-The 2013 Indianapolis Colts have quickly become this decade’s version of the 1995 Indianapolis Colts deemed the “Cardiac Colts” by fans and the like. Another halftime deficit turned into another Colts comeback victory. Where have we seen this before? This team sits atop the AFC South with an 7-3 record heading into the most critical leg of the season where teams that are still in contention want to be playing their best football. Yet, coming off their worst performance of the Chuck Pagano-Andrew Luck era, the Colts got back to what has worked for them. One thing that changed this week compared to the last for the Colts was their ability to run the ball, in particular the second half when Donald Brown took majority of the snaps in place of a ineffective Trent Richardson. It remains to be seen if the Colts got the short end of the stick on the trade for him but it’s not too early to start thinking so. Brown finished with 2 touchdowns and 80 yards on just 14 carries. This helped open up the passing game, especially for Coby Fleener who appears to be turning into Luck’s security blanket in light of Reggie Wayne being out. Fleener had his most effective game as a pro with 8 catches going for 107 yards. The defense made its fair share of stops with its most critical coming on a drive in which they appeared to be crumbling. A string of dumb-headed personal foul penalties had put the Titans in scoring position. The Colts defense stiffened and held the Titans to a field goal when a touchdown seemed inevitable. The special teams once again made a critical play in forcing a turnover that helped set up the Colts to take the lead for good. The Colts playing well for a half has become a trend. Hopefully for their sake they can start playing well for a whole game.
-I’m still a believer that teams need to not only be able to run the ball, but also be able to do so the opposing defense must honor it. Yes the NFL is now a passing team but outside of last years fluke-ish run the Baltimore Ravens had, every team that has won the Super Bowl has either run the ball well all season or been able to come playoff time. And even so, Baltimore had ran for over 110 yards in their win over Denver in last year’s unbelievable double overtime divisional game. Green Bay has been the perfect example of a team that is so reliant on its passing game that they cannot make any noise in the post-season. In the playoffs they’ve failed to advance beyond the 2nd round the past two seasons. And now, with Aaron Rodgers injured for a length of time along with very little depth at receiver, the Packers are in deep trouble until Rodgers returns. For the Packers, a strong running game being developed now could bode well for them later if they are in a position to make the post-season when Rodgers returns. The NFL is now a “passing league” but running the ball and the threat of it is what will continue to win playoff games for teams.
-Carolina is officially a contender and quickly becoming a team no one in NFC wants to see come playoff time. The Panthers 24-20 victory over the Patriots Monday night was the exclamation on a tremendous narrative the Panthers have been writing the past few weeks. Beating the Super Bowl Hungover 49ers is one thing, but beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in primetime? Ron Rivera has went from being a surefire out next season to a potential coach of the year candidate. Cam Newton did an interview on Fox a few weeks ago that not only showed how much he’s matured but how much of a leader he’s turning into for his team. I’m impressed Cam.
-I am amazed at the way the Detroit Lions continue to play. One week they look they’ve finally turned the corner and become the team their capable of being. The next they reveal all of their flaws defensively and revert back to the same Calvin Johnson-reliant offense. The Lions SHOULD win their division and could end up seeing the Carolina Panthers come playoff time. What a matchup that would be.
Performance of The Weekend: This has to go to the Denver Broncos offensive line. All week, the national media discussed the field day the Kansas City defensive line would have against Peyton Manning’s banged up linemen. Outside of a few pressures Manning had on him, the offensive line had arguably their best performance of the season given the circumstances. Manning had ample time to dissect Kansas City’s number one defense and silenced many of the questions surrounding his high ankle sprain(s). It’d be an impressive feat if the Broncos went 3-0 in this stretch of playing Kansas City twice with New England sandwiched in between. The game in Kansas City could very well decide the number one seed.
-I’m still in shock at how disappointing the Atlanta Falcons have been. And I feel sorry for Tony Gonzalez. This isn’t how you want to go out as a player in possibly your final year (so Gonzalez says). Yet, this is what typically happens to most players who have been lucky enough to play a number of years in the NFL. We always hear about the players who get the privilege of going out on top (Elway, Bettis come to mind) but too many times it ends the way it appears to be going for Tony Gonzalez. Chris Carter comes to mind in 1998 when the Minnesota Vikings team he was on suffered a gut-wrenching loss in the NFC Championship game at home. Carter was demoralized after the loss and knew that it was probably his best shot at a Super Bowl. Carter understood his fate, I’m not quite sure Tony Gonzalez did. It’s human instinct I think to resist change and hold on to something long after its time to let go. It’s extremely hard to win consistently in the NFL and even harder to get all the way back to a conference championship game after losing it the year before. It’s unfortunate that it will likely end this way for Tony Gonzalez but its a sad fate shared by many players before and after him.
See you next week!