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  1. Box score Callin 'em Out Week 3 grades Gonna start with the defense this week. Defense, B: 47 plays, 261 yards, 16 first downs (9 passing, 4 rushing, 3 from penalty), 1/9 on third down, 2/3 in the red zone, 3 turnovers, 17 points; can't cover Delanie Walker, but other than that, the defense was strong Defensive front: Shut down the run early, and they never really did anything until the game was pretty much over. Their backs combined for 45 yards on 11 carries, as they hardly even tried to run in the first half due to our offense dominating the clock. A handful of short or no gains, and the run defense was never really tested. That's just the way we like it. RJF has been in the opposing backfield a lot, and continued that against the Titans. The pass rush had to be manufactured with stunts, looping rushers, blitzes, etc., and was aided by GREAT coverage, but we sacked Whitehurst 3 times, and we pressured their QBs on 17 of 36 dropbacks. Those pressures led to 40 yards on scrambles, which is still an issue with our defense. Tackled reasonably well. Only 47 plays, so, everyone seemed fresh and energetic. No real complaints. B, pass rush is going to continue to be a problem, and we need to contain scrambling QBs better Pass defense: Hard to be critical of anything, really. Got beat by Walker a couple of times, which is to be expected since our ILBs aren't great in coverage. But the TD was excellent coverage, just a great throw to a big, athletic TE. ::shrugs:: Vontae is The Eraser; he takes receivers off the map. If you line up on the left side of your offensive formation, just take a quick nap, because Vontae is shutting you down. Zero targets for him. Toler gave up some catches, but was tight in coverage most of the day, and tackled well. Butler and the safeties were good, and Adams got a couple of cheap picks. Landry had a decent game, but didn't really make any plays himself, so I think we'll be okay without him. Want a stat? Their QBs were 9/16 for 148 yards when throwing across the middle, with a TD and two INTs. They were 4/8 for 33 yards throwing to the outside (and all 8 of those were to the right side). Yeah. B, still soft across the middle, but part of that is by design Offense, B: 82 plays, 498 yards, 31 first downs (21 passing, 7 rushing, 3 from penalty), 7/14 on third down, 4/6 in the red zone, 1 turnover, 41 points; dominant passing game, hurt ourselves with a turnover and several penalties QB: Another star performance. Mostly perfect, really. I counted one time that he should have tried to scramble, and instead he forced one to Reggie across the middle. And then he had two bad passes in the first half, one of which was picked, and the other one should have been. Both on similar plays, too, where he had no business throwing the ball where he was. I'm not going to make any excuses for those two plays, as I watched them several times and can't understand what he thought he saw. Just bad. However, the other 38 dropbacks were masterful. Threw the ball as well as he ever has, led receivers beautifully, was on point with quick reads and sight adjustments, and just sliced the Titans up to every part of the field. He also ate their blitzes for lunch, and spit out the remains. Same with pretty much any zone coverage. And good heavens, the TD to Reggie? Perfect throw, and #87 knew just what to do with it. I have to knock him for the two bad throws, but it's hard to imagine Luck playing a better overall game than this. B+, only because the two throws were really bad Backs / receivers / tight ends, B: Running game: First time this year I felt the run game wasn't satisfactory. No room to run, really, and that's after hyper-analyzing the unsuccessful rushing attempts. Richardson might have been slow through a couple holes, and had some opportunities to bounce it outside, but really, there was nothing there. A lot of people were ready to praise Bradshaw and Herron, but they didn't produce anything on the ground, either, and I can't blame them. Hopefully this gets better next week. C, very little production, but still dependent on a blocking unit that wasn't at its best Passing game: The receivers got open, and caught the ball. For the first time this year, I thought we stressed the defense vertically, and right away, it paid off with the underneath stuff. Reggie still doesn't look fast, but is able to get separation at the top of his routes, no matter who's trying to cover him. Hilton and Nicks got behind the defense a couple times, but couldn't complete the plays due to penalties or really good desperation coverage. Luck also missed Nicks on an outside move, but he was throwing quick to pick up the first down. The TEs all made plays. Fleener kind of showed the ability we want to see on a regular basis. Doyle is just reliable. Allen is starting to look more like himself. Richardson dropped his first pass, but caught the next four, and was dangerous on a couple. Bradshaw was great on the TD, with the escort by Moncrief. A, great game all the way around, led by Reggie and TY OL / blocking: Pretty well solid in pass protection. The gameplan helped, but Luck didn't face a lot of pressure. We picked up blitzes well, and the backs were good in pass pro (aside from one Bradshaw mistake). Gave up 11 pressures on 44 dropbacks, which isn't great, but most of the pressures came late in the play. Run blocking was a