Too much Vick for shorthanded Colts

Posted Nov. 08, 2010 @ 6:36 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

Following a pulsating Monday-night win over the Texans in Week Eight and a short work week to prepare for the Eagles, the shorthanded Colts found themselves facing a 13-0 first-quarter deficit at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

Indy managed to rally for a 17-16 halftime lead, but it was too much Michael Vick in the second half, and the Colts eventually fell 26-24.

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Even 14 Philadelphia penalties for 125 yards couldn't save the Colts from the electrifying trio of Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Indianapolis, as it has been all season, was very good at limiting the damage after big plays — as witnessed by them holding the Eagles to two TDs and three field goals in five red-zone visits — but it simply couldn't contain the speed of Vick and the Eagles' offense, especially on third down, which was the difference in the game.

The Colts sorely missed CB Jerraud Powers and LB Clint Session. Second-year CB Jacob Lacey was overmatched by Jackson and veteran Tyjuan Hagler didn't strike fear in opponents the way Session does. Instead the Eagles picked on Lacey and veteran CB Deshea Townsend. Lacey, who has been battling injuries of his own this season, had a hard time in man coverage on Jackson — Vick found Jackson on a nine-yard slant pattern to start the scoring early in the first quarter. Townsend didn't fare much better, falling behind Jackson on a 58-yard completion from the shadow of the Eagles' endzone on 3rd-and-7 from the Philly four in the first quarter. SS Aaron Francisco also stood out — and not in a good way — for the first time since replacing Melvin Bullitt in Week Five. Francisco was late to help the overmatched Colts' cornerbacks on more than one occasion.

It was all about Vick, though. Every time the Indy "D" managed to put the Eagles in a difficult third-down situation, he bailed them out. If he wasn't converting through the air, he was using his legs to make plays. The Colts pressured the NFL's highest-rated passer out of the pocket, but that worked to his advantage — Vick is often at his best when improvising in space. For the game, the Eagles converted 7-of-15 third downs (47 percent).

While Peyton Manning usually puts his team on his shoulders in this type of situation, he wasn't his usual self. Manning threw a pair of INTs — including one on the final drive — and missed several throws.  He could have used more help. The shorthanded receiving corps had its share of drops. The offensive line didn't play well for the second week in a row. Manning was sacked three times, and Donald Brown, making his first career start, did not have a lot of running room. Brown ran hard, converting several key third downs, but the absence of Joseph Addai was felt the most in pass protection.

The same can be said for the absence of Dallas Clark and Brody Eldridge. Jacob Tamme was once again very productive in the passing game (11-108-1 on 17 targets), but he and Gijon Robinson didn't offer much in terms of protection. Rookie OG Jacques McClendon, who was active for the first time this season — as a tight end — isn't the answer in short-yardage situations, nor is DT Eric Foster, who lined up at fullback in the Colts' jumbo package.

Head coach Jim Caldwell would be best served helping his players erase this loss from their collective memories immediately. Austin Collie, who left the field on a stretcher after a scary collision in the second quarter, is "expected to make a quick recovery," according to Caldwell; the defense won't have to worry about seeing Michael Vick again — in the regular season; help is on the way, as Addai, Eldridge, Powers, Session, Mike Hart and Justin Tryon all continue to heal.

And the Colts return to Lucas Oil Stadium, where they have not lost this season and play five of their final eight games, for a little home cooking against the Bengals, who won't come close to matching the incredible speed of the Eagles.