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Season opener, yaay! Let's play some football!!! Wait, down 24 points??? Colts @ Broncos box score Offense, C: 70 plays, 408 yards, 24 first downs (20 passing, 2 rushing, 2 from penalty), 4/13 on third down, 2/4 on fourth down, 2/4 in the red zone, 2 turnovers, 24 points; lots of unfinished drives, could/should have been more points on the board QB: So, Luck makes a ton of big plays for us. He also messed up several plays, threw some high balls, some behind receivers... and then there was the ill-fated goal line sneak that wasn't sneaky at all. We all want Luck to have more control of the offense, but then some of the plays that he had control over didn't go well. Still a young QB that has to get better. And at the same time, he was responsible for leading the team back from down 3+ scores, and without his big plays, this game is nowhere close. I just want him to make decisions faster, get out of the pocket quicker, and make his throws more accurately. C+ Backs / receivers / tight ends, B-: Running game: I think the backs were fine. Richardson missed a hole on one carry, but the rest of his carries were decisive. Bradshaw was productive with his carries as well. Just weren't enough of them, from either player. Both backs were good catching the ball and picking up yardage, and both were tough to tackle in the open field. B, if we're not done by so much, I think the run game might have factored in more Passing game: I'd like to watch the game more, but I got the distinct impression from what I've seen that the receivers weren't getting great separation. Could be the reason Luck was holding the ball too long. Some nice catches, some costly drops. Fleener's play will be critiqued, and rightfully so. I thought he mistimed his jump in the end zone, and could have had a TD, but I didn't think the ball was very catchable. Allen started to look like himself again. Reggie had 9 catches, but I felt like he was a little rusty. The other receivers were hit and miss, especially Hilton. B-, sort of bottled up by good coverage OL / blocking: Not bad, considering we started the newly reacquired Shipley at center, a rookie at LG, and a second year guy at RG. The tackles were really good, shutting down two good pass rushers. The book says that Luck got pressured a lot, but I feel like he invited a lot of that pressure by not getting rid of the ball (and the gameplan didn't move him around very much). Got push in the run game most of the time, but there were some mistakes that led to losses or short gains. Thornton got bullied on a pass rush, leading to a sack. C, I'm feeling optimistic about the run game, but hope Holmes comes back soon Defense, C: 69 plays, 361 yards, 24 first downs (13 passing, 8 rushing, 3 from penalty), 7/14 on third down, 3/4 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 31 points; got smoked in the first half, significantly better in the second half, lots of work to do Defensive front: Did a decent job against the run. Their backs only averaged 3.5 yards/carry, and they had three carries of 10+. We didn't exactly live in their backfield, but we kept them contained and limited them to modest gains. What hurt is that we couldn't stop them on 3rd and 1, 3rd and 2... The pass rush was a non-factor until late in the game. I don't think our front failed, I just think Manning did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly, and we weren't great at sticking with receivers in short areas, so the pass rush had little chance to get home. Sent a couple safety blitzes, and finally got home with an inside blitz, but Manning was pretty clean all night. When we finally made a play -- FUMBLE!!! -- we couldn't scoop it up or fall on it, the ball seemed to purposely jump away from our guys. Indicative of most of the big opportunities in this game. B-, good enough for a lesser opponent, needed more plays against the Broncos Pass defense: Do I have to? Okay... Landry's coverage is bad, especially down in the box. This is why he shouldn't play SS. Jackson can't cover good TEs. Jerrell Freeman might be able to cover good TEs, but not when they are being thrown to by the best QBs in the league. Toler gets a lot of hate for the penalties, and he did blow a couple of coverages, but overall, I was fine with his play, and I think the penalties were ticky-tack. He almost had the pick in the end zone on the first possession, which would have changed things. Davis LOVES playing the Broncos, and turned in another gem. What killed us is the short passes to Thomas, one long ball to Sanders, and some brutal penalties. C-, was an F in the first half, but the coverage was much better in the second half Special teams: Why can't we get 11 men on the field for a FG try? Otherwise, solid outing. No kick