...The starting offense came out on its first drive looking methodical as ever. Not even a questionable 15-yard setback on a facemask penalty called against Tarik Glenn was able to slow Manning & Co. down. Notable during that first drive was that with Brandon Stokley out, the Colts opted for a two-tight end set, and it was Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht working together with last year's No. 2 tight end, Bryan Fletcher, on the sidelines watching. Clark alternated working in the slot and up on the line depending on the situation and made a couple of nice grabs, tacking on extra yards after each catch.
...Dominic Rhodes showed that he can execute the stretch play quite nicely, thank you very much. Hopefully he gave Clark a pat on the back for cutting off a Seattle linebacker that could have been a problem at the line of scrimmage on Rhodes' second big run.
...You can't help but think that Tony Dungy is going to ask his players and special teams coach Russ Purnell how in the world the Colts got caught with twelve men on the field after they had just called a timeout in the closing minutes. That kind of stuff drives the usually mild-mannered coach crazy.
...Reggie Wayne appears poised to have another monster year. On 3rd-and-22, Manning looked to him for the first down, and then also launched the ball to him off play-action for the touchdown a few plays later. Wayne is running precise routes and continues to impress with his hands. Those two catches he made were his only ones of the night, but he finished as the top receiver in yardage with 55. Reserve receiver Dan Sheldon caught the most passes, four on the night for 35 yards.
...Speaking of Sheldon, he got better as the night wore on. His early kickoff returns looked pretty average, but he really showed his stuff on that 36-yard punt return and with some really quick, shifty moves after the catch while working with backup quarterback Shaun King out of the slot. He also would have pulled in a touchdown pass if he hadn't been mugged by his defender on a play that the referee rightfully called pass interference. He undoubtedly helped himself tonight, perhaps even more as a receiver than he did as a returns specialist. While he has some similarities to Troy Walters as a receiver, Sheldon packs a bit more muscle and is more physical after the catch.
...James Mungro, who provided a key block on Sheldon's return had done the same for T.J. Rushing on his big kickoff return in the opener against the Rams. So next time you wonder about his value as a running back on the depth chart, don't overlook Mungro's special teams value.
...Wouldn't you think that a rookie who missed about half of training camp due to an injury would be at a huge disadvantage playing in his first preseason game as a starter against the Seahawks offense? Well, no one told that to safety Antoine Bethea. Not only has he been impressive with his range in training camp while wearing a knee brace, he showed the Colts Sunday night that in live game action he's going to be a hitter as well, just like he was in college. During the Seahawks' first possession, Bethea stepped up with a good hit, introducing himself to last year's MVP, Shaun Alexander. In fact, out of Seattle's first seven plays from scrimmage, Bethea was credited with at least an assist on three of them. He finished the night as the Colts' leading tackler with eight stops.
...Is backup quarterback Jim Sorgi simply snakebitten? Or don't the offensive linemen like him very much? I'm having a tough time figuring out how Sorgi's protection was so pitiful on both of the plays where he tried to throw a pass, while Shaun King spent the rest of the game with pretty decent protection most of the night.
...Is there any question that either Josh Betts or Mike McGann have already been pegged for practice squad duty? With King getting into the game much earlier than expected, I thought we might see Betts for at least a possession or two. But this is what the team did with Tom Arth last year as they gave practically all the preseason reps to Sorgi and Travis Brown. It appears the Colts will determine whether Betts or McGann will be their practice squad quarterback without seeing either one in much live action.
...Dwight Freeney got credit for a sack, but Marlin Jackson was the guy who provided the adrenaline rush that encouraged Hasselbeck to run towards Freeney, giving him the chance to make the diving sack. Jackson bounced back pretty nicely this week with seven tackles and no major gaffes.
...So will the Colts take the chance of putting Shane Andrus out on the waiver wire again as soon as Vinatieri's ankle is healthy? If they do, he may not go unclaimed after his performance Sunday night. His first kickoff in front of the home crowd went 4 yards deep into the end zone. He followed that up with a kick to the five, a 37-yard field goal, and another kick to the five. And then after his first onsides kick went through the hands of one of his players and out of bounds, he still managed to put the ball in a spot where Waine Bacon was able to recover it -- even though the Seahawks knew another onsides attempt was coming. That's a pretty darn fine night from a young man who couldn't even get someone to invite him to their training camp last summer. He's got the field presence and the leg to make it in this league.
