Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Studicus Selects 2014

Once, long ago, I posted on the internet as Studicus, an in-joke nickname related to a skit from high school. When I first started blogging, I called my year-end entries "Studicus Selects." The tradition has continued since 2005...although I skipped 2006 for some unknown reason.

You'll find past entries here (scroll down for the 2014 picks):

Studicus Selects 2013
Studicus Selects 2012
Studicus Selects 2011
Studicus Selects 2010
Studicus Selects 2009
Studicus Selects 2008
Studicus Selects 2007
Studicus Selects 2005

The year Indiana Out-Hothed Hoth. We've had cold winters in Indiana. We've had snowy winters in Indiana. We've had mild winters in Indiana. We rarely, however, have winters in which you can't tell your home from Echo Base on Hoth. It was pure misery in 2014, with county travel restrictions all across the state and all the snow and ice you'd ever want to see in your life. I spent three days away from home in a hotel room close to work because of the weather.

I could've used a tauntaun (although it would've died because of the extreme cold) or a snowspeeder (although we were have trouble adapting them to the cold). I think I speak for everyone when I say it's something we don't want to see ever again. On the plus side, it spawned fun Facebook updates like this:

"Good to be home for the first time since early Sunday morning. Passed three tauntauns and four AT-AT walkers on the way back. Let me tell you, the turn lane to Echo Base was a MESS. Nearly rammed an Imperial probe droid."

Least effective good luck charm, NFL Playoffs category. I thought the horsehead hat would help the Indianapolis Colts against the New England Patriots. It didn't. I thought dusting off my old Colts Peyton Manning jersey would help the Denver Broncos beat the Seattle Seahawks. It didn't.

So this category is actually a push. They both stunk.

Least comfortable head decoration, Authors Fair category. I donned a Viking helmet for a few minutes at the Madison Authors Fair. It belonged to a cool author named Stu Thaman.

Best meeting with local chieftains, Iowa category. I made my first-ever trip to Iowa this year. It's the birthplace of my father-in-law and Anne was also born there. I got to see her grandparents and extended family. Iowa reminded me a lot of my hometown in Williamsburg, Ind. We saw a lot of gravel roads, farmland, small businesses, and small towns. Cell phone reception was predictably horrible.

Still, I had a great time seeing where my father-in-law came from. He needed back surgery this year, and this was the last big trip he was able to make before the surgery. I split driving duties with my brother-in-law, Tom.

Favorite international curling squad, Olympics category. The Olympics were back this year! I'm a sucker for the Winter Games. Curling remains my favorite sport to watch, although I'll sit through just about anything. My wife LOVED the skip of Norway's curling team. I thought he looked like a villain from an 80s action movie:
Biggest laugh, "intimidating Uncle Matt" category. My nephew Luke (and niece Elise) love playing "Monkey in the Middle" (when I was a kid, it was called keep-away, but whatever) when I visit. I laugh every time I think about a memorable encounter Luke and I had during a game over the summer. Here's a Facebook entry from June 7, 2014:
"Best part of the day: playing keep keep-away with my niece Elise and nephew Luke. While I was in the middle, I played some 'pressure D' on Luke and got right in his face. He couldn't throw around or over after a few seconds, he ran into the garage and closed the door. Smart kid."

Saddest passage, aquatic frog category. Sadly, our little frog died over the summer. Prince was part of our household for five years. He was a little aquatic frog. You wouldn't think a little pet like that would have much personality, but Prince had a ton of it. He swam to the edge of his tank and watched Colts football games with me (and sometimes movies). I think he was attracted to the flashing lights on the TV.

Anne took very good care of the little guy, but he was sick at the end and eventually passed away. He gave us a lot of good stories to tell, and I'll never forget him. Emptying out his tank and putting it away was one of the worst moments of the year, and our home feels like it's missing something without him.

Writing year in review. 2014 ended up being a very productive writing year. From an events standpoint, I went to my old elementary school to talk to a gifted and talented class about writing. The kids were very gracious. I also attended the Authors Fair in Madison and the Geek-A-Thon event at Hanover College. I probably need to do some more book signings!

