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This is pretty late in the week, partly because I didn't want to rewatch and do grades. Decided to go ahead, mostly for my own sake. For whoever reads this, hope you enjoy (as much as you can; it's pretty ugly). Any comments are appreciated. Week 9 grades Defense, D: 74 plays, 503 yards, 33 first downs (13 passing, 17 rushing, 3 from penalty), 9/11 on third down, 5/5 in the red zone, 2 turnovers, 42 points; got beat up on the ground, all game long Defensive front: Gave a lot of praise to this front last game, and they didn't live up to it this week. Very little penetration in the run game; some plays they got back there and made some stops (Werner had some nice plays), but those were completely outnumbered by the plays where the line couldn't shed blocks, over-pursued, got zero penetration, missed tackles, etc. Run fits were generally poor, as we got beat by the Pats unbalanced and/or heavy personnel sets. That led to plenty of cutbacks for Gray. When we countered, they countered, and their run blocking was excellent. Couldn't handle backside action by their TEs and FBs, who often led the way up the middle off of motion or pull blocks. And then everyone tackled poorly, up front, middle of the field, second level, everything. We didn't do well up front, but with good tackling, we'd have slowed them down better. And then, forget about defending an end around, especially after all of our focus is on stopping middle runs. Same concept on some off tackle runs. We didn't stand a chance, really. The pass rush was decent, affecting quite a few plays and even forcing two picks. Only 30 dropbacks, and we got 9 pressures, including 6 hits. Not bad, but they didn't really need to pass, aside from some quick hitters. This was all about being entirely incapable of stopping the run, from the opening bell. F+, poor run fits, poor tackling... you have to man up and not allow a team to destroy you for 250 yards and 4 TDs Pass defense: Pass defense was decent. Tackling wasn't, like Gronk's TD. They hit us across the middle for some gains also, which is the softest spot of our defense, but 7 catches for 71 yards across the short middle isn't terrible. They got us on some quick hitters to the outside, some stack formations (not because we suck against stack formations, but because it's difficult to defend, which is the reason offenses use them in the first place), etc. Brady was 1/5 for 26 yards and a pick on throws traveling further than 20 yards down the field (passer rating of 9). We did a pretty good job against Gronk, using a couple of defenders to slow him down most of the game. Pretty good job against screen plays, also. And you'd think that, with the run game being such a problem, that play action would be a problem, but we were really good against play action, with the exception of the TD to Wright (passer rating of 33). Some poor tackling led to some first downs and extended drives, and we had trouble stopping some third down passes also. Blown coverage coming out of halftime, trying to stop Edelman on a cross, but left Vereen wide open with no one near him in the flat, for 39 yards. C, Gronk didn't really factor in to the passing game until the TD Offense, C-: 56 plays, 322 yards, 17 first downs (14 passing, 1 rushing, 2 from penalty), 5/13 on third down, 1/3 on fourth down, 2/3 in the red zone, 1 turnover, 20 points; no run game, too many dropped passes QB: I think Luck did just fine, aside from a couple of overthrows. He started the game of with a scramble, which reminded the defense that he can run. His pick was a bad decision, but he was under pressure, and the throw was tipped. Forgivable. I saw him step up and hit receivers, lead guys up the field, work well against zone coverage (which the Pats really wanted to use), and avoid mistakes (aside from the pick). The Pats held and hit receivers all over the field, before the pass, while the ball was in the air, everywhere, and it was never called, including a PI in the end zone on Hilton. We needed a little more playmaking on third and fourth down, but we also needed guys to finish plays with catches, and for the refs to throw some flags (especially given the bogus call against Toler). I don't put that on Luck. The TD to Nicks was excellent; need more of that. The long play to Reggie was excellent QBing, with Luck beating zone coverage by moving the safety to the right, then throwing up the backside seam. He might have checked down too quickly a couple of times. We should have been able to pick on Browner and Ryan all game long. B-, tried to carry the offense, got undermined in several ways Backs / receivers / tight ends, C-: Running game: No run game. Not on the backs; the blocking failed to provide any lanes to run through, for either back, and they combined for 4 yards on 13 carries. They salvaged some yards on a couple of plays, but this was the