Perfect Saturday. Imperfect Sunday.
The Colts did indeed beat the Ravens with one hand tied behind their backs. Without a running game of any consequence, Peyton Manning threw 44 passes and led Indianapolis to a Rhythm Nation win over the Ravens. The dink and dunk passing game was in rare form and the Ravens were unable to make the Colts pay for being unable to stretch the field. Ed Reed had a game to forget. The Colts look good — but they also look different. The powerful Baltimore Ravens really were not able to run at will against Indianapolis. Up next, the Jets.
The Chargers really are not ready for prime time. It would have been interesting to see what the outcome of a streak play would have been with all receivers and Antonio Gates running deep down field. Nate Kaeding is going to have a long time to think about his day. He won’t be able to redeem himself until he kicks the Chargers into a Super Bowl appearance or a Super Bowl win. Norv Turner will have to ponder his decision to kick onside instead of kicking deep. I won’t say it cost his team the game, insofar as there is no guarantee that Rivers would drive the field and create another opportunity for Kaeding to tie the game. Still, the Jets field position absolutely demanded that they attempt to convert that fourth-and-1. They did it. Game over. Revis Island is the new Alcatraz.
New Orleans did what New Orleans does. They attack teams all over the field — and they attack deep. When you play the Saints, you must defend the entire field. You have to respect Reggie Bush in the flat because he can pop it for a 60-yard touchdown. You have to respect Pierre Thomas up the middle because he can gash you for 4 or 5 yards at a time, or he can stop and turn and flip the ball to Drew Brees for a deep “flea flicker.” And, defensively, this rested team showed how it marched out to a 13-0 record with smart, aggressive pressure and experienced secondary play. Next up, Minnesota and the Favr-orites.
Jared Allen and Ray Edwards showed that “the Williams Brothers” are not the only reason to fear the Minnesota Vikings front line. If Bud Grant had this much beef up front when he coached, he might well have won four Super Bowls. I picked the Cowboys because I chose to believe that Tony Romo would protect the ball. It didn’t happen. Three first half fumbles and a missed field goal put this game out of reach for an offense that seemed more concerned about getting to the edge (showcase for Felix Jones), rather than making plays in the middle. Kevin and Pat Williams owned the middle. Allen and Edwards owned the edges. Game, set, match.