Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 11 vs. Evil

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This week's Blue View took several days to write because the author hates the New England Patriots and couldn't bear the thought of writing about this week's terrible game.

Quick summary:

The Colts prove they can't hang with the big boys, putting together an embarrassing effort in front of a national TV audience while Hoodie, Gronk, and Tom Terrific snicker in amusement. Well, Gronk and Tom Terrific snicker. Hoodie just...Hoodies.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the running game? Awful, thank you very much. I'm embarrassed the Colts even attempted to run the ball this week. You wanna keep 'em honest? Admit to yourself that you can't run through a brick wall.

So, about that defense... Pass defense/lack of pass rush exposed by Pittsburgh; lack of run defense exposed by the Patriots. What have we learned lately? The Giants are barely a football team and there are many ways to beat the Colts.

T.Y. Hilton. Was he on the roster this week or did the Colts deactivate him? (checks stats) Apparently, he caught three passes. I guess the Patriots deactivated him.

I liked Jonas Gray at Notre Dame. That was a long time ago.

Genital cuff, Titanic, every Game of Thrones book narrated by Kathy Griffin, enema, Rocky 5, X-Men: The Last Stand, the last three seasons of Heroes. These are all better than watching New England win.

Coby Fleener. This guy had the game of his career. Seven catches, 144 yards. He was unstoppable. Fleener made all kinds of fine catches in this game, and the Patriots were perfectly happy with that.

Mike Adams showed up. He was the beneficiary of a couple terrible throws by Brady and ended up with two interceptions. The second one happened right before halftime and made Colts fans think Indy could get back in the game. It was a pleasant fiction.

But the awful play wasn't the worst of it. Ahmad Bradshaw broke a bone in his leg. Dwayne Allen suffered the dreaded "high ankle sprain." It was bad enough the Colts got taken behind the woodshed...but to lose two good players like that was worse than the game's outcome by far.

Throw it to Richardson? Look, I think we've all figured out that Trent Richardson isn't going to set the world on fire as a running back. I would like to see the Colts utilize him more as a pass catcher. It gets him out of the garbage at the line of scrimmage and gives him a chance to break some tackles in the open field. Just do it already.

Boom! We're going to see a lot of this guy because of Bradshaw's injury.

So that was fun. I did enjoy seeing Anthony Castonzo catch a TD pass. I'm pretending his celebration didn't happen. You should, too.

LaWorthless. Landry was back this week. Good to see that "run stopping safety" really paid off. Pop another pill, pal.

The Colts are the Patriots' little brother. I always say the Houston Texans are the Colts' little brother. It's fun and it makes me laugh. Right now, though, the Colts are the Patriots' little brother. It's sad and makes me cry.

Gray Matter. The Colts refused to tackle Jonas Gray against. Then again, it's hard to tackle a guy when you're getting Heisenberged every damn play.

Zero sacks. The Colts actually got some pressure on Brady a few times, but they never brought him down. An efficient passing game and a bruising running attack made sure the pass rush wasn't a factor. There were a couple of "almost got 'ims," which counted for absolutely nothing.

Shane Vereen. Every time I hear his name, all I can think about is "Shoeverine" from Conan O'Brien's run on NBC.

The hate is swelling in you now. Man, I detest these guys.

But is this the end of #GRIFFNATION? The Colts signed Joshua Cribbs this week. He was always an exciting player with Cleveland, but you do wonder why it's taken so long for him to catch on with another team...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How about an actual writing update?

I haven't blogged about writing in a long time.

The last non-Colts post I did was back in June.

There are a couple reasons for that. First of all, I'm a major Indianapolis Colts fan, and I'm using my author website as a place to write about the team. Is it the best venue for that? Probably not, but it's something I enjoy doing. Second of all, I worked myself into a writing slump over the summer.

I finished the first draft of THE EXCLUSIVE--a paranormal novel--back in April. After that, I got out of a writing routine as I tried to figure out what to write next.

I then visited an elementary classroom in June (see this post for more about that). After talking to my niece and nephew, I decided I'd like to write a book that would be age appropriate for them. I dusted off an old, old manuscript I wrote back in sixth grade and reworked THE ADVENTURES OF THE TAXIS into a middle grade novel.

So from April to July, writing was sporadic. You can sense as much from my Facebook updates and tweets. I got into a more steady routine until THE ADVENTURES OF THE TAXIS was finished. I was then faced with the question I hate most: what do I write next? I decided there was a book that had been waiting for a long, long time and needed to get written. It's a ridiculous idea for a novel, but I knew I could have some fun with it.

You know how people always ask writers where they get their ideas and writers don't know what to tell them? Well, occasionally we get our ideas from oddball Facebook comment threads from three years ago:

Yeah, that exchange was a thing that happened in a Facebook post in May 2011. Not long after that, I mocked up a cover and wrote a quick blog post about the idea.

I've held onto that idea for what feels like forever. I decided in late August/early September that I wanted to write that book. So I did! More than 66,000 words later, I have a first draft that tells the story of Russ "Studicus" Chambers, a male dancer at a dingy club called "Front and Caesar." He ends up going back in time on a mission to save Julius Caesar from being assassinated. Thus, the old tagline--"Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome. This is not it."--is no longer applicable.

