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Tag:Reggie Wayne
Posted on: December 22, 2011 11:26 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 11:40 pm
 

Manning could return to IND but what about Wayne?

Indy owner Jim Irsay sounds like Peyton remains in the team's future, but what about Reggie? (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Huge win for Indianapolis Thursday night (their second in a row!), but perhaps the biggest news to come from the Texans-Colts get-together took place before the game when Colts owner Jim Irsay told NFL Network that he couldn’t envision a situation in which Peyton Manning would play anywhere but Indianapolis unless he wasn’t able to play at all.

"I think the situation is if he's back and he's healthy, I see him coming back and playing here," Irsay said in an interview with Rich Eisen. "I think the hope is that his health is in the position where he could return again. That remains uncertain and that's something that's first and foremost on my mind."

A quick timeline of events:

* May 23, 2011: Manning has neck surgery (bulging disk)
* July 30, 2011: Signed to 5-year, $90 million contract
* September 8, 2011: Manning has spinal fusion surgery
* March 8, 2012: $28 million option bonus due

And it’s that March 8 deadline that has led to speculation that the Colts could either cut or trade Manning (which led to speculation that the Redskins would be interested).

"I don't see that being an issue," Irsay said. "I paid him $26 million this season and he didn't play and I knew it was an iffy situation. If he's healthy and he can play, he'll be back here."

But even if Manning’s healthy, that won’t preclude Irsay from taking a quarterback in April’s draft.

“The draft will be what the draft is — there’s a lot of situations that can unfold from here,” Irsay said. “If there’s a great young quarterback there, we wouldn’t hesitate to take him.”

(We suspect that would be the case no matter what the Redskins might be willing to give up.)

But Manning isn’t the only Colts veteran whose future is uncertain. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, the team’s 2001 first-round pick, is in the last year of his contract. He’s been looking for a new deal since the summer, but the team asked for patience in August and he’s said all the right things since.

Earlier in the week, Wayne acknowledged that Thursday's game could be his last at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I am well aware of that and I’ve come to the conclusion that in every athlete’s career they are going to be faced with this decision at some point in time, whether it is a long career or a short career," Wayne said in comments posted on the Colts website.

For an idea of just how valuable Wayne has been during his career, consider this: in his 10 seasons with Manning prior to 2011, Wayne has averaged 79 receptions for 1,075 yards and seven touchdowns. From 2006-2010, those numbers jump to 99, 1,319, and 8. And while his numbers are down in 2011, he did grab the game-winner against Houston Thursday.

Still, there’s no guarantee that Indy brings him back, especially if Manning’s future remains in doubt heading into this offseason.

And that leads us to this: if Wayne doesn’t return to Indianapolis, where might he end up in 2012?

A list of possible destinations:

1. New England Patriots. Consider it payback for Adam Vinatieri, but more importantly, it’ll give Tom Brady the deep threat Chad Ochocinco never developed into. Wayne’s game is built on precise route-running, which is imperative in Peyton Manning’s offense (and Brady's). And it’s something Ochocinco never had to worry about in Cincinnati.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars. A team so desperate for playmakers at wide receiver that they’re signing guys off the street. Of course, the Jags have plenty to sort out in the coming months, starting with finding a head coach and making sure that Blaine Gabbert really is Jacksonville’s quarterback of the future. That said, Shahid Kahn probably doesn’t have enough money to convince Wayne to come to Florida.

3. New York Jets. Rex Ryan has yet to meet a veteran with a nice resume that he wasn’t interested in bringing to New York (see: Holmes, Burress, and even Derrick Mason for a look-see earlier this season). Maybe Wayne’s route-running will rub off on the other wideouts and mask some of Mark Sanchez’s struggles with accuracy.

4. San Francisco 49ers. Braylon Edwards has been underwhelming and Michael Crabtree could use a proven veteran to play opposite him while pushing him to get better. But if Wayne wasn’t crazy about catching passes from Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, he might not want to play with Alex Smith, either. Smith is clearly better than either of the Colts’ backups, but San Francisco’s offense is built on west coast principles, the running game and the defense. Then again, winning fixes a lot.

5. St. Louis Rams. Another team in dire need of skill position players. Unlike Jacksonville, Sam Bradford has proven he can play in the NFL, it’s just that he and almost everybody else on the roster was beset with injuries in 2011.

Ultimately, we expect Wayne to stay in Indy, especially if Manning’s back in 2012 and beyond.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 3:00 pm
 

Irsay doesn't "envision Peyton playing' in 2011

By Will Brinson

This won't come as much of a surprise, but Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn't believe that Peyton Manning, sidelined for the entire season with a neck injury, will end up playing in 2011.

That's according to comments Irsay made to WRTV at a Super Bowl event in downtown Indianapolis recently, when he told the station that he "doesn't envision Peyton playing this season."

"These things take time. The best doctors can't predict. People often think someone knows for sure, and the answer is only time will tell," Irsay told WRTV, via The Indianapolis Star. "He is doing everything he can to get back and is working as hard as he can."

