Monday, September 8, 2008

Half Full, Half Empty

Days like this are when I hate running a blog. Before 18to88, whenever the Colts would lose a weird crappy game, I'd ignore the world for 4 days, watch the tape and move on. Now, I have to show up and talk about a game that at first blush people are making too much about. Let me preface everything I'm saying by saying that I'll watch the tape later, and until I do will withhold final judgment. These are just thoughts off the top of my head:

1. The fact that the four major contenders in the AFC South had awful days makes me feel better. NE had the worst day, despite winning. The Jags were the second worst. The Chargers had no excuse to lose their game. All in all, things could be worse.

2. Manning looked fine to me. He moved and threw well. He had a couple of off passes, but mostly played fine.

3. The defense was basically ok. They played with a lot of short fields due to Hester-itis, and other than Bethea (and a linebacker who I'll name later once I see it again) blowing the 50 yard TD run, did about what we've come to expect.

4. Harrison's knee is fine.

5. The Luke is loud. Just as loud as the dome.

6. Freeney looked 100%

7. Basically, this looked like a team that hadn't played any preseason games. The stats on the game were very even despite all the problems, and if Harrison hangs on to the effing ball, the Colts probably win this game.

Now the bad news.
1. The next two games are against better versions of this same team. Better fix some stuff or 0-3 is a real possibility.

2. The WRs were awful. Gonzo, Wayne, and Harrison had great moments but dropped passes, and Harrison screwed the game by fumbling.

3. The O-line was being obliterated. Manning's numbers looked pretty good for a guy on the move. I don't want to hear crap about "happy feet". First off, he always moves his feet like that, and secondly the line was not adequate. I'll assign appropriate blame after breaking down the tape. This is troubling. Again, I expect these problems to be fixed soon, but it was ugly out there. Running the ball wasn't even an option.

The early coverage on this game has been a little over the top.
Greg Doyle's piece was accurate in terms of the wideouts, but sort of insane in its tone.

Kravitz was wrong about more things than I can count:
  • First off, I know it was an obvious headline, but he didn't have to steal it.
  • He says the game could have been worse, but it could have been better just as easily. That game was closer than the score indicated, and basically flipped on one play.
  • He says the "down by contact" call on Roby was dicey. It's because he doesn't understand the rules of football. To overturn a "down by contact" call there are two elements that have to be present. 1. a clear fumble (check) 2. a clear recovery by the defense. That was why they didn't overturn. If there is a pile up, and the defense doesn't CLEARLY recover the ball on the tape, there can be no overturn, EVEN if the defense recovers the ball under the scrum and the runner did indeed fumble. Bob doesn't know the rules of football.
  • What did he see to make him say the special teams were awful? There was some dicey strategy early in trying to kick away from Hester, but once they went right at him, things were fine.
  • He was 100% WRONG about Dungy's judgement in going for the 4th down. There was no other choice in order to win that game. You can question the play call, but going for it was the best way to win. The Bears were running the ball too well to hope for a three and out. A punt and you find yourself down 9 with 7 minutes to play and 1 timeout (at best). It was the right call to go for it.
  • He says Manning was tentative all night. I'm not sure what that means, but he was looking and throwing deep downfield all night. On several plays, the rush made him dump it off, and on two others Harrison dropped a huge gain, and Wayne failed to tap his feet. He overthrew Reggie in the endzone by about an inch. It's true that there were timeouts, but a couple were because guys ran on the field late (Tamme!), and the ) O-line didn't seem to know what was going on.

I won't have time to peruse all the coverage until later today, but that's a start anyway. We'll probably record 18 Plays tomorrow night. Check back later for more links.

Demond Sanders: Good thoughts. I'm pretty depressed right now, but I said going into the game that even if we lost there was no way we could have worse day than New England. It was the first game of the season, but, as you mention, the next two are going to be very similar opponents. Scary. They need some kind of running game.


Anonymous said...

Yes, the WRs were bad and the OL was weak. The defense struggled to get stops when they needed to. The kick coverage wasn't so hot. But we have seen most of this before. [More on WRs at end.]

The biggest problem was that Peyton's bad knee took away the unique way that the Colts run the outside zone stretch and the play action pass off it. There have been many times in the past when the O-line was completely overmatched that the Colts were able to cobble together a complete offensive performance on the strength of those two complementary plays (plus the draw).

I have often said that one of the things that makes 18 the greatest ever is that he adds far more to the running game than people realize. Because he normally is able to sprint the ball to the edge, the Colts can run a "toss sweep" without worrying about secondary support because of the pass threat if he fakes the handoff. Last night, he had to toss it and the results weren't as good. In the past, the Colts have often been able to achieve a quality run game without great blocking up front. Without it last night, the play action game was also ineffective.

