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  1. Week 4 grades Offense, B+: 59 plays, 323 yards, 22 first downs (10 passing, 6 rushing, 6 from penalty), 3/11 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 3/4 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 27 points; even, balanced production, my only gripe is we were bad on third down QB: For a guy who was as sick as reported (Pagano said he was "literally on his death bed," lol), Hasselbeck was very sharp. Throws were accurate, he was more effective going downfield, he spread the ball around, and most importantly, he was decisive and confident. He took a couple of hits that weren't logged, but really didn't face much pressure, and never had to throw the ball away. He roasted the blitz (10/16, 153 yards, 1 TD), and overall was able to get rid of the ball so quickly that the Texans rushers were nullified. Receivers dropped five passes, by the way. He made the right reads, put the ball where it needed to be, and made more than enough plays, including the fourth down to AJ and the game-ending throw to Hilton. On the road, four days rest, fresh out of the hospital with IVs sticking out of his arms all week, and played an excellent game. A, you at least want to be able to go .500 with a backup QB, and we're 2-0 with ours so far Backs / receivers / tight ends: B- Running game: Gore got it going again, and was ::thisclose:: to his first 100 yard game as a Colt. There were some runs that didn't gain a lot of yardage, but they were still productive as they kept the defense honest and set up play action. He found lanes to run, mostly because he wasn't shy about going outside or cutting back, and like always, he proved difficult to bring down, with 59 yards after contact. Tipton had a nice carry for a near first down, but Robinson couldn't do anything in three carries. I think 22 carries is a bit much for Gore, but he knew what to do with them. B, solid production, churned out a lot of tough yards Passing game: Andre Johnson does have a pulse. He didn't outrun anyone, but he capitalized on smart play calls and good ball placement and made four really big plays. Houston was obviously pre-occupied with Hilton, and tried to keep him from destroying them like he usually does, so he had a mostly quiet night, but still put the game away at the end. Moncrief teased us in the first month, and then had a bad game, including a drop and a missed opportunity to make a big play. The TEs didn't do much, but Allen had a big gain and Fleener held on to some contested balls. Five drops overall, but the entire group made plays and kept the pressure on the defense, which is impressive considering they didn't practice with their QB all week. B-, dinged for the drops and some dry spells, but not a bad game at all OL / blocking: Protection comes out smelling like a rose, and that's due in large part to a smart gameplan and decisive QBing (2.12 seconds before attempt, on average, and only 6 dropbacks that took more than 2.5 seconds). However, they were active and aggressive against the Texans, didn't let Watt anywhere near the QB, knocked him off track and even off his feet multiple times, and blocked well on the move plays also, which can be tricky. Four official pressures in 29 dropbacks, no sacks, is good. The run blocking was good as well, there were some misses and a couple penalties, but the pulling action was good, there was push, the outside was sealed effectively (maybe not consistently), and the interior guys got to the second level and did damage. Combo blocks were good, aside from a chop block penalty, and we weren't awful on screen passes. They controlled the game well up front, and still have room to get better. B+, hopefully this group can get in a rhythm Offensive coaching: Built well on the previous week's gameplan, taking it even a step further. How much was dictated by the QB and how much was by design is impossible to tell, but no question that keeping the QB clean has been a point of emphasis. The increased rollouts and play action (8/9 and a passer rating of 146.3 on play action) are obviously influenced by coaching, and the percentage of play action is the highest of the season by far. Good balance between run and pass. It's egregious that we didn't start the season with this kind of offensive play calling, which is easy to build off of, and the first TD to AJ shows the benefit of having a respectable run game and using a little play action. Please stick with this. B+ Defense, C: 70 plays, 444 yards, 24 first downs (17 passing, 5 rushing, 2 from penalty), 8/16 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 2 turnovers, 20 points allowed; sloppy in the secondary, tackling wasn't good, and the pass rush was ineffective Defensive front: Decent against the run, only allowing 82 rushing yards, and 14 were on a QB scramble. But Arian Foster is still not 100%, and we still let him get too many gains of 4+ yards, due to some substandard gap work and tackling. Net result is definitely acceptable, but the performance wasn't as good as it should have been. Some impressive run stops by D'Qwell again, who at times looks like he's on a high speed track directly to the ball carrier, and is doing a good job staying off of blocks. Anderson continued to defeat blockers and make run