We've completed four weeks of the NFL season, and even this early in the year we are getting an inkling of which teams actually might have a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
The Indianapolis Colts, who come out of this past weekend of play with a record of 4-0, seem to be one of them.
In the four games the Colts have played so far this season, they've left their opponent's reeling from the heartbreaking losses they've suffered at the hands of the Indianapolis squad; especially the first two wins of the season for the Colts. This, in turn, motivates Indianapolis and keeps them going.
The first game of the season, a very close 14-12 victory for Indianapolis over the Jacksonville Jaguars was just such a game. Jacksonville had a chance at the end to put the Colts in a bind to begin the year. They should have been able to kick a field goal to steal a victory from Indianapolis, but the Colts defense put up a stellar fight.
Trust me, the Colts seemed to be taking it easy with the Jaguars all day in that game, and that one play could have changed the outcome of the contest, but it was Indianapolis who made the plays necessary to hold on and win the game by two.
At times, the Jaguars looked unstoppable, but Indianapolis, as they always seem to be, were steady. They kept to their own gameplan and played at their own pace, simply digging in their heels and refusing to lose a game in which Manning, while tying a franchise record for victories, was 28 of 38 for 301 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The Colts' steadiness and poise always seem to work in their favor and leads them to victory more often than not; and did so on that day against the Jaguars as they came out of that first weekend with an unblemished record of 1-0.
In the second week of the season they faced a determined Miami Dolphins team, who while they'd lost their own opener against the Atlanta Falcons, looked to be a team to contend for the AFC East at that time.
The Dolphins seemingly had the game won, too, controlling the ball throughout the game as if they were the Dallas Cowboys of the early 90's. Miami running back, Ronnie Brown was their main weapon, and the Dolphins used him to great effect, as he rushed for 136 yards. His teammate, running back Ricky Williams, added 69 yards as Miami rushed the ball that day for 239 yards.
The Colts overcame this, though, and the fact they controlled the ball for only a measly 14:53, because of the play of QB Peyton Manning, who was 14 of 23 for 303 yards (his second consecutive 300+ yard game) and two touchdowns; the first to TE Dallas Clark, and the second the game-winning TD to Pierre Garcon with 3:18 left to play to give Indianapolis a 27-23 victory.
While in the first game the Colts' defense was their strength, in the game against the Dolphins it was their weakness. However, they put their feet down on offense and got a score when it was needed most.
They weren't in need of such heroic stances on offense or defense these past two weeks as they thoroughly demoralized Arizona and Seattle, 31-10 and 34-17 respectively to get to their untarnished 4-0 record. In thos two games they simply played like they were the better team nearly from start to finish.
But how do the Colts keep that up? One thing they've been doing this season and in seasons past that seems to be succeeding is almost always running on first downs and passing on third downs. If you watched the Dolphins and Cardinals games, you might have seen that pattern. To me, a team that follows that pattern is more often than not going to play well and will win more games than they lose.
Is that the only recipe for success that the Colts are following? Hardly.
Another ghing the Colts do that seems to guarantee them success is their incredible clock management. Whenever a play is over, the Colts don't waste time. Instead, they quickly huddle up and then get into formation.
While the other team is still running to huddle on defense, Peyton Manning is usually ready to take his team to the line, and often catches his opponents off-guard.
This often results in a penalty on the other team, which for Colts fans is a great thing.
These things, along with many others, are why even this early in the season, I believe the Colts are one of the favorites to possibly go to the Super Bowl. They're a team on a mission, with Peyton wanting to prove his first Super Bowl ring wasn't just a fluke.
I have the feeling Peyton will prove his doubters wrong this year.