Worried though? Not really.
The Colts coaches have done a great job so far this season figuring out what's not working with their initial game plan on both sides of the ball and making the right adjustments. And the players have to be commended for keeping their heads while things aren't clicking, and then executing the adjustments.
I'd being doing everyone a grave injustice if I didn't make Reggie Wayne the first player talked about in today's Colts Blog. With his seven catches for 168 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown catch, Wayne now leads the Colts receivers in all major receiving categories with the exception of one. Dallas Clark leads the team in touchdown catches with six while Wayne now has five. But Wayne's 44 catches leads Clark by a dozen and his 668 receiving yards is almost double Clark's second-best 388 yards. Wayne is also the clear leader in receiving yards per game with 95.4 and he has the longest reception of the season by a Colts receiver (64 yards).
Joseph Addai did a nice job against a pretty tough Panthers defense. His 4.3 yards per carry isn't anything to sneeze at against that bunch. His 100-yard rushing total was the fifth such performance of his career. But did you know that when he scored his second rushing touchdown it was only the third time out of his career that he's scored more than one rushing touchdown in a regular season game?
While Tom Brady's garnering plenty of well-deserved attention up in New England for his torrid touchdown pace, Peyton Manning is quietly and efficiently moving the Colts offense this season. On Sunday he completed 14 of 30 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns before sitting out most of the fourth quarter with the Colts comfortably ahead. But one of Manning's most impressive stats so far this year is his career-low 1.3 percent interception percentage. He finished last year with a career-best 1.6 percent. Heading into the head-to-head matchup with Brady and the Patriots, the Colts quarterback has thrown just three interceptions in seven games.
You really have to tip your hat to the Colts defense for their overall effort yesterday. They didn't get much chance to catch their breath and strategize on the sidelines until late in the game when it was well in-hand. Up until the offense's final two possessions, they didn't put together a single drive that lasted at least three minutes. That sure puts a defense at a disadvantage.
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How about second-year safety Antoine Bethea? No sophomore slump for this guy. He reeled-in his third regular-season career interception at a crucial point of the game, preventing the Panthers from even getting a field goal out of their field position at the Indy 9-yard line. Stealing the ball two yards deep in his own end zone to prevent the touchdown, Bethea provided a flashback moment to the great interception he made against Steve McNair and the Ravens in the playoffs right at the goal line. Bethea's the first Colts defender to grab more than one interception in 2007 even though the team has stolen 9 passes from their opponents during their first 7 games. One more thing you should know about Bethea's performance against the Panthers is that he was credited with three of the team's six passes defensed during that game.
While the Colts defense allowed the Panthers to pile up 108 yards of rushing, they held them to an average of just 3.3 yards per attempt. And they held the Panthers' running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and DeShaun Foster to a combined 83 yards rushing, one touchdown and no rushes longer than 13 yards. That's a great effort against a pair of pretty talented backs.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was how Indy's defensed silenced Panthers superstar receiver Steve Smith, limiting him to just two catches for 18 yards on the day. Smith has had three big games this year of more than 100 yards receiving, but all three were fueled by big catches of 25-plus yards. Against the Colts, his "big" catch of the day was only for 12 yards.
Gary Brackett is one of those guys who just seems to get better every year, isn't he? On Sunday, he led all Colts defenders with 12 tackles (11 solo, one assist) boosting his team-leading total to 53 for the season. Weakside linebacker Tyjuan Hagler finished second with ten (eight solo, two assists) which is really impressive when you consider that just two weeks ago he had been named the starting strongside linebacker and lined up there for his first start at that position against Jacksonville last Monday. But when Freddy Keiaho had to be held out on Sunday due to a concussion, the versatile linebacker put his weak side hat back on without missing a beat. Last Monday against the Jaguars, Hagler posted six tackles at the strong side position.
Return specialist T.J. rushing boosted his season punt return average on Sunday with a nifty 31-yard return. He's now averaging 9.0 yards on punt returns and 25.5 yards per return on kickoffs. His backup, Cro Thorpe, was the only Colt who was on the gameday roster who didn't get a chance to get out on the field for a single play on Sunday.
While the Panthers helped out a bit by bobbling a couple of kickoff returns, the Colts kickoff coverage looked solid. During the five kickoffs that were returned, the Colts only allowed an average of 17.8 yards per return. That's significantly better than their season average of 24.7 yards per return.
During the preseason, I was really impressed with the way rookie Brandon Archer handled himself on the football field and with his good instincts that kept him around the ball. And he wasn't afraid to stick his nose into the action by any means. When the Colts released him and didn't even sign him to the practice squad, I really found it befuddling. Archer eventually landed on the Vikings practice squad and then had a couple of tryouts recently with other teams after Minnesota released him. After re-signing with the Colts and jumping onto the practice squad last week, he was quickly promoted due to injuries. Seeing some real NFL action for the first time as a rookie, Archer showed well against the Panthers' first-team offense, logging four tackles (three solo) and adding a special teams tackle. The Colts have to find a spot for this guy and hold onto him. He's got real potential and would be great to have in the fold as Gary Brackett's backup.
Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and are syndicated through FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.
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