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A FEW QUICK THOUGHTS
*The Colts continued to be impressive against the run late in the season. After holding the Raiders/McFadden and the Jaguars/Jones-Drew under 100 yards each of the past two weeks, they held Johnson to five yards on nine first-half carries. The Titans finished with 51 yards rushing. This may not be a turnaround on the scale of 2006, when they were ranked last in the NFL in rush defense before becoming dominant at times in the post-season, but they're playing well enough that it could be something in the Colts' favor entering Saturday's game against the run-oriented Jets.
*Big, big drop for wide receiver Pierre Garcon early in the third quarter. On 3rd-and-2 from the Colts 30, Manning threw a deep pass to Garcon that wasn't perfect, but was certainly catchable. Indianapolis punted and the Titans drove quickly for a game-tying touchdown pass from quarterback Kerry Collins to improving second-year wide receiver Kenny Britt with 11:29 remaining. It didn't cost the Colts the game, but it may have helped make the game closer for longer than might have been the case. Still, credit Garcon for doing what he often does after drops, making a huge reception for a 30-yard touchdown on the Colts' ensuing drive.
*There was some concern by some in the blogosphere about the lack of early pass rush by Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis early. The duo seemed to get a lot more pressure late, and Freeney came up with a big sack to start the fourth quarter. The Titans also didn't seem to be sending many receivers out in the pattern, which is something divisional teams often do for the purpose of keeping more players in to help block the Colts' ends.
A FEW QUICKER THOUGHTS
*The Titans weren't quite as go-for-broke as many expected. They did go for it and make it on fourth down midway through the second quarter, but Tennessee typically played it fairly close to a routine game plan. A big reason for that is the Titans didn't really need to do a lot of gadgets and tricks; they already were playing the Colts pretty evenly.
*Colts rookie linebacker Kavell Conner passes the eye test. Don't know, exactly, how his statistics add up with top rookies, but he's around the ball a whole lot and seems to make more solid plays than mistakes.
*This continues to be Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri's most-consistent season since joining the Colts in 2006. What he has done this season – returning from an injury shortened season last season – has made him again one of the NFL's top kickers. “He has been really solid down the stretch here,” Manning said. “He has made a lot of kicks. We certainly feel like we want to be better in the red zone and don't like having to settle for field goals early in the game, but when called upon that is what he does.”
WHAT WE LEARNED SUNDAY
The Colts' season is a success – and that's true whatever happens Saturday. Yes, everything in the NFL is judged on winning or not winning the Super Bowl, but considering the circumstances of the season and the extent of the injuries, winning another division title makes this season one worth remembering. Without a playoff run, it may not resonate with some of the other from the last decade, but judged against itself, it has been a remarkable effort.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
If the Colts' passing defense can hold up. The secondary has been hurt by injuries perhaps more than any area on the team, with four significant players – Sanders, Powers, Hayden and Bullitt – our for significant parts of the season. The Titans struggled at times to pass this season, but Collins completed 28 of 39 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts are stuffing opponents' running games in the last month, but the offenses get more balanced and more dangerous the deeper you go in the postseason.
THE LAST WORD GOES TO . . .
Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay . . .
“Ten and six is as sweet as 14-2. What the coaching staff and the players and everyone in the organization was up against in trying to deal with players that were injured and deal with all of the circumstances of a tough division, it’s really sweet. It’s hard to win in this league. To win the division again is really special. You really take this one in deeply.”