Really, the biggest surprise when we learned about the serious nature of Manning's neck injury is that he wasn't placed in Injured Reserve when the season began, in order for the Colts to add another body to the team.

Irsay's spent the season, however, sending out tweets about Manning's season not quite being done. And Manning himself told The NFL Today recently that he's cleared to throw, but not to practice.


The Colts have often been odd about their IR decisions, however, and putting Manning down for the year before the year really began wouldn't do wonders for ticket sales. (Not that 0-12 is helping matters.)

Lest you missed it, there's been quite the controversy this week about whether or not Manning and likely to be drafted quarterback Andrew Luck can co-exist on the Indy roster.

Now the general direction of rumors and chatter indicate that Manning could be traded (we'll worry more about suitors when it comes time, but the Jets, 49ers and Redskins all stand out as possibilities) or cut. After all, as Archie Manning said, "It'll work itself out."

The crazy thing is that if, in fact, Manning is done for the season, it's entirely possible he's already played his last game in a Colts uniform.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:09 pm
 

Reggie Wayne is understandably frustrated

Wayne is on pace for career lows in catches, yards and touchdowns. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

For an idea of just how far and fast the Colts have fallen since losing Peyton Manning before the season, consider that Reggie Wayne has been out of the news since, well, September. This is what happens when you go from one of the NFL's most productive wide receivers to the situation Wayne currently finds himself: a weekly non-factor thanks to a suddenly inept Colts offense.

Manning's replacement, Curtis Painter, has completed just 55 percent of his passes (5 TDs, 7 INTs), and as a consequence, Wayne has just 42 receptions for 530 yards and a lone touchdown. He's on pace for his lowest totals in catches, yards and touchdowns since 2003. Understandably, he's frustrated.

"I always feel 'this week' I'm going to have a big game," Wayne said, according to the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell. "So, (today) is going to be my big game of the year. Won't be hard, you know what I mean?"

Wayne's best game came in the opener, a seven-catch, 106-yard effort in a beatdown at the hands of the Texans. In the nine games since, Wayne has had four receptions or fewer seven times and his longest catch of the season is just 36 yards.

"The only way I go without snapping (with) the media is every game when I come in, first thing I do is put my helmet and stuff down and grab my phone," Wayne said. "Always got a text message from my wife and it's a picture of my kids.

"I don't think she's doing it on purpose, but when I see my kids, that calms the storm. They bring everything back."

It was less than four months ago that Wayne was hoping for a new contract. His value has taken a hit this season and he's certainly in line for less than that he could've expected back in August. The drastic drop in productivity isn't his fault, although we suspect that won't much matter when he negotiates his next deal.

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Posted on: October 15, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Irsay: Wayne, Mathis 'trade rumors not true'

Posted by Will Brinson

Somewhere, somehow, rumors about Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis getting traded popped up. As Phil Wilson at the Indianapolis Star notes, the rumors aren't really rumors so much as conjecture, based on the fact that they're free agents and there was a mention that the Colts should trade both guys in order to acquire picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

That's not an unreasonable take, but Colts owner Jim Irsay said Saturday that neither player will be heading anywhere other than Lucas Oil Stadium for their home games this year.

"No,the trade rumors aren't true," Irsay tweeted on Saturday morning. "I'm negotiating 2 buy Mars though..so I can ensure inter-galactic,NFL dominance for the 25th century."

OK. Well at least I know I have something in the bag for Sorting the Sunday Pile, even if it lacks a clear-cut, pop-culture reference.

But back to dealing Wayne and Mathis -- it's not that likely to happen even though it probably should. (And, technically, still could.) Both guys are older than 30 and in the final year of their respective contracts. Wilson believes the Colts should extend both guys after this year; others feel differently.

Indy might not net all that much for the pair (or, more likely, if they're individually wrapped), but it seems reasonable that a contender with issues at wide receiver might be interested in Wayne. The Bills, the Titans, the Ravens, the Texans, the Chargers, the Redskins -- really anyone with a winning record would be upgraded by adding Wayne.

And Mathis could be a pass-rushing terror and/or upgrade for a number of teams -- the Jets, the Patriots, etc., -- that can't get pressure on the quarterback.

The real problem might lie in how Colts fans and players perceive the move. Yes, it would be saying "we're done in 2011" but everyone knows that, even if management steadfastly refuses to say it. (Which is totally fine -- no one should ever roll over and play dead in the NFL, at least not in Week 6.)

But maybe more importantly, it would be admitting that the Colts are in full rebuild mode, as they'd start 2012 without their top wideout and their second-best defensive player.

Provided that Peyton Manning will return next year -- something we don't know yet -- it puts Colts management in a tough spot. Can they really rebuild while he's in the final stages of his career? Manning gives them a chance to win like maybe no other player in the NFL. But at some point, the Colts do have to consider life after Manning.

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 5

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.