Now for the WRs. As upsetting as the drops by 11 and 88 (and the recurrence of 87's unwillingness to drag his feet on the sideline) were -- and all 3 were critical -- the bigger problem I saw was the difficulty they had getting open.

88 got handled last night. He may be at the point now where he is reduced to being a small possession receiver who sometimes coughs it up. He was challenged 1 on 1 last night and couldn't get open deep.

Reggie looks like someone obsessed with finding a place to fall down. He is going to have to step up. And hopefully, 11 gets better.

The Colts didn't have a lot of open receivers last night.

I'm worried that the Colts won't be able to get back to their high level of offensive efficiency until 18's knee can allow him to sprint to the edge on the outside zone stretch. It is nearly impossible to have a solid offense with a weak O-line. The Colts have managed in the past because of Peyton. Without a fully healthy Manning, however, it will be really hard to be consistent agaist quality defenses.


Adam said...

For starters, watching your franchise QB running for his life because his right tackle is getting consistently blown up is really disheartening.

That's TWICE MarHar has had game-killing fumbles in his last two starts. He was never fumble prone before; what changed? Did the docs forget to work on his knee and cut the tendons in his wrist instead?

Reggie has to get his feet down.

Gonzo has to catch the damn ball.

Clark has to stay on the field.

Dungy has to remember that this isn't the pre-season anymore; these games count.

Guys have to get off and on the damn field.

Most importantly, we have to remember that this week and next week are both out of conference games, which, if it comes down to a tie-breaker, are pretty low on the list. Given our lack of success with first round byes, I'd rather let SD and Pitt or someone have them, then go in as a 3 or even 4 seed, get a good tune-up wildcard game, and then steamroll our way to Tampa.

jc said...

With all that gotta beat the Bears at home in your new back yard.

Especially with all your horses...rust or no rust.

Demond Sanders said...

The kick coverage was actually pretty decent (including one great play), it was poor strategy early on which cost us field position. When they finally manned up and kicked to Hester things turned out much better.

You are dead on about the loss of the play-action, Stan.

Demond Sanders said...

Guys have to get off and on the damn field.

Yes, that was pathetic to watch.

zac said...

i agree with jc (unreal)

this loss was inexcusable....poor game plan, same bogus game plan with no adjustments, dropped balls, just a painful loss to watch.

Big Dave said...

I think a lot of this was Dungy's fault. After the game regarding the two challenges: “I don’t think they could have overturned either one of them based on what you saw on the video." So why did you challenge them, Tony? I get the Addai challenge, that was close, but everybody knew Marvin had fumbled, so you basically took a match to one of our timeouts in a game that we were losing. And whoever called a run up the middle (with dominic rhodes) with 9 Bears defenders stacking the line is also to blame. Did Peyton not have an audible to call? If we throw the ball given that defensive set it is probably %90 that we will convert. We would get stopped for a loss 10/10 times given the play we used. And why Rhodes? Didn't we draft and sign this Hart kid for a reason? Short yardage, maybe? Give him a shot. Rhodes has never been able to get those short gains up the middle. I agree with the play-action thing, too. But, who's call was that? Was Manning physically unable to get out there on the stretch play? Because he looked pretty mobile the rest of the game. And the whole idea of the stretch is so the defense doesn't know whether the back gets the ball or not, so a pitch is an unacceptable substitute. All that being said, props to Orton. He made throw after throw against us before the pressure could get to him. If Grossman had started this game, they probably wouldn't have scored a point (except for the Harrison fumble).

Demond Sanders said...

I disagree, I think you have to challenge the Marvin fumble if you are Dungy. That was the ballgame right there. It looked pretty close on the big screen at the game (which is what Tony was looking at), I'm not sure how it looked on NBC.

I can't believe we've now lost two straight games because of Marvin fumbles.

zac said...

Yeah I don't mind the Dungy challenge on the fumble returned for a TD. That is a relatively low risk for a potentially high reward.

If it was overturned, we probably go on to win that game. Worth a challenge if the worse addition loss is a timeout.

zac said...

worst additional loss*

Deshawn Zombie said...

The challenge was the right call. From where we were it looked incomplete at live speed. It came down to whether or not the official ruled that Harrison had made a 'football move'. I don't see how he did that. If the official sees that call the other way, we win.

Big Dave said...

