For a while I thought I was in the wrong press box. I was in attendance to observe the battle of the Manning brothers and all of a sudden the pass happy Colts are running the football down the throat of a pretty good NFL defense.
In addition to that, how could this possibly be their defense swarming all over the field to make plays, and in the process making life miserable for a well-coached, good football team? Were these really the same Colts I lamented just a week ago after a humiliating first week performance in Houston?
Surely not, I pondered, looking out of the open roof of Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night.
Yes, I was not quite prepared to eat my words, but obviously the Colts had other ideas as they came together as a team and gave the New York Giants an old fashioned thumping on national television in a game that was over at halftime. Determined to run the football from the first down, the Colts controlled the line of scrimmage all night and defeated the Giants 38-14 and served notice that the first game of the season was indeed an aberration. In a fashion most of us would have never dreamed, Indianapolis showed some muscle in the running game and then some, powering down the field for an 80-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession.
Joseph Addai and Donald Brown shared the load, and when the game had concluded the duo had combined for 36 carries and a total of 161 yards of rushing. Not bad for a team which is widely regarded around the NFL as a pass first, pass second, style offense. Not to be outdone, Peyton Manning showed his younger brother Eli why he is still the best quarterback in the Manning family tree by compiling 154 yards passing and connecting with both Dallas Clark and Austin Collie for touchdowns in the first half alone.
While the offense showed its running fangs, it was the Colts defense that showed marked improvement on the night, pressuring Eli Manning and clearly making him throw the football before he was ready.
They also did a good job in keeping the Giants running game in check and the combination was simply more than the visitors could handle as they found themselves trailing at halftime by a score of 24-0.
I figured the Colts would put it on auto pilot in the second half, and was I indeed incorrect again as they sacked Eli Manning on the Giants first play of the second half. While the younger Manning would respond with a touchdown drive, the Colts would then apply even more pressure in the balance of the third quarter and quickly eliminated any thoughts that New York might have had about a comeback.
“We wanted to come out and set the tempo early and apply pressure,” said Dwight Freeney, who joined fellow defensive end Robert Mathis in the sack parade with two each. Freeney and company did that and then some as Eli Manning was clearly under fire the entire game and the impact was clearly visible in his final statistics of 13 completions in 24 attempts for just 161 yards.
Colts head coach Jim Caldwell was his usual calm and focused self when describing the outcome. “I really did not think we necessarily had anything we had to prove today, but we certainly played better,” said the second year coach in the post game news conference. “This was a pretty solid team effort collectively.”
Indeed, coach, it was.
NOTES: While the Giants complied 120 yards rushing on the night, many of those yards came late in the game with the outcome firmly in hand. The Colts did an excellent job all night in stopping two talented New York running backs.
Speaking of running backs, the Giants Brandon Jacobs inadvertently tossed his helmet into the stands behind the Giants bench in a state of frustration. At first, security had a difficult time retrieving it from the fan who caught it. Considering the price of NFL collectibles, who can blame the guy for wanting an authentic one for free?
Pat McAfee continues to play well for the Colts, both in terms of punting and kickoffs.
The guy can hang a punt with the best of them. The Colts special teams unit also held their ground against New York. That is something this team will need if they are to contend for a championship.
Eli Manning is a talented quarterback and will no doubt continue to accomplish even more as his career goes on. One area he could improve on is how to address the media after a tough loss.
Manning declined to speak to various media outlets afterwards and while it is no doubt frustrating losing while competing head to head with a sibling, the generally media-friendly Eli needs to suck it up and deal with those who chronicle his successes as well as his failures on the playing field.
There were a number of celebrities in attendance at the game, including Olivia and Archie Manning, the parents of the Manning brothers, tennis great Andy Roddick, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, as well as Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mayor Greg Ballard.
For the record, some of them left before the conclusion of the game to beat traffic.
The Colts travel to Denver to face the Broncos on Sept. 26 in a game you can see locally on WISH-TV (Channel 8). The contest starts at 4:15p.m. The radio broadcast is available at both 1070 AM and 97.1 FM for those of you seeking a stereo signal.
Danny Bridges, who will not give the Colts defense their full due until they travel to Denver and overpower the Broncos, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.