different story. Nothing doing, as we couldn't generate movement or provide running lanes with any regularity. The line didn't get blown back off the ball, but was more sloppy than overmatched, under-executing some assignments on pulls and on the edge, and just generally not finishing plays. Kind of frustrating, and the worst offenders were the tackles, who are the best players on the line. Louis wasn't great, but wasn't as bad as I originally thought, and Mewhort made some rookie mistakes. And then the penalties... nearly killed some drives, and would have been problematic against a better defense. The best run blocking came on toss plays, and we only called a couple of those. Hopefully Thornton's return will help, but I don't think his absence was the main reason for the poor run blocking, so... C+, good protection, sloppy run blocking Special teams: Been saving the 'A' for a big play, and didn't have to wait long. The onside kick was executed perfectly, despite being completely out of place. Jack Doyle, Griff Whalen and Pat McAfee all deserve bonuses for that. To this point, only 2 onside kicks have been successful throughout the league, and we have both of them. AV was a perfect 2/2 on routine kicks, McAfee punted like a boss, all the kickoffs went out the back of the end zone, wake me if you've heard this before... The kicking is on point. Still nothing to speak of in the return game, but the offense doesn't seem to mind. A Coaching / playcalling / game management, A-: The defense is susceptible to passes over the short middle, partly because Jerrell Freeman is out, but partly because we vacate it so often. That's more acceptable when we have a pass rush, but we really don't, and now we're blitzing to create a pass rush, leaving us more vulnerable across the middle. We need a nickel backer or coverage safety who can handle TEs, but for right now, not much we can do scheme-wise. My only complaint with the defensive play calling. The middle blitzes and stunts were more effective this week. B, let's see some adjustments to take away the middle of the field Offensive approach was basically the same as last week. I feel like Pep's gotten into a groove, and the route combinations are better than ever. Luck has a little more freedom with adjusting when the DBs play off, and that's a good thing. We used some backfield action on the end around and a FB dive to Bradshaw, and both plays showed some potential for some fakes and misdirection moving forward. I hope it comes. Also, still a good mix of play action, though I think there's room for more. A- Whenever you call a surprise onside kick, and it works, there's no complaint from me. Weird and out of place, but it worked. The rest of the game was according to Hoyle. A Game balls: Reggie Wayne, if he can do this just four games after returning from an ACL, at nearly 36 years old, the league might be in trouble. And he stumbled his way out of a second TD. He continues to work his way up the record books, and is now in 7th place for receptions, and 10th place for yards. You go, Reggie. Next, vs the Ravens, who have their own 35 year old terror at WR, and a much better overall team. Still, they don't win in Indianapolis, and John Harbaugh deserves to be drowned out by the crowd at LOS. Get that W! GO COLTS!!!
  2. Just thought I'd remind everyone that this game is one win away from clinching a spot in the postseason, despite "how poorly this season has gone," as one blogger put it. Feel free to enjoy the moment, Colts fans. Box score Week 12 grades Offense, C: 62 plays, 264 yards, 18 first downs (8 passing, 7 rushing, 3 from penalty), 3/14 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 1/2 in the red zone, 1 turnover (INT), 22 points; some improvement, but this is still not a very productive offense QB: Kind of a "meh" performance. I think four of the five sacks were very avoidable, had Luck navigated the pocket better or taken off with the ball. His hesitance to run was very frustrating, especially when he can take off for 24 yards whenever he wants. Some throws were errant, but not a lot. The pick was off a tipped pass. I've said several times, our passing concepts aren't doing Luck any favors. I guess I'll go over that more in coaching. Overall, he did a decent job of moving the ball, but the passing game never really got going. C Backs / receivers / tight ends, C: Running game: Switching Richardson and Brown up didn't make too much of a difference to start. Richardson did slightly better as a spell back, but still nothing impressive. I got slightly excited over an 11 yard carry, then realized how pathetic this has become. Brown was shut down, until the final drive, but then he and Luck combined for several solid plays to put the game away. This still isn't good production, but much better than last week. C, still dependent on an underperforming blocking unit Passing game: Again, the concepts are poor. Not sure what else I can say. DHB spoiled a great opportunity to get the offense going with a colossal drop, and I gave up all hope for him to be a productive member of the team at that exact moment. We're not giving Brazill and Hilton the kind of route combinations they need, and they aren't getting very much separation, with teams playing the deep ball. Fleener had some nice grabs, especially on the last drive. Havili did a good job grabbing one and stiff-arming a tackler for extra yardage. C+, gotta have more, but