stops also. The pass rush was a sore spot, only 12 throws under pressure, and the "sack" was just a stopped scramble. There was some pressure, and we did move the QB at times and even push up the middle to shrink the pocket, but just couldn't get home. With the conservative coverage, there was a need for some immediate pressure, and it just didn't happen. The Texans QB mostly got rid of the ball decisively, but there were some plays where we had a chance to get to them. No, we're not at 100% up front, but I don't see the pass rush suddenly improving even when we get healthy. The blitzes came close, but there just weren't enough of them. C+, poor pass rush and questionable gap play is a recipe for disaster against a good team Pass defense: Simply put, the worst part of the team right now. Toler got burned all game, and while I didn't think his coverage was awful, he just couldn't prevent his man from getting the ball, which is ultimately what a corner is graded on. First game back and all, but not a good showing. Davis wasn't healthy and gave up some plays. Really, Hopkins just feasted on everyone, and it's mostly because we played off and zoned up more than we ideally would, and that led to the second TD by Strong. Nothing needs to be said about the failed Hail Mary coverage. Butler had a good game, which is encouraging because we were able to get him back inside where he plays best, and he held up well. The ILBs gave up 104 yards alone, most of it on cross-matches with WRs (somehow we let D'Qwell get lined up against Hopkins, our worst cover man against their best receiver) and dumpoffs to the flats. Again, a product of a conservative gameplan, and hopefully we can scrap that soon. A bad pass rush and a passive coverage scheme combine for nearly 400 yards receiving, and that's with JAG QBs and only one true receiving threat. D, no resistance and the Hail Mary, and the only saving grace is the two gift INTs Defensive coaching: Good run blitzes after the Texans started out with some good gains, and from then on we mostly won in the box. But the gameplan is overly conservative, especially in coverage, even acknowledging the injuries. The long week off comes at a good time, but we have to get back to some press coverage and let the guys run around and play more aggressively. Most teams will take the underneath stuff if you give it to them, and we're getting ready to play a team that makes its living almost entirely off of maximizing the underneath stuff. The blitzes don't get home, either, so that's not really an answer (Texans were 6/9 against the blitz). I'm cutting some slack still because of the injuries, but Manusky and Pagano have to simplify things without neutralizing what the team does best. Maybe that's easier said than done. C Special teams: Only three punts, and all were pretty good, as was the coverage; they got one big return but only because they held Geathers and kept him from getting downfield. No kick returns for them. Griff was able to rumble for 50 yards on a return, which is a big bonus and set up a TD drive. AV is hopefully past his early season woes, and was perfect on kicks. B+ Game management: A demerit for the Hail Mary coverage, specifically because Pagano is a defensive backs coach. Otherwise, game management was pretty simple. Never trailed, always had an answer, especially opening up the second half with a TD to keep the momentum from swinging all the way over to the Texans side, and to whatever extent the head coach is influencing the offensive game plans, I hope he keeps stressing the importance of decisive QBing and using play action. B- Game ball: Andre Johnson, fitting time for him to have a good game, in the stadium where he set the pace for his former team for over a decade. If he couldn't get up for this game, it probably never would have happened, but the truth is that good coaching and QBing were more critical than anything he did. Still, he was productive, had a big play up his sleeve whenever we needed it, and this might be the best game he has all year. Hopefully he can give us more of this. Next up: The Patriots. I confused myself last week into thinking we had a bye this week, which we could really use right now. Oh well. Guess we'll have to settle for curb-stomping the presently undefeated defending champs, who are probably nervous about playing under our AFC Finalist banner... J/K I hope it's a good game, I hope Luck plays, I hope the line holds up, I hope we stop the run, I hope we tackle well, and I hope we send them home feeling ... deflated. Let's see... GO COLTS!!!
