This fall, the magazine will recap each week of the Colts’ strange, pandemic-hobbled season. This week: digital editor Derek Robertson, Anvil fanboy Derek Schultz, and Tecmo Bo Jackson-rememberer Nate Miller analyze a tight win over the Cincinnati Bengals and the strange inconsistency of this winning Colts team.
Derek Robertson: Well then. That was… interesting. Who among us would have predicted that Rivers would throw for nearly 400 yards against this Bengals team and still the Colts would come within a single failed two-minute drill of blowing the game? What do we make of this strange, Chiefs-ian comeback against what should have been a cakewalk of an opponent? And, more importantly, what role did the Anvil play in today’s win?
Nate Miller: It’s neat when the Colts aren’t living in the 1300s, when the Black Plague was wrecking everyone’s shit and King Henry IV was doing his thing and football teams were emphasizing the importance of running the ball. I don’t know how many times the Colts ran today, nor am I terribly interested in looking it up. (I DO JOURNALISM STUFF GOOD!) Whatever it was, it was sparse. Good riddance to that nonsense. Those “Run the Damn Ball” hats from last year may as well be QAnon hats, signifying that the wearer does not believe in science, facts, or general decency. Throw them all down a copper mine and set it on fire.
There is no mistaking this: Julian Blackmon is the dopest Colts player since Bob Sanders, and he may in fact be doper—which I know sounds unreasonable and outlandish. Whatever. He’s already in the Razor Shines Memorial Mansion of Cool Indy Athletes. I adore him, and I hate EVERYONE. Of course he has a cool number like 32 (DALE DAVIS! Magic Johnson! Dave Winfield and Dr. J!), and not, say, 27 or 36 or 39 or any other broke-ass number for nerds. This is all preordained.
DR: 100% agreed. Is there a cooler percentage than that to which I can agree with you? 132%? It doesn’t make sense, but like the Anvil, it just feels right. They better have given Blackmon that game ball, not to mention some of the DROY consideration he richly deserves.
Derek Schultz: The Colts lost last week when the Anvil wasn’t banged, and won this week when it was banged (loudly, I might add), so I’m 132% sure The Anvil played a critical role today. I feel weird about this game, because it was a game the Colts absolutely had to win, and they won (woo!), but they did so after making the entire city gouge out their eyeballs. After being trashed locally and nationally all week, I thought Philip Rivers was mostly terrific today and the defense really woke up after getting dunked on for the entire first quarter. The competition really ramps up in the second half of the season, though, and the Colts will get eviscerated by Tennessee, or Pittsburgh, or Baltimore if they decide to not show up for the first quarter (today) or first half (last week) again.
NM: Some people think The Anvil is some sort of contrived gimmick or newfangled marketing scam, but those people are spineless beatniks who are not, in fact, #ForTheShoe. They are very much #AgainstTheShoe. They are FOES of the shoe, in fact, and also the general concept of grit. Colts WR Marcus Johnson is not such a person. No, he was forged out of failure and steel in the fiery hell-sludge of the practice squad, and I like him a great deal. He’s what The Anvil would be if it had 4.38 speed and okay hands.
Why do you hate America, people who don’t love The Anvil?
DR: Here’s a question I’ll throw to both of you, for answers either analytical or metaphysical—how is it possible that a team this steeped in old-school, run-and-defense-forward, grit-to-it-ive-ness so maddeningly inconsistent, as Derek pointed out? The entire appeal of Reich’s approach is supposed to be that this team is the immovable force that just keeps grinding away at you until there’s 0:49 left in the fourth quarter and you realize you’re about to somehow lose 23-21 by a Blankenship field goal. Doesn’t it cut against that whole philosophy to also be the team that lets the Bengals score three times in the first 20 minutes of a game, and made Gardner Minshew look like vintage Joe Montana back in Week 1?
NM: Everything I know about football I learned from Super Tecmo Bowl. (RUN BO JACKSON A LOT AND DO DEFENSE WITH LAWRENCE TAYLOR!) I am a football moron, as well as a parenting, woodworking, and math moron. I have no clue why the Colts do such Colts-ian things. Schultz wrestled in high school one time, I think. Wrestlers know football-y things. He’ll know.
DS: I wish I had an answer for this. The first quarter reminded me of the classic Chuck Pagano no-show, where the Colts would get dominated by an inferior opponent (go look up the 2013 Rams game or the 2015 game in Jacksonville). I don’t think they have any idea what their identity is, but it certainly isn’t the running game, at least not through six games. Not sure if that’s mostly due to Marlon Mack’s injury, Philip Rivers’ age, or the OL’s regression, but this rushing attack isn’t close to what it was in 2019. (I was 9-42 as a varsity wrestler, so I was basically the Brian Hoyer of high school wrestlers.)
DR: Better than being the Ryan Mallett of high school wrestlers, at least? It is strange for a team that should be this eminently knowable, with a quarterback that’s been in the league for nearly two decades and an undeniably dominant defense, to elude our understanding, but at the end of the day it’s all part of the same miasmic cloud of uncertainty that’s plagued this team since Andrew Luck retired. Next week is a bye, so maybe the Colts, who despite our complaints and confusion still sit just two games behind the division-leading Titans, can relax, regroup, maybe have therapy, go to the solarium, figure themselves out and come back a stronger and more consistent team ready to make a real playoff run.