Do Colts realize who's not on the field?
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There hasn't been a quiz around here since, like, when Kerry Collins was a Nittany Lion, so close your books and no whining; it's just two questions.
Question 1: In the NFL season currently in progress, who has more touchdowns?
A) Scott Chandler, or
B) The Indianapolis Colts
Question 2: Who the heck is Scott Chandler?
A) A running back for the Carolina Panthers.
B) A tight end for the Buffalo Bills.
C) A law clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
If your answers were A and then B and certainly not C, good on you, because Scott Chandler is not only a tight end for the Buffalo Bills, apparently, but he is one of nine individuals who scored more touchdowns in this first 12.5 percent of the 2011 season than the entirety of what used to be Peyton Manning's team. Thirty-one others have scored as many.
No Steelers took our quiz, so it is no wonder they continue to portray NBC's primetime game tonight from Indianapolis as just another episode fraught with traditional Manning potentialities, specifically the one in which they get carved up by an incomparably sophisticated offense and left with a record of 1-2.
That's if they don't watch out, obviously.
"They're an 0-2 football team and we're a 1-1 football team, so there's only that one game that divides us; that's the only way we're looking at it," Steelers tight end Heath Miller said after the last full-blown rehearsal this week. "I don't think there's anyone in this locker room who is ready to write them off. We've played them there before and we know what they're capable of. We have to play our best game because you know they're used to winning; they're used to being in the hunt."
Right now, the Colts are in the hunt for a dead October inasmuch as the literal translation of 0-3 in this league is still "see ya next year." A loss tonight assuredly means a lethal rip to that string of pearls representing nine consecutive post-season coronations. But the Colts sound as though they're priming themselves for Disney World.
"It's a great time, because you know everyone's watching," Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers told the club's website about tonight. "Your hometown, other teams, other players, friends, and family, and it's a time that you can show your ability and go out there and play and have a lot of fun. It should be like that every week. But, when you have that note in your head that, 'This is primetime,' a primetime game on Sunday Night Football, and everybody's going to be watching us. It will be a lot of fun."
So far, it's been the kind of fun where you're giving up 30 points a game (did Manning play defense, too?), where you're losing at home to the Cleveland Browns, where your fans are wondering if you wouldn't be better off at quarterback with a middle-aged Mississippian last seen leaning against a pickup truck in a Wrangler commercial.
Tonight could be different, certainly. Could be the Indianapolis coaching staff finally gets the battery cables fastened to Collins and the offense lurches to life, which is what Colts vice chairman Bill Polian has been selling all week.
"For the foreseeable future, the [games are] not going to be the kind of high-octane offensive efficiency that we're used to seeing," he said. "You can't have that. Kerry can't do that. He doesn't know enough about the offense to be able to do that. No one could. It did not matter who we brought in. You could resurrect Johnny U., and it's the not the same without Peyton at the helm. That's because of his experience, all the studying that he does and because he knows every single little intricacy.
"There was a situation [against Cleveland] where we missed a big play because a receiver didn't read the right 'hot' route. Kerry did, he saw it coming. Kerry knew what he was doing. He was prepared. [But] Peyton would have stopped calling signals, pointed and said to the receiver, 'That's the guy you read off.' That's what 14 years of experience gives you. That's what gesticulating does. They are 'alerts.' He knows how to operate the offense to absolute maximum capacity. No one else can do that. That's just the way it is. There's no sense worrying about it or pining about it. You have to play the hand you're dealt. We're very realistic about it around here. We're not the least bit down in the mouth. We're going to keep slugging. If we make the improvement this week that we made last week, we'll be in good shape."
Collins, you should recall, always performs well against the Steelers. In four career starts, he is 3-1 because he has completed 63 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and but a single pick; that is a career passer rating against Pittsburgh of 92.6, better than Ben Roethlisberger's career passer rating against the entire NFL.
But Collins retired the first week of July, and try as I might, nowhere in the Steelers 552-page media guide can I locate the club's all-time record against retired quarterbacks.
Kerry only joined Jim Caldwell's mind-bending offense exactly a month ago today, post-retirement, and it still looks a ton more challenging than sitting on the porch.
After three quarters last Sunday, the Colts had 96 passing yards. If you'll remember the last time the Steelers went to Indiana for a regular season game, Manning had 80 yards and a touchdown after the first play.
That's the kind of thing the Colts find no sense in pining for, I guess. If the Steelers keep their composure and play like the 10-, 11-, 12-point overdogs they are, the pining might officially begin.
First Published September 25, 2011 12:00 am