Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on the "win"

DZ is crazy busy today, so I'm going to try to sum up our thoughts on the win last night against Bill Belichick's Patriots.

1.) Bill probably lost his team the game by not going for it on fourth down. That was weird. The only other time I've seen poor coaching out of him was in Arizona last February when he punted inside Giants territory.

2.) The defensive line is struggling right now. The lack of pressure turned a potentially easy win into a tossup game. I know Cassel threw underneath, but he still held it long enough to get sacked at least once.

3.) We should be proud of the patchwork defensive backfield. They didn't get beat deep by Moss and helped hold Welker to 37 yards on 7 catches. Not sure why the Patriots didn't try to go up top, though. I guess they were happy running the ball and shortening the game and not getting into a shootout. It almost worked.

4.) Peyton played a great game. They rarely looked deep, but the receivers had plenty of room underneath. I think it is telling that even though Manning was excellent the team still struggled. Indy's problems are much deeper than rust or a nagging injury.

5.) The poor running game made #18's play all the more impressive. It was strange because they usually run well against New England at home. And they ran the ball well at times versus the Titans last week. Is Ugoh healthy? Is Addai missing holes? This seems like a solvable issue, but I'm not seeing a lot of answers.

6.) Marvin is the most controversial part of the team right now. Why is he returning punts? Is he done? The answer is who knows. At this point we just need to try and enjoy him. This is possibly his last season.

7.) This team is average on offense, average on defense, and average on special teams. It is no surprise that they are 4-4. It's really tough to find 6 wins left on the schedule, even assuming they sweep the rest of their home games. They aren't that good, but there is a lot of pride left on this team. They won't go out quietly. There could be some real joy in watching Peyton rally an undermanned team into the playoffs.

8.) Adam Vinatieri shamed me last night. I've been down on his ability to hit long field goals. I was wrong.

9.) Feel good about this: Anthony Gonzalez is heating up. His second touchdown came on third down against tight coverage. Clutch.

10.) It is better if we try not to think about the Steelers game on Sunday. My heart says they can pull an upset if they score a lot. My head says the Colts should lose by two or three scores.

11.) If your politician wins on Tuesday, congratulations. Our readership is purple, so if you want to gloat please post about it somewhere else.

Don Banks learns stuff from the game. Obvious stuff.

Ross Tucker hates on Mad Jack. Hee hee.

PK still likes the Colts waaaay too much. Pats too. Figure it out Pete. This team has a great QB and NOTHING else right now.

Scouts Inc sees stuff. Sort of

CHFF loves on AV

They also have Indy in first in their meaningless standings

FO talks about last night's game

Gregg Doyle wants to be in AV's shoes

Clark Judge liked seeing Peyton back. I thought he was back three weeks ago. There was nothing wrong with him recently but two tough defenses on windy days.


Josh K said...

Looking ahead for a bit: I've seen a lot of comments recently about how the Colts shouldn't go with Caldwell when Dungy retires, they shouldn't continue with a coach who runs the same systems and coaches int he same style. I don't really have a strong opinion on this myself yet.

But it occurred to me that Caldwell isn't one of Dungy's defensive disciples, is he? So I'm thinking that it's just as big a question to ask, Who will be the defensive coordinator when Dungy retires?

Shake'n'bake said...

I've kind of assumed that the staff and schemes are staying intact, which is a big reason I'm pro-Caldwell. There is nothing wrong with what the Colts do and any change is going to be painful as they change personnel.

Even if Caldwell isn't a Tampa-2 disciple, a smart coach doesn't mess with a defense that has a coordinator with the personnel he wants already in place. Look at Tomlin in Pittsburgh. Tomlin is off the Dungy tree. He was a defensive position coach under him in Tampa. The D the Steelers are running under him is not even close to a Tampa-2.

Demond Sanders said...