It just so happened that the intrigue surrounding Julius Caesar's death made for a better backdrop and, I felt, a more familiar setting for readers. I read a few books on Caesar and Rome, and while my book is in no way historical, at least it's not all completely made up for a book about a time-traveling male stripper who introduces pole dancing to Ancient Rome.

So while I have a first draft, the book is nowhere near finished. I've already made dozens of notes and eliminated a character about a quarter of the way into the book so I could consolidate him with another character because they were becoming too similar. Another month or so, and I think I'll have a version of the book that would be fit for a beta reader.

I bet Facebook pals Greg (my brother) and Jane (a friend from school) didn't know we wrote a book together.

So, I'm reading through TIMEY DANCER and fixing it. Now I just have to figure out what to write next, which is my least favorite thing ever.

Before I fret about that too much, let's take a look at what I've done from a writing standpoint this year:

  • Revised and submitted III CRIMSONSTREAK
  • Finished and revised THAT'S NO MOON, a book that combines the wackiness of a Griswold family vacation with the heart of Galaxy Quest and the questionable theme park practices of Jurassic Park
  • Wrote a first draft of THE EXCLUSIVE, a novel about a hard-driving reporter who finally nails a slimeball politician but accidentally opens a gateway to hell in the process (oops)
  • Wrote a first draft of THE ADVENTURES OF THE TAXIS, a middle grade novel about a kid who goes on an exploration mission that takes an unfortunate turn because his uncle, the navigator, isn't very good with directions (the book may include funkadelic space slugs)
  • Wrote a first draft of TIMEY DANCER, discussed in all its scandalous detail above

So, that's it...a comprehensive update on what I've been writing lately.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 9 vs. Giants

Quick summary:

The Colts rebound from last week's lopsided loss against the Steelers to kick around Eli Manning and the Giants. Andrew Luck breaks 350 yards in relatively ho hum fashion.

Monday Night beatdown. The final score was in no way indicative of the game, as the Colts absolutely trounced the Giants in every aspect of football.

Crying Reggie. I think Chris Botti should perform the national anthem before every game Reggie Wayne plays. What a moment.

Ageless Reggie Wayne. While I'm on the subject of Mr. Wayne, I should say he looks fully recovered from the injury he suffered against the Bengals. He missed the Pittsburgh game because of it, and I say that's a good thing. He flashed some vintage Reggie on a 40-yard catch-and-run (I could watch the replay all day). He finished with 4 receptions for 70 yards. It may not sound like a lot, but Luck really spread the ball around this week.

Fleenered! Leave it to Coby Fleener to fake out the defense by kind of not/maybe not completing a catch and then running completely open as the Giants fail to throw their challenge flag on time. Great job by Luck and the offense to hustle it up and run a play while the Giants were still pleading for their coach to throw the challenge flag. This is why the flag should be kept in a fanny pack wrapped around your waist at all times. Indy really needed the score there, too, as they were dominating the Giants but had little to show for it.

I've got T.Y. Hilton in my fantasy arm wrestling league. How weird was that? Luck throws a ball up for grabs, and it looks like Antrel Rolle's all over it. Then T.Y. "Don't call me TD" Hilton rips it away from him. Hilton didn't light it up this week (3 catches, 71 yards), but you definitely felt his impact on the game.

Feed Moncrief! One catch, two yards.

Don't feed Moncrief! Previous point redacted.

Grudge match. I think Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw had this one circled on the calendar. Nicks (3 catches, 44 yards) made a couple big catches and Bradshaw ran hard. Bradshaw's stats (3 catches, 29 yards; 7 rushes, 50 yards) weren't eye-popping, but he was running angry out there. I kind of like him when he's angry.

The Andrew Luck Shooting Gallery. I'm not talking about his throwing acumen here. Luck was harassed all day for the second straight game, and an offensive line that provided solid protection earlier in the year struggled for the second game in a row. I know Luck holds onto the ball too long sometimes, but he still shouldn't be getting rocked every time the Colts call a pass play. Oh, by the way, he attempted 46 passes.

Solid defense. The Colts were embarrassed last week. Against the G-Men, they made it all better. For the most part, receivers didn't find much room in the secondary and running backs didn't find much daylight. The pass rush struggled at times again, but I saw some good things from Jonathan Newsome out there. He ended up with a couple sacks while Zach "Dancing Bear" Kerr notched one of his own.

A little off. When a guy throws for 354 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions, there's not much he did wrong during the game. Yet, those numbers could've been huge. Luck missed a few throws Monday night, especially early in the game. Just imagine how good this guy will be when he's consistently accurate for four quarters.

Was the secondary that good? Vontae Davis was definitely solid. No doubt about that. However, I'm trying to consider if I'm giving the secondary too much credit. The Giants' receivers were awful in this game, dropping pass after pass after pass. Is that good coverage or does Eli just have a bunch of Featherstones out there?

Sergio or LaRon? Do the Colts have a choice to make? What do you do with Sergio Brown when LaRon Landry comes back? Brown, who made his bones as a special teams stud, brings a lot more range to the position than Big Contract Landry. Yet Landry has that big contract. I think Indy might platoon these guys a little. Landry is (supposedly) stouter against the run while Brown is (in reality) a far superior cover safety.

The turnover battle. The Colts forced one turnover, and probably should've forced a couple more. On the other hand, they very nearly turned the ball over several times themselves, so I'll just count them lucky.

