Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Nov 2007

Colts Lose More Than A Game In San Diego

It's hard to tell how much was a hangover from the Game of the Century and how much was the result of a sudden cascade of injuries, but the Colts looked terrible in the first half against San Diego. Peyton Manning threw four interceptions and the special teams allowed two return touchdowns, as San Diego built a 23-0 lead. The Colts came storming back to score 21 straight points, and were in position to pull out the win when Adam Vinatieri honked an easy field goal, thus putting an end to the rally. The Colts finished the game playing without their left tackle, their right tackle, their #1 and #3 receivers, their starting tight end and their star pass rusher. Is the fragility of Indy's roster strategy going to come back to bite them?

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 12 Nov 2007

91 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2007, 7:46pm by Brian

Comments

1
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 3:50pm

"... fragility of Indy's roster strategy ..."

I'm not going to argue the greater point, but how exactly do these injuries illustrate that the Colts roster strategy is fragile?

Is there any team in the NFL that can survive the loss of 3 OTs and 3 starting WRs and still look like a good offense?

2
by resident jenius (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:06pm

(irony)

I think what I hated most about that game was the way Peyton Manning was still in the game in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, still chucking interceptions, trying to pad his interception stats. The Colts should have benched him and just had Sorgi take a knee. Peyton had already set the Colts single game interception record with five! His still being in the game was just running up the 'interception score'!

(/irony)

:sorry
::i'm going to hell

3
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:07pm

Of course, special teams had as much to do with this loss (and maybe last week's loss too?) as the poor offensive performance. Poor special teams play is certainly not because of injuries (or roster construction).

Colts special teams have just been truly 'special' for a long time now.

4
by Adam B. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:08pm

"but how exactly do these injuries illustrate that the Colts roster strategy is fragile?"

I believe the word you're looking for is CRAPHONSO.

5
by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:30pm

Poor special teams play is certainly not because of injuries (or roster construction).
It seems to me that special teams is exactly a result of roster construction. Typically, your special teams players are coming from the bottom half of the roster. If you've spent all of your money on the top half so that you've got to play it cheap on the bottom half (I don't know that this is the case, but it seems to be what's being implied here), then your special teams, your coverage teams, have the potential to be inferior.

6
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:39pm

On the other hand, the Colts D gave up only 16 points on the road against a talented team, even after 5 Manning INTs. (The 6th was at the end of the game.)

They'll get some of those injured players back and Manning is not going to throw that many INTs anytime soon.

7
by b-man (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:40pm

Was Sproles the guy on Hard Knocks that KC cut before the start of the season?

8
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:41pm

New England won Superbowls in 2003 and 2004 after setting league records for starters lost.

Certainly the 2007 Patriots could handle this.

Indy was designed from the beginning to have very little depth. This allows them to pay a small number of players the big bucks. This is a high risk, high reward gamble.

Until this season they have been remarkably fortunate. That fortune seems to be ending.

Remember that the Colts' Superbowl title is the result of Patriots injuries and a WR corps that was clearly worse than what Indy had to work with last night.

9
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:42pm

1) Compare the Colts injuries this year to the Patriots injuries in 2004.
The Colts, like the Redskins, have a top-heavy salary structure that leaves them unable to deal with injuries. It's not a bad strategy, as everything worked out for them last year, but when injuries strike, it really effects them.

10
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 4:50pm

#7

Nah, Sproles was drafted by the Chargers in 2004 (or 2005)...he broke his leg in preseason last year.

11
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:04pm

"#6:
On the other hand, the Colts D gave up only 16 points on the road against a talented team, even after 5 Manning INTs. (The 6th was at the end of the game.)"
Actually, they gave up only 10 points (13 came from SD returns). On the other hand, the Chargers this year are at best average on offense. Considering that playing conditions favored defense, and SD's throwing was what suffered most because of it (they had 3.8 ypc running, and 3.6 ypa throwing), I'd say the Colts D played a fairly decent game, but not as an outstanding one as they are capable of.

12
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:07pm

Jason,

I'm sorry, but the Pats in the AFC Championship game were not nearly as shorthanded as Indy was last night, especially when you remember that the Pats were playing with two first-round picks at tight end (they count). Indy only throws the ball to four receivers (counting Clark) and they were missing three of them. Peyton was trying to rally the team throwing to guys like Moorehead and Thorpe. It's not really comparable.

13
by Peter (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:10pm

#9
I think it's an overstatement to say the Colts are unable to cope with massive injuries, after a 4p loss vs Pats and a 2p loss (after missing a gamewinning FG) away vs the Chargers.

14
by Mystyc (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:10pm

I just want to say that I am shocked that Craphonso Thorpe is a real name. I had always assumed that his real name was Alphonso, but that Colts fans had branded him the other because he was...well, crap.

15
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:12pm

Maybe they should've taken Ryan Leaf after all.

16
by blacksuit (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:29pm

I don't think it's right to say that the Colts have really higly paid starters at the expense of quality backups.

They do have highly paid starters in key positions, but they fill in the other spots through very good drafting, and have solid, if unknown, players on the bench.

17
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:30pm

"Is the fragility of Indy’s roster strategy..."

What a pathetic assessment.

You're not going to imply, with a straight face, that ANY roster strategy could suffer through the loss of this, are you? Pathetic.

Name a team, or a "roster strategy," that would go on undeterred from the loss of: LT, backup LT, RG, #1WR, #3WR, TE on offense, and both starting DTs (McFarland and Raegor), DE, WLB, SLB (Morris) and backup SLB on defense.