1. The Billboards Worked!
When John Fox decided to bench incumbent starter Kyle Orton at half for would-be Denver football messiah Tim Tebow, it seemed like a pretty good excuse for Fox to let the fan-favorite quarterback struggle his way to a miserable second half, giving Fox has a totally justifiable excuse for refusing to answer any Tebow-related questions and instead just glaring at whoever asks them with a stern, judgmental look.

Then Tebow scored on a rushing touchdown that was a designed quarterback draw.

Then Tebow threw a screen pass to Knowshon Moreno, a ball so blessed by Tebow's hand that Moreno used its powers to break several tackles, cross the goalline and bring the Broncos inexplicably within two points.

So, um, we have a quarterback controversy, right? Rich Gannon and Marv Albert certainly think so.


Fox agrees, I think. Maybe. Possibly.

"I think Tim Tebow sparked the team today," Fox said. "We haven't had a chance to watch the tape. We haven't had time to watch the film. I think at this point we've got a bye week. We do need to improve offensively. And it will all be up for discussion."

Right. We definitely do. Although it's pretty arguable that Tebow, despite his shortcomings, should be starting for the Broncos. Kyle Orton will be a free agent after this year, and would still have trade value to a few teams (ahem, Miami).

Tebow, as Fox noted, managed to make the Broncos play harder, even if his own personal play was lacking. Yes, he ran for a touchdown. Yes, he threw for another. And, yes, he gave the Broncos a shot at winning a game in which they had no business having a shot to win. But he still finished 6 of 13 4 for 10 for 34 79 passing yards (28 came on the Moreno touchdown) and played so poorly up until four minutes left in the game that at least one dork fired up Photoshop and created fake, apologetic billboards.

(Ed. Note: Had Orton's stats in there. My bad. Note strikes. Still doesn't make Tebow's stats "good.")



Doh. And, yeah, I literally put this on Twitter 10 seconds before Tebow scampered in for his first touchdown.

Look, I'm prepared to take a ton of flak from Broncos fans in the comments for even begin to suggest that going to Tebow isn't the smart move. But from a perspective of "putting the best player under center" it isn't. Orton's still better. But the Broncos are bad and won't sniff the playoffs this season, so perhaps rolling the dice with Tebow now and at least seeing what he can is the play.

He apparently inspires the team, and that's great. But the reality is that he's a below-average quarterback with a limited skill set who just about helped his pretty awful team pull off a come-from-behind victory against a much better team at home.

And failed.

Yet, we're still talking about Tebow. And that's OK. But there's a whole lot of chatter about Tebow being "the guy" in Denver. And even though the statistics and the tape show that he wasn't all too productive -- though the statistics can't measure heart, not yet anyway! -- that chatter won't stop until Fox caves and names him the starter.

Which should make the next two weeks (the Broncos are on the bye) of speculation super-duper fun.

2. The Snooze Button Is Broken

Leading up to the Eagles's Week 5 matchup with the Bills, Michael Vick made sure the media knew that Philly no longer saw themselves as "the Dream Team." Unfortunately for him, we already knew that. It comes with the territory on a 1-3 start.

After a 31-24 loss in Buffalo, the Eagles are 1-4, and with all due respect to the very-much-for-real Bills, it's not even that hard to fathom. Sure, Andy Reid's team "won the offseason," but as their NFC East compatriots the Redskins know, that means nothing in the regular season.

"No. 1, there's nobody to blame but me," Reid said after the game. "That's how I look at it. I take full responsibility for it. It's my team."

And that's fine, because the Eagles are an incredibly sloppy team right now. If you need more proof than Vick's four interceptions -- he had six all of last year -- just look at the way each half ended. With the Eagles in the Bills territory, Vick took to long to throw the ball away and chunked the rock through the end zone as time expired. In Philly he might have gotten a second, but on the road, that clock's ticking, and the Eagles didn't got a shot at three points.

The worse crime came on a fourth and one with 1:23 to go and the Eagles down seven -- the Bills somehow managed to draw Juqua Parker offsides, grabbed a free first down and took knees to move their record to 4-1.

Buffalo is the real story, because it's absolutely improbable that they're a legit playoff contender. But the Eagles, clear-cut preseason favorites to win their division, are quite the nice juxtaposition to a Buffalo team that's well-coached, scraps for everything and plays sound football en route to winning games.

On the bright(ish) side, there have been seven teams since 1978 to make the playoffs after starting the season 1-4. So Philly's got that going for them.

3. Just Win, Baby

Since Al Davis died on Saturday morning, there were any number of very impressive, very emotional and very deserving tributes for one of the all-time great figures in NFL history.

But the best tribute of the weekend? Oakland figuring out how to just win in Houston, in what was clearly an emotional game for everyone on the Raiders payroll.

"I know he's looking down on this team," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. "And he's with us every step of the way."

As Clark Judge noted Sunday, Oakland is indeed finding ways to "just win" and most of the season, they've looked better than their AFC-West counterparts the Chargers, despite sitting a game back in the standings of their division foes. They're still just 2-2 outside the division, but those two wins equal the number they had outside the AFC West in 2010.