Weird stuff. There were some really strange plays last night, including the Fleener touchdown/challenge play and T.Y. Hilton's "give me the ball" TD reception. Don't forget that weird play where the ball bounced off the offensive line and back to Ahmad Bradshaw, who ended up getting a good run out of it. Strange things, man.

Bye, then Uggs. The Colts get to rest after compiling a 6-3 record so far. Since the Texans have Texaned themselves, Indy has a two-game lead in the AFC South. Next up: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Good luck covering Gronkowski, guys.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Colts Observations: Week 8 vs. Steelers

Quick summary:

The Colts simply refuse to stop Ben Roethlisberger and a suddenly resurgent Steelers offense. The day was perhaps summed up best with the phrase "intentional grounding on your butt."

So, what happened? No one knows. The Colts had a few injuries on defense, but that can't explain away surrendering 500+ yards to Big Ben. We saw blown assignments in coverage and absolutely no pass rush whatsoever.

Vontae Davis hurt. Okay, injuries contributed to the problems. The Colts lost their big-money corner early in the game, leaving Darius Butler out there to cover guys. Butler's an excellent nickelback, but he missed the last couple games with injury. He didn't have the chance to get his "game legs" back before being thrown into a tough situation.

Cory Redding, Art Jones, Rick Jean Francois, Erik Walden banged up. These players all missed snaps because of injuries during the game. There may have been others that I'm forgetting. I attribute the injuries to a complete shellacking by Pittsburgh's offensive line. Walden didn't return to the game.

Will someone cover Heath Miller? As I write this, Miller is wide open 30 yards downfield with no defender in sight. Stat line: seven catches, 112 yards, and a touchdown.

Will someone cover T.Y. Hilton? T.Y. wasn't quite as wide open as Miller, but he found plenty of room in the secondary. Stat line: six catches, 155 yards, and a touchdown.

Xbox numbers. Roethlisberger was 40-49 for 522 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. Back in my Online Dynasty heyday on NCAA Football (Xbox 360), I routinely had games like that with Purdue.

DHB. It was, of course, Darrius Heyward-Bey who (surprise!) caught a pass and then got up because nobody touched him. He then fumbled the football while trying for extra yardage, surprising absolutely no one. It couldn't have been anyone else, could it?

"Butler clearly had his hand wrapped around the receiver's arm" on a pass interference call late in the game. Except the replay looked like the receiver shoved him out of the way. Look, I get the NFL and its new contact rules. Would it have made any difference in the game? Probably not. Plus, let's face it--the Colts didn't exactly make their own luck during this game.

Huge, huge, huge, play. Or at least it should've been. After the Colts let the Steelers march down the field yet again, Andy Studebaker stripped the ball and recovered the fumble. It was a huge play! A monumental shift in momentum! The Colts were only eight points down! And then...

Intentional grounding on your butt. Look, there's nothing Andrew Luck could do here. He tripped, he fell at the edge of the endzone, and he was trying to avoid the inevitable safety. You can't fault him for trying to avoid it. The play just typified the "snake bit" nature of this week's game: you get a huge change in momentum, and then you squander it. The play turned an eight-point deficit into a 17-point lead thanks to the safety and the inability of the Colts defense to stop anyone. And I do have to ask: would Luck have tripped over A.Q. Shipley? I kid, I kid.

At least they came back. The Colts could've folded after staring down a 35-10 deficit. They hung in there, even though it was futile in the end.

"I haven't heard of half of these guys and the ones I have heard of are way past their prime." This references the Steelers receiving corps.

Unleash Moncrief. Some fans have been calling for Donte Moncrief to get more playing time. He had a big game while logging significant playing time for Indy, finishing with seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. The Colts have to find more playing time for this guy. Hakeem Nicks started in place of Reggie Wayne, but Nicks was basically a non-factor.

#GRIFFNATION! Griff Whalen had two catches for 23 yards in garbage time. As a kick returner, he was also really busy because Pittsburgh wouldn't stop scoring. His best return was 31 yards.

The Nantz Robo-Commentator is stuck and needs to be rebooted. Jim Nantz latched onto the T.Y. Hilton-Antonio Brown youth football story like a Mississippi leg hound in the first half. I think they rebooted the system at halftime.

Ahmad Bradshaw. With Trent Richardson active but not playing (whatever), Bradshaw carried the load for Indy. Well, okay, he didn't have to run much since the Colts dug themselves a huge hole. He contributed a rushing touchdown and caught seven passes for 52 yards.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 7 vs. Bengals

Quick summary:

The Colts play defense like they're on Heisman difficulty and the Bengals are on the Freshman setting. Indy overcomes a pair of turnovers en route to a rare shutout.

Dominant D. After years of watching the effective but reactive "Tampa Two" defense, it's a lot of fun to see the Colts show a bunch of different looks and bring pressure from all angles. Thanks to solid cover guys in the secondary, they can afford to bring the heat.

Four sacks. Andy Dalton doesn't get sacked often, but the Colts registered four sacks on the afternoon. Bjoern Werner, Cory Redding, Ricky Jean Francois, and Zach Kerr all notched sacks for Indy.

Two-headed monster. Trent Richardson had his best game as a Colt, rushing 14 times for 77 yards and catching 4 passes for 41 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw carried 10 times for 52 yards and caught 3 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. As a tandem, they were extremely effective...and you have to like what you saw. Both also...

