Indianapolis — It was all wine and roses for the Indianapolis Colts after their 31-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
After all, a win is a win. The Colts have seven of them in a row, they’re 10-4, and poised for their seventh straight playoff season.
“You have to win games like this to have long winning streaks. When we aren’t perfect, we have big-play guys who can make plays you need to make to win,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said.
Every one of Dungy’s words rings true, of course, and there’s something to be said for doing what needs to be done to get a win and put the team in a position to have success.
But forget Sunday, what happens when the Colts have to go beyond that standard?
There’s a distinction between picking spots and doing what it takes to win versus sustaining a consistent effort to own a win. To grab the game by the scruff of the neck and make it yours. Sometimes the Colts do the latter, as they did against the Bengals last Sunday, but more often, they’re better defined by the former, as was the case on Sunday against the Lions.
The Colts are tough enough to gut a win out, which is good, but vulnerable enough to keep an opponent in a game, which obviously is not good.
The Colts took the Lions’ punch and responded with one of their own, but the disconcerting thing about the Colts is how many punches they take on a week-to-week basis.
It’s been that way all season — see Jaguars at Colts, Colts at Packers, Colts at Chargers, Colts at Browns, etc. All games that were head-scratchers at the time or are in retrospect. It was that way again on Sunday.
With few exceptions — wide receiver Calvin Johnson being one — the Lions are hopeless from a talent standpoint, and at times, in coaching (why punt with 5:21 left when you’re 0-13 and down a touchdown?), yet there the Lions were, infused with plenty of fourth-quarter hope against one of the AFC’s best teams.
The Colts looked great at the start — a 14-play, 78-yard scoring drive gave them a lead they’d hold until the fourth quarter. But every time the Colts had a chance to put the Lions away — not bury them, just put them away — they disappeared.
The Colts took a 14-3 lead on a Chad Simpson touchdown, but the defense did a vanishing act and the Lions responded with a three-play, 69-yard drive to stay within one score. The Colts shone brightly again in response as Peyton Manning and Dallas Clark looked unstoppable on a 78-yard scoring drive that featured four Clark catches for 12, 18 and 24 yards, along with a 3-yard touchdown. High time to put the Lions away, right?
Not exactly. The Colts led 21-10 at halftime and should have taken charge, but the third quarter was the Colts’ dim point. A fumble on a punt and a holding penalty that took the Colts out of field goal position were the lowlights as the Lions stayed in it with a field goal and a 13-play, 91-yard drive that wrapped into the fourth quarter and culminated in a game-tying touchdown for Detroit.
The pendulum swayed back in the Colts’ favor just long enough to take the lead. An efficient seven-play, 88-yard drive finished off by a 1-yard Dominic Rhodes touchdown run was a worthy response from a playoff team — the obvious question being why is a playoff team in that position against the Lions to begin with?
Even then, the Colts weren’t safe. The Colts were one fumble recovery away from a potential Detroit comeback bid when Simpson was fortunate to rip the ball away from Detroit’s Dewayne White after Simpson fumbled with 1:16 left.
“Every game in the NFL is tough and this one was. We weren’t as sharp as we need to be. Every time we got a margin, we couldn’t make a play to put the game away,” Dungy said.
The metaphor that jumps to mind is the on-off switch, but the Colts aren’t quite that extreme. The Colts aren’t a light switch so much as a light dimmer. Twist the nob and they bright shine brightly or they might go dim. They’re rarely completely on or totally off.
The on-again, off-again nature of the team is the biggest concern for the Colts when the playoffs begin in January. Take the Colts’ performance against the Lions on Sunday and try to project it in a road playoff game the wild card Colts are destined to have: would it have been good enough?
The Colts twist their own dimmer against teams like the Lions, but AFC playoffs teams like the Titans, Broncos, Jets or Steelers, are good enough to grab the Colts’ knob and rip it off. The Colts are good enough to do the same, but are they consistent enough to prove it?
The Colts have rode “a win is a win” to get into the playoffs. But “a win is a win” won’t get it done once they’re in the playoffs and definitely won’t get the Colts to Tampa for the Super Bowl. The Colts need to be more consistent.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.
Indianapolis — It was all wine and roses for the Indianapolis Colts after their 31-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
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When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
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When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
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No matter what you happen to be doing — whether it be job performance or just your own personal behavior — you can do the right thing for a period of time, even the vast majority of the time, but all it takes is one slip and the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in one fell swoop.
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When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
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No moral victories?
Bull. Its always been bull and it will always be bull. The Sycamores proved again that moral victories are very real, and can be very rewarding.
All they needed to do to prove it was to look at the stunned faces of the Purdue faithful at Ross-Ade Stadium in the Sycamores’ near-miss 20-14 loss to Purdue.
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The war flags have been raised. The trumpets have sounded.
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One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
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Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
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