18
by Kneel Before Zod! (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:43pm

re: 12
Reggie Wayne alone is a lot better than any WR the Pats had last year

19
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:50pm

Purds,

It's an observation based on two weeks of play, not one, as I thought the key to the Pats game was the Colts front four getting very tired and not having capable rotation players to spell them. I don't disagree that Indy's injuries are at positions that make it very difficult for them to sustain a high level of play. But the dropoff from starters to backups and from backups to third string are arguably higher with Indy than with some of the other top teams.

And despite all that, Indy should have won the game.

20
by Speedegg (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:51pm

As a San Diego fan, it pains me to say it, but I really, really, REALLY wish Vinatieri made that FG, so Norv gets another L in the LOSER column. He is such a bad coach. Now he can say that his team beat the defending world champs and all is not bad in Chargerland.

As for Indy, the incredible thing is that they were able to come back and were two missed FG's away. The Charger's complete and total lack of offense kept Indy in the game.

The biggest thing here is that Manning's receivers were new. I couldn't believe they had to go to the huddle instead of on the line to call the plays. Then I remembered how many starters were out. Which makes sense for the interceptions, since (I'm told) about 20% of the time, interceptions are caused by the receivers running the wrong route or making the wrong read on the defense.

A bad loss, but I'd chalk it up to luck more than anything else. Any other time (say SD meets Indy in the playoffs as a wildcard) the Chargers get destroyed.

21
by Shaun (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:54pm

@ #12

Guess Indy having 1st round picks Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne is less valuable than Daniel Graham and Ben Watson?

Maybe the Pats are always shorthanded since they have a lowly 6th round pick at QB.

22
by Oh, Mathematics (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:01pm

Peyton Manning threw 6 interceptions??? I think it's time to bench him and start Kevin Kolb.

23
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:01pm

Again, Manning was playing with a third string left tackle, a backup right tackle, and without three of his top four receivers on a team that doesn't carry very many receivers. Last year New England built a team around average to below-average receivers and above-average tight ends, and they went into the Championship game relatively healthy. It's really not comparable in any way, shape or form.

24
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:05pm

#18 Yes, but he's just one man. Sum the total talent and experience (how many reps have they had with the 1st team in practice?) of the two WR corps and you have a steaming mound of Crap(honso).

I, too, am rubbed the wrong way by glib "roster construction" pseudo-analysis.

Here's what an analysis of special teams talent (as opposed to coaching) and its relationship to roster construction/salaries might look like, should anybody have the time to try:

Find the cap hits of all ST-only guys (non-kickers) on all teams. Line them up and compare the cost vs DVOA of each team. Rank them. I bet the vast majority of ST guys play at or near league minimum salaries. There ARE superstar returners, but RARELY are there superstar cover guys. I think the biggest problem on the punt return was the low trajectory. I love Hunter Smith, but maybe he is the biggest problem on punt returns. Luckily he rarely punts.

It's not purely roster construction. Hell, two backup LBs (surely being paid league minimum) were huge in shutting down an ordinary but potentially good SD offense. Is anyone here implying that if these guys were paid more they'd be better?

The "low paid D" was great. LdT is still LdT, Gates is still Gates, and lucky for Indy, Rivers is still Rivers.

A year ago after Jax I was ready to gut Ron Meeks and hang his worthless carcass on the wall. I blamed Dungy for his fatal flaw in keeping Meeks, because their D just did not work. And then in the past 10 games their D has been quite good despite the injury ravages. Not sure how to explain it. Sadly, I doubt the same pattern will emerge for ST.

And like last year, I may vow to watch the NFL like I used to watch hockey: wait for the playoffs to pay any attention. For which you will all, no doubt, be grateful.

25
by J (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:09pm

Mr. McCormick --

I have to disagree with your assessment of Indi's vs. NE's injury situation.

NE was missing, in the 2nd half of the game, Rodney Harrison, Eugene Wilson, and Artrell Hawkins (their top three options at safety), Randall Gay, Junior Seau, Rosevelt Colvin, and Richard Seymour.

That's just on the defense.

As for Payton throwing to guys like Moorehead and Thorpe: Moorehead's been on the team for 5 years. Thorpe is an early 4th round pick in his second year. To have these guys in addition to Reggie Wayne, a legit star wideout -- forgive me if I'm not crying for Manning, but saying "welcome to how most NFL quarterbacks live."

I mean, the Patriots won two Super Bowls with a 2nd year guy selected around 40 picks before Thorpe and a 7th rounder, also in his 2nd year, as their primary two wideouts -- no Reggie Wayne-level wideout for the '03/'04 Pats.

Oh, and let's not forget that Joseph Addai was on the field for the Colts, as good a receiving threat out of the backfield as you could want.

26
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:22pm

"Certainly the 2007 Patriots could handle this."

Take out Moss, Welker, and Gaffney (Harrison, Clark, and Gonzalez), and you might be able to argue that the Patriots still have a competent receiving corps. Also take out Light, Kaczur, and Britt (backup LT?), and you're going to have some real problems. Maybe they could do it, but they're in kind of a unique situation there. Certainly the Patriots teams of past years, or any other team in the NFL, does not have that kind of WR depth (or OL depth).

Even if they were still competent at WR, it's nevertheless a huge dropoff in performance from what it is currently. It's going to affect not only their offense, but their defense as well. Who can say what the net effect would be?

The reality for any team is that having a lot of injuries isn't necessarily a problem. Injuries at certain positions are the problem, especially when they happen all together. Last year, the Colts were playing 3rd/4th string guys at DB, corners as safeties, etc., but it was ok. The Patriots have gone through the same thing in past years, and they were ok. But god forbid either of the QBs ever gets injured. Is QB depth a roster construction problem?

Like I said before, I'm not going to argue the greater point. That is, I don't especially like some aspects of the Colts roster construction either. However, I don't think I'd place WR/OT depth in this category.

