Another year, and another playoff disappointment for Colts fans. It seems odd to be so dominant in the regular season, and yet the team seems to perennially come up short in the post-season. In case you haven’t guessed already, or are not a regular reader, I’m a Colts fan. Now that I’ve had a couple days to let the loss sink in, here are my thoughts.
The Saints deserved to win this game. They played aggressively, left nothing on the field and went for the win in every facet of the game. They had the bravery and confidence to try an onside kick, go for it on 4th and 1, and to jump a route on a crucial 4th quarter drive. I am genuinely happy for Drew Brees, Sean Payton, the organization and especially their fans.
I do, however, disagree with a variety of opinions that I’ve heard about on TV, the radio and several columns and blogs. Here are my views on when those people should “turn up the good” and “turn down the suck”.
Turn Down the Suck #1 – Pierre Garcon’s Drop Killed the Colts Momentum
This is only partially true. Up 10-3 and driving once again. Garcon’s drop had a stalling affect on the Colts offense. The real problem though, was the Saints offense putting together long drives before and after the Colts’ 3 and out.
The Saints had the ball for five and a half minutes to start the 2nd Quarter and after Garcon’s drop went on another six and a half minute drive. If the Colts defense holds them to a short drive, the Garcon drop isn’t nearly as crucial
The drop by Marques Colston earlier in the 1st quarter was much worse, and his offense recovered just fine. One drop isn’t a game-changer if it’s in the 1st half and doesn’t involve a touchdown.
Turn Down the Suck #2 – The Colts Used WR Screens & the Running Game to Negate the Saints Blitzing Defense
Again, this is partially true. Joseph Addai was great in this game with 13 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately the Colts went away from him in the 4th quarter, when they still had plenty of time on the clock. That said, the receiver screens that the Colts ran for Austin Collie were hideous. The blocking was non-existent at first and the last one they threw, he ran way from his own blocking.
If the Colts wanted to use the screen, they needed to hit Dallas Clark or Pierre Garcon on those plays, as they’re both more comfortable in that role than Collie.
Turn Down the Suck #3 – The Saints Going For It on 4th And Goals Was a Good Call
Sean Payton got lucky. If the Saints were in this situation in the middle of the quarter, then I would love it. Going for it on 4th and Goal with a good offense makes a lot of sense. If it’s successful, it’s a dagger to the Colts defense and if it fails, the offense is pinned and the Saints can get the ball back in great field position.
The only reason I don’t like this call, is because it was at the end of the half. If the Colts weren’t so conservative on 3rd down, the Saints never see the ball again.
Turn Down the Suck #4 – The 51 Yard FG Attempt Was a Bad Decision
Let me clarify this. The 51-yarder was definitely a bad decision with a kicker so old that he remembers when The Who were actually good. That said, the poor decision was on the play BEFORE the field goal. The Colts were facing 3rd and 11 from the Saints 33 yard line. Manning threw a pass deep down the middle to Collie, which was defended by Jonathan Vilma underneath and a safety over the top.
The Colts were up 17-16 at the time and facing the aforementioned 51-yarder if they don’t move the ball. Why try for the impossible touchdown pass? In this situation, Manning should be looking for the first down, and at the very least a 7 or 8 yard gain. Even if he doesn’t get the conversion, at least stover is faced with a 43 or 44 yarder.
To be even more technical, an article on Advanced NFL Stats explains this exact scenario much to my own egotistical vindication. They state that the Colts had a Win Probability (WP) of 0.71 (or 71%) after Manning completed the pass to Reggie Wayne on 4th and 2. When Manning’s pass to Collie fell incomplete, the Colts had a WP of 0.59. After missing the 51-yarder, it fell to 0.47.
In the span of 4 plays, the Colts had dropped their probability of winning from 71% to 47%.
Turn Down the Suck #5 – Peyton Manning Threw a Terrible Interception
The interception itself was a game-ending play, there’s no debating that fact. The interception was not a major Manning blunder though.
Four things conspired to make the interception happen, and only one or two were in Manning’s full control.
1. The Colts called a variation of a play they’d run only two plays earlier. I’m not sure if this was Tom Moore or Manning, but it was a mistake.
2. Tracey Porter recognized the play and made an AMAZING jump on the ball. Don’t just blame the offense, credit a great defensive play.
3. Reggie Wayne made a terrible cut. If he breaks inside as he’s supposed to, the pass is probably still incomplete, but it’s unlikely that Porter catches the ball and takes it to the house.
4. Manning threw a pass on an inside-breaking route, when Porter was clearly playing inside technique. This doesn’t make it a terrible throw, but it’s not an incredibly safe throw either. When he saw Porter shading inside, he could have gone to another option.
Turn Down the Suck #6 – Colts Fans Whining About Peyton Being Blocked in the Back on the INT Return
Yes, he was blocked in the back. Yes, the rule says the ball should have been spotted at the place of the foul. Yes, that interpretation would negated Tracey Porter’s TD.
Guess what? Sometimes the refs miss a call in the heat of a big play. Stop whining.
Also, if the Saints got to keep the ball, they’d just start another long, clock-eating drive. The Colts defense hadn’t stopped the Saints from scoring once in the entire 2nd half. It was actually better for the Colts that the Saints scored quickly.
Turn Up The Good #1 – The Colts Got Too Conservative
This is extremely true. Peyton Manning has been an absolute killer all year in the 2 minute drill. The Colts ran twice out of their endzone after stuffing the Saints 4th and Goal attempt. They were up 10-3, had 0:51 on the clock and were facing 3rd and 1 with 90 yards to go to the endzone.
In the regular season or against the Jets in the AFC Championship, the Colts would spread the formation and let Peyton work his magic. Suddenly, they shut down their best weapon. Peyton handed it off to Addai up the middle, and the Saints stuffed the play.
When the Saints got the ball back, they came back and kicked their second field goal to make it 10-6.
Turn Up the Good #2 – The Onside Kick Was a Great Call
Rarely do I disagree with Bill Simmons, but this is one of those times. In his podcast, he mentions that the onside kick was a bad call because if Hank Baskett had held onto the ball, the Colts were going to get great field position.
According to the great team at Football Outsiders, unexpected onside kicks have historically been recovered at a rate of 70.5%. This one was so unexpected that I almost choked on a meatball (true story).
The chances of recovery were in the Saints favor and it was a monstrous contributor to the Saints win. The Saints had 9 possessions in the game to the Colts 8, and the onside kick was just as good as getting a turnover from the Saints defense.
Turn Up the Good #3 – This Blogger Lost a Pick ‘Em Contest to His Mom.