Agreed, Shake. They won a Super Bowl with this system and a lot of football games. They clearly need to beef up the depth at DB and DT. There's not much you can do about losing your four starters at those positions, though.

I think the LBs are playing okay. Hagler should improve once he shakes off the rust.

Westside Rob said...

Nice concise summary. Marvin is a mystery right now, but I'm not ready to write him off yet. I am worried about the lack of pass rush, the way holding is being called (well not called) is affecting our speed rushing style much more than it affects power rush teams like Tenn and NYG. If this trend continues in the NFL the Colts will probably need to look at slight adjustments in players they target for the Dline.

I think they should keep to the plan with Caldwell, and give him 2 years minimum to see how he can carry on. A true coaching change probably requires much broader personnel changes and that's a rebuilding effort I hope the Colts can put off for a while. There is nothing wrong with the Colts overall schemes. They might need to add some more wrinkles, adjustments, and better suited players in some spots but the basic system is sound. People that bash the Colts Tampa 2 Def also need to realize that in addition to playing that overall scheme they also (because of the amount of salary tied up on the offensive side of the ball) go after smaller, quicker DLs and LBs which also has an impact on the effectiveness of that scheme.

Unless we want to see them cut loose lots of our offensive weapons we aren't going to be able to change that and switching schemes would just make it worse because the scheme we play now at least gives us a chance to be moderately effective with those types of players.

Westside Rob said...

I think the biggest surprise to me this year has been how little of an impact the rookies have had on this team. The Oline rookies have had to play because of injuries but that hasn't really been a positive so far. Mike Hart got to show us 2 plays of brilliance before being taken out for the year. Wheeler has seen little action and not been much of a visible factor on ST that I've noticed. The TEs have been hurt or only spotty at best. Howard (who most of us thought would be seeing action by now and reeking some havoc) has not even sniffed the field from what I can tell.

I don't recall a year where we've seen as little positive contributions from rookies as this year. I'm not convinced that means that this class is bad or that it won't have a positive long term impact but either because of injury or whatever we just aren't seeing the contributions from this class that we've seen from past Rookie classes in the Polian era.

Bob M. said...

Rob is on fire today. At the risk of sounding dull, I concur, I concur. Though unless it's a shambles, I'd think three years for a new coach is more appropriate. Then again, when you step behind the wheel of a proven winner, maybe the grace period is shorter.

If the OL holding call is fundamentally different than we have understood it for years and the league is suportive of that, then yes, I do think we have to target a big power DT. Not a super-elite $10M/year guy, but someone who can collapse the pocket on the inside, lessen the double-teaming on the outside, etc.

Are speed rushers league-wide suffering this year? I haven't looked into it.

Shake'n'bake said...

The rookies:

They didn't have a 1st and both the 2nd and 3rd rounder missed time injured. The guys that would be expected to contribute were derailed by injury and their wasn't a Bethea-type breakout from any of the late rounders.

Bob M. said...

In a perfect world, I suspect the exposure to games the rookies have racked up this year will pay big dividends next year if we have to pare some salary space from the OL to get some DL beef or depth at CB.

I didn't say "cut Saturday or Clark" and have no idea whose contracts are up. I'd prefer to keep Jeff as long as Peyton and Tom Moore are both in blue. And I like Dallas C more than most, but the concussions worry me.

zac said...

I say cut Marvin. We can't pay him 13 million next year to suck.

Bob M. said...

Can't cut him, it's just not respectful. I say we give him a desk job, make him head of PR/media relations.

"No Comment." "No Comment." "No Comment." "No Comment." "No Com--say, have I shown you my Belgian hand cannon?"

Yeah, barring some weird late-season resurgance, he's an expensive insurance policy for those 6 yard passes on 3rd and 5.

Demond Sanders said...


You guys might be right, but let's see how this season shakes out.

If Peyton had hit Marv on just half the deep balls they've missed we'd be having a much different conversation right now.

That said, he's not getting separation on his short routes which is most of his value. . .

