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  1. Ugly start. Offense, C-: 68 plays, 304 yards, 23 first downs (16 passing, 5 rushing, 2 from penalty), 8/15 on third down, 1/2 on 4th down, 2/2 in the red zone, 3 turnovers, 14 points; sloppy QBing, poor play calling, and untimely penalties... we aren't good enough to play bad football and still beat talented teams QB: Eerily reminiscent to the way he started last season, missing receivers and seeming half a beat too slow. He had the second lowest accuracy rating in the league (ahead of only Jameis Winston). High throws, low throws, late throws, underthrows, etc. And then there's this stuff about him checking out of run plays, which is cool when you're killing against the blitz, but he was 9/23 against the blitz. And yet, despite the overall poor play, there was some playmaking out there, a few 'that's the QB everyone's been raving about' throws, and when he settled down in the third quarter, the Bills couldn't touch him. Still not great and not super efficient, but if he had been just a little sharper, the game would have been different. D+, looked a lot like the Chiefs game in 2012 Backs / receivers / tight ends, B-: Running game: Maybe the plan is to prevent people from saying the run game is bad by just not running the ball at all... smh. When they actually ran it, the backs had some good gains. Gore got stuffed a couple times, but had runs for 8 yards and 9 yards, and two other successful carries in short yardage. Robinson had a nice pop for 7. And then when the power stuff was used, it worked. Just not enough opportunities. More on that in coaching. B-, not great, but promising Passing game: Let me start with Andre Johnson, as he's gotten some criticism for only catching two of ten targets. Most of his targets, including the two point conversion attempt (which he probably still could have caught), were off the mark. He and Luck aren't quite synced up yet, especially against aggressive corners, but it wasn't his poor play. Moncrief needs some polish with footwork (the sideline play that got reversed, he has to get both feet down when he's that close to the boundary), but the ability is obvious. I hope he figures out that no one can stop him if he uses his size and hands properly. Hilton was eating up the Bills, despite tough corner play and some uncalled PI, then he got hurt. Dorsett's work came against some off coverage, but he still shows good movement and ball skills (unless it's a punt). The TEs were a footnote, mostly, which is strange when we throw it 49 times. Although Allen did get 6 targets, and the one big gain was wiped out by a penalty, which kind of derailed what looked like a good start offensively. The backs got a few looks, but Gore's big screen opportunity didn't get converted because of an errant throw. Varga looks good in the open field. No drops all game. C+, hard to grade this when the QB didn't play well OL / blocking: Not bad against a really good defensive front. The OL gave up 9 total pressures on 53 dropbacks, which is really good. Faced 23 blitzes, and only 14 total pressures. Gore missed one pass block, and Varga missed two. Allen and Doyle both missed a run block. Not a perfect game, and the interior did get pushed back, but the edges were solid almost every play. And this after everyone was melting down about Mewhort in the preseason. The Bills even went after Mewhort with Mario Williams the majority of the game, and it didn't matter. Locked down on the right side, and AC was pretty much perfect himself. Pass protection was more than adequate. We can counter some of that interior push with play calling, and that wasn't very good (more in coaching). The run blocking was adequate, there were some mistakes and missed blocks, but there was a lot of positive, and we have a stable of backs who can get through a small crease and gain positive yardage. Maybe we should give the line the chance to get something going, even against a tough defensive front. They looked capable on Sunday. B, mostly kept the QB clean and gave him a pocket, and there was room to run; docked half a grade for the early penalties Defense, C-: 55 plays, 342 yards, 15 first downs (7 passing, 7 rushing, 1 from penalty), 5/13 on third down, 1/1 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 27 points; pretty good early, and some critical stops late in the game, but lots in between was maddeningly bad Defensive front: Another tough grade. Let me start with the off ball linebackers, who were pretty bad against the run. Jackson flat missed several tackles, seeming to be more excited by the prospect of diving at the ground near the ball carrier than actually trying to get in the way and make a play. Freeman was almost never where he was supposed to be. Nate Irving's one snap was the best ILB play of the day, where he singlehandedly almost kept the back out of the end zone on the goal line. Both Freeman and Jackson had some effective blitzes, but both played pretty poorly overall. The run fits from the DL and edge players were really good most of the game. These linemen got penetration and disrupted a lot of plays right up front, and that's a welcome change from last year. We just have to finish. Williams' TD and Taylor's scramble aside, and Taylor's kneels aside, they had 31 rushes for 94 yards. Shady was shut down all game. Trent Cole was mostly good, but had a couple plays where he lost the edge completely. I feel like the pass rush held back so as to contain the QB, and that worked 4 out of 5 times; the one big play for 31 yards ruined a pretty good effort. We actually pressured him on half of his dropbacks, but he was never really under any duress. C, not a lot of pass rush, and the tackling was poor on enough plays to allow them some big gains Pass defense: Again I'll start with the ILBs, and they again were bad in coverage. The numbers don't quite show it, but both were zoned up across the middle