  2. Box score Callin 'em Out Week 5 grades Offense, B-: 82 plays, 456 yards, 27 first downs (18 passing, 6 rushing, 3 from penalty), 8/16 on third down, 3/5 in the red zone, 2 turnovers, 33 points (-7 for the defensive TD allowed); great first quarter, too many mistakes after that QB: Ho hum, just another 370 yards and 3 TDs to add to his NFL best numbers on the season. Not a perfect game, but he made plays to virtually every area of the field, and was unstoppable to Hilton (which is becoming a ritual against the Texans). Faced a lot of pressure, but was very good against their blitzes. I'd like him to use his legs sooner. The pick was a batted pass, which isn't his fault, but he should have been picked on the ill-fated screen, so it balances out. He also needs to get on the same page with Harrison to clean up these snaps. Overall, they had no answer for him, and he's why we got out to an early lead and dominated the clock. We need more of the same this next month, with fewer mistakes. B+, 2 throwaways, 3 batted passes, 4 drops, still completed 25 passes Backs / receivers / tight ends, B-: Running game: Some positives, but not a lot. Both backs had some good carries, but they also both missed some holes and were slow getting through some holes. And there weren't a hole of holes, by my eye, and both guys got met in the backfield too often. They both continue to run through first contact and finish well, but neither looked particularly fast this week. C, short week and line changes seemed to slow down the rushing attack Passing game: Hilton is a monster, not really much else to say there. Got robbed of a TD, too, on a really stupid play by the DB. No one else caught more than 4 passes or had more than 49 yards, and they got plenty of targets. Reggie and Allen had some big third down plays, and a couple plays came back due to penalty, but this was The TY Hilton Show. Bradshaw also continues to feast on goal line play, and is on pace to shatter a record. B, TY deserves an A+, everyone else was just along for the ride OL / blocking: Not one of their better games. Of course, Watt is the best defensive player in the league, probably top five player overall, so I get it. But we let other guys make plays as well, tackles for loss on blown assignments, sacks and pressures from the second quarter on, etc. We doubled and even occasionally tripled Watt, but the other guys have to handle one-on-ones against "regular" defenders. (Makes me scared for the rematch when Clowney is back.) We didn't have enough lanes in the run game, and only a little push. Some good individual blocks at times, including the new center (had a pancake on Watt), and Joe Reitz looked worthy of a starting job, which many of us expected. Also, the snaps must be fixed. I know there's an adjustment period, but this problem can't linger any longer. Most people were calling out the line, and I don't think they answered the bell. C-, 17 QB pressures, 2.7 yards/rush attempt, and a botched snap Defense, C+: 52 plays, 332 yards, 18 first downs (9 passing, 7 rushing, 2 from penalty), 1/8 on third down, 0/1 on fourth down, 3/3 in the red zone, 2 turnovers, 21 points; gave up too much on the ground and in the air, but great on money downs again Defensive front: The pass rush is alive, and it's varied. Five sacks, and only one came from a blitz situation. We got pressure from the outside and up the middle, and did a better job of finishing than last week. And of course, the late game sack by Bjoern for the second week in a row, this one to end the game. Pressure could stand to be more consistent, though, as there were stretches when we didn't influence the QB for a few plays in a row. The run defense wasn't nearly as good, as the gap integrity was sloppy, we seemed slow in pursuit let some gains out on backside runs, didn't tackle very well, got pushed off the ball, didn't maintain gaps properly... all of which led to a big night by Foster and a couple nice runs by Blue. Redding and Kerr didn't look as good as they have (no surprise, Redding is older and this was a quick turnaround, on the road, and Kerr is a rookie and probably wasn't ready for the physical demand himself). The inside backers weren't very good against the run either. Chapman had limited snaps, but was better at nose; maybe that's the key for him, have to keep him under 25 snaps a game. RJF is playing fine, but Art Jones is starting to be missed. B-, pass rush is getting better by the week, run defense getting sloppy Pass defense: The way to beat Vontae Davis is perfect throws to a big veteran receiver. And still, he only gave up a couple plays. Toler and Gordy both got beat a couple times also. The Texans mostly worked the middle and underneath, with only two passes going more than 20 yards downfield. The linebackers did a good job containing, even batting down some passes. I felt like the safeties were kind of a nonfactor, in that they weren't challenged. The key, though, was pass rush, as the QB was near perfect when we failed to pressure him. C+, still vulnerable up the middle, and no one really made any plays Special teams: Pagano called McAfee "a weapon." He's right. I'm sure this pace won't continue, but 3/3 on onsides is amazing, and this was the most impressive one, as he did it by himself on a perfect dribbler that no one else had a shot at. The Texans special teams coach knew he messed up; if you can read lips even a little bit, you know what I mean. No returns of any kind were allowed. He pinned a punt at the 7, 9 and 11 yard lines. A perfect game, IMO. And AV was perfect, as well. We still don't have a return game of our own, but we have the #1 offense in terms of yards, first downs, points/game, plays/game (by a long shot), and #8 on third down conversions. We'll live without a return game. A Coaching / playcalling / game management, B+: Manusky continues to all a good game, IMO, and without four defensive starters this week. I've been annoyed with Werner dropping into coverage too much, but he only dropped once this game. Just a