General coachspeak usually includes the phrase "we win as a team, we lose as a team."
But Colts president Bill Polian disagrees. He boiled down his team's upset loss in Sunday's Super Bowl to the deficiencies of two units — offensive line and special teams.
“Our offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game,” Polian told his team's official website in his weekly postgame breakdown. “They were outplayed by the Saints’ defensive line. Our special teams, in terms of handing the ball — both in the return game and on the onside kick — were outplayed by the Saints. Therein lies the result. It had nothing to do with strategy or preparedness or toughness or effort.”
It seems to me like Polian is covering his behind with the last sentence, referencing "preparedness," because he was the main proponent of resting the team's starters the final two weeks of the season.
As far as the special teams, Polian is correct — his team was outplayed. In addition to the onside kick to open the second half (which swung the momentum in favor of the Saints the rest of the game), the Colts were woefully inadequate in the kicking and return game.
But was it really Matt Stover's fault that he shanked a 51-yard field goal? Stover's long this season was 43 yards and he hadn't hit from over 50 since Sept. 24, 2006. Doesn't sound like good "strategy" to me to trot him out for a 51-yarder.
Chad Simpson was dreadful returning kicks. Late in the third quarter, he received a kick about four yards deep in the end zone, hesitated, and then brought the kick out anyway — and was promptly tackled on the 14-yard line. That didn't lead me to believe that his "preparedness" level was high.
In all, four of the Colts' eight drives started inside their own 20, and none started past their own 30.
If Polian wants to be critical of the special teams, albeit in a hypocritical way, fine. But how can he bash an offensive line that was just as much, if not more, of a reason the Colts advanced this far as Peyton Manning was?
Manning, the least-sacked starting QB in the league this season (10 times), wasn't sacked on Sunday and was hit just three times. And that same offensive line opened up big enough holes for the Colts to average 5.2 yards per carry on 19 attempts against the Saints.
Instead of running two plays with the up back, Mike Hart, on their last drive of the first half — the latter resulting in no gain on 3rd-and-inches — the Colts should have used their successful zone-blocking scheme to give Joseph Addai (who looked like he was on his way to the MVP in the first half on Sunday) room to roam.
Another breakdown in "strategy," in my opinion.
"In terms of this particular game, we weren't out-played. We weren't out-hit. We weren't out-hustled. We weren't out-coached," Polian said. "The statistics — whatever statistics mean or don't mean, mean nothing. We didn't execute in the critical times and therein lies the story of the game, nothing more, nothing less."
I respectfully disagree, Mr. Polian, especially in the coaching and "preparedness" departments.