we also need the other units to do their jobs better. OL / blocking: Until the final drive, the run blocking was terrible. What little yardage we had at that point was from Luck scrambling, or a couple yards here and there. Cherilus and Doyle "combined" on a blown block on the DHB handoff, and that erased most of the yardage that had been gained. The guys kept working, but the run game just can't work without better play. I thought the pass blocking was fine, again. Luck was a statue, didn't step up, didn't run with it, etc. With no one getting open, and with the QB not using his feet (which he normally does), they gave up a bunch of sacks and hits. The pass blocking wasn't great, but I don't have any real complaints. C-, a bonus for the final drive (otherwise this would be a D+) Defense, C+: 74 plays, 347 yards, 24 first downs (11 passing, 10 rushing, 3 from penalty), 6/15 on third down, 2/2 in the red zone, 4 turnovers, 14 points; nice bounce back performance, but some breakdowns containing a very average QB Defensive front: This game was similar to the first Titans game, except we didn't give up the long plays to Chris Johnson like last time. Contained the outside, got decent push, and aside from four or five moderate gains from CJ and Greene, no complaints. Those two combined for 108 yards on 28 carries, only 3.9 yards/carry, and no TDs. Angerer got caught up in some misdirection on a nice fake power. The frustrating gains were the scrambles by Fitzpatrick, with no linebacker anywhere in the area. After watching Redding's Mic'd Up, it sounds like there was a mistake on the QB sneak. The second goalline possession was strong against the run. Not a lot of pass rush, but the Titans again did their best to keep Fitzpatrick away from pressure. A handful of nice pressures, including a blitz by Lieutenant McNary, and the sack from Mathis, but that's it. With the Titans again using a lot of crossing routes to get quick passes away, there weren't a lot of opportunities. B-, respectable game, just need to get to the QB faster when he escapes the pocket Pass defense: Unless I'm mistaken, that was Cassius "Neck Brace" Vaughn with TWO interceptions. Both of them were plays where he was able to watch the QB release the ball and then make a play on it (I think we should move him to safety). With Butler starting, things looked better. Davis came back to us also. Still some concerns with cross matching linebackers against receivers, and getting beat on crossing routes. Did some doubling on Kendall Wright, to limit his big play chances, and aside from the 35 yarder, we did a good job on him. Caught a break with Walker going out early (and the incorrectly called incompletion). The TD pass was a blown assignment by someone (either Freeman or Bethea, it looked like), but that was a good play design. Good coverage led to a lot of breakups and overthrowns, and ultimately, three interceptions, including the clincher. C+, encouraging game, but still more work to do Special teams: Don't complain the next time AV misses a kick. He carried the team in this game. McAfee punted well, but outkicked his coverage on one. Rainey did okay returning, but we can't have the muffed punt. B Coaching / playcalling, C+: On defense, the guys missed some assignments, but this was a more disciplined unit that responded well, on the back of some needed adjustments. This is why I've been defending Manusky. We can still get caught up in some weird trends, and give up big plays, but I saw scheme adjustments to take some of that away. I like the way we used McNary also, as kind of a robber blitzer, and he did pretty well in his four or five plays. I'm looking forward to seeing the scheme against AJ Green and Co. And the Bengals have some nice tight ends and inside receivers as well, along with Gio Bernard. Big test. B- Credit for benching Richardson and McGlynn. Now it's time to bench Pep. Seriously, someone has to dial up some more reasonable third down options, give Luck someone to throw the ball to, and adjust the rushing attack to stop trying to block straight ahead when we clearly can't. He has his moments, but I still think that three or for minor adjustments would help tremendously, and I can't understand why we don't make them. Call a trap play, give Luck a hot receiver on third down, catch the defense in press coverage and call a pump and go, run a zone play every once in a while... This was a better performance, and I loved the final drive, but we're not doing enough to minimize the weaknesses and emphasize the strengths. I'm not trying to get rid of Pep, but he really needs to do better. He owes AV big time this week. D+ Pagano as head coach looks better this week than he did last week. That's what happens when you win. I hope the staff continues to be open to these adjustments and corrections. Good use of timeouts to stretch that last drive of the first half. Keep trending this week, Coach. C+ Game balls: Adam Vinatieri, excellent job, sir. Cassius Vaughn, I don't think he was that good in coverage, but he responded to his demotion well, played hard, and came up with two really big plays for us. So credit where due. Robert Mathis Sack Watch: He's now only half a sack away from Freeney's single season Colts record and career sack total. Next up, @ Cincinnati. Strong defense, offense with big play potential. Need to play a disciplined game, and need some "Luck" on offense. Can't wait. GO COLTS!!!