From a writing perspective, I finished and submitted III Crimsonstreak, the third and final book in the Crimsonstreak series. I finished a book called That's No Moon, which is equal parts Galaxy Quest, Jurassic Park, and National Lampoon's Vacation with a big portion of Star Wars pop culture goodness thrown in. I finished the first draft of a book called The Exclusive, a paranormal suspense novel involving a hard-driving TV news reporter who accidentally unleashes the apocalypse. Over the summer, I wrote a middle grade science fiction book adapting a story I wrote in sixth grade called The Adventures of the Taxis. In the fall, I wrote a first draft of Timey Dancer, an idea I kicked around for a few years before writing (more on that below). In December, I began work on a sequel to an unpublished superhero book called The Franchise. The sequel's working title is The Franchise: Awakening.

Needless to say, it's been a busy, busy writing year. I need to submit more work, however. Query letters and rejections are the worst, but they're part of the deal.

Most ridiculous book idea, "It Came from Facebook" category. Timey Dancer is a book about a male exotic dancer named Russ "Studicus" Chambers who gets transported to Ancient Rome. He ends up having to perform for Julius Caesar and introduces pole dancing. It's a ridiculous idea that sprang from a Facebook exchange involving my brother, a friend, and me. The other inspiration was the great "Saturday Night Live" sketch featuring Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley.

Favorite movie, Marvel Cinematic Universe category. I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's my favorite movie of the year--and it may be my favorite Marvel movie. You've got great characters, fantastic action sequences, thrilling spycraft, jarring conspiracies, and humor. The movie sent a ripple throughout the whole MCU, and helped make "Agents of SHIELD" must-watch TV. Captain America has always been among my favorite superheroes, and the movie did a phenomenal job of retaining his all-American image while he comes to grips with an ever-changing world.

Best purchase, so long cable category. We dumped AT&T Uverse service because we were sick of paying for TV. We bought a Mohu Leaf and a Roku Streaming Stick, and haven't looked back. The Leaf gives me all the Indianapolis channels while the Roku gives me access to Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services like VUDU and Target Ticket. By my calculations, we've saved $1,200 since April.

Best Christmas gift given, gray market movie category. My brothers-in-law Tom and Matt wanted the Star Wars movies without any digital enhancements or changes. I couldn't do it myself, but I found someone who'd already "despecialized" the movies. Going through some questionable gray markets, I found the movies and packaged them as the "Nothing Special Editions." I even presented them with a letter "from" George Lucas apologizing for changing Star Wars.

"You've won Christmas," Tom said after getting the gift.

I also threw in a copy for my brother.

Best Christmas gift received, childhood nostalgia category. My brother and his family bought me the Intellivision Flashback. It's a miniature "plug and play" Intellivision gaming console and it's fantastic.

The box boasts that it contains 61 games, and it certainly does. I played World Championship Baseball the other night, and it's pretty much spot-on. The console even comes with overlays for the controllers! I was so pumped about it.

Longest wait from shortest trailer, movie category. I was partially let down and partially elated when the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. The elation eventually won out over the disappointment, though it would've been great to see Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewie in there.

A tribute to Grandma Adams. We said goodbye to Grandma Adams this year. She was 89 years old, and there will never be another like her.

Grandma was never shy about giving her opinion on something. She had, as my mom liked to say, "no filter." She attended countless baseball and basketball games where she always calmly gave her opinions to the umpires and referees. One of my fondest memories is when she took my brother and I to see Transformers: The Movie and had no idea what to do with us when we started bawling over the death of Optimus Prime. I don't think she ever took us to another movie.

Grandma made the best fried potatoes and hamburgers I'll ever eat. When you went to visit her, food was mandatory. It didn't matter if you'd just eaten or were on a diet, Grandma would whip up a hamburger and fried potatoes and insist you have a Coke with it. She loved cowboy movies, old mystery shows, and Bill O'Reilly. When it came to sports, she seldom missed an Indiana Hoosiers game and kept an eye on the Cincinnati Reds. It there was a ballgame on TV, she was probably watching it.

I fondly remember Christmas Eve at Grandma's house on the old farm. I am, in fact, wearing a fleece jacket she bought me for Christmas years ago as I write this. Even though she was on a fixed income for years, she made sure everyone had some presents under the tree. I missed the McDonald's gift certificates she bought almost every year. You don't realize how grateful you are for those things until they're gone.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 17 vs. Titans

Quick summary:

The Colts wrap up their AFC South Sucks Tour by beating up on the Tennessee Titans.

Week 5 of the preseason. This game meant nothing for the Colts. Sure, there were some records to chase, but the Colts could've sat the starters for four quarters and lost, and it wouldn't have changed their playoff position one bit. As a result, we were treated to a hefty dose of Matt Hasselbeck, Zurlon Tipton, and Hakeem Nicks in the second half.

