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News » JUSTIN COHN Column: Colts find alternative options in rout

JUSTIN COHN Column: Colts find alternative options in rout

JUSTIN COHN Column: Colts find alternative options in rout
It's in times like these that a Football team can go deep in the well of plays and players to figure out what could work down the line and what cannot.

It's not as though the lowly Cincinnati Bengals were capable of doing much about it.

So the Colts threw often to tightGijon Robinson. Linebacker Buster Davis and defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, perhaps the most anonymous figures in the locker room, started on defense. The Colts even had the nerve to use plays that were contingent upon left tackle Tony Ugoh blocking well and not taking penalties.

And the Colts looked fine.

A 35-3 victory over Cincinnati didn't prove much, but it showed that the Colts can rely on more than just the Peyton Manning-to- Reggie Wayne combination or "Big Play" Bob Sanders, if the need arises.

At times Sunday, it felt like an exhibition game, the Colts (9- 4) experimenting with things they probably wouldn't dare were the stakes higher. And maybe they found a gem in Robinson, who came into the game with seven catches for 32 yards in 11 career games, but continually exploited the Bengals for six catches and 69 yards.

"It was exciting," Robinson said. "I had a wonderful game out there and concentrated on doing what I do. It's important to be in tune with Peyton and knowing what he wants you to do, and being in the right place at the right time. I was just focusing on what Gijon has to do."

"The more weapons we can have, the more we can use them to put pressure on opposing defenses, the better," Manning added.

And maybe the long list of Colts injuries, which includes linebacker Gary Brackett (leg) and defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson (hamstring), won't sting so much after the playoffs come because it seems Davis can at least be serviceable at linebacker and Johnson can do the same on the line. Both started for the first time Sunday.

This isn't to say the Colts' usual suspects didn't have good performances, save for a tightDallas Clark's fumble for a turnover at the Cincinnati goal line. But he atoned with a 4-yard touchdown catch.

Manning was brilliant, completing 26 of 32 passes for 277 yards with three touchdowns. Marvin Harrison had 78 receiving yards and a touchdown. Dominic Rhodes' 17-yard touchdown run, courtesy of a Ugoh block on the left side, was dazzling.

And defensively, the Colts played their best game of the season, highlighted by some spectacular Kelvin Hayden plays. The cornerback stripped Chris Henry of a would-be first down in the first quarter, intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass in the third quarter and picked off another pass in the fourth quarter, which he returned 85 yards for a touchdown.

Hayden continually broke the spirit of the Bengals (1-11-1), particularly Fitzpatrick, who tried to do too much, fumbling the ball twice, once for a turnover. By the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick was getting chased sideline-to-sideline by defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who again look like the most formidable bookends in the NFL.

"We did a great job of game-planning these guys," Hayden said. "We knew their quarterback would get rattled due to the pressure of our defensive ends. We just needed to take advantage of the opportunities and that's what happened.'

It wasn't a pretty game, but it was important because the Colts didn't hiccup against a bad team, and they found some things that may come in handy in the playoffs.

Next up, winless Detroit. The Colts need to do the same things against the Lions.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 10, 2008

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