and just failed to stay in good position. So technically, the catches and yards against aren't credited to them, but they should be. And Butler... started off blowing a switch with Davis, and then got smoked by Harvin (which happens, but still), and then gave up 15 more yards to Robert Woods. Save us, Toler and Smith, please. We struggled on swing passes, too, which Taylor was remarkably precise on, throwing them upfield instead of just in the flat, and then the backs could work the sidelines. Newsome got away with a face guard on one of them, maybe the only one we stopped all game. Vontae was great. Let's clone him, because nobody else could cover on Sunday. D, 10.3 yards/attempt for Tyrod Taylor Special teams: Phillip Dorsett... You would think after he got away with the first muff, he'd be ready to secure everything else. Nope. Probably killed a comeback. And Moncrief, tripping over his own shadow. (Comic relief: http://wric.com/2015/09/14/viral-video-shows-toddler-scared-of-her-own-shadow/)Make Varga the kickoff returner, but give Dorsett another shot at the punt job. McAfee punted well, but I think he left some yards out there, if I'm nitpicking. AV's kick was tough, 52 yards, maybe influenced by the wind... oh well. Poor special teams play left the offense in terrible field position all game long. Werner with a nice stick on a punt. D+ Coaching / playcalling / game management, D: Will the real Offensive Coordinator please stand up? (We're gonna have a problem here.) Maybe we're getting into that old familiar territory where it's hard to tell who's really in charge of the offensive play calling. I'd like it if we didn't let that happen, especially on something as simple as pass:run ratio. Nineteen straight pass plays, starting on the first possession in a 0-0 game, with basically zero effectiveness. By the end of it, Luck had been sacked once, picked once, and the score was 10-0. The overall ratio is influenced by the score in the second half, but this started right away. And Gore's first two carries went for 8 yards, and then 3 yards on 2nd and 2. I don't really like the 4th year QB getting thrown under the bus for this, either, but regardless, you just cannot let this happen, especially in the first game of the season. I doubt it happens again. F I have a couple beefs with the defensive coaching. First, let's get some clarity on who is supposed to cover the middle of the field, where offenses have the most success against us. Second, let's not telegraph our blitzes and show the young QB who the hot receiver should be. But really, the defensive failures were more execution than coaching. C Game management gets away from you when it's 24-0 early in the third. And maybe that's because the tempo got away from you in the first. There were several missed rally moments in the first half, but again, most of the failures in this game were on the players. I'd like to see Pagano inject himself early and get some things straightened out before it's 24-0. Timeouts and 2 points and stuff were all run of the mill. C- No game ball in a loss, but Honorable Mention to Vontae Davis for a great game. I dubbed Vontae "The Eraser" last year, and now he's going to shadow #1's all game??? Sorry, Sammy Watkins. Vontae says you don't eat. Next up, home opener, MNF, against a Jets team that probably exceeded everyone's expectations (although it was the Browns...) Another primetime game after a poor Week 1 performance. Let's turn it around right away this time. GO COLTS!!!
  2. 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!!!
  3. Just my thoughts. This was a game where we looked like we were going to dominate, and then it came crashing down. My theme: Offense, C+: 53 plays, 274 yards, 18 first downs (2 from penalty), 6/10 on third down, 0/1 on fourth down, 2/2 in the red zone, zero turnovers, 21 points QB: An efficient game throwing the ball, and he hurt the Raiders with his feet, including on the game-winning score. But he struggled making reads against the blitz, and got caught holding the ball a little too long a few times. Gotta go hot, especially when protections are breaking down. Was also slightly off on some passes, including a couple of completions where his receivers made great grabs (among those, a one-hander by Reggie, in traffic; if the ball had been out in front where it should have been, it might have been a catch and run for some extra yardage). But he also showed what makes him special, bouncing off of defenders to make plays, and coming through in the clutch. He's got to play quicker at certain times, but he also needs some help from his offensive line. B- OL / blocking: Started out promising, but then started making mistakes, and began looking all too familiar to us Colts fans. The weak link was LT Castonzo, but everyone had a couple of issues over the course of the game. McGlynn played better than I expected, but still had his times when he was just overpowered or completely lost. The run game was productive, helped out by Havili and the tight ends, and some hard running throughout. Protections were sloppy, but the Raiders were sending extra men from all over the place, so some of that has to go on the QB and the coaching. Have to get better. C- Backs / receivers/ tight ends: Kind of a simple grade here. Reggie Wayne was excellent, which, at this point, is kind of like saying "grass is green" or "water is wet." No drops in the passing game, but not a lot of separation downfield either. Some good blocking on QB scrambles, especially the game-winner. DHB played hard on several occasions, including taking the shot to the head and still stretching out for the first down. Hilton is obviously a threat to get behind the secondary, but couldn't hook up with Luck on a couple of deep shots. The backs fought hard, and I think they might have gotten a nice rhythm going if the offense had more opportunities. Ballard looks like twice the pass blocker he was as