Andrew Luck broke a record. Luck set a new franchise mark for passing yards in a season, dethroning Colts legend Peyton Manning.

And Reggie Wayne was part of history. It doesn't get much more vintage Reggie Wayne than the catch No. 87 made to secure Lucks' franchise mark. Wayne showed the grace, athleticism, and hands we've come to expect from him. Too bad he couldn't make it into the endzone. Someone made a crack that Reggie "couldn't outrun Father Time." It's a good enough joke, but Reggie was never a breakaway speed guy. He made his bones with great footwork, precision routes, and incredible hands. Let's hope that groin strain isn't anything major.

Jonathan Newsome leads the team in sacks. The rookie from Ball State was touted as an undersized speed rusher who would probably have minimal impact on the team. He's really come on in the latter half of the season. Since Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden both kind of like to pull disappearing acts from week to week, Newsome's been a nice surprise as a pass rusher. Indy's rush unit still isn't very effective, however.

Adam Vinatieri is human. He missed a 46-yard field goal, ending his consecutive FG streak. I say better to break it now than have it happen in the playoffs, if it had to happen at all. Vinny's job is still safe.

Jack Doyle! Jack Doyle! He's the tight end no one ever talks about. Doyle does the dirty work, and this week he had four catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. I like it when the role players--the dirty work guys--get the chance to shine.

Josh Cribbs still has it. Cribbs took a kickoff return 76 yards before he was stopped. He made some great cuts, showed tremendous vision, and even flashed some strength while a Titans defender tried to bring him down. Of course, Cribbs also let the Titans have a 79-yard punt when he watched a ball bounce and bounce and bounce until it was a touchback. You don't see many 59-yard net punts involving a touchback, that's for sure.

A.Q. Shipley sighting! Shipley was on the offensive line, which saw a reshuffled starting unit for the tenth time this season. Jack Mewhort started at right guard for Indy. Of course, Shipley suffered an injury and had to leave the game. Hugh Thornton also left with an injury, extending the Colts' misery along the offensive line. Gosder Cherilus and Joe Reitz are supposed to come back for next week's game, so there's that.

Coby Fleener. I love to poke fun at Fleener. Heck, I expected him to totally drop that wide open TD pass from Luck. To his credit, he didn't. Fleener's put together a really nice season and turned out to be a pretty good redzone option. His numbers are good: 51 catches, 771 yards, and 8 touchdowns. He added a nice catch from Hasselbeck and finished with two touchdowns. The tight ends, in fact, were responsible for all three of the Colts' touchdowns this week.

Theft by Vontae Davis! The Pro Bowl corner simply took the ball away from Titans running back Bishop Sankey in one of the best plays of the year.

Hustle matters. Look, Mike Adams totally got blasted by Shonn Greene. It was one of those "runaway freight train" plays. I'm sure Adams will enjoy seeing it on film. But there was something about that play that I loved--Greg Toler hustled his butt off and stopped Greene from getting into the endzone. The Titans ended up settling for a field goal on the drive. Hustle matters, folks, even in meaningless games.

The AFC South sucks. The Colts went 6-0 in the division this year, beating up on the mighty Titans, Jaguars, and Texans. Only Houston managed a winning record at 9-7. Statistically, it wasn't the worst division in football thanks to the inept NFC South, where every team had a losing record. You'd be hard-pressed to find two teams more inept than Jacksonville and Tennessee, however.

Who you taking at No. 2, Tennessee? The Titans will have the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. Will they go after one of the high-profile quarterbacks? Will they trade the pick instead of being forced to select that knucklehead from Florida State? Intrigue, people. Intrigue.

Who Dey! Who Dey! Who Dey say gonna host dem Bengals?! Since the Bengals disappointed their fans on Sunday Night Football by letting the Pittsburgh Steelers win the AFC North, they get to come to Lucas Oil Stadium to play the Colts. Indy dominated the Bengals during a 27-0 win back in October when they were actually playing good football. The Bengals were without all-world wide receiver A.J. Green in that game--and the A.J. Green Watch is in full effect for Sunday after he suffered a concussion against the Steelers.

No turnovers. After a rash of turnover-plagued performances, the Colts didn't yield the ball once this week. They came pretty close in the first quarter, though, when Andrew Luck had one of his signature "I'll just keep this play alive forever and cough up the ball" moments. Hugh Thornton recovered that one, fortunately.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 16 vs. Cowboys

Quick summary:

An entire football team is lost. Will we ever find them? Will they ever find themselves?

