The Colts didn't shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers or penalties. They had just one turnover, when Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard literally stole a pass reception out of Marvin Harrison's arms for what was called an interception and they were called for just four penalties for 30 yards on the night. And Indianapolis
finished the game with a +2 turnover ratio thanks to an interception by cornerback Nick Harper and two forced fumbles by defensive end Robert Mathis. Offensively, the team got back on track by converting 70 percent of its third downs and 100 percent (5 out of 5) red zone opportunities.
And remember last week when Bill Polian pointed turnover ratio and net yards per pass attempt as the most important indicators for winning games? Well, his theory played out against the Eagles with the Colts winning easily in a game where they won the turnover battle and averaged 9.1 net yards passing versus just 5.2 net yards by Philadelphia.
Oh, and just for the record, if I was Peyton Manning I'd be pretty burned
about getting tagged with an interception on that throw to Harrison. If a
running back had a ball stolen from him like that while running, it would have
been a fumble. Harrison clearly had possession, so he should have gotten hit for
I know folks are still concerned about the run defense, but I have to be honest with you and say that I'm surprised they did as well on Sunday as they did. Brian Westbrook is one of the most talented backs they've faced this season and he did some damage with a 6.2 yards per carry average for the night. But don't forget that the Colts defense that was out there was missing two starting-caliber defensive tackles (Montae Reagor and Corey Simon), two starting caliber safeties (Bob Sanders and Mike Doss), lost one of their best tacklers during the game (Antoine Bethea), and were missing starting weakside linebacker Gilbert Gardner to boot.
Fortunately, Gary Brackett played some pretty inspired football out there. Didn't you love it when he did the axe chop after his one hit in reply to Jeremiah Trotter's antics earlier in the game? And I don't know what cornerback Jason David did this past week to prepare for this contest, but he should keep doing it. I can't remember seeing the 5-foot-8, 180-pounder hit ball carriers as hard as he did repeatedly on Sunday night. Anthony McFarland simply played his best game to date as a Colt as well.
Rocky Boiman made a solid debut at strongside linebacker and made four tackles. Freddy Keiaho saw some time out there as well during the game, a good indicator that the Colts like what they see in his development. I still think Keiaho is better suited for weakside duty where the team can take advantage of his instinctive speed and tackling ability, but the Colts haven't checked in with me lately to get my opinion on the matter ... go figure. But if the team doesn't re-sign Cato June, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, they should give Keiaho consideration for his spot and let him and Tyjuan Hagler compete for the starter's role there next year.
Speaking of Keiaho, you might not have noticed that he was the guy who forced a fumble on a kickoff return that the Eagles recovered. He's continuing to do some nice work on special teams, just as the team expected when they drafted him.
The Colts almost had another disastrous special teams play last Sunday, but two players stepped up to stop returns specialist Reno Mahe from converting a long return into a touchdown during the second quarter. Adam Vinatieri put forth a courageous effort to slow Mahe and a blocker or two by keeping them in front of him, which gave Tyjuan Hagler time to catch up to Mahe from behind and make a solid tackle to stop the play at the Indy 46-yard line. Hagler actually had the left side contain responsibility on the play that went up the opposite sideline, so he did a great job of getting across the field to make the play.
What's the importance of adding Ricky Proehl to the roster if Brandon Stokley could return this week? That's easy. Depth. The Colts have seen the impact of losing Stokely, who's been more fragile this year than a piñata. Without him in the slot, it's impacting their ability to get the ball to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as teams just weren't quite as worried about Dallas Clark in the slot.
If you discount his six-catch performance against the Broncos, Clark had just
20 catches in the other ten games. That's not going to draw much attention from
the secondary, allowing opponents to focus more on the wide-outs with double
teams. Over the past three games, Marvin Harrison's been limited to 9 catches
for 120 yards while Reggie Wayne has pulled in 15 for 150 yards. That's an
average of 90 yards per game for the tandem compared to an average of 137.5 per
game last year (35 percent less).
Even with Stokely's role reduced last year as the team integrated more two-tight end formations into the mix, he was a constant threat to catch a deep pass in the middle that other teams had to respect. In the six games where he was most actively involved in the game plan, he caught a total of 32 passes (5.3 per game) for 409 yards (68 yards per game). And he caught 68 passes in 15 games in 2004 for 1,077 yards. Proehl will give the Colts a viable alternative that has been sorely lacking if Stokely is hit with another injury this season or suffers another setback.
Once considered the best kicker in the history of the league, former Colt Mike Vanderjagt is now just another unemployed kicker. But unlike many others who would be scrambling to figure out how to keep a paycheck coming in, he can kick back and watch the rest of the NFL season wrap up without much concern unless he foolishly spent the $2.5 million signing bonus Dallas gave him earlier this year.
After wearing out his welcome in Indianapolis, Vanderjagt didn't endear himself to Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells when he missed most of training camp and ended up on the inactive list for the season opener. And now that the Cowboys have high hopes for a playoff run, Vanderjagt's three missed field goals over the past five games -- including two against the Colts -- raised serious questions about his ability to shake off the effect of his embarrassing wide right miss against the Steelers in last year's playoffs.
But if Vanderjagt wants to kick this season, there are still suitors out there who will undoubtedly take a look. And one of them even resides in the AFC South. Over the past month, the Texans, Bills, Saints, 49ers and Buccaneers have all worked out kickers. So don't be surprised if he at least draws some interest. It would be kind of ironic to see him kicking for the lowly Texans in a few weeks when the Colts head to Houston. My guess is his ego won't allow for that to happen this season unless he's desperate for work.
Probably the biggest blow to Vanderjagt's seemingly huge ego won't be his release. It will be the fact that he was replaced by Martin Grammatica, a former Colt who was brought in previously to handle kickoff duties in Indianapolis while Vanderjagt was still a Colt.
Check back later for more updates. Talk about this update in our fan forum!