Enemy Intelligence: Super Bowl Or Bust For Colts

Enemy Intelligence: Super Bowl Or Bust For Colts
October 15, 2010, 8:19 pm
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Friday, October 15, 2010, 4:16 PMCSNwashington.com

Whats the inside story on the Washington Redskins Sunday night opponent, the Indianapolis Colts? Is it worth blitzing Peyton Manning? Is his offensive line good enough? Are the fans tired of not winning the Super Bowl? What about the Colts' defense?

To get a unique perspective on the Colts, CSNwashington.com asked Brad Wells a.k.a. BigBlueShoe", founder of Colts blog Stampede Blue and editor of SB Nations Indiana affiliate, to answer some questions about the team he follows. Our exchange is below.

Thanks to Brad for his excellent insight!

CSNwashingtonOn Sunday, the Colts beat an undefeated team by 10 points. The headline on StampedeBlue.com reads, What Needs Fixin. Not that the Chiefs were a juggernaut, but most NFL cities would have been pretty happy with a win like that. After seven straight seasons with 12 or more wins in a league set up for parity, have the expectations of Colts fans grown too high?

Brad WellsNot long ago, for SB Nation: Indiana (which is our regional sports site for Indiana), I wrote an article outlining my personal expectations which were 'Super Bowl, or Bust.' For me, and many other Colts fans, it's about rings. Anything less is a failure. While winning 12 games for seven straight years is wonderful, it's the rings that matter now. No one cares how many regular season games you win if there are no rings attached. A 10-6 team with a ring is better than a 15-1 team without one.

That said, this Colts team has a lot of flaws. Fans recognize those flaws and expect them to be corrected. We're kind of tired of seeing our run defense play great one week and then play like garbage the next. We're tired of seeing our o-line forget how to block. We're tired of seeing Bob Sanders always on the injury list. Consistent, correctable flaws that, for some reason, aren't getting corrected.

When your team has, arguably, the greatest QB ever to play the game on the roster, high expectations come with the territory. If you don't have those expectations, you're selling yourself (and your team) short.
CSNwashingtonI read that the Chiefs rushed more than four defenders at Manning just once during the entire game and held the Colts to one touchdown. Have other teams given up on blitzing Manning and started dropping more into coverage?

BWAsk the Jets. The blitzed the heck out of Manning in the AFC Championship Game last year. How'd that turn out? There is no one blueprint to beat Peyton Manning. The only way you can win is to control the ball on offense and score touchdowns as the Saints did in Super Bowl 44. This limits the amount of opportunities the Colts have to score and forces Manning to play 'perfect' if the team is to win.

CSNwashingtonWith all of the attention on Manning, we dont hear much about the Colts defense. You seemed to indicate on Stampede Blue that they had performed below expectations this year before last Sunday. Give me a quick scouting report on the unit, the key players, the strong points and where they can be beaten.

BWAll season long, I've questioned this defense's heart and desire. They quit on each other in the fourth quarter of the Texans game in Week One, which was disturbing to see. Then against the Jaguars in Week Four, they were so inept I wondered why the coaches bothered calling in the punt unit on 4th down. When the defense is 'on,' they play fast and physical. Usually, this is at home. When they come out flat, usually on the road, it lingers throughout the game.

They're also a bit of a whiny bunch, complaining about how the press is 'negative' towards them; trying to use that as motivation. Sorry, but when you have surrendered over 711 rushing yards in five games, and allowed QBs to consistently make big plays in the passing game, you are deserving of negative press. Instead of whining about it, how about PLAYING BETTER? They played well against the Chiefs overall this past Sunday, but some of that was luck (thanks Dwayne Bowe!). In general, this defense does not consistently 'man up.' They have a ton of money invested in there now. There is no excuse for this group to be playing this inconsistently.

CSNwashingtonKeeping with the under-the-radar theme, Jim Caldwell is one of the lowest-profile head coaches out there. How is he perceived around Indy and among the fan base? Is he hands on in game planning or is he more in the CEO mold? How is he in game-management areas like use of timeouts and challenges?

BWIn general, I don't think fans care much for Jim Caldwell. Much of that dislike stems from how he and team president Bill Polian handled the Week Sixteen benching of starters last season when the Colts were undefeated. Also, after the Super Bowl, when Caldwell was seemingly out-coached by Saints headman Sean Payton, fans grew even more restless.

Rightly or not, Caldwell is viewed as little more than a mouthpiece for Polian. Tony Dungy very much presented himself as his own man. Caldwell does not.

In general, Caldwell is a 'CEO' type coach. He lets his assistants do their jobs, which is what all head coaches should do. Also, he's pretty good at things like clock management, timeouts, challenges, etc - athough, he took a ton of heat for a late timeout he called two weeks ago at Jacksonville, which helped set-up Josh Scobee for the game-winning 59-yard FG.

CSNwashingtonThe Colts have had to retoolrebuild their offensive line over the past couple of years, a process that the Redskins are just beginning. How is the process coming along? Are the pieces in place for the long term or does the process continue?

BWThis is the worst offensive line Peyton Manning has ever had to play behind. Ever. Terms like 'retooling' are words I hate because, in general, you either have the talent or you don't. OTAs and training camp are for 'tooling' your line. By now, the talent there should be taking over, and after watching the Colts for five weeks, they clearly have a lack of talent along their o-line.

For many Colts fans, this is frustrating because during the offseason, Bill Polian cut the team's best interior guard (Ryan Lilja) seemingly for no reason. Lilja signed on with the Chiefs, whom (if you noticed) have a very potent ground game. Lilja still doesn't know why he was cut. Neither do other Colts players. Players like Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard have had to fill the void left by Lilja. Both are awful. Just awful.

It's important to note that Bill Polian was very critical of the Colts offensive line after Super Bowl 44. Yet, despite his remarks, he did very little, if anything, to truly fix the line and make it better. If anything, by cutting Lilja for no reason, he made it worse.
CSNwashingtonWhos going to win on Sunday night and why?

BWWell, I'm obviously going to say the Colts because of Peyton Manning, but the score will be close. The Colts defense has been terrible on the road this year, allowing 26 points per game and 478 rushing yards. Colts have also struggled mightily to run the football on the road, and if Joseph Addai's shoulder injury is enough to keep him out Sunday night, running the ball just got harder.

But Manning and his receivers are clicking. The Colts might get Anthony Gonzalez and Donald Brown back as well. Also, if the Colts defense can build off last week's impressive performance, especially on third down, they win.