That escalated quickly. First it was 7-0. Then 14-0. Then 21-0. Then 28-0. And so on. Finally, the Colts scored a meaningless touchdown to make it 42-7.

Drop it like it's Allen. Dwayne Allen. What the heck? He wasn't the only one, of course. No one could catch the ball.

Let's gamble! Perhaps the Colts coaching staff foresaw the calamity that was about to befall the football team. Perhaps Pat McAfee foresaw it. Either way, the decision to run a fake punt on their own 19-yard line didn't pay off. Dewey McDonald--of course his name is Dewey--couldn't catch the ball despite being Coby Fleener wide open. The dropped pass turned into an immediate touchdown, and the game was over. We just had to slog through three more quarters of it.

Taunting! Next time you lay a guy out and decide it's time to stand over him in intimidating fashion and yell something about his mother, don't do it. I don't think the Colts would've magically won this game if Jerrell Freeman's penalty hadn't happened and the Cowboys had to punt, but I'll always wonder.

Greg in-Tolerable. He had a rough game, didn't he? Yikes. Of course, no one had a good game, so...

Matt Hasselbeck had more yards than Andrew Luck. Think about that for a second. At least the coaching staff decided to pull Luck. There was no reason for him to be in the game because the Colts weren't coming back.

How bad was the game? Brandon Weeden threw a 43-yard touchdown pass. Think about that.

But it was an important one yard. The Colts carried ten times for one total yard. Boom Herron carried seven times for three yards, Trent Richardson carried twice for one yard, and Zurlon Tipton carried one time for minus-three yards. Glad Indy really got the ground game going this week.

So, why is he still in the game? You can direct this one at DeMarco Murray, Reggie Wayne, Tony Romo, and any other player who's been hurt and had no business being in a lopsided game. I know Murray is Dallas' bell cow, but the guy had hand surgery this week and still carried 22 times. I'm not upset that Dallas kept in the "A" team for a long time...but I'd be livid if I were a Cowboys fan. This was a perfect opportunity to let him rest up for the entire half and let the other guys get the carries.

Mysteries of the Offensive Line. So, Khaled Holmes played center. Everyone saw that coming, right? And then Xavier Nixon was in for the injured Gosder Cherilous and was absolutely awful. Jonotthan Harrison was active but didn't play on the o-line. Same thing with A.Q. Shipley. Your starting group: Anthony Castonzo at LT, Jack Mewhort at LG, Khaled Holmes at C, Lance Louis at RG, and Xavier Nixon at RT. It wasn't good. This was the ninth different starting line for the Colts this season. Consistency!

"It was bad. A lot of bad. Not much good, if any." That's Andrew Luck after the game. I considered just posting a GIF of the Death Star exploding instead of writing a full post this week. I'll let that supplement my ramblings instead:

Remember in like Week 6 when everybody said the Cowboys were like the best team in the NFL? The Colts must've remembered, because they certainly played like they were afraid of them.

More Jack Doyle! Seriously. Give me more! Just...don't let him catch a pass in the endzone because he'll drop it.

Josh Cribbs on offense. So, that happened late in the game. Maybe he should've replaced Reggie Wayne earlier? Just a thought.

The Colts have beaten three teams with winning records! The Bengals, the Ravens, and...the Texans. They've lost (mostly in lopsided fashion) to any good team they've played, and have been outscored in their last three losses (Pittsburgh, New England, and Dallas) by a combined margin of 135-61. Your AFC South Champions are poised for a deep postseason run, everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 15 vs. Texans

Quick summary:

If the Texans had a quarterback, the Colts would've lost.

Let's just hand out points like they're candy. Andrew Luck and the Colts gave another opponent an easy six points after another interception return. I guess the good news is that the Colts cut their turnovers in half this week.

Not at their best. Indy won another game in which the team certainly wasn't at its best. We saw missed throws, turnovers, shoddy protection, etc. You know, basically all of the things that annoy me about this particular team.

I didn't know Hakeem Nicks still played for the Colts! Nicks hasn't contributed much to the team this year, but he did have a nice catch and run for a touchdown. Considering the Colts scored only 17 points this week, it was much needed.

Reggie bein' Reggie. Reggie Wayne did have a fumble, but at least he seemed more like himself this week. He caught four passes on five targets, and while the yardage wasn't anything to brag about, the fact that he was able to make Reggie-like catches was heartening. I still think the Colts should consider getting him some rest.