a rookie. The tight ends were used all over the field, but didn't make a lot of plays. Again, need more chances, and that's the overall theme for this unit. When your offense only logs around 50 plays, you're not going to have a ton of production from your skill guys. But they all played reasonably well. Certainly no big mistakes. B Defense, C+: 63 plays, 372 yards, 20 first downs (1 from penalty), 7/13 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 2/3 in the red zone, two turnovers, 17 points (and a missed field goal) Defensive front: This is a multi-layered grade, and the hardest one of the game. The run defense was outstanding against traditional run plays. Their backs had 50 yards on 19 carries, and one touchdown. Anyone who is critical of Erik Walden doesn't know what they're looking at, because he wasn't giving an inch against tight ends or tackles. We got decent pressure on the quarterback as well, flushing him from the pocket over and over again with penetration up the middle and edge rushes. Against a more traditional offense, this would be a great performance. But we were terrible at keeping Pryor contained, both on scrambles and designed QB keepers. He was able to use his legs to extend the play and find receivers downfield (not the fault of the coverage, by the way, which was mostly excellent), and he was able to scoot around the outside and dart up the middle past our linebackers. An extreme lack of discipline coupled with substandard athleticism (particularly from Kelvin Sheppard as a spy) led to Pryor averaging nearly 9 yards/carry on us. We crashed down too hard on zone reads and bootlegs, came too far up the field on dropbacks, and got plain outrun on draws. And then there were the missed tackles... Two words: film study. The discipline with which we played against their running backs has to carry over to mobile quarterbacks, otherwise we're going to get hurt, not only against read option teams, but also against bootleg/misdirection teams like the Texans. The problems are fixable, but critical. The stout run defense and consistent penetration is a saving grace with this grade. C- Pass defense: I thought the coverage was mostly excellent. A couple of mistakes, like the big play to the tight end, and then Toler's technical mistake on the goalline for the go-ahead touchdown, but overall, we kept their receivers under wraps. We also closed quickly on backs when they caught balls underneath. Pryor scrambled to extend two or three plays, and no one can cover forever, so they got some big catches. But I thought the secondary played really well, led by Landry, who was all over the place. Bethea was feisty, but also was sloppy in some tackling situations. Davis missed a tackle and blew a coverage, but mostly kept his man off the stat sheet. Toler had the big pick in the first quarter, and was all over his man. I like his aggressive style of coverage. Butler did okay at nickel. Not a perfect game, but much improved from anything we've seen since 2007. Two turnovers is a nice start to the season. B+ Special teams, B: I almost forgot to grade this. Nothing really to talk about here. McAfee had an ugly punt in the first half, but the rest were okay. Hilton had the only return, and it was pretty good. The coverage was good. Coaching / playcalling, C: Tricky. Started out on fire offensively. Those first two drives were excellent. And then the Raiders figured out how to pressure the QB, and all the success went away. We couldn't counter it for several reasons, but we've got to break tendencies quickly in the NFL. We don't just have superior talent, where we can just say "let's keep doing our thing, and eventually it will start to turn our way." This isn't the Pac-12; the NFL is about adjustments, and offensively, they never came. We used our base personnel in a lot of different formations, which I like, but I think we need to use 11 personnel a little more often, especially to slow down the corner blitzes. Hilton is a great weapon; use him. C- On defense, we shut down the run, but let Pryor make up for it with his athleticism. Again, poor discipline, but that's partly coaching. And the adjustments didn't come until late in the game. Fortunately, I think we were more talented and experienced here, and that worked in our favor on the last drive. But the coaches have to stress this stuff in the film room and during the week in practice. We started spying Pryor, but Sheppard was just overmatched in the speed department, and I think maybe Freeman or a safety would have been a better call. And the six man rushes were ineffective, which is concerning. C The game management was okay. Could have used some timeouts defensively on the touchdown drive in the second quarter, and on the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, just to regroup and give our guys a breather. I like the fourth down attempt; I've been saying for a while that I think the numbers favor going for it on fourth and short from plus territory, when you're outside field goal range. A punt probably goes into the end zone (statistically speaking), and now you're net 23. If you can get 2 yards, you're staying on the field, especially when the offense is struggling to find a rhythm. I didn't like the sequence of play calling, but when you have a good QB, you should be able to gain 2 yards right there. B- Game ball, offense: Reggie Wayne. 34 years old, 8 catches, 96 yards, 1 touchdown, $5.8m yearly average, great attitude. Mike Wallace, 27 years old, 1 catch, 15 yards, no touchdowns, $12m yearly average, bad attitude. So glad Reggie stayed. Game ball, defense: LaRon Landry. First time we've had a defensive enforcer in a while. Feels good. He made his presence known about three plays in, and continued to do so all game long. Next up, Miami Dolphins. Not as big of a threat from the QB, but he is mobile, and they do have some skill guys who can make plays. The defense can be nasty, too.