  3. (Couldn't think of a good picture to use, but Man of Steel just came out on video this week, so here you go.) Week 10 grades Box score Offense, B-: 69 plays, 366 yards, 24 first downs (12 passing, 10 rushing, 2 from penalty), 6/13 on third down, 3/4 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 30 points; uneven start, but finally got something resembling an offense going, and while it would be nice to finish drives with touchdowns, it's awesome to have five possessions of 9+ plays QB: Not a flashy and gaudy passing performance, but pretty much just what the team needed. Fundamentally sound, tough, rugged game by Luck, nice way to bounce back from a dreadful game last week. He missed some open receivers, and there were still some throws not in the ideal location, but most were a result of pressure, not poor mechanics and footwork. As a matter of fact, with just a couple of exceptions, the footwork was exceptional, as he not only navigated the pocket like a champ, but also ditched that sucker just when he needed to most of the time. And then once he was running, he owned a few defenders with jukes and determination. Not a lot of shots downfield, but the Titans were playing a lot of two deep, and Luck took the open play enough for my satisfaction. His improvisations worked out as well, thankfully. We finally gave him some help on the ground, but he really carried the offense, and the Titans had no answer for his varied abilities. B+, (this is how you control a game from the QB position in a pro style offense; this grade is going to skew the overall grade of the offense) Backs / receivers / tight ends: Life is much easier when a) the QB is playing well, and b) the offensive line gets off the bus with the rest of the team. As the game went on, the skill guys started to make plays, including on third down, which led to long scoring drives, which is key to winning on the road. Fleener did a great job as Luck's outlet man, since the Titans were keying on Hilton so aggressively. Hilton broke away frequently enough himself. The rest of the receivers struggled to contribute, but still made a handful of plays. By design, we included the backs in the passing game (more on that in coaching), and they performed well. Tough sledding for Richardson again, which has got to be messing with his head by now, especially when Donald Brown gets the time down the stretch and performs well. Speaking of which, Brown must like playing the Titans; interestingly, he had 14 carries for 80 yards against them last year in TN, but he put it in the end zone twice this time. Strong performance from him. B-, (need another receiver to step up asap) OL / blocking: After at least two weeks of constant second guessing and criticism, particularly at C/RG, the line responded with a solid performance. Not perfect, and not anywhere near the gem in San Fran, but much better than what we've been seeing lately. And that's without shuffling anyone, without scrapping the heavy sets, and hopefully without an emergency infusion of illegal PEDs. Didn't start out great, but as the game went on, the blocking starting to get a rhythm, and some nifty play calling and play making helped. Good pulls from the guards, and they teamed up well at the point of attack. Some misses as well, in both phases, but just a tremendous improvement from last week. The backs fought hard in pass pro and picked up some heavy blitzes, even though they missed and got overpowered some. But all the blockers played with heart, and as down on them as most of us have been lately, I think they deserve some credit for a bounce back game. C+, (I want to go higher, but there really were a lot of breakdowns) Defense, C (docked half a grade for the penalties): 54 plays, 340 yards, 20 first downs (10 passing, 7 rushing, 3 from penalty, all in a row, of course), 6/11 on third down, 2/3 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 27 points; ugly start, the penalty drive, and a couple regrettable plays, but I'm kind of surprised we gave up this many points after rewatching the game Defensive front: Started out getting owned, particularly in the run game. The interior line was again getting pushed back, and the linebackers seemed just a step slow to the ball, which is partly an issue of Chris Johnson moving pretty well + good short passing concepts that threw off the coverage. But the run fits improved, we cut off the outside, and after the second TD, he had 9 carries for 16 yards, and 1 catch for -2 yards. The backup RB did nothing, and we started closing on the short passes quickly. Not a lot of pass rush opportunities because of their passing schemes + not great coverage underneath. They also picked up the blitz very well, as they were paying extra special attention to neutralizing the rush, even if it meant a lot of two- and three-man routes (only four receivers caught passes, 19 of 22 completions to just two players). Mathis was strong against the run and hustled on screen passes. They wanted nothing to do with him, and it showed. Their backs finished with 96 yards on 20 carries, which