And for dessert, I'll have two Double Quarter-Pounders. With cheese. The announcers basically suggested this week that Trent Richardson "ran heavy" and "looked heavy." So, um, basically, Trent Richardson is fat, carrying an "extra six or seven pounds," in Rich Gannon's estimation. Gannon went on an extended rant--er, analysis--that mentioned Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell and how some backs couldn't carry extra weight.

Richardson's YPC was higher than Andrew Luck's! This basically never happens.

Lowering the Boom. I continue to like what I see from Boom Herron. He's not the biggest guy out there, but he's got some explosion and elusiveness. He was fantastic on the Colts' final scoring drive. For the game, he carried 11 times for 60 yards.

Really stuffing the stat sheet, guys. Andrew Luck passed for 187 yards this week. T.Y. Hilton led Colts receivers with 50 yards. The Texans actually outgained Indy in terms of total yards and also held the edge in time of possession. Despite this, the Colts won the game and clinched the AFC South.

Just the Texans bein' the Texans, Part 1. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled early in the game and broke his left leg. The Texans brought in rookie quarterback Tom Savage, who completed his first pass before having a long day that included handing off to a running back who wasn't there and then being caught in the "OMG these guys are going to kill me" position as Colts defenders closed in.

Just the Texans bein' the Texans, Part 2. After catching a break by forcing a Reggie Wayne fumble, the Texans turned the ball right back over as Savage and Arian Foster botched the handoff. It was the easiest fumble recovery of Bjoern "I Bring in Da Good Stuff, Coach" Werner's career. There is no play more Texansy than that.

Speaking of Bjoern... He didn't have the game of his career or anything, and it was a depleted Texans team, but it felt like Werner was around the ball a lot this game. After several quiet games, it was good to see.

Holding is a dangerous affliction that makes no friend of Colt or Texan. The Colts had a phenomenal TD catch by Donte Moncrief wiped out because Antony Castonzo was holding on for dear life against J.J. Watt. Meantime, the Texans had a 25-yard TD run by Arian Foster wiped out because of a holding penalty by DeVier Posey. Both holding penalties were of the "that's impossible for the officials to miss" variety.

Third and what the heck was that? The Colts were hoping to catch the Texans off guard on a third and goal play by calling a bootleg for Luck. Problem is, it didn't fool anyone. I would've preferred a play-action pass there or a Boom Herron run. At that point in the drive, though, Richardson was on the field because I think Herron was gassed from gashing the Texans defense. On the other hand, if the play call had worked, I'm sure I'd be writing about how great of an idea it was.

D'Qwell Jackson continues to tackle people. He was credited 10 total tackles (6 solo) this week. For the season, he has 120 tackles.

In the playoffs. When it comes to the NFL, all that matters is making it in. The Colts are there--they're AFC South Champions again. They'll host a playoff game, and unless something unlikely happens, that game will come during the first round. If they win, they're headed to Denver or New England.

All-Time Reggie. We've always known Reggie Wayne is one of the all-time Colts. When he re-signed with the team after the 2-14 season and extended his career with Andrew Luck at the helm, it sealed the deal. Still, anyone who breaks a Peyton Manning record for wins and career games warrants an extra mention. Reggie earned the game ball.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 14 vs. Browns

Quick summary:

The Colts win a game they have no business winning because nothing good ever happens to the Cleveland Browns.

90 yards to glory. We've seen this one before: the Colts put together a lackluster performance but survive on the strength of a late drive. The 90-yard touchdown drive needed something from all of the team's rising young stars. Donte Moncrief had a key catch, and so did Coby Fleener. Dwayne Allen drew a crucial pass interference penalty. Boom Herron had the most important one-yard run of his career. Andrew Luck made a big play with his legs. T.Y. Hilton caught the game winner.

Da Boom. Boom Herron saved the day. There's no disputing this. Without his second and third effort on a fourth and inches, the Colts would've lost. Herron never let up, twisting out of tackles and getting juuuuuuuust enough yardage for a first down. The less said about the original spot there, the better.

T.Y. terrific. T.Y. Hilton has shed the reputation of being a one-dimensional "speed" guy. He runs good routes and can shake off defenders. That world-class speed is always there for him, of course. He ended up with 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. One went for 42 yards, the other for one yard--but what an important yard it was.

Not all wine and roses, however. T.Y. wasn't perfect. He fumbled the ball away after a catch (the Browns didn't get any points out of it), had a ball glance off his hands and into the grasp of a Browns defender, and also dropped a perfectly thrown pass on a fade route in the endzone. I'd still take him on my team, however.

