I normally style my weekly review of Colts action as a reference to the famous Clint Eastwood Western "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," because normally, even in victory, there are some good and bad things to review. But after the Colts' dominating win against a very good Arizona Cardinals team, it behooves me to alter the title slightly. Here are some notes from Sunday's action:
The Colts have had a great offense even with a tormented running game for several seasons, and many would have assumed that their game-plan against the Cardinals' eighth-ranked rushing defense would be pass-heavy as well. But the Colts had a very balanced offense against the Cardinals that included 31 rushing attempts.
Even though the Cardinals knew the Colts would be running after building an early lead, the team's rushing attack still proved to be successful. The Colts averaged 4.1 yards per rushing attempt, and Joseph Addai alone averaged nearly five yards a carry.
If the Colts can be this effective on the ground, opposing teams will have to take defending the run seriously.
Opposing defenses haven't had to put eight men in the box against the Colts for a while, and if that becomes even occasionally necessary, Peyton Manning and the play-action passing game will make teams pay. Establishing an effective running game could make the Colts as dangerous as they were in their record-breaking 2004 season.
However, the short yardage running game still isn't effective. The Colts failed to convert a third-and-short on the ground with their goal-line package that includes defensive tackle Eric Foster playing fullback.
Perhaps it would be more effective for the Colts to spread the field with three wide receivers in short yardage situations, rather than put in a goal line package.
This would force teams to pick their poison rather than stack up against an obvious running play. If an opposing defense chooses to leave Colts' wide receivers in single coverage, Peyton is likely to find them. If an opposing defense keeps both safeties in coverage positions before the snap, that makes it much easier for Joseph Addai or Donald Brown to find a hole and pick up a yard or two.
The "great" award goes to Colts' rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers, who was thrust into the starting lineup again due to an injury to Kelvin Hayden. Unlike his first start, which came against a lackluster passing team in the Jaguars, Powers was forced to cover Larry Fitzgerald, commonly considered to be the best wide receiver in the universe, for much of the game.
Powers' effort should be lauded, as he and the safeties held Fitzgerald to seven catches for 76 yards despite 13 targets. Powers registered seven tackles, and is partially responsible for Marlin Jackson's interception at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
On the play, Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner intended to pass it to Fitzgerald on a timing route after a five step drop. Because Powers' coverage was good, Warner was forced to pump and bring the ball down, and pressure from the Colts' defensive line caused him to throw up a wobbler that was easily intercepted.
Tim Jennings also had a great game, possibly responding to my criticism of his performance last week. Jennings had six tackles and three passes defensed, including when he tipped a ball intended for Fitzgerald in the end zone that was picked off by Antoine Bethea.
Reggie Wayne's amazing catch will be overshadowed on highlight reels by Brett Favre's ridiculous game-winning touchdown pass with two seconds remaining, but Wayne's catch might have been the most impressive of his career.
Wayne made a one-handed catch with his off (left) hand, and had the presence of mind to dive for the pylon AND stay inbounds. If that one doesn't make ESPN's Top Plays, I'm boycotting the network forever.