...contributed fumbles. Bradshaw fumbled in the red zone. Richardson lost the ball during a bad exchange with Luck. Both turnovers allowed the Bengals to hang around. Despite the Colts' dominant performance, Indy only led 10-0 at halftime. Since the defense was fantastic, it didn't ultimately didn't matter, but the Colts have got to stop turning the ball over.

So Erik Walden got ejected. I couldn't see much on the replay, but I guess Walden shoved an official. My guess is he was trying to push Cincy's Jermaine Gresham away and may have made contact with the official instead. Seemed pretty sketchy overall. I'm sure we'll get some clarification later.

Why is Reggie Wayne still in the game? Reggie got pounded on a high throw over the middle. Then another hit blasted his shoulder into the turf. Another hit late in the game had him land hard on his elbow. I know Reggie wanted to keep his "three catch" streak alive, but there was no reason for him to be in the game late, especially after he dropped a couple of passes (never happens) and caught another with his chest (never happens). The Colts say he wrenched his elbow a little bit but would be okay. Let's hope so.

Giovanni Bernard's greatest hits. The Bengals running back got pounded on back-to-back plays. I'm surprised his head was still attached afterward. I mean...he really got rocked. The Colts weren't shy about bringing the big hits.

Does Hakeem Nicks still play for the Colts? Remember when bringing this guy in was a big deal? He's nowhere. Either he doesn't fit the offense well, nobody likes him, or his skills have diminished.

506-135. That's Indy's offensive output compared to Cincinnati's. It might as well have been the score. It wasn't nearly as close as the real 27-0 score indicated (or the relatively close 10-0 score at halftime).

You might wanna cover T.Y. Hilton. He had kind of a big game last week. He followed up by catching another 7 passes for 107 against the Bengals. And let me tell you, T.Y. was wide open on a lot of these passes.

That Dwayne Allen... Dude, that guy's awesome. That fingertip catch-and-run? Absolutely beautiful. There really wasn't much space there for the throw, but Allen caught it and rumbled to the endzone.

Role reversal. Coby Fleener made a jaw-dropping catch, reaching behind himself to secure the ball. Not long after that, Reggie Wayne dropped a ball thrown right to him. I had joked after the Fleener catch that the tight end would drop the next one right to him. I was only partially right.

Vinny. Adam Vinatieri is 14-of-14 this season, including 4-4 from 40-50+ yards. He's still got it.

GRIFFNATION! Griff Whalen did a fantastic job of fielding punts and calling fair catches! In fact, they were some of the best fair catch calls I've ever seen!

Andy Dalton. The man whose hair matches his jersey put together a performance that mirrored the first game of Madden I ever played on its hardest difficulty setting. Except, to his credit, he threw fewer interceptions.

"I missed LaRon Landry." The preceding phrase was never uttered by any Colts fan this week.

Bonus note:

"509 you taste so good." It's not a chicken parm sandwich, but TD pass No. 509 tasted just as good for Peyton Manning. Congrats, 18!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 6 vs. Texans

Quick summary:

The Colts surge out to a quick lead, and this one looks like a rout. But Houston stars Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and (especially) J.J. Watt have other ideas, launching a fierce comeback and forcing the Colts defense to come up with two late turnovers to seal the victory.

Great start. The Colts got out of the gate quickly, building a 24-0 lead before the Texans even knew what hit them. Luck passed for more than 200 yards in the first quarter alone, tossing touchdown passes to Ahmad Bradshaw and Coby Fleener along the way. Trent Richardson added a touchdown run.

T.Y. triumphant. What a game from Hilton. He caught nine passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. He fell just a yard short of the franchise's all-time receiving mark. Hilton narrowly missed out on a touchdown early in the game after a review showed a Texans defender touched him while trying to avoid contact. In short, he was a much-needed spark plug for the team.

Can we let a call hold just out of spite? I thought Hilton was touched before the replay. I just didn't see how Kareem Jackson could have possibly avoided him. Still, I wanted the call to stand out of spite simply because it was a bonehead move to try to avoid the receiver.

Battle of the Civil War generals. CBS poked some fun at the facial hair of Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick, dubbing this game the "Beard Bowl." I didn't really think that was funny. However, I got a chuckle out of it when I thought about Luck and Fitzpatrick as Civil War generals. I am easily amused.

Can I get a Watt-Watt? You know, sometimes people talk so much about a player that you don't think they can possibly live up to the hype. That wasn't the case with J.J. Watt. He was all over the place last night. And, as evidenced by the fumble recovery for a touchdown, the dude can flat-out move.

Snap snafu. That fumble, by the way, came after a fumble by Luck, who wasn't expecting the snap so early from Jon Harrison. It looked like Luck was checking on the play clock before calling for the snap. Some observers noted that this was Luck's fault and not Harrison's. However, given that Harrison made three snap-related mistakes last week, does the rookie really deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Ground and pound. For the Colts, 35 carries for 93 yards. They averaged 2.7 yards per carry. It was one of those games where the running game did just enough to make the Texans think about it. Neither Richardson nor Bradshaw found much room to run for most of the night.

Bradshaw's catch. When the Colts needed a boost once the Texans closed the gap to 10 points, Indy faced a third and 10 situation in the second quarter. Luck found Bradshaw for a 17-yard play that picked up the first down. I can't tell you how critical this play was at that precise moment. Momentum had clearly swung to Houston, and a punt would've been a killer here. The Colts ended up getting a field goal from a drive that lasted more than eight minutes.