Bob M. said...

There WERE deep balls where he had separation but was not passed to or the pass was off. But the short and middle stuff.... well, it's not an indictment of Marvin as a player, so much as it is a value issue. $13M! Maybe they re-jigger his contract, add a few super crazy back-load years at $25M, so that his cap hit for the next year or two is maybe $6M and not $13M... and even then, it's a financial stretch, barring some major increase in production (which is largely blamed on the OL). sigh.

Hey, what's up with Roy Hall? Has he ever suited up, or does he just wear a hospital gown 24/7? I want to see a big physical WR out there. That type of WR could be perfect for the OL/lack of time/PM slightly-off struggles we've had this year. PM is rushed, throws up a desperation duck and a 6-5 power-forward with elbows goes up for the rock. It would certainly change the way D's line up against us and cause the opponents to spend more resources getting prepared. Not if he's terminally ill (in a football sense), however.

Brad Pyatt, anyone? Possibly my favorite return man ever (min: 7 career returns).

Bob M. said...

I have a vested financial interest in 88 remaining at least one more year--I bought jerseys for my kids a little into the future (size-wise) and nobody's big enough for the 88 I bought. If he leaves or my kids don't take their daily HGH supplements, Polian owes me $45!

Gave my 8 year-old #21 for his b'day yesterday. He was stoked. Wore it to school today. Take that! chess club. I'm gonna check your ass so hard that your pawns will bleed.

Westside Rob said...

Bob M.
88 jerseys will never go out IMO. Those are now HOF classic jersey's so I don't think you need to worry about your investment in them. Same for 18. People will still be wearing those jersey's to games long after they've both retired.

Is it possible that Marvin isn't getting as much separation on the underneath and middle routes because of changes in how teams defend us? Teams know that our Oline is suspect and that they don't have to respect the deep ball or the run as much. This creates less space for the underneath routes, and thereby makes it appear that 88 has lost a step...I'm just saying.

If the Oline could return to form (I remember wishing the Colts had signed Scott instead of Lilja but I had no idea how big of deal that would be) I think teams would have to worry more about the deep threats and would HELP open up the middle and underneath stuff more. Plus if the Oline is better then the running game is probably more of a threat which makes Play Action more effective, which in turns ALSO opens up the middle and underneath stuff.

Westside Rob said...

Since Bob M thinks I'm on fire I'm staying on fire....

DZ or DS I can't remember which thought I was nuts last night for saying that PM should watch some tape of old #4(Jim Harbaugh) executing the Delayed Sprint Draw. I stand by that comment. I think that element has always been missing from this offense and would create one more thing that defense has to worry about defending. Right now they aren't respecting the run, so they play us straight up and rush up field. We need to make them pay for that and get some running yards while our Oline straightens itself out. Typically draws can get you running yards even when your Oline is out-manned. When used strategically they can also create doubt in the LBs, and should make the play action even more effective by creating that additional moment of hesitation by the defense (LBs and Safeties). If you watch film of PM on the few draw plays the Colts do run (maybe 1 or 2 per game) there is almost no hesitation and he certainly isn't selling pass. #4 was as effective with the draw and selling pass on those plays as PM is on selling run on play actions passes. The Colts will never do it, as far as I know Tom Moore has never been much of a "Draw" proponent beyond the stretch play which is kind of a draw but not nearly as effective as that delayed sprint draw that #4 and Faulk used so effectively. Hell even the backup RBs were able to get yards on that play to vault us to the AFC Championship in 95 (Faulk and Potts were hurt for the Playoffs that year). I'm just saying...I think it would work but then again that's why I own a software company instead of coaching Football so WTF do I know...

Demond Sanders said...

I think a lot of it is abject failure of the run/stretch play. No stretch play, no play action. No play action, no deep ball. Peyton can still try and fake, but the Colts run game scares no one this year, and I think its a huge part of the problem.

