On the John
Originally published in NUVO Newsweekly on October 19, 2005
To all of you loyal supporters of the Indianapolis Colts-
On behalf of football fans across the country, I am happy to officially welcome you to the NFL. We were wondering when you’d show up. You’d been building towards it for a few years now, and we’re all glad to see that you’ve finally made it. We knew that Tony Dungy would try to get you out of the Arena League and into the big time, and it looks like he has succeeded.
I know you Colt fans are all “finally happy,” what with the Return of the Indianapolis Offense as seen Monday night. But before you go back to your normal oblivion, settle yourselves and take a look at what’s really happening here. In six games, your team has allowed 57 points, the lowest total in the NFL. You’re number six in the NFL in yards allowed per game, and you’ve yet to allow a 100 yard rusher. So Peyton Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass in two straight games? Who cares? How bout this to cheer you up: in 61 combined possessions on defense, the Colts succeeded in keeping the ball out of the redzone a masterful 52 times. Your turnover ratio is +8, you have 21 sacks, Edgerrin James is running hard, and oh by the way, you’re undefeated.
This is real football, folks. This is the way it should be. Hard-hitting defense, your line against my line, run the ball and stuff the run, control the clock, field position, tough it out. These numbers I’ve listed above, these are numbers to be celebrated, not shrugged off. All of the early references to this Colts team as “sluggish” and “sloppy,” that was just lazy criticism. How about words like “imposing” and “impressive,” and for the first time in the Triplets Era, “intimidating,” because those are the words that come to my mind when I think about this Colts team. Maybe a few more weeks of hard-nosed grunt jobs, and you people will learn to appreciate this brand of football.
As a Chicago guy, this is all I know. Quarterbacks? Who needs ‘em? Guys like Butkus and Payton, Sayers and Singletary…these are the men we hold in high esteem. Sure we’ve been in a bit of a down slump lately, but still. We’re the Chicago Bears. We’re what football is supposed to be. The Indianapolis Colts? Well, they’re fun to watch—I’ll be the first to admit that your offense is a thing of beauty—but they’re not built to last. They’re built for the indoors, track meet football, built for September and October instead of December and January, built for five touchdown blowouts of the Texans and Lions (and Bears) instead of grind-it-out ground wars with the Steelers and Patriots. The Colts are like a smoking-hot girl you pick up at a bar: fun for a fling, but it ain’t the real thing.
Certainly you must realize this. You must have seen the shortcomings of the Colts the past few years. They’ve been like a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie: big budget, big stars, lots of excitement with all the special effects in the world, but a plot that fizzles out towards the end and leaves you dissatisfied. Great “O” and no “D,” or great “D” and no “O?” And before you answer, why not ask Trent Dilfer what it feels like to win a Super Bowl. After all, what did 49 touchdown passes bring you? Another playoff loss to the Patriots, that’s what. The very fact that this team has been eliminated by New England in consecutive years in the same bone-crunching fashion should be enough to make you realize that something isn’t working. So what if the 2004 Colts were the first team with three 1,000 yard-10 TD receivers? Think that’s keeping Tom Brady up nights? Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Arab guy breaks out the huge sword and starts swinging it around in front of Indiana Jones, hot dogging it in an attempt to scare him, and Indy laughs, pulls out his gun, and shoots him dead? That’s the Colts and the Patriots the past few years, and I’ll leave you to decide which one is which.
But now, it looks as if the Colts may have finally figured it all out. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships. It’s cliché for a reason, people. This is a defense with a real heart and soul leader in Dwight Freeney, a defense tired of being carried by their offensive counterparts. This is a defense that wants to be the reason Indy goes to the Super Bowl, not just the guys who happened to come along. This is a defense that made Peyton and the boys pick their games up, lest they become the weak link. And the offense? They might flounder here and there, but they’ll probably always do enough to get a win…just like New England. Pro football has arrived in Indianapolis, and it looks pretty damn good.
As for the Patriots, well, you’re on your own.
Copyright 2005, jm silverstein