  4. I'm trying to get these up by Tuesday each week, just because, but this was a tough weekend for me. Let's see if we can get a little better moving forward. For now, just some general observations and grades. Give me your thoughts... Offense, D+ -- 63 plays, 356 total yards, four turnovers, 22 first downs (16 passing, 4 rushing, 2 from penalties), 2/10 on 3rd down, 2/2 on 4th down, 14 points QB -- For a debut game, Luck did a lot of good in this game, and looked like he knew that he was going to be on the run because of the line issues. But he also made some mistakes. Not even rookie mistakes, just mistakes that every quarterback makes sometimes, like underthrows, trying to make a play when there isn't one to be made, etc. He needs help from his line and his receivers not dropping passes, but he's also got to be smart. It doesn't help when you fumble trying to scramble from a ferocious pass rush. It also doesn't help being down by three scores, on the road, against a tremendous team that's branded itself on a tight zone defense behind a great pass rush. C Receivers and backs -- I wish I could separate Reggie from this group. He was fantastic, even with a couple of plays left on the field because of Luck's underthrows. So glad he stayed. Fleener made his mark as well, even with the drop. But no one else did much of anything. Avery got the score, but it really hurt not having Collie, whom Luck seemed to have a rapport with in the preseason. The drops by Brown and Fleener only hurt the cause, some of them coming on third down. Only 23 receptions on 45 attempts is a problem for which the receivers have to share some of the blame. The backs simply had nothing to work with for most of the game. Brown had a couple of nice runs, and someone else charted how often he got hit in the backfield on his nine carries. Hard to be critical of the running game, especially on only 15 attempts in a game in which we're trailing. C- Blocking -- I don't think there's too much to say here. The line needs to play a lot better. In the meantime, the coaches need to work on protection schemes and keep extra blockers in, and the quarterback needs to accept that he just doesn't have very much time to throw the ball. But the blocking simply has to be better in both phases of the game. F Defense, C- -- 70 plays, 428 total yards, one turnover, 26 first downs (15 passing, 8 rushing, 3 from penalties), 4/12 on 3rd down, 41 points (Going to try a different way of breaking this up because of the new defensive scheme.) Defensive front -- With regard to the pass rush and run support up front, we've got to be better. Didn't help losing Freeney, but the Bears switched their protections up, kept extra guys in, and got the ball out quicker. Cutler learned that lesson a couple years ago. Mathis is obviously going to make plays; I predict a big season out of him. But having a fearsome pass rush requires stopping the run, and we didn't do anything in that regard. They ran the ball very effectively against us, not for a big average, but 33 attempts for 114 yards and three touchdowns is great, especially against a team that wants to get your quarterback. And because of some mistakes, missed assignments, missed tackles, and just plain getting beat, we gave up some big plays in the run game. No bueno. Linebackers have to flow to the ball, not over-pursue. And the linemen have to win matchups and divert the ball carrier while the backers get there. And they did at times (7 tackles for loss, and a few holding penalties.) But too many mistakes. I'm hopeful that this gets better as time goes on. -- C- Pass defense -- Kind of a mixed bag. Freeman's pick shows what the scheme can make happen. Powers looked okay in coverage, despite a couple of mistakes. We got to the quarterback with several pressures and a couple of sacks. But if you're not disciplined, if you don't tackle well, if you can't read plays, you will give up chunks of yardage over and over again. Cutler averaged 8.5 yards per attempt, which would be worst in the league based on last year's numbers. This grade is greatly influenced by the fact that we couldn't stop the run, which affected their approach and our ability to cover. -- C- Special teams, B- A few mistakes: a fumbled return, a missed field goal, and a couple of returns we let out. In years past, those returns would have been 50+ yards, though, and McAfee would have been making the tackle. The good was all in the punting game, especially downing one (edit: 2!) at the 5 yard line. Plenty of room for improvement, but not too worrisome. I don't expect AV to miss many 37 yarders. Coaching, C- I read someone earlier today who said the Bears averaged more blockers per pass play than we did (5.8 for them, compared to 5.32 for us), which I think is backward. We should have done more to protect the rookie quarterback, and we also should have done a better job in coverage, given the fact that they kept six in to block most of the game. On defense, most of the mistakes were made on the field, not with the gameplan. Just need Arians to consider the leaky pass protection before each of the 45 pass plays he calls. Next week, another big challenge in the run game. Adrian Peterson is obviously ready to do damage, and the Vikes showed incredible resilience in their overtime win. Hopefully we can make some improvement and play better at home. GO COLTS!
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