Also, in the past if you tried to stop the pass with an extra man, Peyton would be happy to just hand off for 5 yards a pop. That doesn't work when someone is constantly penetrating your line.

I hate oversimplifying things, but after 7 games it is what it is.

Demond Sanders said...

8 games, I mean.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Rob, NOTHING short of the linemen playing better will help this offense. The sprint draw worked back in 95 in part because of the personnel the Colts had. Draws work great especially against blitzes. The 95 Colts had no great deep passing game, so teams blitzed, hence the draw was more effective. Teams aren't blitzing the Colts much, because they don't have to. The line just isn't run blocking well.

By the way, the rookie contributions have been huge. Robinson, Justice, Santi, Pollack, and Richard have all played a lot. Garcon is the returner. Most of those guys are linemen and block a lot, so it's hard to notice them sometimes. How much more can you possibly ask from Rookies after 8 games. Don't forget that Hart blew out his knee too. The Colts had an 'unsexy' draft. A lot of those players are playing now and sometimes suck, but should start to figure it out, or at least be way ahead next year. Unless they start doing weed, or suddenly retire for no good reason.

Potts racked up a huge game against SD in 95 in the playoffs, but was hurt after that. Just an FYI.

Bob M. said...

Are you thinking Zach Crockett? Racked up about 125 yards when Faulk was hurt.

I like the draw idea--we run a couple when the RB looks to stay in for blocking reasons. We don;t need to rip them for 8 every time because of blitzes, but we need 4yds. Just create that hesitation the next time and the next time. An extra 1/2 second for Manning's next pass, or a half step slower for a CB/LB to close on a receiver....
Like Fisher said, we're hitting "liners to the warning track." If the D loses a step on just 5 plays a game, those liners become HRs. IMO.

Bob M. said...

From Wikipedia: (Crockett) Perhaps one of his finer pro career moments came during the 1995 AFC Wildcard game, where he started in place of the injured Marshall Faulk. During this game against the San Diego Chargers, Crockett rushed for 147 yards and scored 2 touchdowns to help the Colts win their first playoff game in 24 years.

So I was off by 22 yards.

Westside Rob said...

First off agreed that nothing short of improved line play on both sides will change the destiny of the Colts this year. They at least have the building blocks on the Oline side though are very suspect at Tackle. On Def, I just don't see the pieces there to improve much this year. Some improvement yes but not enough to make much of a difference.

Maybe your right about the Sprint Draw, but don't get me wrong I'm not saying anything close to this being a miracle play that's going to get the Colts to the SB. I'm just saying it's a small wrinkle that could help. And more so that it would strengthen other areas too. It's not a cure all or even probably going to make much of a difference but something long term I think the Colts should consider.

RE: The rookies. I realize they are playing but they just aren't playing that well. Granted I'm grading them on a curve vs. guys like Bethea, Johnson, Sanders, Gonzo, Ugoh (only 1 of which was a first rounder so that's not my point either). Injuries have obviously affected the rookies as much as the rest of the team but there just isn't any standout on the team this year. BTW: Robinson is not a rookie, he was a practice squad player all year last year.

I was thinking that Potts got hurt right before the playoffs but you are probably right. I was thinking it was Zach Crockett who had the big game vs. SD, but you might be right that Potts played in that game but got hurt. I know for a fact he didn't play in the KC or Pitt games.

Westside Rob said...

Takes me forever to write these posts and I get interrupted 10 times while I'm writing it and then post it and see that everyone else is already confirming my vague memories.

Westside Rob said...

Exactly Bob M. that's my point.

Demond Sanders said...

This was alluded to by another poster, but the Colts 3rd down defense is atrocious. 46.2% of their opponents' third downs are successfully converted. This about 10% higher than the league average, and better than only the Bengals and Chiefs.

Josh K said...

