To help pass time this off-season, I’ve reviewed the Colts’ regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I’ll be sharing my impressions.

Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.

Today’s Game: Week 15: Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars

Setting The Stage

  • It’s a few days before Christmas, and the Colts come into the game already having earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Donald Brown is out, and Dwight Freeney is nursing a sore hamstring. The big question is ‘will the Colts play their first string players?’ Quarterback David Garrard leads the Jaguars who are 7-6. With a win, Jacksonville assures themselves a playoff spot.
  • The Field: It’s a cool, Thursday night in December at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida. The natural grass field looks to be in pretty good shape.
  • The Crowd: Loud. Loud and annoying, to be honest. Drrruuuuuuuu… Every frickin’ time Maurice Jones-Drew touches the ball. Yeah, it gets old really quick.
NFL Network

  • The Network Coverage: Bob Papa and Matt Millen of the NFL Network. It dawns on me mid-way through the game that they never introduced the starting lineups. There’s also no mention of players who are out with injuries. That’s annoying! Millen calls Manning ‘the engine that makes this team go’. Say what you want about Millen’s inability to build a decent team in Detroit, he knows football and does a good job of providing insight into the mental aspect of the game. He points out that Dallas Clark is the key to the Colts’ offense and that Manning watches to see how a team is going to cover Clark before selecting a play. He also calls Manning the most clever quarterback he’s seen in his 30 years in the league. Millen just may be the best color man I’ve listened to this year. Dear Matt, just to be clear; I still hate you for ruining my Lions. Stay in broadcasting and far, far away from Detroit. Ok? We good? Thanks.

Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • Fumble! Jacksonville gets the ball first and drives the length of the field. Approaching the red zone, the Jags face a key third-and-one. Hand off to Maurice Jones-Drew, right? Nope! Quarterback David Garrard drops back to pass. Eric Foster lines up at right defensive end, jukes the left tackle, and hits Garrard from behind and causes the fumble. Jags recover, but they’re forced to settle for the field goal. Jags score first and lead 3-0.
  • Haha. Garçon with an important reception right at the sticks for a first down. Peyton calls the hurry up, and the Colts run a play before Jags’ coach Jack Del Rio can challenge. Great shot of Ol’ Jack standing on the sidelines with the red flag looking like ‘What? Who? Huh?’
  • Huge reception by Clark. Colts at mid-field with a third-and-four. Clark lines up to the right, heads up field, and slides over the middle. Peyton hits him in-stride, and the Colts are at the Jag’s 30. Protection broke down some on this play, and Peyton holds the ball until the last possible moment.
  • Clark with another big play on a slant over the middle. Colts in the red zone and driving as the first quarter ends. Only one possession for each team in the first.

2nd Qtr:

  • Touchdown, Clark! On third-and-five from the Jags’ six, the Colts receivers send trips-left and put Dallas on the right. The corner back has good position, so Manning puts the ball low where only Dallas can reach it. A bobbled catch, but a catch none-the-less. Colts also score on their first possession and lead 7-3. I find it interesting that Mike Hart was really wide open, but Peyton chose to make the tough throw to Clark.

NFL Network
  • Touchdown, Jacksonville. Two drives, two scores. And this one was all MJD. Garrard mixed in just enough passes to keep the defense honest. Otherwise, it was Jones-Drew up the middle, Jones-Drew to the right, Jones-Drew disappearing into the pile and emerging out the other side. Irritating little bowling ball and his stupid ‘straightening my tie’ TD dance. Sheesh. We know the Colts didn’t draft you, and you’re forever emotionally scarred. We get it. Can we just play football, please? Jags up 10-7.
  • Haha! Awesome! Chad Simpson with a 93 yard touchdown return immediately following the MJD touchdown. I love it. That sure stopped the annoying DRRRrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuu that’s been going on for several minutes. The kick is short. Jacob Tamme, Mike Hart, and Jamie Silva all with key blocks to open a crease. Chad is gone down the left sideline, and I’m reminded of how fast Chad is. He easily outruns Silva, and no one on the Jags’ coverage unit even gets close to him. I love how excited Robert Mathis and other players on the sidelines are. Down the tunnel, Chad! Awesome. Colts up 14-10.
NFL Network
NFL Network
  • Drew left, Drew right, Drew up the middle. Pass to Drew, shovel to Drew. Sweep, toss, and teleport to Drew. Drew, Drew, Drrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuu. It’s driving me crazy, and the little bugger just scored again. He pretty much runs over Gary Brackett but gets stopped at the two. But the entire Jags’ line pushes him into the end zone. Does anyone on the Colts’ D realize that Jones-Drew is probably gonna get the ball? Guys? Somebody? Jags lead again, 17-14.
  • Hey! We can run too. Jeff Saturday and Kyle DeVan provide Joe Addai a lane, and Joe rumbles for 15 crowd-silencing yards. Way to go, Joe. Show ‘em why we picked you.
  • Wayne for 22 more! Reggie slides open over the middle, and Peyton hits him perfectly. Oh man! That could have gone all the way. The safety comes over, and Reggie seems to anticipate the hit by falling forward. But the safety wiffs, and Reggie appears to go down for no reason. Still, the Colts are responding yet again with a drive of their own.
  • Touchdown, Austin Collie! Awesome. 17 gets open on a seam route down the middle, and Manning’s pass is pinpoint accurate. Six plays for 68 yards. Add a Matt Stover extra point, and the Colts retake the lead, 21-17.
NFL Network