...Shaun King looked much better this week. It's obvious he's getting more
comfortable with the playbook. He continues to show really nice touch on many of
his passes, and the throw down the sidelines to John Standeford that was dropped
near the goal line was a real beauty. He finished the night 14-22 for 146 yards,
and while he didn't get to notch a TD, he didn't throw any interceptions.
...One play where King showed one of the big differences between him and Jim Sorgi was on a fourth-and-three just a few plays into the fourth quarter. The Colts go for it, King drops back and senses a bull-rush right up the middle. With one blocker in front of him, he simply stops and turns his body sideways to the oncoming blitz. Instead of trying to scramble for his life in an absolutely no-win situation, he put his body in a position to give himself the only hope he had -- that the rushers would blow right by him on either side of his sole blocker. One of them was astute enough to pull up and grab King for the only sack of the night. But it was a street-smarts kind of move that I'm not sure Sorgi would have come up with.
...Rookie Joseph Addai will likely be beating himself up for not getting the first down on two tries with only about a yard needed to move the chains near halftime. But he tried going through the right side on both plays, so the offensive linemen on that side -- Matt Ulrich and Daniel Federkeil -- will undoubtedly step up and willingly share the blame when the team looks at the film. The Colts even had Dallas Clark come in to help over there and they tried putting big Darrell Reid in as a blocker. They'll have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make it work when the games count.
...While some people may be getting impatient wondering why Addai isn't looking like Edgerrin James yet, relax. He had a terrific camp, team officials are pleased, and Manning is excited about him. Sunday night you saw some flashes of his brilliance, including the patience and footwork he showed during that 16-yard scamper on the short pass from King. With his work ethic, the big runs and big plays are coming.
...Gilbert Gardner was relatively unnoticed against the Rams, but he played a nice game. On one pass to a tight end that was completed in his area, he smothered the receiver as soon as the ball was caught. His sack of Matt Hasselbeck with a quick move inside the tight end helped force the Seahawks to settle for a field goal on their opening drive. And he was key to the success of the fake punt that Reggie Hodges ran for a first down. Gardner sealed off that left side at the line of scrimmage, giving Hodges and his lead blockers time to get around that side without any serious challenge.
...Okay, Marvin Harrison only caught one pass Sunday night, but ohhhhh my. Enough said.
...Even though Ben Utecht killed a nice drive with his fumble after he took a lick from a Seahawk defender, the coaches will notice something else important that happened on that play. He ran a terrific route to get wide open. Next time he runs one that nice and he holds onto it, you'll be leaping out of your chair.
...Darrell Reid gets the nod for putting the best lick on Alexander. He really gave him a jolt dead-on for a short loss. And Reid didn't look bad blocking as a fullback either. He needs some work, but he's only been working there for less than a month so cut him some slack.
...Anyone else think that the special teams coverage units are missing their top two tacklers, Robert Mathis and Gerome Sapp? On three punts, the Seahawks averaged 44.3 yards per return, and on one of the three kickoffs they allowed a 55-yard return.
...It was good to see Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns make some plays out there, getting some penetration and really wrapping up. He even made a special teams tackle and totally engulfed one running back to force a punt.
...While defensive lineman Marcus West, who had ten tackles last week in late duty, had just one assist against the Seahawks, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler continued to show good speed and consistency. Hagler made 6 tackles against Seattle as a follow-up to his 8-tackle performance against the Rams. He finished second in tackles for both games.
...I like what I saw of running back Tony Hollings tonight. He sort of ambles and pushes his way through defenders for yardage. He doesn't look the least bit quick compared to Rhodes and Addai, but could be the guy the Colts could look to in short-yardage situations. He certainly should get some kudos for his extra effort on his touchdown after initially being stymied on top of the pile.
...The Colts were flagged for eleven penalties during the game, with seven flags flying in the first half. That's not going to sit well with them this week. Only one player who drew a flag last week, Darrell Reid, was also flagged this week. Drawing the fouls were: Tarik Glenn (facemask, 15 yds), Dale Robinson (offsides on kickoff, 5 yds), Ryan Diem (false start, 5 yds), Darrell Reid (false start on punt, 5 yds), Sweet Pea Burns (encroachment, 5 yds), Montiese Culton (illegal formation, 5 yards), Charlie Johnson (holding, 11 yards), John Standeford (holding, 10 yds), Michael Toudouze (false start, 5 yds), Shane Andrus (kickoff out of bounds, 5 yards), Daniel Federkeil (false start, 5 yds).