Got another question for you smart folks: We've all heard about how important it is for the Colts D to play with a lead -- how that's what they're designed for, how if they're playing with a lead they can turn their speed guys loose.

So maybe it's just me, but it sure seems like that's a bunch of received wisdom from a couple of years ago. It seems to me that we're pretty much turning those guys loose every play, lead or not. And a lead doesn't matter if tams can rack up passing-game yardage with their run games.

Deshawn Zombie said...

It's nonsense. First of all, ALL DEFENSES benefit from playing with the lead. When the Colts drubbed the Ravens, people said it was because the D played with a lead, ignoring the fact that they shut the Ravens out early too.

This Colts D isn't like previous Colts defenses. It has been missing players in the secondary. The DTs are also worse than ever meaning the ends are doubled all the time. This team can't rush the passer or cover. I don't think it's good at anything right now except not giving up big plays except on third and long.

Demond Sanders said...

DZ, I think you just wrote word-for-word the epitaph on the 2008 Colts' tombstone. (At least defensively.)

After rewatching last night's game it is striking how badly New England's Offense outplayed Indy's Defense. After an early punt, NE scored on every possession until the fateful 15 yard penalty destroyed a promising late drive.

Shake'n'bake said...

Rothlisberger has been sacked 3 times in the first half, by a defense that came into the game with the exact same numbers of sacks and games played as the Colts.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Big Ben sits the second half.

We have a chance

Shake'n'bake said...

Fatty McButterPants is in for the Steelers. Rothlesburger is hurt, but returning to the sideline now.

Shake'n'bake said...

Right (throwing) shoulder. He isn't moving it.

Bob M. said...

Damn, lost a LONG post, but you're all probably better off as a result.

I thought Fatty McButterPants (great name) looked pretty good, but WA probably never faced him and we have lots, so I don't expect too much from him.

That Pitt D, though.... pretty studly. We have to open them up deep to push the safeties and LBs back a bit, because a string of 2-yard gains won't do it.

Shake'n'bake said...

Their pass rush looked good, but Campbell was awful at dealing with the pressure and they would only throw short so the Steelers could blitz away.

Anonymous said...

The last few seasons with Edge, the only running game the Colts had was the outside zone and the draw. Indy had the worst drive blocking O-line in NFL history. Teams even played nickel and dime defenses against the Colts on the goal line! Unfortunately, this year's O-line is even worse.

Unless someone can show me some film, I remain deeply, deeply skeptical of any claim that 18's ballhandling on the draw is inadequate. I've read too many coaches raving that he's the best they've ever seen.

This team isn't doing anything unless they start getting some serious play from the DT position. Dungy's defense has only two anchor points vs. the run (because the DEs are pass rush first). Pro defenses are constructed to stop the pass because it is generally very difficult to run consistently against the defensive athletes in the NFL. If teams can run, the defense falls apart. If Indy can't do better vs. the run, it has no chance of slowing down a playoff quality offense.


Bob M. said...

Pretty much.... (though I thought Edge's last year was one of his best-however, I do not recall the types of runs that worked best. I do, sadly, recall facing a lot of 3-man fronts.)

Westside Rob said...

A thought for our overconfident "Friends" down the road (I-65) in Nashville from TMQ:

"The Football Gods Chortled: At 8-0, Tennessee has reached the halfway point undefeated. Of the most recent NFL teams to reach at least 8-0 -- the 13-0 1998 Broncos, the 9-0 2003 Chiefs, the 13-0 2005 Colts, the 9-0 2006 Colts and the 18-0 2007 Patriots -- only two of these five went on to win the Super Bowl."

Demond Sanders said...

That stat gives the Titans too much credit. It still implies they have a 2 in 5 chance to win it all.

I'd put their chances at about 10%

Westside Rob said...

Though I agree with your overall concept I think you are over simplifying it. As has been much discussed here the early season problems against the run were as much the fault of poor LB play as they were the DTs. Small DTs aren't helping but the LBs were often in the position to make plays and failed to make tackles.

