Backup QB tops Colts’ backups; now real season starts

By Anthony Bialy  |   Sunday, December 30, 2007  |  Comments( 0 )

Indianapolis Colts
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The sight of Peyton Manning wearing a headset undoubtedly caused innumerable gray hairs to sprout and jiggers of spirits to be downed in the greater Cleveland area. Browns fans must have felt helplessly frustrated even though they knew in advance the quarterback's day would conclude early, but that's not the Colts' concern. They understandably showed little other than flashes of interesting play, as Manning and a great deal of other starters could have ordered pizza and wings and had it delivered to the sidelines before the first two-minute warning.

The argument could even be made that they kept core guys in there for close to too long. Letting Manning take snaps in the second quarter wasn't egregious, but it was close to borderline, as there was no need for him to prove, establish, or accomplish anything.

As for remaining sharp, any professional should be able to shake off rust a few moments into a playoff battle, and that's particularly true for perhaps the most skillfully prepared player in the game. That said, he completed all but two of his 16 attempts and more importantly avoided both being sacked and situations of general duress as he emerged unscathed.

To be fair, Jim Sorgi exhibited moments of competence after his insertion, even though he ultimately looked like a guy about qualified to play behind, say, Aaron Rodgers. He finished 11 for 24 with 68 yards, not exactly creating a quarterback controversy in Indiana.

Still, he looked good throwing for his team's only end zone visit. Sorgi to Craphonso Thorpe doesn't have quite the same ring as Manning-to-Harrison, but they connected for a key third-quarter touchdown on a tough play: Tennessee was crowding the line either in anticipation of a run or as a dare to throw for an about-to-be pressured backup, but Sorgi stood in and delivered a nice pass to his receiver as Thorpe cut inside on single coverage. It was one stellar moment for him to add to his video resume from a player who usually may as well bring his own lawn chair to the stadium.

The game's irrelevancy was irrelevant to Bob Sanders, who played as if he wanted to demonstrate he's earning his new salary every time he was out there. Always instinctually near the ball, Sanders might have been trying to supplant LeBron James as Northern Ohio's favorite sports idol. His six tackles and a sack indicate that he showed up to compete; while Sanders' focus is crushing others, his past is marked with injuries, and the Colts need to be careful with him even considering he's the aggressor regarding contact and not the prey. Still, he also saw limited plays, just like his team's most public face.

But, while Indianapolis' quarterback change ultimately contributed to its meaningless, 16th-game doom, what really hurt the Colts was Tennessee's involuntary switch: Kerry Collins came in for a stricken Vince Young and played in a capably proficient way. The tricky thing for the Colts was that they spent the previous week understandably preparing for an entirely different kind of quarterback: Young runs around and looks as if he's making it up as he goes, while Collins is a prototype of the granite-footed pocket thrower, albeit a backup one who's thrown almost as many interceptions as touchdowns during a career where he's often specialized in not reaching his potential.

Collins was successful on 10 of his 13 attempts, gaining 106 yards in a reflection of the fact that it was a veteran quarterback picking on reserves and rookies. Still, he's the one who led his side to a tie and ultimate win. So, when Cleveland followers curse the use of reserves in this bout for leading to their side's playoff miss, their wrath's biggest target should be the second-string quarterback on his fifth franchise whose utterly conventional style threw Indy's defenders.

As for the Colts, nobody got carted off the field, Reggie Wayne won the receiving title, and their fans had a preseason-style game to keep them occupied while waiting for the real challenge to begin next month. That should be enough to assuage the thoroughly negligible pain from a loss devoid of meaning for a two seed ready for a return to significant contests.
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About Anthony Bialy

I'm just here to submit columns.
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