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This is really weird to me: Week 2 grades Callin 'em Out! Box score Offense, B+: 74 plays, 529 yards, 27 first downs (22 passing, 5 rushing), 8/14 on third down, 0/1 on fourth down, 4/6 in the red zone, 0 turnovers, 37 points; smooth sailing all the way through, with only a few minor stalls QB: And there's the star QB, the one who can make all the plays, all the throws, who sidesteps rushers like he's a matador, who can get outside the pocket and make throws downfield on the run, who can carry this team to new heights if he's playing well. Luck missed a couple throws, a couple high ones, and of course the inexplicable miss to Hilton on the goal line. But he did an incredible job of finding the open man, he took the easy completions, and whenever he had a chance, he feasted on the Jags defense. At one point, he hit 13 passes in a row, and the 14th pass was the Fleener TD drop. So, yeah, the only way he could be stopped was by his own teammates. A, first player in the NFL since Johnny Unitas to throw for 350+ yards, 4+ TDs, and 79% completions Backs / receivers / tight ends, B+: Running game: Picked up where we left off against the Eagles. Backs ran hard, Richardson had a 27 yarder, Bradshaw outdid him with a 28 yarder (and a TD). Both guys had a ton of broken tackles, and minimal negative carries (I counted just three runs for loss, and only a yard on each). They are forming a really good tandem, and benefiting from some pretty good run blocking. B+, a steady and dependable rushing attack Passing game: Guys started to get some separation for a change, and in different areas of the field. The WRs all caught the ball well, including the rookie in fill-in duty. Wayne still looks off, but he's still productive, and hopefully he'll shake off the rust. TEs got more involved, and since it's been so long since they were a prominent part of the offense, Fleener and Allen both forgot how to catch, but both made up for their drops with TDs. Let's hope that's out of their system. Richardson had a drop also, but everyone who got a target caught a pass. Lots of toys for Luck, and we did a good job of deploying them this week. Even had a couple successful screen plays. B+, it's gonna be hard to cover all these guys on all these different levels of the field OL / blocking: Another workman performance. The offensive line didn't necessarily get consistent push on run plays, but they still won battles and created holes for backs to squeak through and get yardage. And yeah there's a bad play or two, here or there, but overwhelmingly, the run blocking has been positive. We just haven't proved that we can win in short yardage, which will be a bigger deal when we play the AFC North teams. Pass blocking was fine; our QBs took 45 dropbacks, and only faced notable pressure on 10 of those dropbacks. Luck was sacked twice, but I feel like he ran himself into one of those, and he still got back to the line of scrimmage. Backs did a good job in pass pro, but weren't used that much overall to block, which really says something about the line. B-, need to get more push in short yardage Defense, B+: 55 plays, 344 yards, 18 first downs (10 passing, 6 rushing, 2 from penalty), 4/10 on third down, 1/1 in the red zone, 3 turnovers, 17 points; Bortles jump started them, but the defense still played well throughout Defensive front: Didn't allow any real production from their main ball carriers, as we continue to close up the middle. Set the edge pretty well, aside from a handful of plays, some read option and end around plays. Not seeing a lot of pushback from Chapman, but Redding and RJF have been beating guys all year, and that continued in this one. Zach Kerr continues to play well. Linebackers are mopping up nicely. The pass rush is spotty but the plan is to free up the OLBs and blitzers, and that worked well, as they got three sacks. The 4th came from the new rookie, Quarles, who looked good when he got in the game. Werner's strip-sack-safety got wiped out by a bogus penalty, but it was an incredible pass rush move from the left side, which he seems to prefer as a rusher. Still have a problem with the read option defense; Walden seems to love crashing without regard for the QB keeper, and read option teams are going to exploit that. The edge guys are going to have to slow down, which is counter to the pass rush directive they've all been given in Mathis' absense. Still, can't let the ball carrier get outside, otherwise it's Bortles with 20 yards on the ground, which hurts. B, better pass rush, but not great, and some sloppy edge play Pass defense: Henne couldn't do anything, only 33 yards in the first half before he got the hook. Bortles struggled to get anything going, and when he did, we wiped it out for the most part, until the poor tackling happened. Davis, Toler and Butler played really good coverage, despite some missed tackles and penalties, and even Landry looked good in coverage. Take away the 63 yarder to Hurns, and Bortles would have averaged. They sneaked some TDs on the board, but overall, our pass defense shut down whatever they tried to get going. Once it's 37-3 in the 4th quarter, everything else becomes irrelevant. A-, have to tackle better after the catch