D'oh for two. The Colts are slavishly devoted to "The Chart" of two-point conversion scenarios and should kill it with fire because theirs is terrible. There was no reason to go for two after Hilton's TD catch in the third quarter. In my humble opinion, it was too early in the game to do that. You don't go for two unless you absolutely had to, and the Colts had to know they were going to get a few more cracks at the Browns defense because the Browns offense is terrible. The failed conversion forced them to go for two after the eventual game-winning TD. They also failed to convert, meaning Cleveland could've won the game with a field goal.

Shipley, believe it or not. The Colts hate A.Q. Shipley. I'd love to know why. He's not the monster that Jonotthan "There Are Some Stupid Ways to Spell Jonathan" Harrison is and doesn't have the latter's potential. I get that. What I don't get, however, is how Shipley continues to get the short end of the stick. He outplayed Samson Satele but ended up getting shipped off to Baltimore. After being cast away there, he ended up back in Indy, where he filled in at center because the Colts have no plan for their offensive line. How was Shipley rewarded for his admirable play? He didn't sniff the football field until Hugh Thornton got hurt. Meanwhile, Harrison was given every chance to snap balls over Luck's head and miss the block that led to a Browns touchdown. Shipley only got into the game because Harrison was hurt. I don't get it. I don't think Shipley's the best offensive lineman ever, but it seems to me he's been effective when he's in, limited potential or not.

(Not So) Ageless Reggie Wayne. I'm not going to bag on Reggie. I just can't. I'm not going to say he's too old and his skills have diminished because it breaks my heart to even think that way. Pagano said Reggie has a torn tricep that's making it impossible for him to catch the ball. I hope that's the case. Reggie's trying to catch balls in the fold of his arm and his chest--something he never does. He had just one catch on eight targets and looked absolutely awful. If he's hurt, rest him. Let him heal.

Just spot 'em a couple touchdowns. It'll be fine. I appreciate the fact that the Colts don't panic when things go wrong. I don't appreciate how often things go wrong, however. The Colts surrendered two defensive touchdowns: one on a fumble in the endzone and the other on a pick six. Luck added another interception and Hilton lost a fumble. The interception resulted in a field goal, meaning the Colts offense effectively handed the Browns 17 points. That would spell a blowout against most teams, but we're talking about the Browns.

Pure misery. I don't know how Browns fans do it. I really don't. I remember when the Colts had back-to-back 3-13 seasons and suffered through the Peyton-less 2-14 campaign. It's been winning seasons and playoffs for all but one other year since 1999. Colts fans saw an unprecedented era of terrific play. The Browns, however, haven't tasted success. Their games are nearly impossible to watch no matter who's at quarterback. If their offense could do anything--just a single play!--they win this game. Alas, they couldn't and they didn't.

Sure, he's offside, but block him, maybe? I agree with Gosder Cherilus that Paul Kruger was offside just before he rocked Andrew Luck and picked up a 15-yard roughing the passer/contact with the helmet penalty. However, Cherilus just stood there and numbly pointed at the officials to bring attention to Kruger's offsidedness (I know, not a word). Let's just block him next time, just to be safe, okay?

Then again, maybe Cherilus really wanted that field goal. The Colts ended up with an important field goal after Kruger's penalty. So I guess there's that.

Josh Gordy. He's been pretty much terrible in relief of Vontae Davis, but he wasn't awful this week. He also had the interception that finally sealed the game (as if the Browns were going to do anything).

Unexpected Bonehead Play Award. This one goes to Cory Redding. The veteran had an inexplicable roughing the passer penalty near the end of the game. Did he think the Colts had intercepted the ball and decide it was a good time to take a shot at Hoyer? It was unnecessary.

Johnny Football time! The Browns are done. You know it, I know it, they know it. That means it's time to get a good look at their first-round pick because that's what the NFL wants. Hoyer missed a bunch of throws, including a couple to guys who were wide open.

I'll have what he's having. Adam Vinatieri ages like a fine wine. I was afraid the 51-yarder was too much to ask for, but he nailed it.

Yep, it did hit the ground. The Colts got a break late when Josh Gordon caught a 14-yard pass on third down. That wasn't the break. The Colts challenged the play, and the ball definitely hit the turf. The Browns punted, and it was 90 yards to glory from there.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 13 vs. Redskins

Quick summary:

A cloud of doubt once again hangs over the Colts after another slow start. Eventually, they get it together and show Washington the true meaning of pain.

