Colts 31, Jets 28 ... At First Glance

The Colts survived a spirited effort by the Jets Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands. Indianapolis had to rally from a 4th-quarter deficit twice to earn the win using a pair of drives impressively engineered by Peyton Manning to improve their record to 4-0.

-- William Shakespeare once wrote, "To thine own self be true and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Yeah, I know this is a football column, but there's wisdom in that quote that the Colts should ponder before next week. I understand them wanting to try to get their running game going, even though repeated comments have come out of Indy that they believe there's nothing wrong with it. But they swung the pendulum too far early in this game and in the process they took their franchise quarterback and league-wide feared passing attack out of the game. Well, as a result, guess what aspect of the offense had to save them -- twice in the closing minutes -- from taking their first loss? Yep, the passing game behind a determined and heroic effort by Peyton Manning. This game didn't need to be a 3-point nail-biter, the Colts helped make it one with that shift in philosophy early on. Note to the Colts coaching staff...don't do it again.  It doesn't work to the benefit of the team and it doesn't pay to ground the best quarterback in the NFL.

-- After the Jets put the Indy offense on the sidelines for about 9 minutes of the second-quarter following a successful onsides kick and two touchdowns, it was obvious that Manning was going to come out and attack. Did you see his reaction on the sidelines when he finally knew he was going to be back on the field?  He looked like one of those bulls at the rodeo who has been penned up and poked at right before they open the gate. His forty-one yard pass to Reggie Wayne on the first play was exactly what the Colts needed to remind the Jets and their fans that Manning can unleash some fury as needed. That said, he also obviously needs to stay in a rhythm like he did during the team's last two possessions of the game to be at his peak effectiveness. While he looked extremely methodical during those possessions, if you took away that one big connection to Wayne, he was 5 for 9 for just 36 yards in the first half while the Colts tried to show that they could run the ball.

-- Anybody else thinking that Joseph Addai (20-84, 1 TD) sure doesn't look like a rookie? What a great play he made just after the 2-minute warning of the first half with his team trailing by a touchdown. On a 3rd-and-4 at the Jets' 13-yard line, New York had him in their sights short of the first down. But Addai used some nice moves to battle his way to the nine for the first down. It was fitting that two plays later he was able to take advantage of his good work when he scored his first NFL rushing touchdown to tie the game just before the half ended. That said, Dominic Rhodes had his best outing of the season, posting 75 yards and a 5 yards per carry average. I'm still not a fan of the tandem approach, but it was good to see Rhodes doing well.

-- Meanwhile, Jets' head coach Eric Mangini will undoubtedly be called out as a rookie head coach for going for a touchdown instead of a field goal at a critical point in the game when his team could have taken the lead. The New York media will chew him up this week for that one. Had they grabbed a field goal instead of trying for the TD pass, Manning's late heroics would have sent the game into overtime instead of securing the victory. But in fairness to Mangini, his team put themselves in position to win the game twice later on despite not having that field goal in their pocket. But they just simply couldn't stop Manning and the rest of the Colts offense when it counted the most. So the media and the fans better not lay it all at his feet.

-- Someone remind me again why the Colts signed Martin Gramatica while a rookie with a booming foot for kickoffs, Shane Andrus is sitting at home? His line-drive kick right before the half that resulted in a 43-yard return could have been costly. And his opening kick to the 15-yard line was reminiscent of a Mike Vanderjagt kickoff. Sure, he followed that up with a boot to the end zone in the first half, but his inconsistency is simply maddening. And then while the Jets were running back the kickoff late in the game for a touchdown, he failed to make the tackle on the runner AND took out the last guy who had a shot at making the stop, Ryan LaCasse, all in one swoop. Get well soon, Adam Vinatieri. And Bill Polian, please pull up the contact info for Gramatica's agent on your computer and hit the delete key. I'm sure Gramatica's a terrific guy, but a team of the Colts' caliber needs better kicking than that.

-- Head coach Tony Dungy should be happy that the team didn't commit any turnovers, but the fact that they got called for twelve penalties (including two that were declined) won't sit well with him. DE Robert Mathis drew four of the flags, three offsides (one declined) and an unnecessary roughness for a hit that appeared to be spearing. Fortunately, Mathis also had two sacks, a quarterback hit, three tackles and a forced fumble that set up the Colts first touchdown. But with the pride he takes in playing well, those four penalties won't sit well with him either.

-- I really wasn't surprised that the Jets played well in the second quarter after playing so poorly in the first. If you read the article by Jeff Straits on Saturday about the Jets offense, they really followed the pattern that he called out in his column. When the Colts only led by 7 at the end of the first quarter, I was pretty convinced that it would be a tight one at halftime since Jeff had pointed out that the Jets score 40% of their points in the 2nd quarter. In this game, they scored 50% in the 2nd and 50% in the 4th against the Colts. Someone on the Jets coaching staff needs to find a way to get the New York offense to pay attention before the 16th minute of each half and they'll have a pretty darn fine ball club.

-- The rookies sure did stand out on the special teams coverage units today by making 5 of the 6 solo tackles. Second-round draft pick Tim Jennings was credited with three while third-rounder Freddy Keiaho made one, as did Ryan LaCasse. Second-year defensive back Matt Giordano got the other one. Keiaho and veteran Rob Morris each got credited with an assist as well.

--  This game was a good wake up call for the Colts, a valuable lesson that they survived without having to take the lumps of a loss to boot. They'll watch the film of this one and realize how close they came to taking it on the chin during their second visit to the Meadowlands. While battling as many injuries as they are right now, they can't afford to be the least bit complacent with their play-calling or execution. To their credit, when you realize all the additional talent they were missing -- especially in the secondary -- they held up well against a Jets team that came into this game at 2-1, had a potent passing offense and who had the advantage of playing at home.

--  The inactives for this game were K Adam Vinatieri, DT Corey Simon, WR Brandon Stokley, CB Nick Harper, CB Marlin Jackson, S Bob Sanders, LB Tyjuan Hagler, and DT Dan Klecko. Jackson was the most interesting scratch since as late as of Friday he was being projected as the starter who would step in for Harper. According to the team's injury reports, he practiced Thursday and Friday, so something unexpected must have occurred on Saturday. As ColtPower reported Sunday morning, the team's seventh=round draft pick, cornerback T.J. Rushing, was called up from the practice squad due to the shortage of cornerbacks and was on the gameday active roster for the first time. The Colts waived DT Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns to make room for Rushing. Burns is eligible to return to the practice squad if he clears waivers on Monday.


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