If they can replicate their in-division success, 2011 could be a special year. And it probably won't hurt that Oakland has three-straight games at home starting in Week 6 -- you can bet that the Black Hole will be especially dark, which is exactly how Al Davis would have wanted it.

Real quickly, if anyone that's as "young" as I am (30; I'm using the term loosely) is confused by the heartfelt tributes to Al Davis over the weekend, take some time to read about his history in the AFL and NFL and watch some of the offerings the NFL Network is putting out there right now.

The stereotype that my generation takes from Davis is that he ran the Raiders into the ground with his obsession for speed and athleticism. This is because the Raiders last Super Bowl win was in 1983 and since they moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995, they've made the playoffs just three times.

Reality is that while some of those stereotypes do apply, Davis helped spark the rise of the NFL that we know today, he broke down serious barriers when it came to minority hiring in the NFL, and while he owned the team, the Raiders became the only franchise in NFL history to make a trip to the Super Bowl in four consecutive decades.

That's sustained success by any measure, and throughout it all, there really was only one constant: Al Davis.

4. Meanwhile, Across the Bay ...
The San Francisco 49ers are 4-1 after taking Tampa Bay to the woodshed 48-3 on Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

Improbably, Alex Smith threw three touchdowns as San Fran's offense, with the help of a second-straight 125-yard rushing game from Frank Gore, carved up the Buccaneers defense. Vernon Davis found the end zone twice, and the 49ers used the all-around dominant performance to vault themselves to 4-1, as they maintained firm control over the NFC West.

What Jim Harbaugh is doing with San Francisco (and this is the second week in a row I've written this) is absolutely phenomenal, even if allowing a wide receiver to suffer a potentially serious ankle injury with four minutes left and up 41-3 deserves some flak.

Everyone felt confident believing that the Niners needed better coaching to really utilize their talent. That might be true.

But they're a miraculous comeback -- and just three points -- away from being undefeated, and it doesn't really matter who they've played against. Because, frankly, their schedule doesn't get that much tougher. Not counting NFC West games, San Francisco has games in Detroit, versus Cleveland, at Washington, versus the Giants, at Baltimore (Thanksgiving), and versus Pittsburgh.

No one's going to confuse them for the most dominant team in the NFL, even if their win Sunday looked that way, but even if they win the rest of their division matchups and lose the rest of their games (the latter's harder to fathom than the former, by the way) , they'd still end up with nine wins.

They're squarely in the driver's seat for a playoff game at home come January, Alex Smith's got the keys and everyone seems alright with this.

5. Paint it Blonde
I asked this like 12 times on Twitter Sunday, but no one could give me a good answer, so I'll ask again: How is that Reggie Wayne was the only person in the entire Colts organization that knew Curtis Painter was better than Kerry Collins?

Because Wayne knew -- he knew so much that he told us twice that Painter could compete. Unfortunately for Wayne, the newest Manning brother (Curtis!) actually prefers Pierre Garcon when it comes to touchdown passes ...


Don't get me wrong -- even Jeff George would have found Garcon on that play, so terrible was Brandon Flowers coverage. But it's pretty obvious at this point, even with Indy sitting at 0-5, that Painter gives them a better shot at winning than Collins, even if they're now 0-5 after a 28-24 loss to Kansas City.

So why did it take three games and a Collins concussion to figure that out? It's a great question and it probably involves someone(s) on the coaching staff or the front office not being as in-tune to the roster as Wayne is.

For Chiefs fans (read: my good friend and colleague who runs Eye on Basketball, Matt Moore): let's not get too frisky just yet. Your two wins are squeakers against teams that are a combined 1-9. But Todd Haley's seat is cooling at least.

6. Come on, It's All Ball Bearings These Days!
Actually, if you're the Vikings, it's simpler than anything Irwin M. Fletcher ever suggested: just give Adrian Peterson the ball.

Through four games -- all losses -- Peterson was "only" averaging 20.3 carries per game. This isn't to suggest Leslie Frazier should have run him into the ground as soon as he got the head coaching gig in Minny, but if you're leading by double digits at halftime, there's nothing wrong with a healthy dose of AP.

Frazier finally figured that out, and let Peterson loose against a suddenly hapless Cardinals team. Peterson ended the day with 29 carries for 122 rushing yards and three touchdowns; all the scores came in the first quarter, making AP just the fourth running back in the last 20 years to find the end zone three times in one quarter.

The obvious gameplan led to an obvious result: Frazier's first win as a (non-interim) head coach.

Now he's got a bigger problem to solve -- what to do with his quarterback situation. Donovan McNabb struggled again, completing just 10 of 21 passes for 169 yards against a Cardinals secondary that doesn't begin to qualify as "competent." The oft-maligned QB was pelted with "We want Ponder!" chants from the crowd at the Metrodome, and it's probably time for Frazier to perk his ears up and listen.