Awful start. Andrew Luck was sacked on the first play of the game and fumbled the ball, giving the Redskins great field position. Washington settled for a field goal. Luck threw an interception on the next series, but the 'Skins couldn't capitalize. Since the Redskins are a terrible football team, none of these things mattered.

BOOM, BABY! The Colts have a great two-back system: Trent Richardson and the Other Guy Who Runs It Better. Herron went 49 yards on a touchdown run and was solid. However, he also put the ball on the turf for the second straight game. That's something to watch.

The Mistake. We're back to calling Trent Richardson "The Mistake" this week. It's a pretty popular thing to do, but he was especially ineffective this week, averaging just 1.5 yards/carry and gracing us with a long rush of three yards. Three. Stinking. Yards. Richardson's obviously not the guy the Colts thought he'd be, but they could also use him a little better. He's been more effective on swing/screen passes. Then again, when you have T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener to throw to, why waste a pass on T-Rich?

Fleener! No one covered Coby Fleener this week. He had a monster game, reeling in four catches for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The first TD catch was beautiful. The second TD catch was an exercise in teamwork and hustle. Then again...

#Fleenered! We've seen this one before: Coby Fleener, no one around him, drops a perfectly thrown pass. Why does this happen? Does he think too much when he's all by himself and a touchdown is all but assured? The world may never know.

Good grief, Moncrief! Less playing time for Hakeem Nicks means more playing time for Donte Moncrief which means a lot of happy Colts fans. Washington's secondary refused to cover Moncrief, who got loose for touchdown catches of 48 and 79 yards. Perhaps even more heartening was how Moncrief hustled during Fleener's long catch and run, keeping a couple of would-be tacklers away from No. 80.

T.Y.! T.Y. Hilton caught the second of Luck's five touchdown passes. He made a pair of jaw-dropping grabs that had to be seen to be believed. Seriously, they were great. T.Y. can beat you deep, but he can also get you with his route running and elusiveness. He made great adjustments on both catches.

The turnover bug. Add three more turnovers to this team's tally. One day, they'll learn to take care of the ball. Maybe.

Fourth and duh. Aggressive? Warranted? Stupid? There are several adjectives to describe Jay Gruden's decision to go for it on fourth and short in Washington's own territory. It backfired and basically clinched the game for Indy. Washington called for a play-action pass in hopes of catching the Colts off-guard. But they forgot to block Erik Walden, who shot through the right side, blindsided Colt McCoy, and forced a fumble. D'Qwell Jackson picked it up for one of the easiest scoop-and-score defensive touchdowns you'll ever see. That decision--or the failed execution of the play call--was the game's defining moment.

The Meal McCoy. The Colts defense feasted on Colt McCoy, sacking him six times. The D was credited with nine QB hits. Walden had a pair of sacks while Greg Toler, Jerrell Freeman, Jonathan Newsome (1.5) and Art Jones (0.5) all got in on the hot McCoy action.

But they didn't get him every time. McCoy's highlight of the game was somehow evading three different Colts defenders who had him dead to rights and then flicking a pass to wide open Logan Paulsen, a dude who's been targeted 13 times this season and has only caught 11 total passes.

Will they ever beat a good team? The Colts beat up on FCS Jacksonville last week and Washington this week. Against teams with actual talent and quarterbacks, they're 0-4 (Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New England). Two of those games weren't even close. Look, the Colts play the schedule they're given, and that schedule includes the Titans and Jaguars. I'd just like to see them rise to the occasion and beat a contender.

Did Mike Adams try to hurt DeSean Jackson? Internet rumblings tell me it looks like Mike Adams took a dive after being pushed in the back so he could take an "unintentional shot" at Jackson's legs. As in any case, you'll see what you want to see. Maybe next time the Washington player who hit Adams late will think twice before doing it.

Would it make a good Subway commercial? Just imagine RGIII, clipboard in hand, telling us about the benefits of Subway's low-fat, low-calorie sandwich offerings. "Subway, the official training restaurant of backups everywhere."

That tight end problem. Jordan Reed caught 9 passes for 123 yards, proving once again that the Colts simply can't cover tight ends.

