Close, but no cigar, was the outcome of the Pats-Colts game yesterday. The Colts let a lead slip away and dropped one, 24-20.
The pundits that perpetuated all of the BS hype all week will have a lot to talk about the next couple of days. Who knows what they'll say. But, I think, there are a few things that were critical to the outcome that may or may not be apparent to some:
1. In a game of this magnitude, the absence of Marvin Harrison played a huge role.
NE's secondary is one of the best in the league, they did a good job of keeping the Colt receivers from doing the usual damage. With Marvin out, all they had to do was make sure Reggie Wayne did not get behind them and burn them long. With only one long ball threat in the game for Indy, NE could tighten up coverage on Utecht, Clark, and Gonzo, on the underneath routes.
Had Marvin played, I think it would have posed a more difficult task for NE. Double coverage on both Harrison and Wayne would have meant more openings for short passes to the TEs. Not double teaming one of the WRs would have meant the threat of the long ball in critical possessions.
2. Too many dropped passes on the Colts.
You can play the Marvin was absent card all you want, but the fact will still remain, there were a lot of dropped balls without anyone on the Pats forcing the drops. When Peyton throws a strike, the receivers simply have to catch the damned ball. NE is too good of a team to make errors like this. These mistakes were purely mental. Mental mistakes in a big game like this, really put a lot of unnecessary pressure on Manning (and the entire team). From where I sat, it looked like they were trying to run with the ball before they had it secured.
3. Randy Moss.
This is guy does for NE, what Harrison does for Indy. He, paired with Stallworth, gives Brady two long ball threats. If you double cover both, that opens up the running game and the shorter passes. Moss had 145 receiving yards and some of those yards were from passes that not many in the league would have caught.
4. Teams do not beat the Patriots four times in a row.
In fact, beating them three time in a row was a feat, in itself. They are too talented and play too solid. They, like the Colts, have been one of the premier teams in the league for several years now. They will not concede without a fight.
On the plus side, I think that the Indy defense played about as good as they could have against a very powerful NE offense. In fact, both defenses made key plays when they needed to. But all things remaining equal, it all goes back to my #1 factor. If Harrison was playing, they very likely would have been able to mount a final scoring drive, when they got the ball back with three and some change left in the game. But he wasn't, and they didn't. That's it, game over.
Indy fans will pout today. Losing is bad enough, but no one likes to lose to the Pats around here. In fact, no one in the league likes to lose to the Pats. I do not think it's because of the team, the players, nor do I think it's the Patriot fans. Mostly I think there is a genuine disdain for Belichick. I am sure he won't lose a lot of sleep over it, but I think he lost a lot of respect from other teams' fans, as a result of the cheating incident.
But beyond all of that, congratulations go out to the NE Patriots for winning the game. The game was won on the field fair and square. And to the Colts fans, I say this: This is not the end of the season.
As bad as we needed the win to solidify our chance of meeting them at home in the playoffs, it's still a just a regular season game and it only counts as one loss. We have another game, next week. So, it makes no sense to play tough, the team playing the best football in the league right now; then, turn around and lose one to a Norv Turner coached team, the following week.
If there is any optimism to be gleaned from this loss, it is: We were in the game until the very end, despite not having Harrison and the other factors I mentioned. That says a lot, to me. And being the longtime football fan that I am, I am looking forward to next week.
In the end, it's a ballgame. And ballgames are for entertainment purposes only. I'd trade a losing effort by my team for peace in the world, anytime.