Could Ponder have produced the same stat line as McNabb? Absolutely. And he certainly could have handed the ball off 29 times, with the potential upside of actually letting Frazier find out if he's a legit franchise quarterback.

7. When the Circus Comes to Town
Victor Cruz of the Giants now holds the (unofficial) NFL record for ridiculous, luck-based catches. Unfortunately for the Giants, he canceled out his big-top performance against Seattle with two absolutely back-breaking turnovers that eventually cost New York the game.

His final statline? Eight catches, 161 receiving yards, a touchdown, a rush for three yards, a terrible fumble and a tipped pass with just over a minute left that the Seahawks Brandon Browner returned 94 yards for a game-clinching pick six.

The catches are nice and the acrobatic entertainment is fun to watch (see: below). But you absolutely can't miss a catch near the goalline that results in the ball being tipped up to a crowd of defenders and gets intercepted.

Eli Manning and Co. could have won even if they probably shouldn't have, given that they were pretty much outplayed from the get-go. Instead, the Redskins are all alone atop the NFC East, which is exactly what Rex Grossman predicted, the Seahawks finally won a game on the East Coast and it's perfectly acceptable to go running for your bomb shelter right now.

8. Clock Mismanagement
Speaking of circuses, whoever spiked the collective Kool-Aid of NFL coaches with Andy Reid's Jamba Juice probably won a lot of money in their pick-em league this week -- the final two minutes of the early games featured a series of incredible gaffes, many of them game-changing.

The Panthers, for instance, lost by three. You think calling a timeout with two seconds left as the Saints scrambled to set up for a field goal, which they eventually made after the pause in action, helped New Orleans? Yes it did. The Saints won by three.

We chronicled the Eagles mistakes -- in each half, no less! -- above. This is nothing new to an Andy Reid-coached football team. But it's still inexcusable.

The Raiders probably appreciate the Texans going incomplete-incomplete-sack with three timeouts to close out the first half, instead of utilizing their clock-killers to get good field position and a shot at some points. The Raiders didn't score, and Jacoby Jones probably deserves some fault, but you can't give the ball back to the other team that quickly.

The Vikings and Giants also behaved in a manner unbefitting of quality teams near the end of the first half, and both Mike McCarthy and Hue Jackson made poor decisions to go for a two-point conversion at an inexplicably early time.

Just sloppy decisions all around. On the bright side, maybe this Les-Miles-to-the-NFL thing could work out after all!



9. Best Team's Best Win?
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Packers march to the Super Bowl in 2010 was their resiliency amid tons of injury. Well, that and their ability to adapt when things weren't going their way. It's what great teams do, and it's what the Packers did once again on Sunday night, despite getting down early to a sharp-looking Falcons team and, most devastatingly their stalwart of a left tackle in Chad Clifton.

Bryan Bulaga was already out on the right side, but it didn't matter -- Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers adjusted their gameplan and spent the second half doing their best General Sherman impersonation, piling up a whopping 25 unanswered points on Atlanta's defense en route to a convincing 25-14 win that puts the Packers at 5-0 for the first time since 1965.

"We just stayed patient," Rodgers said afterwards. "It was a tough game -- I took a lot of shots. I had to move around a lot. [The offensive line] did a great job. The rhythm wasn't there all the time, but we just stayed with it, stayed patient and knew the big plays were going to come."

Rodgers threw for 296 of his 396 passing yards after the half and completed passes to a franchise-record 12 receivers. That's even more impressive considering that the Packers seriously stalled after Clifton went out, as the Falcons were actually able to get some pressure on Rodgers.

It was a brief period in neutral, though, as Rodgers -- who's established himself as the best quarterback in the NFL at this point, and I hope you're alright with that -- and the Packers got rolling and ended up winning in near-blowout fashion.

If they continue to adjust when adversity hits as they have this season (and last), Mike Freeman's note earlier this week about the Packers going undefeated doesn't seem remotely far-fetched.

And as long as No. 12 is under center, neither does another Super Bowl.

10. The Old Don't Bury 'Em Yet Game
High-quality teams that are struggling, like the Steelers, always bust out this old chestnut, randomly ripping into an opponent and reminding us that they're not dead yet.

So we come not to bury the Steelers, but to praise them, on the heels of a 38-17 beatdown of the Titans on Sunday that happened despite a weakened Steelers offensive line, an aging Steelers defense, a surging Titans offense and a busted-up Ben Roethlisberger.

"I told ya, I was just faking it," Roethlisberger said. "I'm a wimp."

Ben, obviously, is the complete opposite of a "wimp," mainly because pain either a) doesn't effect him or b) makes him better. Or something -- the dude was limping like crazy in pre-game warm-ups, and I felt pretty good about my Steelers pick.

Then all 350 pounds of Max Starks managed to rejuvenate the Pittsburgh offensive line who bullied an underrated Tennessee front four, giving Jonathan Dwyer his first career 100-yard rushing game, only allowed Roethlisberger to get sacked once, and protected like a unit capable of helping a team get to the Super Bowl.