returns, virtually nothing on punt returns for them (Purifoy got a nice whack on their returner), Whalen eeked out a few yards for us. Pat punted really well, and we just missed a pin at the goal line. B+ Coaching / playcalling / game management, C (we need much more than a "C" effort out of our coaches): Defensively, we didn't match our players up well. None of our LBs can cover Julius Thomas. Neither can Landry. Don't do this. And we played more soft underneath coverage than I'd like to start the game, which is why Sanders finished with 6 catches (including three in a row to start). But the halftime adjustments were good. I'm tempted to complain about the holding penalties, but I think that's going to take some getting used to. C- I think the gameplan looked fine, but the play calling on early 3rd downs was poor, and there were some missed opportunities to test ourselves in the run game (like the 3rd and 1 on the first drive). Most of this game was about catching up, so the philosophy and gameplan kind of go out the window, but we started off with a no-huddle approach. I also asked for more play action, and the first play of the game was a play action pass (out of a big formation, by the way), for 22 yards. Need more play action; only five attempts in 60 dropbacks. C First 4th and 1 should have been a "go for it." The failed sneak should be a timeout. The rest of the game management was okay. We had some no-brainer 4th downs, and the onside kick was a good call. I might have tried the short kickoff the next time. B- Game balls: No game balls. Get a win, then we can talk. Next, MNF, home vs. the Eagles. Another really good offense that will push the issue, but they made some mistakes against the lowly Jags. Hopefully we can make them pay if they give us the opportunities. GO COLTS!!!
No words. On to the grades... Box score Offense, B: 71 plays, 334 yards, 19 first downs (11 passing, 5 rushing, 3 from penalty), 5/17 on third down, 3/4 in the red zone, 1 turnover, 37 points; slow start, but capitalized on opportunities after the safety to create just enough distance QB: This was mostly the best of Andrew Luck. He's shown an ability to rise to the occasion and make big plays, both with his arm and his legs. While there were some errant throws, which are frustrating at times (none more frustrating than the missed throw to Reggie, of course), he was mostly on the mark. The biggest thing he did, over and over again, was standing tall in the pocket, dodging defenders to extend plays, and running with the ball just enough. I'd like to see us take more shots downfield. More on that in coaching, but the timing between Luck and Hilton is going to have to improve. B+ Backs / receivers / tight ends: Richardson is having a tough go of it, but the run blocking struggled all game long. Just no rhythm. Some hard fought yards in there from time to time, but not a lot on the ground. The fumble is irritating. The receivers played hard, fought coverage, and made up for the drops last week against the Chargers (sort of). Kind of shocked to see Fleener only had 38 yards, because he seemed big in this game. The backs got involved in the passing game also, and while Havili had the drop on the screen play, he came back with the touchdown later on. My heart hurts for Reggie. Gonna need the other guys to step up. B OL / blocking: Seemed to me like Luck was on the run the whole game. Even when he had a nice pocket, it didn't last. No time to throw, with lots of penetration up the middle. Cherilus did a nice job pass blocking, kind of shut Von Miller down every time he faced him. But with the injuries and all the shuffling, the line struggled. Take out Luck's scrambles and DHB's big gain, and we averaged 2/4 yards/carry, with six tackles for loss. Failed on 3rd and short almost every time. Not gonna cut it. Replacing Satele with McGlynn didn't help either. The line was making incremental improvement, but the injuries aren't helping. C Defense, A: 73 plays, 429 yards, 23 first downs (19 passing, 2 rushing, 2 from penalty), 5/16 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 3/5 in the red zone, three turnovers, 33 points (the Broncos were averaging 44 points a game coming in) Defensive front: The Broncos aren't a really good run team, but they run well situationally, usually converting in short yardage. We shut them down in short yardage, and stopped them for one yard, zero gain or a loss 9 times, by my count. Flew to the ball in the flats, and tackled much better after the catch than I expected after last week. Very disciplined against the run. Pass rush wasn't consistent, but it was timely. The sack/safety was right on time. And we got pressure without sending extra guys. Someone said we only blitzed four times in nearly 60 called pass plays, but we came