As an aside note, are the same people criticizing the Colts' lack of WR depth the same people who criticized them for drafting an unnecessary WR in the first round this year?

I'm not sure how much I buy the argument that bad special teams play is a result of roster construction. This would imply that good special teams play is a result of good roster construction. Consider the following teams, who are all good in either kick/punt coverage, despite having terrible rosters/depth:

49ers (lead league in punt coverage DVOA by a wide margin)
Redskins (punt coverage)
Houston (kickoff coverage)
Jets (kickoff coverage)
Cleveland (kickoff coverage)

I'd take Colts backups over the backups of any of these teams any day. Special teams (coverage units) only require halfway competent people if they know what they're supposed to do. Obviously the Colts coverage units don't know what they're supposed to do. This is a coaching failure far more than a roster issue, and it's been this way for several years.

27
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:22pm

I think the "fragile roster" argument has a certain, limited application.

The Colts' backups on offensive line and defense, played at least adequaely, certainly well enough to win. That part of their roster construction was robust.

The receivers did not. Any wide receiver corps that is two injuries away from giving meaningful playing time to Aaron Moorehead and Craphonso Thorpe, has to be considered fragile. The Colts got away with it for years, because Marvin Harrison has been so durable.

And seriously, there are limits to how robust you can make any roster. The Patriots -- to pick a team at random ;-) -- are two injuries away from lining up "the guy who couldn't beat out Eric Alexander" at ILB. That's a problem, and they know it's a problem, but you *can't* be strong all the way across your roster.

28
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:24pm

#17, 23, 24: But it is comparable to the 2005 Pats, who (IIRC) played at least one game while missing the following starters: C/LT/RT (Koppen, Light, Ashworth), #2 WR (Givens), 2 starting LBs (if you count Bruschi), TE (Graham), RB (Dillon), S (Harrison), starting CB Poole and his replacement Gay, and Dillon's backups Faulk and Pass. (Mike Cloud started, which speaks for itself.)

Against NO, they started their 8th safety of the season. Seymour, Jarvis Green, and Harrison's replacement Sanders also missed significant time that year, I think.

And this isn't to say that "OMG, the Pats had it worse" (although, depending on how many games the Colts starters end up missing, they very well might have), but to say that injuries have been huge for defending SB champs in recent years, and the Colts aren't alone. (I'm pretty sure Pitt also had some issues last year, even leaving Ben's extracurriculars out of the equation.)

29
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:30pm

23:

Such hyperbole! Of course it's COMPARABLE. We're comparing it right now. In fact, it's a very interesting comparison.

Patriots spend good middle mix money on guys like Bruschi, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, etc. They pay their special teamers (except kickers) pretty well and keep good ones that don't play other positions (like Mel Mitchell and Larry Izzo). This is an organizational philisophy. It means that they neglect certain skill positions sometimes but it also means they have better depth than some other teams. Their injuries in the 03 and 04 seasons were monumental considering that they won the superbowls. Were they as bad as the situation the Colts were in last night? No, I don't think so. But broadly speaking it's totally reasonable to compare the injuries and organizational approaches.

I think last night showed that even a great team cannot easily overcome rampant injuries, but great teams can -- with difficulty -- overcome them if they play great. If not for a missed chip shot, the Colts would have won. That's super impressive (or, at least, it demonstrates how awful the Chargers are).

Another interesting comparison would be the Bills, who are like the Colts in that they are extremely banged up, but don't have Manning throwing balls to Reggie Wayne. And yet, four in a row in the NFL is nothing to sneeze at.

30
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 6:56pm

Is there any proof to this supposition that the Colts' team is more "top-heavy" than most teams? Everyone assumes this, but it's not obvious. Just making an eyeball comparison to, say, the Pats is enough to call this assumption into question. Who wants to back up the assertion that the Colts have more superstars than the Pats?

Somewhere on FO I recall an article that rated all teams on the distribution of their salary cap. I can't find the article, and can't recall where the Colts fell. I do remember the Pats were smack-dab in the middle as far as superstars vs. journeymen ratio, which is counter to the popular opinion on them.

31
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:08pm

This thread has turned into Brady-Manning Jr. Does any of this matter? The Colts are going to make the playoffs, and all the people that are currently hurt will be back by then. Even if they go on to be the #3, 4, 5, or 6 seed, they showed last year that that doesn't necessarily matter.

Don't forget, 2 weeks ago DVOA had these Colts as the second-best team of the last 5 years. Also, even with all these injuries, they lost to the best team of the past 5 years by 4, then they lost to a top-10 team this year by 2, on the road, in a rainstorm, despite giving up two random, non-repeatable TDs. I'd hardly say they're screwed.

32
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:08pm

#12, I don't disagree that by the end of last night's game you had more injuries than the Patriots did in last year's AFCCG.

Your WRs, however, were substantially better. You had Wayne, easily one of the ten best in the league last night. We didn't have ANY receivers who could be called a legitimate #3 receiver in the AFCCG.

33
by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:12pm

#17, 23, 24

Brady was also playing the 2006 AFCCG with the #1 RB 32 year old RB being tapped on the shoulder of father time and #2 RB in need of major shoulder surgery.

Every team has injuries, however I find it very hard to believe there have been many teams that have won consistently like the 2003-2006 Pats that had as many multiple injuries. I thought BB best coaching job was the 2005 team that had no right to be a few tough calls from playing in the AFCCG at home. The 2007 Pats are the injury odds swinging back the other way.

34
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:16pm

Purds,

you are obviously unfamiliar with the injuries that the Patriots suffered during their 2003-2004 run.

During that time they set NFL records for the number of injured starters.

They also went 34-4 including two Superbowl victories and a 21 game winning streak.