Fun with clock management, part 1. Andrew Luck called a timeout just before time expired in the first quarter. It looked like the play clock and game clock were lined up, and the quarter could've expired without a delay of game penalty. Maybe Luck just didn't want the Colts' phenomenal first quarter to end? At this stage in the game, the timeout didn't really matter...but the Colts didn't want to risk losing yards for a penalty. Indy ended up scoring a touchdown on the very next play. It all seemed a little befuddling at the time.

Fun with clock management, part 2. At least the previous one made sense when given some context. The end of the first half was a different story. The Colts stopped Houston on third down with about 40 seconds left. They had a timeout remaining, and could've forced a punt and tried their luck at getting a field goal. They had a 13-point lead at the time, so it looked like they'd decided to let the clock run out. That's fine. Then Indy called a timeout with three seconds left. I have no idea why this happened.

Did they get "Rosenfelds'd" or "Mathis'd?" This one's up for debate. With the chance to lead his team on a game-winning drive, Fitzpatrick coughed up the ball. Since there was no helicopter spin, he didn't get "Rosenfels'd." Bjoern Werner tomahawked the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hand for a sack-strip, which is Mathisian. Thus, I'd say the Texans got "Mathis'd" instead of "Rosenfels'd."

For the memories, here's a great recap of the infamous Sage Rosenfels helicopter, which is my favorite "Google fills it in for you" search ever:

Mike Carey was terrible. I don't trust anything that guy says about officiating.

Third down success. Indy was 8-16 on third down in this game, and held the Texans to 1-8.

Consistent pressure. Again, it's hard to say if the pass rush is improving or if Houston's offensive line was up to the task. The Colts harassed Ryan Fitzpatrick all night, finishing with five sacks on the evening. Ricky Jean Francois, D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, and Jonathon Newsome all recorded sacks for the Colts. Even though he was only credited with one tackle and didn't register a sack, Cory Redding was excellent last night.

Did they realize there was an NFL game at their home stadium? The Texans certainly charged back, but it's seldom that you spot a team 24 points and manage to win. The Colts won this game in the first quarter (and nearly lost it in the other three), and it looked like they were going to score 90 points. Busted coverage, poor defense, a special teams disaster (I saw a coach mouth "f*** me" after that onside recovery) and offensive ineptitude all made for an awful first quarter.

The onside kick. How alone was Pat McAfee? There was no one close to the middle of the field, and Indy's punter took advantage, making another perfect kick and doing the dirty work himself by recovering the ball. The Colts cashed in with a quick TD.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 5 vs. Ravens

Quick summary:

The Colts dominate the Baltimore Ravens in almost every facet of the game but have to make a stop on a fourth down play to seal the win. The reason? Turnovers and terrible red zone offense.

Defense first. The game ball goes to the Indianapolis Colts defense. They were repeatedly put in terrible situations thanks to offensive ineptitude, but they came out strong and Baltimore couldn't do much against them. They were rock solid in pass coverage, forced turnovers, and pressured Joe Flacco. They made critical plays at critical times, such as Sergio Brown's sack on fourth and short, and Vontae Davis' interception--a play that set up the Colts' first touchdown. The D held Baltimore to 1 of 11 in third down situations.

Another 300+ yard game for Luck. Luck didn't have the best game of his career. Far from it, in fact. He made plays when the team needed him to, such as the TD pass to Dwayne Allen and a critical 13-yard TD run. He was terrific on the team's final drive. But...

Stop with the bonehead plays, already! Andrew Luck is athletic. Andrew Luck throws a nice ball. Andrew Luck is mobile. Andrew Luck can run. Andrew Luck can also make astonishingly stupid decisions that result in critical turnovers. His second interception of the day was awful. Throw the ball away, scramble, or take the sack. A field goal in that situation isn't the worst thing in the world. And considering last week's awful interception against in the Tennessee game--the one that came right before halftime--and you just wonder what in the world he's thinking sometimes.

Center of attention. So the Colts turned to A.Q. Shipley after injuries forced projected starter Khaled Holmes and backup center Jon Harrison to miss time. The offensive line was playing well. It's still not a collection of "road graders" who'll trample you over in the run game, but pass protection has been solid. The Colts then decided to start Harrison this week over Shipley in a situation one can only describe as "weird." Harrison, a rookie, was okay-ish in the position. The times he did make mistakes were noticeable: he snapped the ball early on a third and short, forcing Luck to try to make a play even though no one else was blocking because the snap count was wrong; he snapped the ball over Luck's head on one occasion; and then appeared not to know the snap count on another play, when the rest of the offensive line fired off the line and Luck never got the snap.

Did anyone miss LaRon Landry? I didn't think so. Sergio Brown had a solid game, and he doesn't have roid rage.

I bring in da good stuff, coach! It seemed like Bjoern Werner was everywhere against the Ravens. He disrupted several plays, rushed the passer, and finished with a pair of sacks. It was the most active I've seen him so far for the Colts, who have struggled (understating it) to rush the passer in the absence of Robert Mathis. On one sack, Werner bullrushed the offensive lineman, bowled him over, and then sacked Joe Flacco. I thought it was a pretty impressive showing.

