The San Francisco 49ers performed as promised, hard-nosed without a hint of quitting for a full 60 minutes. Their effort stifled the Colts powerful offensive scoring machine and kept a game many predicted to be lopsided close enough to be interesting until very late in the final period of play.
Who Looked Good On Offense?
Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne continues to have one of the most dominant seasons of football in his career. Last week, against the Rams, Wayne put up 76 of his 83 yards in the first half and looked unstoppable. This week, Wayne continued to abuse defensive backs, even after sitting much of the week to rest a pulled groin.
Wayne's 12 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown move him into second place in the NFL in receiving yards, with 689 yards. Andre Johnson of the Texans leads him by eight yards, though Houston has not yet had its bye week.
Tight end Dallas Clark also continues to put together the most productive season of his career, making eight catches for 99 yards, with half of his receptions going for first downs. Clark's 584 receiving yards rank him seventh overall in the NFL, ahead of guys like Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, and Larry Fitzgerald.
Garcon showed signs of improvement over his dismal performance against the Rams but still did not show glimpses of the big-play threat he posed to opponents a month ago.
Although it is hard to give a guy a hard time when he passes for 347 yards in a close game, Manning and the offense seemed out of sync. It is true that San Francisco deserves a lot of credit for confusing Peyton early in the game but the miscues were more related to timing and communication than to defensive trickery.
The deep pass was ineffective throughout much of the game, Manning often over-throwing his receivers, or the receivers running imprecise routes. No matter the issue, and despite the big yards put up in the air, the offense never clicked on all cylinders.
The offensive line had its worst performance of the year. Right guard Mike Pollak showed up on film getting manhandled by the 49ers' defensive linemen, giving up one sack as the defender stood him up and drove him onto his back. As a unit, the group allowed three sacks after giving up just two sacks in the previous six games.
Whatever the problem is, it will need to get fixed if the Colts hope to continue winning football games during this, the toughest stretch of their schedule.
Kyle DeVan continues to get more playing time in a rotation with Pollak and does not seem to get beat as badly or as often as Pollak has at times this year. It might be time to move DeVan into the starting role or insert other offensive linemen waiting for an opportunity.
Finally, Hank Baskett had the chance to make an impact in the game but dropped the only two passes his way (both were catchable). This is not the way to get on Manning's good side, nor make a compelling case for a lengthy professional career.
Who Looked Good On Defense?
Cornerback Jerraud Powers continues his impressive rookie campaign, making four tackles, defending a pass, forcing a fumble and recovering it.
The defense as a whole played extremely well on all but two possessions. The first came on San Francisco's second possession, when Frank Gore broke a 64-yard run for a touchdown. The second came during the 49ers' final possession of the first half, when the defense allowed Alex Smith to coordinate an 89 yard touchdown drive in just over a minute.
Those two possessions accounted for 146 of San Francisco's 295 yards on offense. Meaning the Colts held their opponent to 149 yards on their remaining eleven possessions, an average of 13.5 yards a possession.
The run defense limited Frank Gore to 27 yards on 12 carries, a 2.25 yard average, throughout the game (discounting the 64-yard run).
Strong defensive play kept the game in reach long enough for the Colts offense to get into the end zone and was most responsible for the Colts victory.
Even Jamie Silva and the special teams coverage units played a big role. Silva made four solo tackles in coverage, helping limit San Francisco to an average starting position of their own 22 yard line.
Although Bob Sanders managed to make an interception and run the ball back 29 yards, it is clear that Sanders has yet to make his full return. He managed only two tackles and was invisible for much of the game.
In years past, regardless of Sanders' individual performance, he would be a key focal point of the Colts' defense and be one of the most active players on a viewers screen.
Against San Francisco he showed some spurts of returning to normal but simply did not provide the "wow factor" he has previously. Maybe in time his impact will grow as he gets back into top playing shape.
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