up with 4 sacks and several hurries, including the hit that caused the interception. Erik Walden showed more pass rush ability in this one. Let a few runs out for moderate gains, but that happens against a good offense. I was very pleased with the play of the front, including the gameplan, which I'll touch on later. To get to a QB like Manning four times, mostly with a four man rush, is very impressive. Mathis continues to destroy blockers and quarterbacks, no matter who they are, and is on his way to being the undisputed king of the strip sack (Jason Taylor has the same amount of strip sacks, but played 79 more games than Mathis has so far, so to me, Mathis is already the king). A Pass defense: If this grade were just for Vontae Davis, it would be an A+. But the other corners weren't nearly as good. Butler played a strong game, but he and Toler got beat a few times. I'm not mad at that; the Broncos have a really good passing game, really good receivers, a really good QB... The safeties were all over the place, covering and tackling. Bethea fell down on the Decker touchdown, but had a play on the ball. Then he got beat by a great throw and catch on the Julius Thomas touchdown (and a great play design, by the way; Collinsworth did a great job telestrating it). Landry hits, plain and simple. We've missed that on defense. And the linebackers did a significantly better job in coverage than they did against the Chargers. Freeman finally got some praise on national TV, and it was long overdue. Kind of weird to be giving out such high praise for a unit that gave up nearly 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the pass defense was really good, all things considered. I'm impressed. A- Special teams: It's sad that I got a little excited about a kick return that took the ball to the 26 yard line. We still don't have a return game, and I don't know what we can do about it. And I'm going to overlook the couple of kicks and punts that we didn't cover well, because Havili forced the big fumble (which should have been a touchdown), and because McAfee brought the pain like a boss. Vinatieri was perfect on the night, including a 52 yarder (I thought his leg was gone...?) Gotta tighten up the coverage, but this was a strong performance also. A- Coaching / playcalling, B+: Hamilton is still struggling to find an early balance between pass and run, and didn't do a good job of getting his playmakers involved early on. But he made adjustments, and for the second game in a row, used a gadget play for a big gain. The design of DHB's touchdown catch was borderline genius, and worked perfectly. I hesitate to blame the playcalling for the struggles running the ball, but as has been pointed out here often, some of our power runs are fairly predictable. That's fine, when you are converting, but we haven't been. Gonna have to do a better job of getting the run game established without forcing it and hurting the passing game. B- Manusky is starting to work it. He obviously had the same idea I had about defending the Broncos: play the best coverage you can play, and try your darndest to get pressure without bringing extra rushers. Good thing our front was able to play so well, and good thing our pass coverage was so good, and we still gave up a bunch of yards. Not a perfect effort here, but some ingenuity on some different coverages and pressures as the game went on, including a delayed blitz up the middle. Ditched the edge blitz after it got burned, and stuck with more conventional pressures. Pagano's defensive vision is starting to come together. A Game management deserves credit for the challenge, which was fairly obvious. Timeouts were never an issue. Might have gone for the 4th and 2 from the +49, but the defense was kind of on a roll at the time, and the punt was downed on the 2 yard line, so shut my mouth. B+ Game ball, offense: Reggie Wayne. The leader of the offense, the embodiment of the team over the last year and a half, and he hasn't missed a game since his rookie year. Still so glad he stayed, and I hope he gets the knee right and comes back ready to roll next season. I'd trade this win for Reggie being healthy, and this is a HUGE win. Watching him walk into the lockerroom was the most heartrending thing I've watched since March 2012. This one is for you, Reggie. Game ball, defense: Vontae Davis. He simply didn't allow anyone to do anything, on any spot of the field. He was physical, active, he frustrated every receiver that lined up across from him, he didn't make any mistakes... And against the best passing attack in the league. This is the kind of game that convinces you he can be a true shutdown corner. Keep it up, young man. Pagano gave the guys the bye week off. They deserve it. Come back ready to take care of business down in Houston.