simple gameplan, but it's working well. B+, tackling and poor trench play isn't a coaching issue, especially on a short week Perfect start on offense, helped by the onside kick. The offensive line didn't hold up, and we didn't do much to help them with blocking schemes and adjustments. Some of the screen plays looked disastrous, and we're not cut blocking on short throws, which leads to tipped passes. The passing schemes, especially on the goal line, are looking better. Play action was up to about 28% this week, which is good. B-, need to do more to slow down Watt Weird timeout at the end of the first quarter, but it seemed like Luck was having a tough time getting the plays from the sideline; I saw him looking over several times. The onside kick seems to be a pre-determined go-or-no kind of call, so I don't know how much of that goes to the game day coaching, but that's a good install that Pagano says they worked on through camp. B, good to hang on, but it would be nice to finish this game off early Game ball: TY Hilton. Just go back up and watch those gifs. After having TDs called back twice(?) this year, and then one in the first quarter, he finally got in the end zone, and it held up, and it was the deciding score in the game. He ran by double-high coverage, he beat guys to the ball in the air, and was reliable, catching all 9 of his targets. An absolute star performance, on national TV. Congrats, TY. Next, vs the Bengals. We get a break with AJ Green doubtful, but Gio Bernard is a problem, and they have a good defense. I hope we handle the long week better than we did last year. GO COLTS!!!
  3. Week 14 grades Week 15 box score Offense, B-: 69 plays, 331 yards, 19 first downs (9 passing, 6 rushing, 4 from penalty), 5/15 on third down, 2/3 in the red zone, 1 turnover, 23 points; improved start, kind of lost steam in the second half (these grades are practically the same as last week, the difference is in the gameplan) QB: Nice job moving the ball early, with the handcuffs off. Lots of short passes, but mixed in the deep ball. A handful of over/under throws, and a late delivery or two (like the interception). Still needs to make his release point more consistent, maybe a less deliberate wind-up. Even the TD to Whalen wasn't placed perfectly. I like that he pulled the ball down and ran with it several times. The coaches want him to get down earlier, to avoid freak injuries like Brian Hoyer earlier this year, but he wants the yardage. He still didn't really take any hits. Luck managed the flow of the offense very well, getting the ball in his receivers' hands, and hopefully showed the coaches that they can allow the game to go through him. He's also masterful with the hard count, which the Texans seem to be particularly susceptible to. B-, interception could have been costly Backs / receivers / tight ends, B-: Running game: This is a strong performance, and it started early because we ran trap plays, something that has worked whenever we've done it. This time, we started with it, and Donald Brown ripped off a long run. Still some poor carries, and some poor blocking, but the backs made big plays on the ground and fought for yardage after contact. I'd like to see a little more decisiveness on some of the straight ahead carries, not that it would make a whole lot of difference, but there's no sense tap dancing behind the line when you don't have the explosiveness to get to the outside. Just take what's there. C+, good running, took advantage of better blocking schemes. Passing game: Given a chance, our receivers, backs and tight ends can gain yardage if you get the ball in their hands. Ran a bunch of quick hitters, screens, a few slants, etc., and put the burden on these fast skill guys to move the ball. And it worked. And then we opened up some windows down the field, with Whalen open up the sideline (he didn't run through the route, and Luck overthrew it), Whalen for the TD, Hilton for 41, etc. Rogers didn't do a whole lot, neither did Fleener, but Fleener drew a big penalty on the second TD drive. B-, still missing a go-to guy on big downs OL / blocking: I said last week that I can't keep hanging these performances on the line, and this game is the reason why. The line play still isn't great, and in this one, we used tight ends as fullbacks, so the power concepts still weren't working all that well (aside from a carry or three, mostly late in the game). But the trap plays (which is like pass blocking with a power pull) gave us a chance, we sealed the outside a couple times, and these minor adjustments gave the running game some much needed life. Not to mention having Satele on the sideline, but I honestly think these concepts would have worked with Satele just as well. Thornton and Nixon both had some nice blocks in the passing game and the running game, but both got beaten their fair share as well. I thought the tackles were phenomenal in both phases. Doyle and Saunders did okay as well, but neither are great as lead blockers. Still not a good enough unit to power the ball from jump, but the line doesn't have to hold us back as much as it has been. Just have to deploy them better. In all, the makeshift line did a solid job against a really good defensive front. B-, I bumped them up half a grade because we played a guard at center, lost