The 2009 Indianapolis Colts Are Already Better Than Last Year

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The 2009 Indianapolis Colts Are Already Better Than Last Year
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Colts are 5-0, sit atop the A.F.C. South, have the fourth-ranked offense in the league, and the eighth-ranked defense.

When we dig a little deeper, we find that the Colts have the No. 1 passing attack in the NFL, and are 29th running the ball. The rushing offense is already an improvement over last year, when they were ranked 31st in the league.

Also, you don’t end up with a top five offense if your offensive line hasn’t improved.

On defense, the Colts are eighth against the pass and 15th against the run.

Another incredible stat is the Colts defense is tied for second in points allowed per game. So far, on average, they are only giving up 14.2 pts./game. 

Another important stat is the number of third downs the defense is allowing opposing teams to convert. The Colts are currently ranked eigth in this category.

Before going on, please note how incredible these numbers are. The Colts have not fielded a top-four offense in two seasons, and this is only the third time in Peyton's career that he has played with a top-ten defense.

From 2003-2006, the Colts' offense was always in the top four, but not the last two seasons.

Last year, the Colts defense ended up 11th in the league, but that was after a full season. Through the first five games, they were near the bottom. The rush defense topped out at 24th in the league, while their pass defense ranked sixth.

Also, in 2008, the Colts defense ranked 11th in points allowed per game, and 11th in third downs converted by opposing teams.

However, the defensive stats from last year are a little misleading.

Last year’s run defense was so bad, the game plan against the Colts was usually to run the ball, and play keep away from Manning.

Obviously, when opposing teams are running more than they're passing, the stats are going to be skewed in favor of the pass defense. Hence, Colts ended the year with the pass defense ranked sixth in the league.

Anyone who has studied statistics knows that this artificially high ranking skews the overall ranking of the defense.

Special teams this year seems to be a wash. While slightly better in some areas, they are slightly worse in others. Unfortunately, they're  still near the bottom.

One last thing to consider when looking at the stats: The Colts have had most of their star defensive players, and one of their top offensive weapons sidelined with injuries.

Now ponder this, the Colts have gone 5-0, and improved in every category, except special teams, with a mixture of veterans, rookies, and second-stringers.

Let's nip the first two criticisms in the bud: 1) It’s only been five games. 2) The stats used to back up the arguments presented here can also be used against it.

To do this, is to miss the point of the piece. The Colts, in their first five games of the season, are already better than last year’s team.

The credit for this turn around should go to one man who, from day one, made it very clear he was not happy about certain areas of the team.

Head coach Jim Caldwell has come in and put his own stamp on this team.

Almost, immediately defensive coordinator Ron Meeks was shown the door, along with special teams coach Russ Purnell.

Coach Caldwell is no Tony Dungy clone. He’s just Jim Caldwell: a humble man, with a fiery passion for the game.

The first quarter of the season is over, and given the adversity he has faced, the pressure he is been under—taking over one of the best franchises in the past decade—it’s fair to say he has acquitted himself quite well.

As Bill Parcells would say, “put away the anointing oil, ok?”

Yes, Bill, the anointing oil will stay in the cabinet until the end of the year, but Jim Caldwell still deserves an “A+” for his performance so far.

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