Take a moment to educate yourself about those Superbowl runs before you make sweeping claims like:

"You’re not going to imply, with a straight face, that ANY roster strategy could suffer through the loss of this, are you? Pathetic."

It has been done, and done in spectacular fashion by the New England Patriots.

35
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:17pm

This thread is why people always get upset at New England.

The discussion was about Indy and their injuries. Then all of a sudden we have to read postings about how the Patriots are the greatest because they've dealt with much worse and still won, blah, blah, blah. Fans of the other 31 teams don't care.

36
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:36pm

#33 Otis, I never looked at the 2007 Pats through the perspective of your last statement. If true, cripes. I had been assuming a couple injuries were due along the way, but you may be right--the pendulum swinging brought them health and Randy Moss in the same year. Just not fair.

#31, mmmm, I'm glad you're confident. I am less so. While their 2 rookie DLs and 1 rookie LB played well, take away Freeney and add in the inevitable Sanders injury, and this D cannot cover up for the offense's injuries or the ST suckage. Playoffs, yes. Health in January? Not so sure.

And like many long-time Pats fans with perspective are fond of pointing out, I lived through the lean times and assume the worst--this way I am cheered up when the merely ordinary happens and elated when the great stuff happens. It may be 16 years on the calendar since Indy's 1-15 season, but in "Bob years" it's not that long ago.

Finally, J, in #25 you point out the highly irrelevant fact that Crap Thorpe was drafted in the 4th round. I'm very happy for him and his family, but by that logic Manning is infinitely better than Brady because he was drafted so much higher? Hardly. More telling it that was Thorpe's first ever offensive play in the NFL, and the first week he ever practiced with the Colt starters. Regardless of where he was drafted (he coulda been a 1st rounder or a UFA), it might as well be the first preseason game for him. And he looked it. Forget draft slot--would you consider Manning versus Jamarcus Russell an even matchup? Certainly not.

And while Addai is a nice receiving RB, you seem to forget the fact that he was used more as a backup OL last night, with all the OL injuries. Would you put him in a pattern and reduce the time the franchise QB has to throw from 4 to 2 seconds? Doesn't sound wise to me.

37
by sam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:43pm

mystyc 14:

I knew about him because of where he played college ball. When my wife heard his name last night, she said "is that his real name? Craphonso?" And I told her "yeah, spelled crap plus honso... Craphonso. Guess where he played in college."

Her reply: Florida State.

Which is, of course, entirely correct. Who was it that said "Pope Benedict" sounds like the latest recruit to sign with FSU? Where does Florida State find these names?

38
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:48pm

#20 - Norv is usually good for winning one game they should never had a snowball's chance in hell of winning per season.

39
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:50pm

All this hate for Craphonso and even in his first offensive NFL game ever he was better than Moorehead.

40
by BruceNH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:54pm

navin, Hey, don't be so upset, it wasn't until Post 8 that the Pats were brought up. That's proof that this site is getting away from its' Patriot bias.

41
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:55pm

37, there are so many directions to take the Pope Benedict jokes, some harmless, some sordid, but I am afraid to start.

Great observation though.

I feel mean-spirited and unimaginative making fun of Thorpe's name. Crap is just so... old. I am sure he's battled that his whole life. Maybe Fonzi is better.

42
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:58pm

Okay, Jason, I'll bite. Educate me. Give me the "records" that NE set via injury. Show me the game where they played missing this: LT, backup LT, RG, #1WR, #3WR, TE on offense, and both starting DTs (McFarland and Raegor), backup DT, DE, WLB, SLB (Morris) and backup SLB on defense.

The Pats had a game where they had so many injuries that they could field only 44 players?

43
by Jim Ryalto (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 7:59pm

#26: the niners lead the league in punt coverage mostly because they have a lot of talented young draft picks on the coverage team and an incredible punter in Andy Lee

44
by J (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:04pm

Finally, J, in #25 you point out the highly irrelevant fact that Crap Thorpe was drafted in the 4th round. I’m very happy for him and his family, but by that logic Manning is infinitely better than Brady because he was drafted so much higher? Hardly. More telling it that was Thorpe’s first ever offensive play in the NFL, and the first week he ever practiced with the Colt starters. Regardless of where he was drafted (he coulda been a 1st rounder or a UFA), it might as well be the first preseason game for him. And he looked it. Forget draft slot–would you consider Manning versus Jamarcus Russell an even matchup? Certainly not.

And while Addai is a nice receiving RB, you seem to forget the fact that he was used more as a backup OL last night, with all the OL injuries. Would you put him in a pattern and reduce the time the franchise QB has to throw from 4 to 2 seconds? Doesn’t sound wise to me.

I bring up Thorpe's draft slot not because, as is true with many 2nd year players, we don't know much more about them than we did when they were drafted. Obviously, based on his college career and his measurables, the KC Chiefs thought he was worth taking a flyer on with a mid round pick. After his 1st year in the NFL, all that we've learned is that he couldn't get playing time behind Harrison, Wayne, Clark and Utecht on a team that pretty much never deviated from its 2WR/2TE package.

The point is that the Colts aren't the first team forced to use a green receiver because of injuries. At the same time as I'm using the Pats' '03 WR situation to tell people not to make excuses for the Colts, I'm also saying not to give up on them, either. Guys like Thorpe and Moorehead have been known to step up when called upon. With Wayne and Addai, they've already got a better set of weapons than many teams who don't have anyone of their caliber on offense.

As for sending Addai out to run routes when he is also needed for protection, I'm all for it -- the line isn't going to be able to protect very long with or without Addai. Going to a more horizontal offense and hitting Addai on quick screens and swings to use opponents' quick penetration against them has worked for many teams with o-line problems. Indi's just going to have to adapt.