a guard at the start of the game (who was a backup anyway, and played another guard as a rookie Defense, B-: 63 plays, 239 yards, 12 first downs (6 passing, 6 rushing, 0 from penalty), 5/15 on third down, 0/1 on fourth down, 0/0 in the red zone, 2 turnovers, 1 point (adjusted for the safety); strong performance all the way through, but room for improvement Defensive front: The numbers are good, but I didn't think we did a good job against the run. The edges were mostly shut down, but we were soft up the middle. That's scary when we don't have linebackers that get off blockers and sometimes take themselves out of position. If the Texans had a more explosive back (like Jamaal Charles, for instance), some of those carries for 4 or 7 or 9 yards could have been huge gains. The interior guys were getting pushed back and out of the way, and that's unacceptable, as they are the heart of the pass defense. The pass rush started to get it going later in the game, but wasn't really that much of a force earlier on. Mathis beat his man a few times but didn't get home. It took a blitz from Bethea to get to Keenum, although the pressure did lead to the two interceptions. There was some penetration here and there, but not consistent enough. We really need someone else to bring some pass rush, hopefully from one of the linemen. Kind of missing RJF at this point. The pursuit by the backers (and everyone in the front, really) was good, and the tackling was decent. B-, line play was kind of sloppy Pass defense: Not going to get too excited about this, against a young QB with limitations. The guys did a good job, played good coverage, much better than the matchup in Houston. Shut Johnson down, only gave up the one big one to Hopkins, were quick to bring down the receiver after catches. Only about 3.5 yards/pass play, adjusted, which is excellent, plus the two picks (could have been more). Landry with a nice breakup, showing off his range. Davis looked more like a potential shutdown corner again, rather than a burn unit victim. Need more of this. Butler was great, obviously. And the sacks were mostly because of good coverage. B, need to see this on the road against a better QB Special teams: Sloppy coverage on the long kickoff, just missed a couple opportunities to pin punts (Sergio Brown > Josh Gordy). That's it. Vinatieri was 3/3, McAfee was solid, we even got a big punt return, easily the longest return of the season, from that slow, small guy that shouldn't be on our roster. B+ Coaching / playcalling, B: Pagano mentioned in his presser how much easier it is to call a defense when you have a lead, and it showed in this one. Manusky varied his coverages, let his guys play more aggressive on the outside, and even brought Bethea on a couple blitzes. We played this game the way we started the Bengals game, only we didn't fall apart as the game went on. Given some breathing room and a home crowd, Manusky looks a lot better. Still too much cushion, but it doesn't stick out as much when the tackling is sound. B These are the adjustments, guys. Like Herm said, WE CAN BUILD ON THIS! The gameplan doesn't have to be exclusively short passes, as we saw, but getting the guys the ball quickly opens the game up for everyone. And when we use blocking schemes that make things easier on the linemen, everyone benefits. It even makes the man/power schemes a little more successful as the game goes on. Rather than trying to pound it all game, make the defense chase you a little bit, then once you've worn them down, start firing off right into their chest. Keep It Simple, Stupid. This is the way our offense should be run for the rest of the year. Extra credit for the shovel pass; Pep has some nifty wrinkles in there, I have to admit. B Good job on the challenge. Bad job with the timeouts at the end of the half. Not sure what Pagano was trying to do there, although it wound up not mattering. The fake punt was interesting. I wonder if we'll use it in a more meaningful spot, as we know we can get three yards out of it. B- Game balls: Griff Whalen, it's been a vicious cycle for him this season, from active roster to waivers, to practice squad, back to active roster again. He finally got in the end zone, and had the big punt return to put the offense in great position. He'll probably never have a better game for us, so here it is, while I have the chance. Darius Butler, Pagano talked about how he was a menace in this one, and it's true. Even on the Redding bat down, Butler was in position to make a play on the ball. He dropped another potential pick, and had the two picks of course. The Texans didn't get into the red zone all game long, and Butler's excellent coverage is a big reason why. Robert Mathis Sack Watch: I'm done with this, now that he's broken Freeney's records as a Colt (single season and career, in one fell swoop), and he has the stripsack record (secured earlier this year). He's very unlikely to get the all time record, or even get to 20 sacks, but he's been a monster practically every game, and deserves all kind of praise. Again, I'm exceedingly happy he stayed with the Colts. Next up, @ KC. The Colts have been counted out of this game already. Sounds familiar. This team won the other three games that everyone said they had no shot of winning. With a good gameplan, solid coverage and sound tackling, they have a chance in this one also. GO COLTS!!!