Josh Cribbs. I think it's safe to say that Cribbs has brought excitement to the return unit. He's fearless and decisive. One day, the Colts will be able to set up a return without getting a penalty. It was a problem when Griff Whalen was returning punts, too. Cribbs also had a fantastic special teams tackle that pinned Washington deep in its own territory.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Colts Observations, Week 12 vs. Jaguars

Quick summary:

After getting steamrolled by an actual NFL team last week, the Colts get back on track thanks to the NFL schedule makers. Early on, it didn't look like they'd capitalize on this gift, but eventually, Jaguars happened.

Strong game by the offensive line, especially in the first half. Take this sentence and know it is sarcasm. The offensive line got pushed around a lot by the Jaguars' front seven. A lot of people have been saying "the Jags' front seven isn't that bad, it's just that their offense is horrible." I'm inclined to agree with that with the caveat that the Colts o-line was pretty ineffective to start the game.

Is this the end for #GRIFFNATION? Um...yeah...probably. The Colts signed Josh Cribbs and elevated Zurlon Tipton from the practice squad because they needed another running back. The odd man out was Griff Whalen, the spunky returner/bench warmer who was adrift in a sea of talent at wide receiver.

Will Cribbs actually have an impact? There's no doubt I saw flashes of the exciting Josh Cribbs I'm mostly familiar with in "Game Break" updates. His first kickoff return was electrifying. He even had a punt return touchdown, although that was negated by a penalty (just like any of the good returns by Whalen we've seen this year). I think Cribbs will be a good addition and won't be surprised if the Colts use him as a jet sweep option or something like that.

What's wrong with Ageless Reggie Wayne? Reggie hasn't been himself since that elbow injury. He's not catching balls and is struggling to get separation. There's just something "off" about him. He had nine targets but only three catches for a meaty 10 yards.

When being pursued by a pack of Jaguars, don't run 20 yards back. One thing Andre Luck has to learn is that some plays just aren't meant to be. Running backwards to get away from pass rushers seldom works. Protect the ball and take the sack instead of taking an even larger loss or coughing up the football.

It's a fumble! Fumble-rooski! Fumble-laya! Andrew Luck got rocked by the pass rush and fumbled twice, giving the Jaguars false hope that they could compete in this game (it was 6-3 at halftime, remember). Daniel "BOOM" Herron also had a costly fumble inside the red zone. The Colts had six (SIX!) fumbles during the game and lost three of them.

Protect the franchise. Luck was sacked five times in the first half after an embarrassing performance by the offensive line. Priority No. 1 has to be protecting Luck, and the Colts failed miserably at that in a head-scratching first half. They were better in the second half--when A.Q. "The Lost Lineman" Shipley came into the game for Hugh Thornton.

T.Y. "Big Daddy" Hilton. I couldn't mention the game without mentioning Hilton, who got loose for a 73-yard touchdown. He had 122 yards receiving and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. It was all, of course, for his newborn daughter, born just a few hours before the game. And that postgame interview...

BOOM! Herron was effective in his most significant action of the year. The thing I notice about him is that he runs hard...really hard. The other thing I noticed? He put the ball on the turf twice, losing one of them. Can't happen.

Richardson Report. Thirteen carries, 42 yards, a meaty 3.2 average. He did get loose for a 12-yard run and also scored a touchdown with some tough running at the goal line. Still, as always, it's just not good enough.

Solid defensive effort. After getting roughed up last week, the defensive unit came through with a dominant effort. However, there's a huge difference between the Patriots' offense and the Jaguars' "offense," so you gotta grade on a curve. I'll give them credit for creating some turnovers and never letting Jacksonville get into the end zone.

"The Jaguars got five downs on one set of downs!" No, they didn't--it just felt like it. The Colts (in a baffling maneuver) called a timeout on third down, negating a really nice play from Vontae Davis on the much larger Marcedes Lewis. The Colts still managed to stop Jacksonville from scoring a TD.

"Colby" Fleener. The Colts tight end was repeatedly called "Colby" during the broadcast. Darius Butler was also called by the wrong first name (Dante? I can't remember exactly) a couple times.

"And who says Andrew Luck can't run?" This was another gem from our crack team of game experts. I'll admit that Luck isn't a running quarterback, but he is a quarterback who can run. He ended up with eight carries for 49 yards.

Vontae's interception. I'll give a lot of credit to the Colts cornerback for jumping in front of a Blake Bortles pass at a key moment. The Colts had just turned the ball over again, and Davis bailed them out. Since Indy had so much trouble scoring, I really wished he'd been able to return it all the way. The 42-yard return was good enough, though.

Money money money money...Vinny! This guy's been so good. He's hit 31 field goals in a row.

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.