I think it's also interesting to note that in our loss to Tenn, the Colts averaged 4.4 yds per carry, and Tenn averaged 3.1 yds per carry. Verses NE in a win it was NE: 4.38 - IND: 2.24

These stats are clearly not typical (and doesn't prove or disprove anything) but are an indication that there is much more going on here than just teams running the ball effectively on us.

I think our smallish DTs hurt us as much in terms of Pass rush than anything, as Freeney and Mathis are getting double teamed and often held and the small DTs can't capitalize on single blocking, and certainly don't demand double teaming themselves. It's our ability to stop drives that seems to me to be our real Achilles heel and that coming as much because we can't stop teams on 3rd in long as much as it is that we can't get them into 3rd and long. Recently won of the bros posted something about the Colts having the near the worst 3rd down defense in the league. Being weak vs the run is contributing to that by giving teams lots of 3rd and shorts but even when we get the 3rd and 7+ we aren't consistently getting teams off the field. That's a combination of poor pass rush, and soft/poor pass coverage.

Westside Rob said...

I'd put it less than that as I don't believe their run of health will last all the way to SB. They'll likely hit the injury wall just like the Colts did in many of their fast start seasons. The team that is healthy at the end of the season and gets hot is the one likely to win the SB (i.e. Pitts, NE, Colts, Giants) from the previous few SBs.

Westside Rob said...

Anyone else thought about what effect the lack of holding penalties this year (well documented by Phil B) are affecting the Colts ability to get the other team's offense off the field? In past years even when the Colts couldn't get the sack they often drew holding penalties against the other team putting them into 3rd and very long situations. There haven't been many holding penalties this year but I certainly don't remember a single one putting the opposing team into 3rd and 15+ this year. There have probably been a few but I would guess significantly less than in the previous 4-5 years. You wonder if those holding penalties helped to create more favorable situations for this defensive structure (i'm talking personnel more than scheme here) to get the opposing offense off the field in years past...just thinking out loud.

Anonymous said...

Our d-line isn't getting any pressure. Our secondary can't cover for more than 2.5 seconds. Blitz, anyone? It seems like the solution to me. We NEVER blitz. I know we like to "do what we do", but with the injuries and the horrible d-tackles, sometimes you have to change things up. Bring bob off the edge on any random 3rd down. Bring Giordano, our fastest DB, from the dime position. It would work once or twice a game and that could be the difference between a win and a loss. One less guy in coverage won't make much difference since the QB has all day anyway. And even better, drop mathis or brock in a zone and do the zone blitz... It would surprise teams that know how predictable we are. Don't get me wrong, I like our system, and when we have the right players in there, we won't need the blitz. But right now, we just NEED it. We all know Big Ben likes to stand in the pocket a little too long...

Deshawn Zombie said...

It's not a bad idea, but the record should show that on one of the huge third down plays against the Titans, Brackett blitzed and hit Collins in the chest as he threw.

The pass was complete for the first down.

Like I said, I'm not exactly disagreeing, just pointing out that we have blitzed on a key third down recently with no success.

Anonymous said...

How about the zone blitz? Brackett can come and mathis can drop. Heck, if the ends aren't getting any pressure due to the double-teams, why not make them useful? And even if they suck in coverage, it's still a visual jolt to the quarterback that will make him double-take and then brackett will get the sack. We have to do something, because our scheme, while it's good, it doesn't work without dline pressure so we need to get creative every now and then.

Deshawn Zombie said...

that's an interesting idea. Didn't we see Brock out in coverage at some point last week? Our 'fast and light' DTs might be able to pull that off.

Shake'n'bake said...

I saw Brock drop back at least once and I think a second time.

I've been saying this for a while but, once Wheeler gets his cover skills squared away the Colts are going to have the most complete LB they've had in a while. He was an excellent blitzer in college, some sites called him the best.