Oh yeah, the defense was OK too -- LaMarr Woodley made it quite clear early on that Pittsburgh was going to have a statement game, recording an interception and 1.5 sacks, one of which was one of the most beasty sacks I've seen in a while -- Woodley fought off a blocker after briefly getting his hands on Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and just forcing his way to the takedown.

Pittsburgh's still tied with the Bengals (right?), but they're both just a half-game back of the Ravens now, and in case you thought the Steelers would just limp off into the sunset, you were clearly wrong.

Worth 1,000 Words



Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Matt Schaub thinking on the final play of Raiders-Texans??? Just a horrible pass.
... When Antonio Cromartie picked off Tom Brady to end the half in the Jets-Patriots tilt, it was the first red-zone interception that Tom Brady has thrown at home. Ever. In his career. Say what you want about cherry-picking stats, but that's absolutely insane.
... Comebacks continue: the Chiefs stormed back from 17 points down, making it the seventh time an NFL team has done so this season, the most in NFL history.
... Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history with more than five passing and five rushing touchdowns in the first five games of his career Sunday. Yes, they lost. Whatever.
... Speaking of that Panthers game, what it's gonna take for the NFL to let an official eject someone? Because what Roman Harper did -- needlessly cheap-shotting Steve Smith after Smith made it to the end zone Sunday -- was about as close as it came, and nearly sparked a brawl. Not to wussify the sport further but how about we make a statement before we get Auburn Palace 2.0.

Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"Take a bottle,drink it down...pass it around"

This is what you want the owner of your football team saying shortly before Curtis Painter gets second career start to try and get your team the first win of the season. Obviously.

GIF O' THE WEEK

Courtesy of the fine mustachioed fellas at SB Nation, Victor Cruz' insane circus catch.



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Jack Del Rio: He called his team's performance "crappy" and no amount of blame-shifting by Maurice Jones-Drew is going to save his gig at this point. Bye-week tracking engaged.
  • Tony Sparano: He's making it through the bye week and, hey, might make it the whole season, if only so Stephen Ross can chase Jon Gruden.
  • Jim Caldwell: The Colts are frisky right now, but they're sure not winning. If they land Andrew Luck, won't they want someone that can groom him?
  • Andy Reid: Welcome aboard, sir! Although he could just throw Juan Castillo over the side to cool his seat.
  • Tom Coughlin: Premature? Probably. But I'm just trying to get ahead of the inevitable surge from angry New Yorkers.
  • Ken Wisenhunt: What happens when you trade a bunch of stuff for a quarterback and then spend $63 million on said quarterback but still stink? I'm just asking questions.
Chasing Andrew Luck
Colts (-400) -- It occurred to me today ... if Andrew Luck is really patient and wants to enjoy life and learn things and go about things the smart way, wouldn't he want to end up sitting behind Peyton Manning for two or three years? He'd be like Aaron Rodgers on play-calling steroids after that time frame.
Dolphins (-250) -- Presumably, Luck is part of Ross' package to Gruden.
Rams (+150) -- One would think they'd trade the pick for a lot of wide receivers.
Jaguars (+250) -- Another team with a franchise passer, huh?
Vikings (+300) -- Boy, it's a good thing they didn't rent McNabb for just one year ...
Broncos (+400) -- But, but ... Tebow!
Cardinals (+500) -- Wouldn't this be awkward? "Hey, Andy ... Do you do refunds?"
Panthers (+750) -- Also a very serious "trade the pick" candidate.
Eagles (+1000) -- Are their odds of getting Luck better than their odds of making the Super Bowl? So. Awkward.

MVP Watch
Last week, I pointed out that Aaron Rodgers easily eclipsed anyone else with his performance against the Broncos. (Stafford and Tom Brady got honorable mention and still do.) With stiffer competition on the road, Rodgers again stepped up in a big way. We're only five weeks into the season, so it's a touch silly to speculate on votes, but he'd win unanimously right now.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: October 4, 2011 1:20 am
 

Curtis Painter holds his own against Bucs

Painter impresses in first NFL start. (US PRESSWIRE)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

Maybe Reggie Wayne was on to something back in August when, after the Colts signed Kerry Collins out of retirement to keep Curtis Painter off the field, said “We don't even know [Collins], we ain't vanilla, man, we ain't no simple offense. So for him to can come in here and be the starter, I don't see it. I think that's a step back."

The implication wasn't that Collins couldn't be a capable backup in Peyton Manning's absence, just that his lack of familiarity with Indy's offense didn't make him a more attractive option than Painter, who has been with the team since 2009. We got a glimpse of that last Sunday when Painter, in relief of an injured Collins, was serviceable against the Steelers.

Facing the Buccaneers on Monday, he was much more than that, calling audibles at the line, changing protections, and running the no-huddle, something Indy hadn't been able to do with Collins under center.

In his first NFL start, Painter completed 13 of 30 passes for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and more importantly, no interceptions. (Though he did have one fumble, on a sack, which isn't surprising given that he was playing behind a decimated offensive line. Indy lost rookie left tackles Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana during the game.)

