would be their only score of the game.
After two field goals in the second quarter, the game was looking promising, but not over. It was 16-7, and still a two possession game. Even though the Colts appeared to be the team in control, the Steelers were still in the ball game.
That is, until the clock hit 11:47 in the third quarter and the scoreboard read, 23-7, Colts. That was lights out, football game, folks.
With 11:51 remaining in the third quarter, Indianapolis faced third-and-goal from the 12-yard line. Manning was set in shotgun formation with James to his left. Harrison was wide to the right, while Wayne was along the left sideline with Clark in the slot. Tight end Bryan Fletcher was set at the end of the right side of the offensive line.
With five legitimate receiving threats on the field, the Steelers were utilizing single coverage, rushed four defensive linemen, while the safeties guarded the end zone.
To get in meant one receiver shaking off his man, two others drawing the safeties, while Manning throws a pinpoint pass to the open man. That's all.
Manning snaps. Clark and Wayne run curl routes to the left, sucking in the attention of safety Troy Polamalu by stopping and turning at the end zone. In the meantime, Harrison runs a slant route from the outside, drawing in the attention of the other safety – Hope.
Fletcher is coming off the line, running a seam route, shakes his man, Tyrone Carter, to the outside and cuts inside of Hope. Manning fires, throwing an absolutely perfect pass just over Carter and just under Hope, and hitting Fletcher for his second career touchdown. That's what you call threading the needle.
It is a devastating arsenal of weapons these Colts' have. This year has been quite the show to watch.
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