3rd Qtr:

  • Nice to see Tamme make a catch on the Colts’ first drive. It’s Jacob’s second catch this year… this is week 15. I find myself thinking about all the talk about how Tamme will be heavily involved in 2010. Guess we’ll see soon enough.
  • Oh, man! Interception. Peyton hits Clark perfectly, but Dallas can’t bring the ball in. You don’t see that very often. Dallas bobbles it, it hits a Jags’ defender, and bounces to another Jags’ defender for the pick. Clark should have had that, and he knows it; head is down all the way to the sideline. Jags’ ball on the Colts’ 39.
  • Touchdown Jacksonville. The Jags have to convert a fourth-and-one and rely on the pass in order to score; MJD is ineffective on the drive accumulating only eight yards on four runs. The score comes on a Garrard 16 yard pass. This is the first TD the Colts have allowed following a turnover (18 previously). Jaguars take the lead 24-21.
  • Colts TD! Indy takes the lead right back on a three minute, 80 yard drive. Passes to Wayne for 21 and 16, an Addai run for five, and a completion to Collie for nine set the Colts up with a first-and-ten at the Jags’ 27. Dallas Clark lines up tight on the left, takes the quick release for 15 yards over the middle, bounces off a tackle attempt, and runs the remaining 12 yards for the score. Nice! Colts retake the lead, 28-24.
NFL Network
  • Whoa! Garrard is hurt. He goes down hard twice; the first is a huge hit by Gary Brackett on a delayed blitz. Garrard is slow to get up, and who can blame him? Gary flat laid him out. The second is a takedown by Raheem Brock. Brock with great recognition to ignore a play fake and focus on the quarterback. I have to say, Garrard is tough, smart, and better than his team’s record would have you believe. Plus, he helped me win my fantasy league a couple years ago, so there’s that.
NFL Network
NFL Network
NFL Network
  • And Jacksoville scores again. Sheesh… After awesome coverage by Jacob Lacey to break up a sure TD pass, Garrard beats Kelvin Hayden with the TD pass. Jags back in front 31-28 once again as the quarter ends.

4th Qtr:

  • Touchdown… no, not a touchdown. Amazing run… no, not that either. Actually, this play was a rather ordinary six yard completion to Joe Addai for a first down. But I’m struck with the absolute precision of Peyton Manning. We often talk about his precision in pass placement, but this play was all about his precision with check downs. With only three rushers, protection is good, but finding an open receiver against eight defenders involved some searching. Like clockwork, Peyton checks left (tick), middle (tick), then dumps the ball off, short right, to Addai in the backfield. It’s one of many Colts first downs and was nothing spectacular, but the way Manning executes even the small details IS spectacular. Nicely done, Mr. Manning.
  • Good catch by Clark. Dallas sidesteps the linebacker and starts downfield, untouched. Peyton’s pass is a bit underthrown, but Dallas pulls it in for the first down. Then, a sweet juke by Mike Hart on an outlet pass to gain 11 and another first down. Peyton fakes the handoff, Mike chips the defensive end on his way out of the backfield, receives the pass, and makes two players miss before diving for the first. In case I haven’t make it clear in previous recaps, I like Mike Hart. He gives everything he’s got on every play. He did it in college, and he does it here. Colts driving, down three, with 9:20 remaining.
  • Ok, there’s good news and bad news. Which do you want first? I’ll wait for your response.
  • Jennings! Oh man, that was soooooo close. Colts can’t score (that was the bad news, by the way. I appreciate hearing from so many of you), but the defense holds Jacksonville to a three-and-out, due in large part to great coverage by Tim Jennings. The Colts get the ball back with 6:05 remaining. Let’s go, offense!
  • Touchdown, Reggie Wayne! Three plays. Seventy yards. Fourty-two seconds. Colts lead. Nuff said.
NFL Network
NFL Network
  • Sack! Colts with the four man rush; Robert Mathis, Raheem Brock, Eric Foster, Dwight Freeney. Foster fights through and wraps up Garrard for the sack; his second of the game. Awesome! Jags punt. and Coach John Teerlink is excited.
NFL Network
NFL Network
  • Nope. The offense can’t sustain a drive, and they punt the ball back to Jacksonville with 2:06 remaining. Dang!
  • Interception! The Jags are driving; Holt for 14, Lewis for four, MJD for ten. Drrruuuuuu… Ah, shut up! 1:10 remaining. That’s when the defense steps it up with good pressure and coverage to force incompletions. On third-and-ten from the Indy 33, Garrard flings it downfield and high. Lacey leaps to snatch the ball out of the air. He runs it back a few yards, then pulls a Marlin Jackson-esque slide to the turf. Colts’ ball. Colts win!
NFL Network