GRIFFNATION! What's wrong with Griff Whalen? He's been a reliable punt returner but made two major mistakes this week. In one case, he let a punt go and it ended up backing the Colts way up. Not cool. In another case, he fielded a punt near the 10 yard line without calling for a fair catch. He ended up fumbling the ball, giving the Ravens a key turnover at a critical moment of the game. Later, he took a kickoff from nine yards deep in the end zone and barely made it past the 15. Griff's my guy, but he's on the roster because he's got good hands and makes good decisions. Neither was on display this week.

Fourth and uh oh. On their first drive, the Colts decided to go for it on fourth and one. Ahmad Bradshaw got stuffed, and the Colts turned the ball over on downs. In retrospect, the decision to forgo a field goal actually worked out, since the Ravens fumbled the ball on their first offensive play, giving the Colts another chance on offense. They eventually settled for a field goal after the turnover.

Ageless Reggie Wayne. Seven catches, 77 yards. He also got flagged for offensive pass interference and holding. Sometimes you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, right? Wayne also got shoved in the back on what I'm pretty sure wasn't a case of "incidental contact" on a third down play in the end zone. Speaking of which, let's talk about...

Crappy officiating. This was not one of the better officiated games in the league this week. Most of my observations are Colts-centric, as I am a Colts fan and look favorably on the team. However, the Reggie Wayne missed call was a bad one. Greg Toler ended up with a pass interference penalty on a play in which he had solid coverage. Vontae Davis was also flagged for PI on a play that should've ended in an interception by Darius Butler. How the officials can call the Wayne call "incidental contact" (he got pushed in the back!) but flag Toler and Davis is beyond me. I also thought Ahmad Bradshaw made the first down on the fourth and one call, and felt the spot was a bad one.

The lion's share goes to Bradshaw. While Trent Richardson got the start, Bradshaw was the guy the team leaned on. He carried 15 times and was even in for short yardage situations. It seemed clear to me this week that the coaching staff wanted to get Bradshaw more touches. Bradshaw carried 15 times to Richardson's nine. Both averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry (Bradshaw 4.5, Richardson 4.1). The Colts ran for 117 yards as a team even though their play selection tilted heavily in favor of the passing game. But then...

The unthinkable. The Colts marched down the field, putting together a game-clinching drive that started from their own 16 and moved deep into Baltimore territory. All they had to do was keep running the ball, force Baltimore to use its timeouts, and then kick a field goal. Bradshaw--reliable Bradshaw, mind you!--fumbled, giving the Ravens new life.

The tight ends. Dwayne had four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Still, you can't help but feel the Colts need to give him more touches. Fleener had only one catch for 30 yards. Fleener also, to my utter surprise, had some solid blocks in pass protection and the running game.

Time of possession. The Colts held the edge, 38:43 to 21:17. The thing about time of possession is that it doesn't matter if you fail to score points. Had the Colts taken better care of the ball, they would've won this one comfortably. We may have even seen some Hasselbeck late in the game.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 4 vs. Titans

Quick summary:

After a breather last week against FCS Jacksonville, the Colts get a visit from MAC opponent Tennessee. Early mistakes help Indy surge to a quick lead. A stupid turnover is stupid but has no impact on the game as the Colts score 41 points. That doesn't make it any less stupid.

Four score encore. Andrew Luck carved up the Titans, throwing for 393 yards and four touchdowns. A similar performance last week against the Jaguars earned Luck AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Will we see a repeat?

Hot start! Hot start! I've heard a lot of talk about the start Andrew Luck is off to. Before we think about how he's going to break Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown record, keep in mind he threw eight of his 13 touchdowns in back-to-back games against the hapless Jaguars and Titans.

#GRIFFNATION, Part I. Griff Whalen had a solid recovery on an onside kick, thanks to a "block" from "Jack of All Trades" Doyle. It was a great kick, of course, from Pat McAfee.

#GRIFFNATION, Part II. Griffer had a couple of nice punt returns again this week...but they didn't count because of penalties. One of these days, he'll have a long return and it will actually count. Maybe.

Ageless Reggie Wayne. In my Colts preview post, I wrote of Reggie Wayne: I won't believe (he's back) until he goes off for about eight catches and 100+ yards. Seven catches, 119 yards, touchdown. He's back.

Ahmad Bradshaw: Red Zone Secret Agent. Bradshaw has been the go-to guy in the red zone. I was going to make a joke about how people might want to cover him inside the 20...but it wouldn't be relevant given that this week's TD came from a sick move and a broken tackle.

Ground pound. The Mistake finished with 47 yards on 20 carries...a meaty 2.4 average. His longest run was 10 yards and he did have a touchdown. The Colts keep sending him "into the garbage" at the line of scrimmage and expecting he'll get out of it. He won't.

Richardson in the passing game. Richardson had a drop on a poorly thrown ball from Luck. Other than that, though, he did some nice work out of the backfield, catching four passes for 54 yards. I hate it when people say they need to get a certain player out in space (I think about "Pigs in Spaaaaaaace" every time), but Indy needs to give Richardson a couple chances on screens and swing passes. He's show he can be effective there.

T.Y. triumphant. T.Y. Hilton had six catches for 105 yards. He was really, really good in the first half. The Colts moved him around and he hurt the Titans on all kinds of routes.