is a sign of how well the defense adjusted after the first two possessions. B-, (some technical mistakes, and some lacking athleticism, but they straightened it up before it was too late) Pass defense: The Titans had a nearly masterful passing scheme for a lot of the game, heavy with crossing routes, and isolating receivers and their really good receiving tight end against linebackers. Most of the damage was on quick passes with runs after the catch. Our zone coverage gave up 80 yards on four passes late in the game, which was just terrible when you know they have to throw the ball (they were down two scores and had no timeouts, what else were they gonna do?) Bethea made a couple of noticeable mistakes, again. So there were some low lights, for sure. But the pass coverage also contested some throws well, and a lot of the completions were against tight coverage. C+, (I think a team with a better QB and more guts would have shredded our coverage all night) Special teams: A nice punt return by Hilton, and a couple decent kickoff returns from Reed, but I'm starting to feeling the same way about Reed as I felt about Kenneth Moore in 2010. Time to move on, team. Things don't go well overall when he's involved in kick returns. He's taken to knocking his own guys over now. And I think we should take Hilton off punt return, with him being the #1 from this point forward. Also, other teams seem to penetrate our kickoff return blocking way more than we do theirs. Kind of frustrating. Punt and kick coverage was excellent. I think McAfee purposely took a little off the punts this week, to avoid outkicking his coverage. Kickoffs seemed a little short at times, too, but that was probably the colder air. That old grey-bearded guy wearing #4, the one that looks like your 4th grader's principal, he's a good place kicker. I'm glad the fans weren't able to convince the coaching staff to get rid of him. B, (kickoff returns still not good) Coaching / playcalling, B: This was a more professional gameplan from Pep than the garbage we've been starting with lately. And he didn't scrap his heavy sets or abandon the run, he just put his playmakers in position to make plays, and then broke out some sneaky good calls in a couple of situations. I like the Fleener play, which I believe worked against the Texans as well, and it has a deep option that might come open the next time we run it. I would to see more draws and traps, and maybe some WR screens, especially in the red zone. I like this version of Pep Hamilton. B Manusky was again solid. I've had my reservations about him from time to time, but he's been calling good games for a solid month. The secondary isn't playing well lately, but he was conservative in this one, and the Titans played right into his scheme. Some adjustments to fix the run defense in the second quarter, and from there until the final drive of the game, the defense was dominant. Getting Toler back will help a lot. Should figure out a better way to get pressure when the other team is going with the quick pass. B- The coaching staff has to get a handle on the slow starts, but the adjustments came a little earlier in this one, which is good. Game management was solid, except for the aborted challenge that wouldn't have been won anyways. I don't really like the 11-men challenge either, given the negligible reward, but at least we won it. No timeout usage issues. (I don't really even blame the coaching for the penalty drive, which was partly poor officiating. Cassius Vaughn's unsportsmanlike penalty was bogus, and I think Mathis' helmet hit was bogus; that leaves a PI call and Walden's outburst. It looked really ugly and cost the team big time, but I don't think it was an issue of the team losing their composure, just some bad breaks and one bad decision by Walden. Maybe a timeout could have been used, but again, I don't think the team was out of control.) Just get David Reed off of kickoff returns, please. B Game ball, offense: Andrew Luck, Director of Offense; He was just in control all game, leading the team both on the field and in the locker room, and even without big stats, he beat the Titans into submission. Game ball, defense: Robert Mathis; He didn't have the stats, but he influenced the Titans gameplan so much that they refused to even try to attack the weakest part of our defense, the deep secondary, until they absolutely had to. He had a ton of pressures, he was all over the field, he was good on the edge against the run, and it was his presence that set the tone for the entire defense. Enjoy the mini bye week. I hope Pagano keeps the guys on task this time, and we're ready for the showdown with our old friend, Bruce Arians. GO COLTS!
  4. Grades to come later. Give me your thoughts. Offense Quarterback -- Receivers / backs / tight ends -- Offensive line / blocking -- Defense Pass defense -- Defensive front (run defense and pass rush) -- Special teams -- Coaching (new categories below) Play calling -- Game management (use of timeouts, big decisions, etc.) -- Game ball --
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