45
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:12pm

My thoughts while listening to the Colts game is that Manning got a one-game taste of what Favre endured for the entire 2005 season. That year, when Favre threw 29 picks, he had one legit NFL receiver in Donald Driver, second and third string linemen playing, no tight end, and, by mid season, his sixth different halfback. Favre's picks were attributed to his loss of skill when, in truth, he was playing with jayvee talent. Sunday night, Manning played with subpar talent, but like Favre, he kept gunning it because, like Favre, he gives it everything until the final gun. No dinking and dunking, no caving in. The Favre of 2005 was "washed up" when surrounded by lousy talent. The Favre of 2007 is leading the league in passing yards after 9 games with improved talent.

46
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:34pm

J, Nicely done. Thanks. Though I thought Addai's blitz pickups were pretty good. Of course sending him out and successfully hitting a few 5 yarders might ease up some of the downfield coverage. Might also get Manning killed. Not sure.

Packer Pete, you saying Manning should retire? After last night, I imagine he'd consider it. Or maybe he'd be willing to make Marvin the NFL's second unofficial HGHarrison.

47
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:39pm

navin, I think you are on to something. It isn't so much the Patriots comments in Colts-related threads and vice versa as it is the incessant trolling from both sides that inevitably follows. (I would suggest that both sides are guilty, not just Patriots fans, and that most likely there are quite a few fans of the remaining 30 teams that would rather not hear any more Indy-NE or B-M flaming.)

The Colts were missing both OTs, two of their top three receivers, and their top pass-rusher. As Peter pointed out, they lost two close games. For one thing, they seemed to have survived those losses comparatively well, and for another, what team would survive those injuries?

I would suggest that if you are trying to balance roster money across four OT/OL players, four receivers, and two pass rushers, you're wasting money somewhere.

Also, while I'm putting all my peeves on the table, if people could add the phrase "Super Bowl" to the dictionary in the spell-checkers they use, that would be great. It's two words, both capitalized.

48
by RCH (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 9:43pm

I decided to go to the NFL salary cap database that is on the USA Today site to try to quantify some of the assertions being made in this thread. The following is a admittedly a slap dash back of the envelope attempt at analysis made by a biased Patriots fan.

All data are for 2006.

Colts top 10 cap hits account for 61% of salary cap, Pats 59%.
Colts top 20 cap hits account for 80% of salary cap, Pats 77%.
Colts cap hits 23-32 account for 7.2%, Pats for 8.9%.

Then I sorted the cap hits by position and amount and came up with the following: The Pats had the greater cap hit for the following (depth related) positions: 2nd TE, 5th LB, 3rd CB, 3rd S, 3rd RB, 6th OL, 5th LB, and 3rd DE (barely). The Colts had the greater hit for 4th WR and 3rd DT, (both by far).

I've got no idea how significant these difference are or how they compare to other teams. (Maybe a project for the next bond market holiday). But the data do at least suggest that the Patriots dedicate more of their cap to the middle of the squad, something that could reasonably lead to better depth.

49
by Sunil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:05pm

Brady is clearly better than Manning!!

50
by Sunil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:12pm

... and if comment #49 needs to go, then it's time to rename the site PatriotsOutsiders.com or IndyOutsiders.com
Jeez, get a life people!

51
by Kaveman (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:14pm

#35: Hit the nail on the head, navin. That's it exactly, the insufferable smugness oozing out from every pore (nyah, nyah, we are the best ever... we even had more injuries than everyone else).

52
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:22pm

#49: true, Brady did not throw nearly as many ints yesterday as Manning did. He also didn't throw any TDs, and his DVOA and DPAR were non-existent.

#48: that tells me that the differences are essentially negligible.
The Patriots spend $2mil less on their 1-10 picks than the Colts do.
They spend $3mil less on their 1-20 picks than the Colts do.
They spend 1.5 mil more on 23-32. And they end up spending less on their 33-54 picks than the Colts do. Those aren't meaningful numbers in terms of overall value, and they're certainly no proof that the Colts have some huge Washington-Redskins lack of depth compared to the Patriots.

53
by Sunil (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:27pm

#52 ... I was being sarcastic, irrational about the whole thing. Nothing against you personally, but you just proved my point.

54
by Dom (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:28pm

Personally I do think Indy's roster is somewhat thinner than some other teams, but this is a really bad week to use as an example of it. The Colts injury list is horrific (especially losing three offensive linemen) and no NFL team has the depth to survive that many injuries to one unit.

55
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:37pm

I was being sarcastic, irrational about the whole thing. Nothing against you personally, but you just proved my point.

Er...so was I? I kinda figured that would be clear given that Brady didn't actually play yesterday.

56
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 10:45pm

I say again: no team has good depth at every position.

The Colts went light at receiver this year, and it hurt them over the past two weeks. Most years, Wayne/Harrison/Clark/some other guy in the slot, is a perfectly valid roster plan.

57
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 11:00pm

#42:

In 2003, 2004 and 2005 the Patriots used 42, 40 and 45 starters respectively. 2003 and 2005 set all time NFL records for most starters used by a division champion.

In 2004 the Patriots used 9 different starters in their secondary.

Despite numerous simultaneous injuries to key starters, (often forcing the Patriots to move players around and/or use their third and fourth options at a given position) the Patriots won back to back Superbowls and went 34-4, including a 20-1 record against quality opponents.

58
by Vern (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 11:02pm

Considering the HUGE importance injuries have on every NFL season and most teams, it is pretty amazing that almost no studies or facts exist on the topic.

Just some questions I would have are:
1. Is it the number of injures (games lost total) or the placement of them (how clustered by position)?
2. Is it the total time missed, or when the time is missed (the impact on key games) that matters most?
3. In terms of depth, are some positions more injury prone than others?
4. In terms of depth, are some positions harder to get decent fill-in play than others? (clearly we can guess QB here, but others?)
5. In terms of depth, does the scheme or system adjust numbers in 3 or 4?