I love it when M. Adams does well. Mike Adams had two interceptions against the Titans. Both were kind of "right place, right time," but they still count. He wears number custom Colts jersey is number 7. Nine minus two equals seven, you know? Coincidence? Oh, yeah, totally that.

Maybe he should get mugged every single time? Coby Fleener, left completely by himself last week when dropping a pass, made a nice TD catch this week after getting absolutely mugged. He stuck with the play, though, and made a nice catch.

Four TDs, four different guys. Dwayne Allen, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, and Ahmad Bradshaw were all recipients of TD passes this week for the Colts.

One of the greats. How good is Reggie Wayne? How about a third down catch that he went up and got? Or a sideline back shoulder throw in which he caught the ball, spun, and got into the end zone? Or there's this: he's seventh on the NFL's career receptions list and 10th in career receiving yards. He's caught three or more passes in 75 straight NFL record.

The interception. What did Andrew Luck see there? Who was he trying to get the ball to? Those are answers only No. 12 knows. As soon as he threw the ball, he knew it was a mistake and sprinted downfield to make the tackle. Still, the bonehead play opened the door--just slightly--for the Titans. You can't make those kinds of mistakes against anyone.

Turnover battle. The Colts keyed on a pair of early turnovers to take control of the game. While the Titans did draw within 20-10, the game wasn't close.

Gutsy call. The Chuck Pagano Colts aren't known for rolling the dice or doing anything particularly risky. Indy flipped the script with an onside kick after their first touchdown. They caught the Titans sleeping, and it was a beautiful thing. Even if it hadn't paid off, I would've appreciated it.

Robert Mathis' suspension is over! Not that it matters.

Monday fallout. Speaking of players who won't be with the Colts, Da'Rick Rogers was dismissed from the team after a drinking and driving arrest. Then we learned LaRon Landry earned a four-game suspension for violating the league's PED policy. Great job, guys. Dismissing Rogers? He had zero impact on the team, but his size and speed kept him on the roster, so it's not a big loss if the Colts stay healthy at wide receiver. I've criticized Landry, but you never like to see a starting player miss four games.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 3 vs. Jaguars

Quick summary:

The Colts get a breather against FCS foe Jacksonville in a game that emphasizes their strengths and reveals few of their flaws. The most exciting part of the game is the debut of Jaguars rookie QB Blake Bortles, who threw three touchdowns, including one to Greg Toler.

People have to pay to see this. Poor, poor Jacksonville fans. The stadium added pools to give the place a unique feel, but the team is horrible. The first half was lifeless ineptitude on offense and defense. The Colts scored points on their first six possessions. They put 20 points on the board before the Jags even got a first down.

He's pretty Lucking good. Luck was pretty much flawless in this game, getting plenty of time in the pocket for the most part and hitting his receivers on the mark in most cases. He threw four touchdown passes (and really should've thrown five), one each to Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen.

Improved pass rush. Listen, it's really hard to tell if the pass rush was really that effective since the Colts were playing AAA-affiliate-caliber Jacksonville. Still, they finished with four sacks and put consistent heat on the Jags' hapless offensive line by bringing pressure with different looks and personnel.

That time Reggie Wayne intercepted a pass intended for him. One of my favorite moments of the game was when a Jacksonville defender sat back in coverage and licked his chops for an interception only to be let down when Wayne stepped in front of him and made the catch. Then the Jacksonville players started whining to referees about a push off or some nonsense like that. It was fun.

Some turnovers. Vontae Davis and Greg Toler both had interceptions. D'Qwell Jackson forced a fumble and Darius Butler recovered it. Again, it's kind of like taking candy from a baby when it comes to the Jaguars, but it was still good to see the Colts force the issue and win the turnover battle.

Why is Stephen A. Smith talking to Richard Sherman in a Gorton's fisherman outfit? These commercials made zero sense and played about a billion times.

Money. Adam Vinatieri, Mr. Reliable. Good from 48, 43, and 25 yards.

Ground it out. For the second straight week, the Colts' ground attack was productive. Neither Trent Richardson nor Ahmad Bradshaw lit up the stat sheet, but they were able to break some good runs. Richardson's 27-yard scamper was particularly notable. The Colts averaged five yards per attempt.

But it's not all good. Richardson couldn't punch it in after two consecutive carries from the 1-yard line. The Colts brought this guy in to steamroll defenders in situations like this. No dice.

Hasselbeck! It's a good sign when you see the veteran backup enter the game. It means the Colts are rolling along.

Fleenered! How open was Coby Fleener? Waaaaay open. How did he drop the pass? The world may never know.

Hilton active. Five catches for 80 yards this week for T.Y. Hilton. He left the game with an ankle injury that we're hoping isn't severe. After a middling start to the year, it was great to see him make a few plays.

Gus Bradley's Red Flag of Discontent. The Jaguars head coach threw a challenge flag with under two minutes left in the first half. It was stupid. However, in the "old days," throwing a red flag would've nullified the ability for the play to be reviewed. The NFL changed the rule, though, taking a useless timeout from the Jaguars as recompense for Bradley's stupidity. If the Jaguars hadn't had a timeout at that point in the game, they would've been penalized...but the play still would've been reviewed. This rule change--which protects boneheaded coaches who do boneheaded things--was changed thanks to Jim Schwartz's Thanksgiving Anti-Miracle.