In the second quarter, Painter hit Pierre Garcon on a nifty sideline route for an 87-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead. (It was the longest first career touchdown pass since Charlie Batch tossed a 98-yarder in 1998. More impressive: it was longer than any of Peyton Manning's regular-season touchdowns.) 

But Painter wasn't done. With the Colts trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, he hit Garcon again, this time for a 59-yard score. But it still wasn't enough; the Bucs took the lead in the fourth quarter and blitzed Painter silly for the rest of the night. When it was over, Indy limped out of Tampa with a 24-17 loss.

This is what happens when you're without your franchise quarterback and missing key players on both sides of the ball.

So, no, it wasn't always pretty but let's be honest: Painter exceeded everybody's expectations, and that's a positive for a Colts team desperately in need of some good news. Unfortunately, there are no moral victories in the NFL, and a quarter of the way through the season Indy is 0-4.

We would like to take this opportunity to point out the many wig-tastic looks of Curtis Painter. (Getty Images)

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Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:04 am
Edited on: September 15, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Film Room: Colts vs. Browns preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



Sometime around Thanksgiving, the Indianapolis Colts will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. By that point, their demise will have been dissected more times than the Roman Empire's. The general consensus will be that the absence of Peyton Manning (neck surgery) did them in.

Is it that simple? Actually, yes. We weren’t kidding all those years when we said this is a 12-win team with Manning and a six-win team without him.

However, many believe that the Manning-less Colts stink because they don’t have a guy audibling them into the perfect play call or throwing darts all over the field. This logic is sensible but also incomplete.
 
Instead of spending the next two months hashing out how bad the Colts are without Manning, and instead of putting up with all the armchair GM’s who crow that the rest of the Colts organization deserves some of the blame because “There are 52 other players on the roster!”, let’s be proactive and understand why, exactly, the loss of Manning dooms one of the most successful franchises in all of professional sports.

Then, we can move on and worry about the NFL’s 31 other teams.

1. Offensive Line Masking
The Colts have long had a below average offensive line. That comes as no surprise, really; with only a few exceptions (mainly at left tackle) Bill Polian has always turned to former sixth-and seventh-rounders or undrafted players to play up front.

That’s largely why Indy has been able to eat the heavy cost of having virtually all long-tenured first-rounders at the skill positions over the years (Edgerrin James, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark).

Polian knew he could get away with a sub-par front five because his quarterback is brilliant in getting rid of the ball quickly and moving in the pocket. No quarterback over the years has made better use of the three-step drop than Manning, and no quarterback (aside from maybe Tom Brady) has better footwork in adjusting to pass-rushers.

Consequently, Manning has been sacked an average of only once per game in his 13-year career, which is about half the amount of a normal quarterback. When Manning does take a sack, it’s usually a result of execution, not misdiagnosing a defense. Thus, the hits never surprise him, which is why he almost never fumbles.

Last Sunday, Kerry Collins took three sacks and lost two fumbles.


2. The Run Game
Manning’s pre-snap adjustments did two things for the run game: They ensure that the Colts would always run to the favorable side (Manning decides at the line whether the run will be to the left or to the right) and it means the Colts run the ball out of the same personnel packages and formations from which they throw.

This prevents defenses from tracking Indy’s tendencies. It also creates a constant threat of throwing, which instills an inkling of hesitation in linebackers or safeties dropping into the box (hesitation always makes players jittery, which is partly why Manning’s play-action is so effective).

All of this prevents defenses from loading up and taking advantage of Indy’s undersized and ungifted offensive line. This often saves the Colts; when they’ve gotten away from the run-pass threat (such as in short-yardage situations), their futile ground game always has been exposed.

But now, this threat is gone, and there’s no reliable ground game to fall back on. Joseph Addai is at his best running out of passing sets (think draw plays) and Donald Brown is at his best running against college competition.

3. Helping the wideouts
The best kept secret in all of Indiana last year was that Reggie Wayne was slowing down. The numbers didn’t show it, but the film did. Wayne was not the same downfield threat he once was. He didn’t have the same burst in his redirection or tempo changes. Teams with good cornerbacks stopped rotating safety help to his side of the field. This changed the outlook for Indy’s other route combinations and forced the Colts to throw more underneath and inside.

Manning was able to recognize Wayne’s decline and adjust by either spreading the ball around or hitting Wayne earlier in his routes (when awareness and presnap alignment are more prevalent than physical execution). This is why Wayne’s yards per catch dipped to a career-low 12.2. Hitting a receiver earlier in the route isn’t normally an option, but Manning has uncanny chemistry with his wideouts (Wayne in particular).

This kind of chemistry can’t be replicated – no matter how savvy the hoary Kerry Collins might be. It’s chemistry that derives from a quarterback working with his receivers for several years and offseasons, and, more importantly, from working out of the same system all that time. Over the years the Colts have tailored their system more and more to Manning.