  4. Make him proud, boys. Week 7 grades Box score Offense, C+: 58 plays, 314 yards, 17 first downs (11 passing, 3 rushing, 3 from penalty), 4/13 on third down, 2/4 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 27 points; another slow start, blame it on play calling and execution QB: Fits and starts for most of the game, and it was mostly because of dropped passes and heavy pressure. When he wasn't shrugging off defenders, he was being frustrated with balls hitting the ground that should have been caught. However, he missed a few reads himself: Whalen was open in the end zone on a play that Luck threw to a doubled DHB underneath, and he completely missed Fleener on the first two point conversion. Luck also overthrew receivers a handful of times, and almost put one in a corner's breadbasket down near the goal line. All that led to a 6/20 start, and an overall line of 18/40 with four sacks. No picks, finished with 274 yards and three touchdowns. He and Hilton put the offense on their shoulders and made plays to win it, and this exemplifies what makes him so special. Whether it's flicking the ball 50 yards downfield while being hit by JJ Watt, or it's converting on a two point conversion by hooking up with Fleener in double coverage, he showed the goods again. B+ (it's not obvious in the stats, but he played his butt off) Backs / receivers / tight ends: Still not a lot of running success, and we abandoned the run game early in an effort to get something going. Only 14 rushing attempts in this one (and only 58 total offensive plays, so it's hard to complain about the run:pass ratio). Richardson missed a couple of chances to get to the second level, but there wasn't a lot of room for him. Brown got a nice gain on a cutback and finished it off with a stiff arm. He's still getting better situations than Richardson, but he also looks more explosive in general. Richardson gained some tough yards on a screen, and took another swing pass for a nice gain. Let's get him in space more often, right? The receivers were the bane of my existence for much of this game. I counted six drops: 2 by DHB, 2 by Whalen, one by Brown, one by Hilton. Two of those were on third down, leading to us starting out 0/8 on third down. No bueno. Especially with Reggie out, this will not fly. Some nice catches by Fleener, and of course, Hilton made up for his third down drop with the hat trick. Showed great speed, great hands, and great footwork, in that order, on his three scores. It's probably going to be up to him to pick up the slack. Whatever Reggie said to him at halftime worked. C+ (too many drops, lack of production on the ground) OL / blocking: I can't understand why, of all people, we'd ever leave JJ Watt unblocked. I feel sorry for our linemen, because the Texans move Watt all over the field, so you can't really get in a rhythm against him and figure out how to approach the assignment. One snap he's at end, the next he's on the opposite side of the field at three-tech, next he's at one-tech... But still, he was abusing Cherilus, Thornton, pretty much anyone he lined up against. Probably the best defensive lineman in the game, but we simply whiffed on him a few times. Smith did his damage as well, and their line mostly won against our blockers. Our backs picked up some blitzes, but also missed some. Some of our schemes bought Luck some time, and we had some one on one success later in the game after their rushers started to get tired. For the most part, however, our line was overmatched, and you could really see it on the last drive of the game when we couldn't gain any yardage, much less get close to a clinching first down. If we want to be a power run game, we have to prove it against a fearsome front like the Texans'. We have to put the game away in a clock killing situation. Still a lot of work to do. C- (too many mistakes and matchup losses) Defense, C+: 68 plays, 483 yards, 22 first downs (16 passing, 6 rushing, 0 from penalty), 6/14 on third down, 0/1 on fourth down, 1/2 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 24 points; they dominated time of possession, scored on four possessions, and missed three makeable field goals Defensive front: The Texans averaged 3.9 yards/carry on conventional runs. A lot of small chunks, 6 yards, 9 yards, 11, 9, 5, etc. No real busts in the run game, and we got some big stuffs, including the drive we stopped them on fourth down. Our run fits were pretty good, but every once in a while, we'd overpursue and miss an opportunity, turning what should have been a loss into a moderate gain. Franklin spent a lot of time on the ground. Moala and Redding displayed some poor technique, but Redding also made some plays (he was the first one through on the fourth down stop). RJF was mostly good, and Hughes finally got on the field and did well, I thought. Mathis couldn't beat Duane Brown, who got a lot of help from schemes and alignments, but also played a really good game. Werner was limited, but had a pressure and had some chances in the run game. Walden made a couple mistakes, but made more plays, finally checking in with a sack. If he were a little more athletic, he'd be a game wrecker. Angerer was all over the place, and that's good