Ageless Reggie Wayne. Four catches, 62 yards. Nothing flashy or spectacular for No. 87, but a solid performance nonetheless.

Donte Moncrief. Moncrief saw more playing time this week because of an injury to Hilton and the fact that the Colts were destroying the opposition. He had four catches for 55 yards and one rush for seven yards. I think the Colts have to get him on the field more, as he's shown explosion and elusiveness after the catch.

Probably should've held them to three points. Blake Bortles' first career NFL touchdown pass had little to do with him, actually. Receiver Allen Hurns broke through tackles from Darius Butler and Mike Adams (no relation). I haven't seen tackling that bad since I played defensive end at Northeastern High School.

Probably should've held them to ten points. Bortles used the fake spike to lull the Colts defense into "don't even try" mode. This one was waaaaaay too easy.

Toler's big play. It wasn't a pressure situation or particularly necessary, but Greg Toler showed his ballhawk tendencies by picking off a Bortles pass and taking it all the way to the house.

The future? Jacksonville wasn't going to make the playoffs (or even be competitive, apparently) with Chad Henne under center. It's the easiest coaching/personnel move to make after an 0-3 start: let Bortles play. The fans will pay to see him, he'll get to develop with no pressure, and you'll get a full account of what he can do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 2 vs. Eagles

Quick summary:

Colts unleash power running game and roll over Eagles in the first half. A key fumble in the second half helps fuel a Philly comeback, and Mr. Clutch Andrew Luck can't lead Indy to victory.

Bad calls and no-calls by the officials did not lose this game. The Colts lost this game when Trent Richardson fumbled the ball in the third quarter. The play changed the entire landscape of the game, allowing the Eagles to quickly tie things up. I know, I know...the Colts retook the lead later and still had their chances, but the fumble signaled the complete transfer of momentum from Indy to Philly.

That running game. Man, I didn't think the Stanford ground-em-out playbook would work in the NFL. The Colts had great success with it, using three tight end sets and unbalanced lines to smashmouth their way down the field. I never saw that coming. The Mistake had 21 carries for 79 yards and The Guy Who Should Start had 13 carries for 70 yards. For the most part, Indy ran at will. You know, until it counted.

The most valuable tight end? Coby Fleener? God, no. Dwayne Allen? A respectable answer. The real answer is Jack "Harry" Doyle, who caught a touchdown pass and provided some excellent blocking in the running game. I'm betting he wasn't on the scouting report breakdown for the Colts.

I'll take things that are missing for 200, Alex. The answer: It's what gives opposing quarterbacks so much time to throw. The question: What is the pass rush? My goodness, I knew the Colts would miss Robert Mathis, but I thought they'd generate a pass rush on occasion even if by accident.

Darren Effing Sproles. Little dude can ball, that's for sure. It feels like he'd be a first ballot Hall of Famer if he got to play against the Colts every week. It doesn't matter if he plays for the Chargers, Saints, or Eagles--Sproles is a bona fide Colts killer.

Adventures in playcalling, part one. It's curious that when the Colts need to play it safe and a field goal would do, they come out on 3rd and 9 and try to pass. The play ended up in an interception (and, maybe, it could've been pass interference), but why not swing it out to Ahmad Bradshaw or just hand him the ball? You know Vinatieri's going to nail that field goal, giving the Colts a two-score lead.

Adventures in playcalling, part two. On the Colts' final drive, Richardson picks up six yards with a decent run on first down. On 2nd and 4, the Colts run it again for a loss. This would've been a great down for a play-action pass or a nice, safe throw to Reggie Wayne. So, yeah, I complain in one situation because they passed when I thought they should've run, and then suggest they should've passed here instead of running. We're talking about two completely different game situations and two completely different parts of the field.

Maybe roll him out? The Eagles loaded up the middle and put a lot of pressure on the interior of the offensive line. Gruden talked often about how the rush was getting Luck off his "mark" in the pocket. Why not roll out Luck out on a handful of passes so the "mark" changes?

Robert Mathis tweeted during the game. It was kind of surreal to see tweets from Mathis show up on my timeline. Unfortunately, nothing No. 98 wanted to happen actually transpired. For example:

Still, it was a good effort and I'm glad he's supporting the team.

#GRIFFNATION! Griff Whalen will break a big punt return one of these days. It'll just take a flag-free performance by the rest of the special teams unit.

From the "At least we don't have to hear it anymore" department. "Andrew Luck hasn't lost back-to-back games in his pro career." Silver linings, people. Silver linings.

More than Toler-able. That interception at the end of the first half by Greg Toler was absolutely incredible.

Secondary concerns? The unit played pretty well for the most part. There were a few illegal contact flags and a huge one on Vontae Davis that set up a key Eagles score. I feel for these guys because they're out there covering receivers as long as they can because there's absolutely no pass rush whatsoever.

Horse collar call was horse s***. I don't know if the Colts would've stopped Philadelphia on 3rd and 6, but I do know they should've had the chance to try. The man I called LaWorthless last week made a great play. His reward? Automatic first down for Philadelphia.

Not time to panic. The Colts will pick themselves up. If there's anything we've seen from Chuck Pagano's team, it's resiliency. The team has lots of issues, though (shaky interior offensive line, no pass rush, safety play, to name a few).

How do you spell relief? J-A-G-U-A-R-S.