59
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 11:10pm

#48, the numbers that you posted are not significant differences, but the underlying reality is very different.

The Colts have pushed far greater amounts of cap space from future years into the present.

As a result, the highest paid Colts are largely hidden in your analysis.

Peyton's next three cap hits are: $18.7M, $21.2M and $19.3M.

Marvins next three cap hits are: $12M, $13.4M and $13M.

Some of the Patriots numbers are hidden as well, but by any metric that includes dollars pushed forwards, the Colts spend MUCH more on their top few players at the expense of the rest.

60
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 11:16pm

Future years don't matter so much though, given that they are regularly renegotiated and restructured. No one would expect Harrison to be kept for $13 mil next year given this year's performance, least of all Harrison. Manning regularly restructures his contract. (so does Brady).

All that matters is how much money is tied up in certain players now and how that restricts them now. And as far as we can tell, at least in 2006 the answer is 'not significantly different than the Pats'.

There have been other comparisons trying to do this 'Colts waste too much money on Manning/Harrison/Wayne to spend on defense' but the analysis has been time and time again that the money is not significantly different than other teams. (Brady, for example, earned more money than Manning in the last two years). The fact is, no team has significant depth at any one position, and any team will take a performance hit when losing enough players at a specific position. The only factor that I can think is that some positions are more fungible than others. For the Patriots and their defensive schemes the cornerback isn't as important as their line and linebackers are. The offensive line is considered highly important (witness the correlation of different units of O-linemen started in a season and how well they perform and how well the team performs overall), and it's looking like receivers are more important.

But this? This was Manning sucking. I'm shocked that all these Pats fans are not just jumping over Manning sucking and are trying to say how shallow the Colts are as a team. One game does not make a trend.

61
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 11/12/2007 - 11:48pm

#60:

The Colts have been restructuring contracts for years and have run out of room.

No amount of renegotiation can alter bonuses which have already been paid.

For example, Marvin has received $11.8M in bonuses that have not yet been counted against the cap. He's scheduled to earn $7.6M in salary next year, and that will probably force the Colts to either cut him, or sign a new deal with him.

Either way, that $11.8M is cap money that the Colts have lost, but which won't buy them anything in the future. (Unless you think that Marvin is worth more than $7.6M in 2008).

The same is true with Peyton, except he won't be cut. $7.2M will count against the cap next year even if they cut him. Nearly three million more will count against the cap in the event that he stays and accepts a simple restructuring. Less than half of his 2008 salary can be moved to future years. To the extent that it is, his future cap hits will become even more onerous.

If you look at Brady's cap hits over the next three years, its hard to make the same argument about him.

62
by Sunil (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 12:44am

Kal - my bad - I didn't read your post clearly enough. It just appeared to be the bandwagon effect I see on this site sometimes. Good comment though.

63
by Byrna Fyrna (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 2:08am

Forget about all the Colts vs Patriots nonsense. Both teams have got relative nobodies behind their main stars. Thats just the way it is in the NFL today. If you want to have a couple of superstars, eg. Manning/harrison, Brady/Moss, you're going to have to have young, unproven guys to fill out your depth chart. Every team in the NFL has these guys. The Colts/Patriots' guys are better partly because of drafting, but mostly because of great coaching. The original point that the Colts roster fragility might be catching up to them is nonsense. Any team in the NFL would struggle if they had these sorts of injuries. I don't see how you can call the Colts roster fragile when most teams in the NFL are scrambling around for one good LT, while the Colts have started a rookie, and two other guys with little experience, Johnson and Toudouze, and they've all played pretty well. If that's not good depth I don't know what is. Similarly at the LB position, they've lost two starters and the primary back-up, yet a first game starter had two picks last night. Thats great depth if you ask me.

64
by jimcooder (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 3:42am

Awesome! another Red Sox - Yankees thread. I love reading these.

65
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 5:43am

This is a really silly thread.

a) Yes, the Colts have a ton of injuries right now.

b) Yes, the Pats had a ton of injuries last year during the AFC championship game.

c) Yes, in both cases, that matters.

Saying "we had more injuries than you had", followed by "oh yeah, but our injuries were to _more important_ people"...it gets a bit silly.

The Pats had injuries. They had to deal with it. The Colts have injuries. They have to deal with it.

I will say this: the Colts as they are currently staffed are unlikely to make it to the AFC Championship game, much less the Super Bowl. Maybe the loss to the Chargers was a fluke, but the team as it currently sits would get crushed by the Steelers or Pats.

I'm not even sure they're a top-5 team right now. With all the injuries, they are definitely behind the Cowboys and Steelers, perhaps the Packers, and then there are the Jags and Titans. I think I would put them at #4 right now, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them lose one of their divisional home games down the stretch.

66
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 10:15am

I don't think the Colts would necessarily lose to other top teams with their current personnel. In fact I think that, even assuming no one of the injured players is coming back, they are only going to improve from here out, with the subs getting more reps and jelling with the rest of the team. They obviously wouldn't be as strong as they were a month ago, but still be good enough to compete with anyone on any given game.

In related news, it looks like they have picked up Simeon Rice, which suggests Freeney will be out a while. As long as he's back for the post-season, though, they'll be fine.

67
by AndyE (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 12:05pm

[fails Will Save against Pats-Colts mania]
[enters deadly waters of running up the score]

I think the interesting difference between the Patriots and Colts philosophy is how much time everyone on the team gets with the starting quarterback. While some folks may complain about Brady playing late into the game, he is often playing with the players deeper in the depth chart, making sure they can just step up when required. That's what actually shocked me about the Colts - that they were playing people who were on their roster that had never been on the field (someone please tell me they had just been signed that week off the practice squad, please!).