Special teams: Same as last week, except McAfee punted even better, with a Mike Scifres impression at one point. AV was 3/3 from 48, 43 and 25 yards. Nothing returning, and no return opportunities for the Jags. Routine performance, only mistake was the hold on the punt return. B+ Coaching / playcalling / game management, A-: I don't know how much the defensive gameplan changed from previous weeks. Seemed like Landry was in less man coverage, which is good, and the corners were a little more aggressive. Still vulnerable across the middle of the field with ILBs, but blitzing them and a safety from time to time makes it harder to get guys open in the middle. We didn't get exploited by any mismatches this week, and we blitzed more effectively, IMO. B+, strong performance against a weak opponent obviously helped Different approach against a different kind of defensive front, and against a team that isn't interested in pushing tempo, so we didn't need to be worried about controlling the clock, which we did anyways. But Luck being a little more in tune was a major benefit, and helped Pep get into a groove as a play caller. And making me happy, we used play action on 32% of Luck's dropbacks, compared to 8% in Week 1, and 19% in Week 2. I asked for high 20s, at least, but I love the play action. Huge adjustment, and I think anyone can see the change in made in helping Luck stay away from pressure and find windows to throw in. Very little unbalanced run stuff, but I'm sure we haven't seen the last of that. A, we had receivers open all over the place, and the run was still effective Game management was out of Chuck's hands, given the fact that we controlled the game throughout. Some didn't like the 4th down attempt in the second half, but I don't think it had any bearing on how Pagano would handle a similar situation in an undecided game. INC Game balls: Luck, I don't like giving game balls to the franchise QB, as he'll often be a catalyst to wins, but he was very obviously the reason for the season. Historic performance, and he made it look easy. Next, vs the Titans, who don't know who their QB is, and who have been outscored 59-17 the past two weeks. They also can't stop the run, and suddenly, we have a solid run game. We need to win games like this. GO COLTS!!!
I'm thinking this is what Grigson and Pagano have in mind when they talk about 'building the monster.' Great game, knocked down a formidable opponent in their house, and beat them at their own game. Lots of fun to watch this one. Box score Week 2 grades Offense, B: 67 plays, 336 yards, 23 first downs (9 passing, 9 rushing, five from penalty), 5/12 on third down, 3/4 in the red zone, zero turnovers, 27 points (and another missed field goal); dominated time of possession, finally got something going in the second half QB: Solid and steady performance, took what the defense gave him for most of the game, and also made some big plays and throws, into coverage, and helped the offense shake off the rust to get some points. He wasn't great when pressured, though, as I believe he was 0/8 with a scramble on nine pressures. Most of their pressure came without bringing extra defenders though, so it's not like he had a lot of chances to burn blitzes. And of course, the flip side is that he was 18/19 with no pressure, pretty much perfect. The keeper was awesome, especially if he called his own number on the spot. Kind of nondescript from the QB, but that's positive when you score 27 points. Imagine if Luck had been on fire. B- Backs / receivers / tight ends: Just an awesome, awesome game. It started with DHB looking like a potentially dominant receiver, even making hands catches. Reggie caught everything that was thrown at him, and even had some nice YAC. Fleener only had a couple of catches, but he was off the field a lot because of the 3WR/2RB sets, which eventually started yielding some results. The receivers had some trouble getting open during the drought. The backs just did everything right. Richardson got himself involved, but it will be a while before he's really at workhorse status for us. Donald Brown got involved on some nice carries. But it was Bradshaw's day, and he set the tone for the offense. Ran hard, ran long, and ran well, finally getting the payoff on the last touchdown, and you could tell he wanted it from the way he tried to dive in from the five yard line on the previous possession. AB's performance basically said "I'm a lead back, not a bench warmer," and I think we might have one of the best RB tandems in the league. B+ OL / blocking: Tough, hard fought game for the line, against a really good defensive front, and they took the Niners' best punch and then returned in kind. Great effort. I've been expecting the line play to gradually get better, but I'm surprised that they played so well with essentially three replacements along the interior. Some missed assignments, some matchup losses (mostly from Linkenbach, back at his favorite position, RG), but this was a solid performance. Best of the year, easily, from the line. McGlynn looks better at center, and that's a good thing. Allowed some pressures on the quarterback, but not a whole lot. The run blocking wasn't dominant, but again, very few bad run plays. Only two for a loss (-2 and -1, respectively), and three for no gain. Lots of short gains, but those started turning into 4 and 5 yarders, and then we broke a couple for 11 and 15 and finally Bradshaw popped out for 27. Just a winning performance, bell to bell. B Defense, B: 53 plays, 254 yards, 14 first downs!!! (8 passing, 6 rushing, zero from penalty), 3/12 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down, 1/1 in the red zone, two turnovers, 7 points Defensive front: I think we got saved by a questionable gameplan from the Niners. It seems they want to prove that Kaepernick can handle a pro style offense and carry the team with his arm, and whether that's true or not remains to be seen. But rather than sticking with the run, they decided to throw it. Our pass rush was solid, and we kept Kaepernick contained on his scrambles, but Gore averaged 7.5 yards/carry. We were sloppy on some off tackle runs, letting their backs get outside. Most of what they tried up the middle was shut down, which has been the pattern through three games now. We pursued and chased well, showed a lot of effort, got to the ball quickly and tackled pretty well. We moved Kaepernick off his spot, but struggled to get home and bring him down. The one read option play they tried got swallowed up for a five yard loss, but I can't understand why they didn't use this early and often, considered how sloppy we were at defending the Raiders read option stuff two weeks ago. This was a nice performance, but again, I think we got off easy. B- Pass defense: I'm not complaining that they were trying to throw the ball, because it allowed the secondary a great chance to flex their muscles. Just going to point out here though that the Niners were without their two best receivers (Crabtree and Davis), and Kaepernick hasn't seemed comfortable in two weeks. But the secondary and the linebackers were just draped all over their receivers, no matter how they moved them around and positioned them before the snap. No room, even when Kaepernick extended plays with his legs. They played fast and aggressive, and hit hard, but were also disciplined (zero penalties, no big plays). A couple of mistakes in coverage -- no surprise there, it happens to everyone. Boldin can make plays, but he's an intermediate receiver, not a burner, and so athletic corners can keep him contained. And that's what we did. Delano Howell was active and strong. Again pointing out the folly of not sticking with the run game, the Niners had an adjusted average of 5 yards/pass attempt. Nice game. B+ Special teams, B: AV's miss is irritating, but at least the leg is still there. It's curious to me that both of his misses were just to the left. McAfee did a great job hanging the ball in the air and dropping them inside the 10. Coverage was mostly good, except for the one punt return, which was close to being a six point disaster. Coaching / playcalling, B: Seemed purposefully conservative on offense, which luxury we had due to the good performance of the defense. The formations and personnel packages were good to see, and while it's kind of annoying to keep seeing the unbalanced line stuff, we had a chance to break to trend on the bootleg. I liked some of the passing concepts, especially the angle route for Bradshaw. I'd like to see a few more downfield opportunities. But we finally put some points up in the second half. B On defense, before I get too excited with the results, I want to see the defense get stress tested. I don't know about the run fits, but the secondary play was better. The blitzes were more effective, and the pressure kept Kaepernick uncomfortable. We used Moala as a joker, which was interesting, but having a 6'4" lineman standing upright in the middle of the field seemed to throw off passing angles, so good work. B+ Game management was routine, no real big decisions. Could have been a little more aggressive earlier on. The math says you go for 2 when it's 19-7, because you already have a 2 touchdown lead either way. But if you get 2, you're safe from a defensive meltdown. The defense rendered this decision moot, but I think going for 2 is the move there. B Game ball, offense: Ahmad Bradshaw. He lifted his teammates up, and Castonzo confirmed that with his comments today. Very happy for him. Game ball, defense: Jerrell Freeman. I think we all like Freeman, but through last year, he was just a nice find by Grigson who was serviceable as an inside backer. This year, he's looked like a pure playmaker. He thumped, he got to the QB again, and he blew up the read option for a loss. Great game for Freeman. Next week, @ Jacksonville. Last time we went down there, we rolled them. If our secondary can play like they did this week, we might get a shutout.