Yeah, well, you weren't watching on tv. It was absolutely obvious that it wouldn't be overturned. Tony should have somebody watching the monitors that can tell him when it's a good idea to challenge. He shouldn't have to look at the jumbotron. Bob Lamey immediately said it was an obvious fumble and he was at the game... so somebody should have gotten word to Tony. I know you only have a few seconds before the PAT, but you have to be ready for that. It's a blown timeout. I know it would have been a big overturn, but it would never happen, and Dungy should have people in place to tell him that.

Big Dave said...

And it's a "football move" or two steps. He took two steps. Clear as day. It would never have been overturned.

Bob M. said...

Could be worse. If he was Herm (or Norv? Del Rio?) he would have called a TO before the PAT, then burned a challenge, killing another TO.

On TV Marvin's play looked like he took 1.5-2.0 steps before the ball came out. I thought it was a fumble but also figured the risk/reward ratio made it worth a shot. Like playing the lottery--I don't, but if it's your ONLY chance to save the game, maybe it's worth it.

I also wanted them to go on 4th down, but just like the Pats game about 4-5 years ago when Edge was stuffed 3 times, when you don't have the jumbo package (or in this case, an OL that can handle their DL) you don't run that play. I was actually thinking a QB draw--PM takes 3 steps back and the 10 guys in the box start shitting bricks-- they backpedal, and all he needed was a crease. 20/20 hindsight. We did not deserve to win, but we can still manage an 18-1 season, right? I know we all love those 18-1 seasons!

Deshawn Zombie said...

How can you make a football move without two feet on the ground?

A timeout was a cheap price to pay for even the slightest chance to undo that play.

Blaming Dungy for the loss is simplistic and silly. They had three backups at guard and center. They couldn't run the ball becuase the linemen that were in weren't good enough. Whether they will be in the weeks to come remains to be seen.

That game sucked, but could have been a win very easily. I'm not sure that there was anything Dungy could have done to win that game. He didn't make Marvin fumble and he didn't make Hayden drop a pick. He made no strategic mistakes that can clearly be traced to the Colts losing.

The line and the recievers played bad on a day when the defense played just ok. If the line plays well OR the WRs hold onto the ball, the defense would have looked just fine.

Dungy made the bad mistake of being afraid of Hester in the first half, but corrected it soon enough that had other things gone right, we win the game.

Anonymous said...

Al Michaels said about three times last night that a "football move" isn't the rule anymore. That's too subjective.

Possession and two steps constitutes a fumble.

It also consitutes resisting arrest.


Westside Rob said...

They actually changed the rule this year on possession after a catch. There is no longer a requirement for a "Football move". You just have to get two feet down and then there has to be a moment of time. So basically my translation on that is you have to have the ball in control and two feet down for at least a hearbeat for it to be a catch. If the ball even starts to come loose before that happens it's incomplete. I saw this on the NFL network the other day. The Head of Referees was reviewing the various rule changes for 2008.

Deshawn Zombie said...

I'm glad for that. Football move never made sense.

That's funniest line I've heard all year!

Bob M. said...

Play calling, be it Manning or Moore, bothered me. On TV I could not tell was was happening downfield with WRs and DBs, but it looked like we never took a shot beyond 15 yards or so. PM was not under THAT much pressure.

It really looked like those shitty old playoff games where Edge ran like 10 times and PM threw it 50.

Is this one of those "we really need Dallas Clark healthy" moments? Thinking back to late 2006, our crappiest performances were when he was out. He comes back, we go on a tear. Simplistic, I know, and doesn't really account for the D turnaround (paging mister Zombie...). But it's all I got right now.

Big Dave said...

You want to call my opinion simplistic and silly, go right ahead. It's your blog. But, I'm not blaming the whole game on him. Obviously. And I get the whole risk/reward thing, but when there is NO REWARD (it was a fumble!!!) then there is no risk worth taking. He took two steps. And, it was RULED a fumble. Anybody remember the whole "indisputable evidence" thing? Looked pretty disputable to me.
And not only did we lose a timeout, we lost our second challenge. It didn't matter in this game, but it might in the future. The challenge was the WRONG CALL.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Off the top of my head:

there was the deep ball off Wayne's finger tips.

The first play of the game, Manning was looking deep, but didn't have time to throw.

There was the deep ball down the sideline that Harrison dropped on a perfect throw

There was another deep ball to Marvin which netted an illegal contact foul.

There might have been more, but those four come immediately to mind.

JC said...

Brady on IR.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Sorry Big Dave, I just flat disagree. The call was too close not to challenge given the huge importance of the play to the game.

I'm actually really sorry, JC. I would never want even Brady to blow a knee.
He blows enough as it is.
He didn't need to blow a knee too.

All joking aside, I am sorry.

Bob M. said...

I think Troy Polamalu ended the "football move" issue 3 years ago.

JC, excellent line.