because Freeman was MIA. We played the read option perfectly, after getting beat by it. That's how you run a scrape exchange, NFL. B- (effort was there, technique was lacking at times) Pass defense: What the heck happened? The guy who looked like an All Pro last time out came down to earth with some big mistakes in this one. So did everyone else, unfortunately. Bethea seems to being having trouble playing the ball. The corners got beat by some good route running and some excellent throws (Keenum was on point everywhere on the field; it wasn't just a case of him throwing the ball up for his receivers). Secondary kept battling and made some plays in the second half, but still just gave up too many big gains. I counted six pass plays that went for 20+ yards, and there's easily another eight or nine that went for 10+, including the last two to set up the field goal try. The linebackers did a decent job, but we let Graham catch four balls. Started flying to the ball and making stops underneath, and Davis did almost have a pick on a nice coverage. The third AJ TD was covered pretty good, but Davis couldn't quite get to the ball. It wasn't all bad, but we really gave up too many big plays, and against a third string QB. We almost let Johnson beat us singlehandedly, and their run game was at 70%. C- (I think I'm being nice, but the point is that we can't give up big plays like we did) Special teams: Okay, seriously, what the heck happened?!!!?!? The coaches need to understand that Matt Overton CANNOT block JJ Watt on FGAs. Then we let pressure in on the punt. The specialists did fine, aside from McAfee dropping the snap. We even got some nice returns. And we covered well. But the basics should be a given on special teams, and they weren't. Thankfully, the Texans couldn't capitalized, because this game could have been out of hand in the first quarter. B- Coaching / playcalling, C+: I think Manusky called a great game. Our run fits were great, and the little issues we had from time to time (like the read option) were fixed quickly. We just missed chances with overpursuit and poor technique. The secondary was in good situations, but corners bit on double moves and let receivers behind them, and Bethea lost the ball in the air. I didn't like the pass coverage on the final drive, when we played kind of soft shell coverage. If the Texans had managed the clock a little better, they might have gotten another play off, and Keenum wasn't having any trouble finding ways to throw on that zone scheme. We were probably trying to keep them from getting a touchdown or getting out of bounds, which we did. In all, while the defense gave up a bunch of big plays, I think it was due to execution, not coaching. And we mostly got it fixed in the second half. B Hamilton, on the other hand, doesn't seem to get it. Takes too long to get the backs involved in the pass game, and still hasn't found a way to put his shiny new toy (which maybe isn't as shiny as we thought) to good use. Not so much heavy personnel in this one, but that's mostly because we couldn't get any drives going early on and had to scrap the power runs. Look, Luck can do whatever you want him to do. Let him. And give your backs a chance to be successful by getting them the ball in space and on the outside, rather than predictably pounding it up the middle. I don't think we need to completely abandon the power run game, but we need to make some adjustments at this point. Maybe we can finish games with strong running, but we obviously aren't able to start games that way just yet. The weapon that is shining brightest right now and is most important is wrapped in a #13 jersey. We've got to get him the ball early and often. C- Nice challenge. Pagano kept the team on task like almost always. I get the two point conversion, just don't think we should have gone for it right there. We wound up scoring 21 points to end the game, and we would have without the two point tries. Just was too early to start chasing points. Kind of conservative at the end of the first half, but understandably so. Maybe could have gone for it on fourth down in the first quarter from Houston's 43, but the offense hadn't really earned any confidence at that point. Good job overall. B Game ball, offense: TY Hilton. My skill position grade up above is harsh, but Hilton deserves credit for his performance. Aside from the early drop on third down, he was incredible. Like Luck said, if they didn't know who he is, they ought to now. We need him to dominate from here on out. Game ball, defense: Erik Walden. Doesn't have the closing speed needed from a good pass rusher, but he was the only one getting consistent pressure. He made a number of stops, including a sack and a TFL. Also knocked a pass down. He was often the difference between a 4 yard gain and a potential 15 yard gain. Probably his best game of the year, and probably the last time he's even in the running for a game ball. Hosting the Rams, who are a mess right now. Good defensive front, some playmakers on defense, some youngsters with potential on offense, but they've lost three in a row, two of them at home, and are down to Kellen Clemens at QB. If we're really a title contender, we have to win this game, and it shouldn't be close.
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