Winnable games were pretty much guaranteed wins during the Tony Dungy era, but Jim Caldwell got off to a rocky start by squeaking by the Jaguars and Dolphins to open up the season. Indianapolis is off to another fast start and one of the big factors has been the smooth transition to Caldwell.
Another big test is coming up in Week 5, as the Colts need to travel to Tennessee and play a desperate divisional opponent in prime time. Those factors could add up to a tight game and a loss for Indianapolis, or they could end up with the Colts taking a five-game lead over last year's division winner and number one seed.
There's still a lot on the line for both teams and how Caldwell and his charges respond will go a long way towards establishing the character and personality of this team.
Manning has been throwing a lot, but that may be OK
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The Best (Run) Defense is a Good Offense: For the second straight week, the Colts faced an opponent that should have been able to jam the ball down the throat of the defense, piling up huge yardage totals between the tackles. For the second straight week, they jumped out to a big early lead and forced their opponent to abandon the running game.
Jim Mora, Jr. has more of a commitment to running the ball than does Ken Whisenhunt, but neither coach is as committed to running the ball as Jeff Fisher. There may, in fact, not be a coach in the league that's as committed to establishing a strong ground game than Fisher, especially considering that the Baltimore Ravens — last year's leader in rushing attempts per game — have been passing the ball almost 57 percent of the time.
But, it certainly seems as though the defensive line is starting to anchor against the run more effectively, as Julius Jones averaged only 2.3 yards per carry and Edgerrin James had 16 of Seattle's 49 total yards rushing, mostly running out of passing formations, hoping to catch the defense sleeping.
Still, the memories of the Jacksonville and Miami games are fresh enough that we want to see how the Colts respond against a run-oriented team that will stay committed to the running game throughout the course of 60 minutes.
Peyton Manning may have to throw the ball 41 times every game — and maybe that's OK: For two reasons:
- He has a lot of weapons at his disposal and will need to throw that many times in order to get everyone the targets they will want, and
- the running game still hasn't rounded fully into shape.
As long as they are averaging 8.6 yards per attempt and 11.4 yards per completion and Manning isn't getting hit — zero sacks and very few pressures/knockdowns, especially considering how frequently the Seahawks blitzed — it really makes no sense for them to try to overpower teams by running the ball. As of right now, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown are being kept fresh because they're splitting carries and Indianapolis isn't running the ball very much.
They will need to be able to run the ball in December and January, but, since they face a number of vulnerable pass defenses between now and December, and since Austin Collie will probably take a back seat when Anthony Gonzalez comes back, they'll most likely just be able to do more with the passes they attempt and be able to maximize every rushing attempt.
This will ultimately make them more efficient on offense. Once the weather turns cold — and the best way to keep the temperature at around 68 degrees for the playoffs is to secure home field advantage — Addai and Brown will still be fresh and the passing game should still be sharp, albeit slowed down a bit by the weather.
Freeney and Mathis look great, but ... : The inability of everyone on the defense not named Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis to rush the passer is going to be a serious issue if left unresolved. Currently, Mathis and Freeney have ten of the 12 sacks the team has registered and Raheem Brock — another defensive lineman — has one. Freddy Keiaho recorded the first sack by a non-lineman on Sunday.
If the other members of the defensive line would like to step up, that would be preferable, as the Colts defense is more effective when they can rush four and drop seven. But, since Eric Foster, Ed Johnson, and Antonio Johnson have failed to get close enough to a sack to smell it, pressure is going to need to come from other directions, namely Gary Brackett (when healthy), Clint Session, Tyjuan Hagler, and Marlin Jackson or Kelvin Hayden, with a possible assist from Melvin Bullitt.
Freeney and Mathis have lucked out and drawn very favorable matchups thus far, but the slate of tackles they need to face gets tougher from here on out and playoff teams tend to have better players at the left and right tackle positions than the league on average.
With 12 sacks in four games, they're on pace to blow away their totals from the last three seasons, but they need to keep it up. Given that Freeney and Mathis will be tied up with less favorable matchups, the numbers will only dive — and precipitously — from here unless Larry Coyer can get more creative or the tackles can be more productive.
Remember the Titans: We learned on Sunday that Indianapolis now has a four-game lead over Tennessee and a bye after their Week 5 game against the Titans.
A victory heading into the bye will, if nothing else, maintain the lead they have over the Texans and Jaguars and expand the lead over Tennessee to the point that the Titans could be out of the race for the division crown by Halloween.
Once again, the Colts need to take care of business, remain focused, and win the winnable games, just like they did against the Seahawks.
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