I commented on this in the game thread, but the personnel management required to run a successful blood and guts season is very different from that required for a speed game. I wish the Colts well with their injuries, but I think they have serious retooling to do if they want to survive the injuryfest coming their way (anecdotal observation; it seems that untried players stepping in are more likely to injure themselves).

68
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 12:48pm

Patriots fans...stop it. Just stop it. Let some of the other kids in the sandbox. I'm also a Patriots fan, but it's embarrassing. Try doing some research and saying something constructive about the topic at hand.
It's a week late, but this site really should have a filter against curse words, spam messages and
the New England Patriots.
Let's give a big applause to the people discussing team depth and cap numbers and how paying too much money to a few stars can really hurt a team, but no one really plans to start their #3 left tackle. Who even carries 3? And did you see who they just signed on defense?

69
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 2:33pm

Colts picked up Rice with Freeney hurt.

70
by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 2:34pm

With three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney expected to miss several weeks because of a left foot injury, the Indianapolis Colts claimed Simeon Rice off waivers Monday.

71
by Alan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 2:55pm

RE: #68
Dude, stop pretending to be a Patriots fan, you're either with us, or against us. We look forward to ignoring all these inane Colt fan comments and rolling to a win in the Super Bowl.

72
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 3:05pm

#60- Um. I wouldn't phrase it as they "waste money" on Manning/Wayne, but yeah, they spend more money than most teams. It isn't so much the individual contracts, it is having two elite receivers in Harrison/Wayne and paying them as such. There was an article about the difference between the Patriots and the Colts on ESPN-- it was more about their drafting strategies, but it states that the Colts have to rely on the draft much more than other teams because it invests so much in the offense.

#63- I will point out, Moss is playing on a one year deal, costing less than 3 million. So Brady/Moss is not costing very much-- but again, it is a one year deal. If the Patriots keep him, it will end up costing a lot more, and your point will be valid.

And please, as a Patriots fan, stop bringing up past Patriots "exploits" as far as injuries go.

The Colts lost to SD, one game, with a lot of players missing. Big whoop. SD didn't deserve to win, IND still could have won, so it really is a useless point.

It really is only a useful point if they start losing enough to risk even making the playoffs, which won't happen, or if they have injuries that affect them during the playoffs.

73
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 3:11pm

#60: Oh, and more about the Colts salary structure-- You said that Brady made more than Manning did the past two years, and this is true. And last year, I think, Seymour was the highest paid player in the NFL.

The problem is this does not accurately reflect the relative salaries. Brady's contract was front loaded, I think, and Manning's is more evenly spread or backloaded. Manning had a super-low cap hit the past two years, but the Colts have to make up for that the next three.

Seymour had the highest salary, but it was mostly due to a bonus that will allow his future cap hits to remain small. Harrison has large future cap hits.

I think the Colts will be alright, because of two reasons:
1- The cap keeps going up, so they won't have to cut Harrison or anything...
2- They are good at drafting, so they will just replace anyone who asks for too much money.

But to say that the Colts don't pay more for their offense is crazy. Other than D-line, the Colts spend the vast majority of their money on their offense... and I think they have backloaded several of them, so they will start really "paying" for it soon. (They put a bunch on credit, and now they have to pay it off)

74
by Herm? (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 3:43pm

Anyone want to talk about how this affects Jacksonville?
Quoting our host, Mr. Schatz, from the last line of yesterday's "Audibles" section:
"Seriously, if Freeney is out for significant time, and David Garrard is back next week, Jacksonville is actually going to win this division. There are only so many injuries you can take."

I'm not drinking a ton of Jacksonville Kool-Aid, so I can't imagine a world where Indy is competing against Tennessee for a wildcard spot. It makes my head hurt.
Jax and Indy have to play each other one more time, and each has one other big challenge.

75
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 3:54pm

#74-- Personally, I thought JAX actually helped the Colts by beating TEN.

If TEN had won the game, I could see them competing with an injury ravaged Colts team and winning the division.

Since JAX won, they still have to beat them head to head and have a better division record. I don't trust JAX to be consistent-- even though Young is playing horribly right now, I was giving TEN credit for their defense.

Of course, maybe all three make the playoffs. CLE seems to be the only other team (And BUF, who could be 7-2 if not for two late field goals) that can stop that.

76
by Sunil (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 4:04pm

Re: 74,
I'm not drinking the JAX kool-aid either, but I'm OD'd on the TEN holiday punch. They could easily go 5-2 down the stretch (losses to SD and IND). JAX has 3 monster matchups (IND, SD and PIT) and may end up 4-3 down the stretch. If TEN finishes 11-5 they could very easily lock up the wildcard spot. IND has a much easier schedule down the stretch.

77
by Big Red (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 4:06pm

Only coLts Loser fans blame injuries...Awww 42 year old Marvin was injured again?? Sorry Losers--enjoy your 1 SB win! Manning is back to dumb ol' Peyton hick! And wee little showboat Sanders...So tough as he tries to spear and injure opponents.

Hahahahaha sorry coLts Loser fans!!!

78
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 4:20pm

If there is a FOMBC, it will hit the Patriots.

79
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 5:21pm

#78:
Sorry, FOMBC does not apply to the Pats. It's in the rules.

