gonna be Seattle." Gord was just one of three people while I was bringing
my kids to school on Friday who gave his or her opinion on who'll finally be the
team to dethrone the Colts as the kings of Undefeatistan. "It'll be Seattle
fortune was not on the side of the Colts on that December day in 2002 when a
rookie quarterback named David Garrard nearly led the underdog Jaguars to
victory over the mighty Colts in Indianapolis. He wasn't hugely special, this
kid from Jersey. He had a big time, if scattershot, arm but he had the ability
to run and, even more important, improvise. He didn't play a masterful game in
2002, but he did come within touchdown of matching the Colts' final score. And
so, going for their 13th victory this season, facing Garrard, Fred Thomas, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Stroud, John Henderson and the rest of the Jags, I was a bit
worried for the Colts.
course, we all know the Colts won and it wasn't as close as the 26-18 final
would lead casual observers to believe. Still, it was an interesting game to
watch and one that taught me a little bit about these Colts.
Despite seeing significantly more pressure than he's used to, Peyton Manning
played an extraordinary game. Seeing all the field and deciphering coverage
schemes, Manning executed with his normal surgical precision. That little fall
and limp deal made me hold my breath for second — call me a cynic, but just I
don't see Jim Sorgi as quite Manning's equal — but I knew he'd be okay. After
4,274 pass attempts, 244 carries and 151 sacks, Manning has missed a grand total
of one play due to injury, and that was for a broken jaw. You'd have to saw his
head off to make him miss any time in this season. I really do think he'd throw
lefty if he hurt his right arm bad enough.
Edgerrin James didn't have a great game statistically, but he ran hard and smart
and caught a bucket-load of passes. I saw exactly how valuable James is when
Dominic Rhodes was blown-by repeatedly by pass-rushers. James is on track for
1,772 yards rushing this year, which would be a career-best by a small margin.
Marvin Harrison may not catch as many passes as he used to, but he's playing
better than he ever has. What surprises me is his strength. Rashean Mathis is a
tough character (not to mention an excellent defensive back), but he lost the
arm-wrestling match with Harrison all day. He's wiry. On the other side, Kenny Wright (a far inferior defensive back) seemed scared of Reggie Wayne and gave
him lots of room. I guess that's sort of understandable because Wayne is the
superior player, but it doesn't make sense when you look at how the Jags' D
works. If Wright plays tight, the safety moves in and helps, if he plays loose,
a linebacker takes up the short slack. Who would you rather have on Wayne? And
lay off the Stokely criticism. The time will come and you will be happy the
Colts have him. He can be a monster when let loose on a nickel back or safety.
Is it just me or is Bryan Fletcher becoming Mr. Everything? He still blocks like
Dante Hall most of the time, but he's shown some real field awareness and sticky
hands. The knock against him for years has been a lack of toughness, so the
jury's still out because he hasn't really faced any pressure. The Colts have
been using lots of two-TE sets to help protect Manning and spring James. And
Fletch has been the main benefactor (and Stokely the main man out). By the way,
has anyone seen either of the Bens in a while?
I watched every play of the Jags game and the MVP was, hands down, Tarik Glenn.
A roadblock on pass plays and a bulldozer on running plays, it was one of the
best games I've ever seen him play. I know Paul Spicer is no Michael Strahan,
but Glenn has traditionally had a habit of relaxing against the league's lesser
lights. Not Sunday. Strangely, Ryan Diem, who had been playing like a man
possessed this season, was caught with his pants down against Reggie Hayward and
looked awful, at least for a few plays. My hope is that those whiffs were
anomalies and that Diem will be straightened out this week when he faces Shawne Merriman, who's all about speed and quickness and could be handful or two.
I kept a close eye on Gilbert Gardner as he filled in for Cato June and, well,
he's no June. Actually, that's not really much on an insult as June has played
like a young Derrick Brooks this season. But Gardner actually played more like a
young Steve Morrison (if you don't remember him, ask a few of the veteran Colts
fans around here). Stiff and unsure, Gardner didn't do much to impress me.
Y'know, they could have done better with that special-teams demon, young Keith O'Neil. He may not have Gardner's press clippings, but he's a vicious hitter and
never stops to think about what's going on. No problem on the other side as
David Thornton gave Kyle Brady (all 278 pounds of him) a year's worth of
nightmares. The next person who tells me Thornton can't handle the strong side
will be labeled a moron.
• Jason David is still one of my favorite players, but I'll admit he played very, very soft against the Jags. I still think he'd be better off as a freelancing nickel back, taking advantage of mistakes, but who am I to argue with 13-0? Mike Doss has stepped it up quite a bit of late, but is clearly the Colts' second-best safety. Bob Sanders has been hitting like a young Chuck Cecil, but has also been attracting penalties like him too. I don't think he deserved the big one he got against Jacksonville, but it probably makes up for a few they missed earlier. I love Sanders' potential, but he really has to get under control. On the plus side, he's much better in deep coverage than I thought he would be.
I'm down with the fake field goal. Come on, you're up 17-3, nobody suspects a
thing and Hunter Smith is a pretty decent runner and passer. Unfortunately, he
chose to pass. See, if he had run, he probably would have made it, but since he
threw, he had to have someone catch the pass. The throw was on the money, but
long-snapper/linebacker/defensive end/center/tight end in name only Justin Snow
was the intended receiver. His performance only makes his listing on the roster
as a tight end even more ludicrous. They should put him down as a cornerback,
he'd be just as good at that.
One last note: I really think Rob Morris has found a home as a special-teams
killer. He's got the mentality and the hitting ability. Good for you, Rob.
Draft note: The Colts haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since Tarik Glenn in 1997, before Tony Dungy, even before Bill Polian. Instead, they have relied upon position coach Howard Mudd to mold raw athletes into players. It's about time they stopped that — Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James deserve better. One kid I've had my eye on is Louisville's Jason Spitz. A tough kid who plays with discipline, Spitz sees the game like a veteran and blocks very well on the second level. Although he won't wow you with his 40, he'll pull and lead like a fullback. An iron fisted street-fighter inside, he can take care of defensive tackles much bigger than him. He's more of a destroyer than some of the players rated ahead of him and the Colts need that. Although the Colts have a few young prospects at guard, Spitz is better than any of them and he can play center, something the team likes a lot.