Overall Impressions

  • The Offense: With three 80+ yard TD drives tonight, the Colts up their season total to 23. That’s the most of any team since the 1991 Bills. Manning is perfect, at 12 for 12, in the first half for the third time in his career. No Colts punts in the first half. The second half isn’t quite as productive, and they can’t sustain a game killing drive at the end. Still, 35 points is darned good. They needed every one.
  • The Defense: Ugh. Watching MJD run all over the field in the first half was really depressing. The Drews scored on their first three possessions and ended up four-of-four in the red zone. They couldn’t stop the Jags from scoring a TD after the third quarter Manning interception. That’s the first time this year. But let’s think about that for a second; 18 previous turnovers, and not one TD allowed. That’s impressive. This defense is under-rated big time. Also, they adjusted well at halftime and contained MJD in the second half. Jones-Drew had 73 rushing yards in the first half, 37 in the second. And this time, it wasn’t because the Colts were way ahead, and their opponent had to throw to catch up. The lead changed ten times, and neither team lead by more than four.
  • Special Teams: Nice game for the guys on special teams. With that kickoff return, Chad Simpson became the first Colt to do so since Dom Rhodes against San Diego in 2004.

Random Thoughts:

  • This recap is dedicated to former Colt Chad Simpson. His kickoff return for a score was the play of the game, in my humble opinion. Beyond that, I personally think Chad unfairly took the heat for the special team’s inability to consistently return the ball (T.J. Rushing too, for that matter). Thanks for everything you did for us, Chad. I wish you success this year with your new team.
  • Records are nothing new to this Colts team, and this week sees them break one more. With seven wins after trailing in the fourth quarter this season, Indy sets a new NFL record. Also, they become only the third team to start a season 14-0, and with four touchdown passes, Peyton ups his career total to 21, tying Dan Marino for second place all-time.
  • Oh look. The Saints lost.
  • Tonight’s game is the first home game sellout for the Jags. In the few crowd scenes they show, there are a surprising number of fans all wearing the same, teal colored, Jacksonville shirt. Coincidence, or did we by chance stumble on ‘We Hate the Colts and We’re Gonna Be on TV’ T-Shirt Night?
  • It occurs to me that this is the last regular season game in which Robert Mathis is introduced as being a graduate of McNair High School in Atlanta (he’s held out of the final two games of the season). Next season, he’ll be introduced as a graduate of Alabama A&M University. Way to go, Robert.
  • Seeing the cheerleaders in Santa hats (teal, but whatever) has me in the Christmas spirit. As a small thanks for wading through all the way to the end, I bought you something. Besides, as Daddy always said ‘Son, brains will take you far in this life. But in your case, be nice to people’. So, Merry Christmas, guys. You’ll never guess what it is.
NFL Network
  • Oh! Ladies, I got you something too. Try it out. See how it fits.
NFL Network

Colts win 35-31 to stay undefeated at 14-0.

Total Run Yards:
Colts: 61
Jags: 139

Total Passing Yards:
Colts: 308
Jags: 206

Manning: 23 of 30, 308 yards, 4 TDs, 1 TD
Clark: 7 receptions, 95, 2 TDs
Wayne: 5 receptions, 132 yards, 1 TD
Collie: 3 receptions, 27 yards, 1 TD
Addai : 16 carries, 59 yards

Other games in the series:

  • Week 1, Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 2, Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins
  • Week 3, Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
  • Week 4, Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 5, Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
  • Week 6, bye
  • Week 7, Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams
  • Week 8, San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 9, Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 10, New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 11, Indianapolis Pro Football Team at Baltimore Ravens
  • Week 12, Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans
  • Week 13, Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 14, Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 15, Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Week 16, New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
  • Week 17, Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills