Don't sleep on Reggie Wayne: After three straight weeks of lackluster production, Wayne busted out against the Jaguars on Thursday. It helped that Jacksonville assumed — for reasons unknown — that Derek Cox could handle him after Wayne destroyed Cox in Week 1, but Wayne proved what he can do when the opposing defense doesn't commit resources to stopping him.
He had bad matchups the previous two weeks — Cortland Finnegan and Champ Bailey are among the best cornerbacks in the league — but he also had a disappointing game against the Texans, where he had a favorable matchup, but Houston double and occasionally triple covered Wayne to take him out of the action.
It could be that Wayne lulled everyone to sleep or it could just have been bad matchups. One thing is certain: No one's going to sleep on Wayne again. He has established and re-established himself as one of the premiere receivers in the league and can improve his legacy with a big postseason.
Jacob Lacey may have found his niche: Lacey has struggled for much of the season and has his fair share of detractors — myself included — but Alan Williams and Larry Coyer made a masterful adjustment for Thursday night's game that should be continued for the balance of the season. Lacey had been struggling because he's not a zone guy, he's a man coverage guy.
So, Coyer and Williams adjusted their scheme and Lacey's responsibilities, allowing him to "man up" on the receiver to his side of the field. The result was four tackles, two passes defended, and the game-clinching interception. Also, Mike Sims-Walker had a fairly unproductive day with six catches for 64 yards on nine targets — and his touchdown reception was on Kelvin Hayden, not Lacey.
If the Colts staff continues to have Lacey "play within himself" he should be a valuable contributor throughout the rest of the regular season and into the postseason. Making that kind of adjustment during the course of a game or season is not the sort of thing the previous regime would have done, instead trying to make the player fit the system. This is further evidence of the fact that this is Jim Caldwell's team and Larry Coyer's defense.
Joseph Addai seems to be getting stronger: He's running with more authority and he's gaining more yards after contact that he usually does at this point in the season — or really at any point during his career. He seems crisper in his cuts and more explosive getting to the edge.
It's interesting that he didn't step up like this when Donald Brown was taking some of his touches, but Addai is now firmly cemented into the starting role and will get most of the work, provided Brown comes back from injury.
The issues are that he's getting perilously close to his "maximum" number of carries for a season (250) and that Chad Simpson and Mike Hart are not the answer at tailback should Addai wear down or get hurt. Brown needs to come back in a hurry. It would be fantastic if he could play in Week 17.
Eric Foster may also have found his niche: With Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis seeing only spot duty, the pressure needed to come from somewhere. Indianapolis blitzed fairly liberally, but their two sacks came from an unlikely source: Foster. He had zero sacks in 11 starts last season, but he has three already this year in only three starts.
Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson should still be the starters — even though they lacked their usual intensity on Thursday night — but Foster gives the Colts another weapon on pass defense. Foster had two sacks, two quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. That's a Freeney-esque stat line.
Now, it remains to be seen whether or not he can do this on a consistent basis, but, if he can, that would give Indianapolis Freeney, Mathis, Foster, and Raheem Brock in known passing situations, which would be a daunting set of blocking assignments for any offensive line.
We said all offseason that Foster needed to improve his pass-rushing ability to stay with the team long term. If he's successfully done that, it could mean that life without Brock won't be as challenging. It could also mean the end of Keyunta Dawson's time with the team if Indianapolis decides to stick with a Brock/Foster combo instead of a Dawson/Foster combo.
The defense lacked their usual fire for much of the game: They had been able to maintain a tremendous level of intensity for the past two months or so, but they definitely looked flat and passive on Thursday. Hopefully, that's just a result of playing on four days rest after playing with such fire for such a prolonged period of time — not a sign that the defense is breaking down physically and mentally.
They still made the key play they needed to make. They still held the opponent to fewer points than the offense scored. The Colts still won. But, if they come out that flat and passive in a game in January, they might not get bailed out.
Kicker not a high-priority position right now: Whether it's Matt Stover or Adam Vinatieri, Peyton Manning and Tom Moore's offense is too efficient in the red zone for that man to get a lot of opportunities. Pretty much anyone can kick an extra point and that's basically all the placekicker has been asked to do the past six games, as the Colts have attempted only five field goals in that span. For the season, they've attempted only 19 field goals in 14 games. They may want to cut costs in 2010 in just have Pat McAfee do everything.
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