80
by Brian G (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 5:52pm

I think the real story is not so much the total number of injuries but the rapidity with which those injuries occured. In the span of two games, the Colts have gone from a slightly banged up team missing a few starters to fielding, as Peter King put it, an intra-mural squad.
I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I do not remember another team suffering the, number, type and severity of injuries that the Colts have suffered IN A TWO GAME TIMESPAN(so please no responses about teams who suffered similar injuries over the course of a season, I'm talking about two games here, that's it.)
I think the more apt comparison is the AFCCG. The Pats suffered numerous injuries and were forced to play guys who were inexperienced (especially on defense) and they paid the price. Had those injuries happened a few weeks earlier, the Pats might have suffered in a game or two, but I have no doubt that if the starters were unable to return, the Pats would have adjusted, gotten the newbies up to speed and it would not have been a factor in the outcome of the AFCCG.
The Colts, likewise, have been forced to start inexperienced, unprepared players. The result: they are suffering. But give them a few weeks and I have a feeling Crappy and Moorehead will look better - by no means great - but better than the suck they normally embody.

81
by paul (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 5:55pm

To Herm? and anyone else dourly opining about who they believe should be commenting and what they should be commenting about. If you want to talk about how it affects jacksonville, fine. If other people want to talk about how it relates to the pats, also fine. Are you so lacking in cognitive capacity that you cant appreciate all of the different angles that arise from this thread? Also, is there a comment limit on this thread such that people who want to comment may get squeezed out?-I'm just trying to understand your "let others in the sandbox" comment.

82
by PFC1 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 8:49pm

RE: #78 How I wish it were so. Too bad #79 is correct.

83
by Christina (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 9:33pm

I agree with Brian G (#80). What really hurt the Colts in the SD game was to lose all those players during the game. Ugoh's backup, Johnson, went down early in the first half, as I recall, forcing them to try to shuffle the line mid-game. The Colts are a talented team, and have good enough coaching to hide the flaws the injuries cause. The Patriots did it*, and I believe the Colts can to. That's not to say they won't be hurt by the loss of talent, they will, but I think they'll be able to pull through it to still be in a good position when their players start coming back.

*Note, I'm only saying this to point out that overcoming a multitude of injuries has been done before. I don't want to start another "well, prove it's been this bad" flamewar.

84
by Scott (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 9:49pm

I guess I missed where Indy's fragile roster building method has been an issue to this point, They lost a game to a New England team that many say may be one of the all time greats, Then they go to San Diego and their future H.O.F. Q.B. throws six picks and their future H.O.F. kicker misses 2 field goals, Including a chipshot game winner. To me it appears that the depth has held up fine and that there were other signifiant factors that contributed to the losses that had far more impact than the quality of depth that is on the roster. Especially in the Charger game the subs held up and gave them a chance to win the game, Players you can normally count on to make plays simply didn't. Overall they appeared to get quality play from their subs, Which is what most teams hope for if they need them to play.

85
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2007 - 11:19pm

Ah, Craphonso... as I understand it, his name was formed by combining 'Craig' and 'Alphonso.' A decent receiver at FSU, but like so many of their recent players, his performance in college never seemed to reflect his talent. (FSU's talent development has been awful in recent years - a very satisfactory state of affairs for fans of certain other schools, harhar...)

86
by Kevin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 11:23am

re:2 haahahahahahahaha brilliant quite possibly the funniest comment i've read here no need for the irony tags

87
by Eric P (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 12:30pm

I don't know if this has been mentioned in this thread, but a note on roster construction: The Colts have 17 rookies or first year players. The Pats only 4. Add in 2nd and 3rd year players and the Colts are at 30, the Pats 19. I don't think this is entirely salary cap driven, sense neither team is right up against it, but there is a considerable difference in salary based on experience for those bottom of the roster, minimum salary guys. That $3 million difference in cap expenditure for the top 20 guys, which has previously been written off as negligible (#52) can pay the difference in minimum salary between something like 10 rookies or first year players versus vet minimum exception guys, which can make a large difference in both regular teams depth and special teams performance.
Specifically as to why the Colts are so poor at special teams, I'm not familiar enough with the Colts to know if they have any veteran "special teams players", but I know the Pats have Larry Izzo (12th year) and Mel Mitchell (6th year) whose primary purpose on the roster is special teams and are probably last resorts as regular players. Both obviously make considerably more than rookies. Most young players are not used to playing special teams, having been stars in college, and I don't get the sense that the Colts are keeping a lot of guys on the roster for special teams purposes, but rather go by regular teams potential.

88
by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 1:59pm

Paul, you're probably new here or have been away for the last 3-4 weeks. Almost every thread has been jacked by a bunch of yahoos telling us the Pats are wicked good and how we should have all their babies. I am a huge Patriots fan and the last thing I want is to be some kind of thread-nazi, but if you've been here, you would have easily noticed that this year's Pat's fans (and some anti Pat's fans) are killing most discussions.

That said, right above, Eric P was able to integrate some information and discussion points that include the Patriots, and that it was done intelligently and tastefully.

89
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 4:38pm

Re: #87

What's the Colts' philosophy on playing starters on special teams? The Great Satan routinely uses some starters (and not back-of-the-pack starters, either) on kick coverage. It's risky, admittedly, but you get better coverage out of it, too.

90
by Eric P (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 4:51pm

Re: #89
I don't know, I'm a Pats fan. ;)
Obviously, they don't use any starters, or even main backups, as returners, but I can't find any info on who plays on the teams other than the returners. I can't say I've seen any starters involved myself, nor do I recall it being mentioned. If they don't use guys who actually play O or D on their teams, that would certainly help explain their relative ineptitude.

91
by Brian (not verified) :: Wed, 11/14/2007 - 7:46pm

Part 1 of the prophecy has come true. Freeney is done.
If Garrard starts this week, I'm heading for the nearest shelter.
Colts better pray that Harrison and Dallas Clark come back to cover up that defense with some long, sustained drives. They're going to have to - the'yre about to start giving up 400-500 yards of offense each game.