http://espn.go.com/n...923011&period=0 Offense, C+ -- 75 plays, 437 yards, one turnover, 23 first downs (15 passing, 6 rushing, 2 penalties), 10/19 on third down, 17 points QB: Is the weight of the world on my shoulders? I think Luck played a really good game, and it goes beyond his passing stats, which were good aside from the pick and the 23 other incompletions (seriously, that's a lot of incompletions in one game). I like that he got out on the move and hurt the Jags with his legs, repeatedly, and averaged over 12 yards per rush. I really think he can be more effective in his passing by actually running more, which will give the defense one more wrinkle to worry about. I like that he kept his eyes downfield when the pocket collapsed and made several good throws under duress. But, as I already said, he threw 24 passes that didn't get home. Not all his fault: there were drops, he got hit on a couple, a couple had to go out of bounds, etc. But 47.8% is a Curtis Painter-type of completion rate. And the pick was a HUGE mistake (he's on pace for 21 interceptions this season). The pick that got called off was ... fortuitous. Better judgment might have prevailed there on 3rd down, but we got the call. I like the way he controlled the game, remained composed, and drove us down for a(nother) go ahead score with less than a minute to play. He did it twice in this game, plus a scoring drive at the end of the first half. He did it last week, and at the end of the half. He had us in scoring position at the end of the half in the opener (undone by a missed FG). There was a graphic up at the end of the game about how Luck runs the two-minute offense, and it's doggone brilliance is what it is. Even the final desperation possession, he and Hilton hook up on third down for a 36 yarder, and we're at the 26 yard line (greatly aided by the strong kickoff return, but still). He's stronger in the two-minute, and that's most decidedly NOT reminiscent of Curtis Painter. We can only ask the rookie to do so much. B- Receivers and backs: Much better than Week 3 last year Every opportunity counts for a young and challenged team, so dropped passes are particularly painful to see. Now that that's out of the way, I felt good about how our backs and receivers played in this one. Reggie has some of the best hands in the league, and makes plays. Period. No wonder he gets targeted so much. It was awesome to see Hilton get in the act, and his speed is going to be a huge weapon in this league. Unfortunately, he'll probably be getting a lot more burn now, with Collie out for the year. This really hurts me, as a big Austin Collie fan. But I'm also a big TY fan, so let's hope he continues playing well. But, still, too many drops, all the way around. I got on Luck for 24 incompletions, but a significant portion of those go to the receivers in this one. The backs did a serviceable job for the most part. Brown's catch and run was a well-designed and well-executed play, and it shows how he can be a weapon if we use him sensibly. Still not a lot of actual production from the ground game, outside of the quarterback, but there was improvement. I'd like to see more touches for Vick Ballard. I see big things in the future for our receiving corps, and I think that will help the run game. B- Offensive line / blocking: It's not you, it's me. Still just not good enough. Injuries suck, but we can't blame this on injuries. On a positive note, we were better than the past two weeks. And I also think that the bye week will help us with Satele and hopefully Reitz getting back on the field and being closer to 100%. For the first week, there were no sacks, but most of the credit for that goes to Luck and his artistry in avoiding and outrunning the rush. We also got more push in the run game, and even created a good amount of decent gains on the ground. The run game was serviceable in the second half, and we were ::thisclose:: to converting on the 3rd and 8 before AV's made field goal, which would have effectively ended the game. That would have been a major accomplishment for a beleaguered unit. But still, too much pressure, a few mistakes in blown assignments and penalties, and a mostly underwhelming performance run blocking in crucial situations. I'll take solace in the improvement from the last two weeks, but I hope for more... a lot more. C- Defense, C+ -- 54 plays, 333 yards, zero turnovers, 15 first downs (3 passing, 10 rushing, 2 penalties), 4/13 on third down, 22 points Defensive front: Baby steps We gave up 185 yards on the ground for an average of 5.8 yards per carry, yet, I feel we did an okay job keeping MJD in check. With the exception, of course, of the long touchdown. I think we just took a couple of bad angles, but the play was well executed by the Jags. Their back is really good, and their gameplan obviously centers around giving him the ball. They even gashed us a couple of times, 12 yards here, 19 yards there, 8 yards here again, but we made good adjustments and got them off the field. There also was a good deal of uncalled holding by their offensive line, but Colts fans are used to that. Better tackling would help, also, but that's a recurrent theme for us as well, especially against MJD. Then, there was the sack on third down to quell the scoring threat, and oh by the way, is Robert Mathis going to have a sack in every game this season??? The man is on a mission, and I'm more glad he stayed every week. There's a lot of improving to do here, but I see the promise. Stay in our lanes a little better, hold the edge, wrap up and tackle more effectively, and I think, not only would we have prevented the touchdown run, but we probably could have cut MJD's production down by about 40% otherwise. C+ Pass defense: One mistake To me, this is easy. One blown coverage, and we lose