worst rushing performance of the year. D Passing game: Only credited with 2 drops, but I think there were 2-3 more that should have been completed. And the two drops wiped out chances at big first downs. Fleener was a monster in the passing game, and Reggie had some nice grabs, including the long one. Nicks did a good job on the TD, and got some separation down the field on another play, but Luck got pressured right away and couldn't go to him. Moncrief needs more chances; once Luck starts connecting with him downfield, our offense will be even harder to stop. Hilton was mostly taken away by double teams (and penalties, like getting knocked down in the middle of the field by a blatant Browner shoulder check), but that opened up other guys. Only Fleener was consistent after the catch. What really hurt was the inability to make admittedly tough catches on third and fourth down, and that's been a strength of the Pats pass defense lately, and really helped them against us and the Broncos. C+, left too many plays on the field, failed to exploit some favorable matchups OL / blocking: Harrison is really showing some warts lately, and not just on snaps. Flat out missed some blocks in this one, giving up at least one hit. We were ineffective on double teams in the run game, which is an incredible failure, IMO. The outside routinely collapsed in the run game, and we struggled to get anyone off the ball. Luck only got hit four times in 43 dropbacks, but there was some quick pressure allowed here and there. Pass protection was adequate, run blocking was dreadful. C-, regression in Week 11 is troubling Special teams: They had Amendola returning punts instead of Edelman, which was surprising. Probably wouldn't have mattered, as our punting and coverage was and always is impeccable. Kickoffs were good, nothing there. We didn't do anything returning ourselves (let's see if Cribbs helps there). Oh, almost a disaster on the one kickoff return; Boom and Whalen won't be a factor there anymore, I assume. AV still perfect, with plenty of leg on a 53 yarder. A- Coaching / playcalling / game management, C-: Our screen plays suck, and I have to put that on scheme. The run plays never worked, and some of the plays seemed doomed from the start. Lots of poor blocking, but we ran into some unfavorable fronts. Not good scheming against a team that we should have been able to run on. And it's not because of the deficit; the score didn't get out of hand until late. Passing game was called well, IMO. Hard to ask for more play action when the run game doesn't show up, but Luck was 4/4 for 21 yards and a TD. If it works, use it, especially after some of those big gains to Fleener. Need to find a way to play Moncrief more. C+, not so much for gameday performance, but it seems like we didn't have a good game plan overall Defense was about personnel, IMO. They knew we'd commit to stopping Gronk in the pass game, and choose to go heavy up front. They wanted us to commit to the run so they could hit us with play action, and that didn't quite work, but they still kicked our butts running the ball. Manusky countered some of their looks, and we still failed to tackle with any urgency. To me, this was NOT about scheme, but about sloppy run defense, poor tackling, and eventually a defense that was worn down due to not being able to get off the field in the second half. INC A lot of people had a problem with the FG. I didn't. If your defense can get a stop, then you're back in the mix. If they can't get a stop, then it doesn't matter either way. Maybe you extend that drive by going for it, and that's close to no man's land where you should think about going for it, but I don't think that decision was too critical. I'd have been fine with going for it, as well, but we had no run game, so that's a tough decision. AV is as automatic as he's ever been, so Pagano took the easy three. In general, team didn't seem well prepared to match the intensity of the Pats, and that bothers me, especially in a home game, coming off a bye, against the hottest team in the league. C-, again, not about gameday performance, but about laying an egg off the bye Bonus grade: Refs, F. The refs didn't cost us this game, but I felt like they called us for a couple of DB contact plays that were borderline, then let the Pats DBs get away with some outright muggings. Game ball: Yeah, right... Next up, nothing like a game against the Jags to cure some ills. It helped us after back to back losses to open; hopefully it helps us again. We have some injuries and will be shorthanded, so it would be nice if we can ice this one and get guys some rest. We need this to be a breezy part of the schedule, with three home games in a row, and these next two against sub-par competition. GO COLTS!!! (even though people are jumping off the bandwagon and burying the season in Week 11)
(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!