Even if Collins were intimately familiar with Indy’s system (which he’s not), it still wouldn’t click perfectly because it’s a system that’s custom designed for someone else. And, as we’ve already discussed, that someone else has pocket movement skills that 99.9 percent of the world’s other quarterbacks don’t have.

Without Manning’s timing and vision, Colts receivers now have to learn a new definition of "getting open."

4. The defense
The Colts have always had an undersized defense built on speed. It centers around the edge-rushing abilities of the defensive ends. Generally, as long as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are potent, Indy’s other nine defenders just need to soundly execute basic zone concepts.

A zone-based scheme behind a traditional four-man pass-rush is the type of defense you construct when you plan on playing with a lead. More than that, it’s the type you construct when you plan on playing minimal snaps. The Colts have gotten by with having small linebackers because they’ve had an offense that can consistently sustain drives and allow those small linebackers to always be fresh.

It’s easy to say now that the Colts should have been building a stronger defense in recent years. But the salary cap doesn’t allow for that. Polian probably would have re-signed more linebackers and cornerbacks or brought in more defensive free agents…except he had to pay Manning.

5. Relevance to this week
Indianapolis’ laundry list of limitations may not be as problematic in Week 2 as it will be the rest of the season.

Many pundits peeked at the Browns’ soft early-season schedule and determined that Pat Shurmur’s club would get off to a fast start. But one of the 10,000 or so reasons that pro football is better than college football is that with pro football, you can’t simply look at a schedule and accurately predict what a team’s record will be six weeks down the road. There’s too much talent on every team, and too many dimensions to each matchup.

The Browns are amidst a massive rebuilding project – their fifth one since returning to the NFL, by the way – and might not match up well to Indy’s style. Defensively, Cleveland’s new 4-3 scheme lacks the pass-rushing talent to exploit the Colts’ subpar offensive line. The Browns linebackers also had some trouble identifying underneath route combinations against the Bengals last week – something the Colts, with Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, can surely take advantage of.

Offensively, Pat Shurmur is carefully managing Colt McCoy’s mental workload. Virtually every downfield pass Cleveland attempted in Week 1 came off some sort of play-action or rollout. In play-action and rollouts, the quarterback’s reads are naturally defined, as he only has to scan half the field. It’s a smart tactic, but it will be dicey to execute against the speed of the Colts defensive ends. Look for the Browns to ram the ball with Peyton Hillis. They’ll have to survive with one-dimensionality.

So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 1 games


Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: August 26, 2011 3:14 pm
 

Wayne unimpressed by Favre-to-Colts speculation



Posted by Ryan Wilson

It's come to this. Year after year, Brett Favre would announced his retirement only to return for one more season. Now that he appears legitimately done with football, his name surfaces every few weeks as a possible option for Team X in need of immediate help at the gunslingin' position. That's right, folks, Brett Favre, even if he wants to, isn't going away.

The latest, by way of a quick recap of recent events in Indianapolis.

Earlier this week, the Colts "Favre-ed" Kerry Collins out of retirement because Peyton Manning may not be fully recovered from offseason neck surgery to play in Week 1. A day later, Colts wideout Reggie Wayne, the man who has been on the receiving end of Curtis Painter short-hops and overthrows through two preseason games inexplicably said that, "Just because we bring [Collins] in doesn't mean he's the starter. He's got to learn too, right? Unless they gave him a playbook months ago, he's got to learn too."

Wayne wasn't finished: "I don't care who you are, I mean I'm not going to let anyone just come in here and just push someone (like Painter) aside like you're that dog now, you know what I mean?"

To quote our CBSSports.com colleague, Josh Katzowitz, No, we have no idea what Wayne means. 

Until now, that is. 

The Indianapolis Star's Phillip B. Wilson warns that we shouldn't put too much stock in Wayne's defense of Painter, he's just being a good teammate. (Related: we made that point on the latest Pick-6 podcast; remember, Wayne, despite wanting a new deal, showed up to training camp because, in his words, "I'm a Colt. What else I'm gonna be? I'm going to go to work. That's what I do.") 


The Indianapolis Colts have signed veteran Kerry Collins as an insurance policy to Peyton Manning. Colts RapidReporter Tom James joins Scott Braun to discuss the move.

As for Favre, Wilson writes that someone mentioned to Wayne the "far-fetched possibility" that the Colts would consider bringing him in.

“Brett Favre … I feel the same way about Kerry Collins walking in this door, that’s going to push Peyton even more to want to play, you know what I’m saying? That’s just what it is,” Wayne said. “I got nothing against T.O. (Terrell Owens) or whatever receiver is out there, you bring them in here, I guarantee my game is going up some more.”

Thank god.

To recap: Wayne doesn't have a problem with Collins, he's just being a good teammate by supporting Painter. More importantly: he's not impressed by the Favre speculation unless it'll motivate Manning into regenerating those nerves in his neck faster.

And no matter what Wayne says, the starting gig is Collins' until Manning returns. At least that's the word from team president Bill Polian. Now the only question is how long until Manning returns.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com