Monday, November 9, 2015

Out of nowhere

OK. So maybe it was all Pep Hamilton's fault.

Surely something exited with him when the Colts ousted him last week, and what arrived in its place was the football team everyone thought it saw back in the innocence of August. Andrew Luck, missing for weeks, returned to kick his pale imitator to the curb. The Colts ran the football on the best defense in the NFL. That defense, in turn, completely lost its composure down the stretch -- a startling reversal of fortunes for a Colts team whose own composure has too often been sorely lacking.

And so Colts 27, Denver 24, and for once fate didn't poke the Horseshoes in the eye. That was Denver defensive back Aqib Talib who did that, the signature moment for a defense that fell apart down the stretch while Peyton Manning stood on the sideline looking predictably dour.

The unkindest cut: The Bronco D's unraveling robbed Manning of the chance to break Brett Favre's all-time passing yardage record in the city where he is still beloved. He came up three yards short.

It was the kind of foul turn of events we've grown accustomed to seeing from the Colts, who may have at least glimpsed a corner we might have seen coming had we been more astute. All the turmoil in their camp last week obscured the home truth that change frequently does a football team much good, at least in the short term. And so dumping Hamilton and bringing in Rob Chudzinski should have been a sign that this would be a different team on Sunday -- as did the players-only meeting widely viewed as a desperate attempt to keep the Titanic from foundering.

Think about it: How many times do you see a team rally after one of those clear-the-air sessions, at least momentarily?

And so the real significance of yesterday, moving forward, is not what happened yesterday but what happens next. The Colts get a decent Atlanta club next, and what happens in that one will carry far more weight than what happened against the previously unbeaten Broncos.

That was merely reaction. What happens against Atlanta will be a trend. Or not.

Win, and it's the actual turning of that finally-glimpsed corner. Lose, and yesterday will be just an outlier in a lost season.

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