the game. Other than that, the pass defense was stellar. And that's not that tall of a task against Blaine Gabbert, but we saw the secondary give up a lot of completions last week, and then held this offense to single-digits for practically the entire game. Until... The Jags obviously wanted to ride the run game, and that worked to an extent, but when it was time for them to make a play with the pass, they did, and we let them. It's disappointing, but I'm not discouraged. The past two weeks, our defensive backs have been in good position, they've tackled well, and they've been aggressive when the ball is in the air. I don't even mind the penalties, because that means we're challenging receivers, which is totally different from what we saw the past two years (really more than that). But, yeah, got to avoid the big play in the big spot. Totally ruined what would have otherwise been almost a perfect grade. B Special teams: Disappointed We didn't do anything wrong in coverage, the punting was great, we even got a couple of good returns, including the one at the end that really helped us get close to a score. This is probably the best special teams outing we've had in a long, long time. And then, our most reliable special teams player, the most clutch kicker in the NFL, misses a go-ahead field goal with less than five minutes to go, greatly influencing the rest of the game. Last week, Vinatieri deserved his own high grade, but this week, he's dragging it down. And even though he made the next one, it almost missed, too! It would be nice to not make these kind of mistakes in winnable home games. Alas... B+ Coaching: Who are we? For the second week in a row, we blew a lead in the second half. To be honest, I don't think it was the fault of the coaching staff, and, unlike others, I don't agree that the offensive gameplan was too conservative in the second half. I think we were undone by two mistakes on defense, one mistake on offense, and one mistake on special teams. Still, 19-3 in the second half. At home. Against one of the least effective passers in the league. Hard to ignore that. I think Arians made an effort, not only to put the ball in Luck's hands, but also of helping him salvage gains out of broken plays. Luck demonstrated a great willingness to throw the ball quickly, and to run with it, and I think (read: hope) that was a point of emphasis in the gameplan. Maybe we should keep the offense running at a faster pace for certain stretches, given how well we do in two-minute situations. Defensively, I think Manusky did a decent job. We should probably get our safeties a little more involved, but I understand being cautious as well. I like the adjustments we made once their offense got into scoring position; we shut down several drives and held them to field goals or forced punts. We were stout on third down. And I don't fault the playcalling for the touchdowns, either of them. But still, 19-3 in the second half. At home. Against one of the least effective passers in the league. There's no ignoring those facts. The decision to run at the end was the right decision. Maybe a bootleg on second down might have changed the situation a little, but getting their timeouts was super important. It just wound up not mattering because we blew the coverage. Not too much to complain about, but it sucks giving up a two score lead at home. B- Bring on the bye. GO COLTS!
Things to watch for Offense, C: 17 points, 318 total yards, 6.1 yards/play, 13 first downs (9 passing, 2 rushing, 2 penalties), 4/13 on third down, 1 turnover, 21 minutes time of possession Offensive line/blocking -- Kind of a regression for our offensive line, because even before the injuries, we weren't getting a consistent push in the run game, nor were we giving the quarterback a consistent pocket. The interior of the line was getting pushed back in pass pro, and they weren't getting a consistent push in the run game. The tackles did a better job blocking the pass, and there were some nice double-teams with guards on outside runs, but it was very hit and miss. The backs also struggled in pass protection, and not just Brown. Carter and Addai both missed blocks also. Link kind of came back down to earth, and Castonzo missed a couple times. As Coffee said in his pregame write-up, AC handled Clayborn pretty well, but he did lose a couple battles. Nothing to worry about too much. And then the injuries started to take their toll, and it got even worse. We broke a couple of nice runs, including a draw for Carter that I was hoping was on its way. We really didn't run nearly enough, but 9 of our 18 run plays went for 2 yards or less. We also gave up a season-high 4 sacks. I don't see this getting better with Castonzo and Diem still out for the foreseeable future. I want to grade on a curve because of the injuries, but there wasn't a lot of positive even before the injuries. D+ Backs/receivers -- Another futile showing for our guys. Sometimes it's like it doesn't even matter that they're out there. I will give full marks for Garcon making up for his two early drops with two really good plays, the highlights of the year for us so far. He's the only receiver who really got anything done. And it's not their fault; the blocking didn't give much time for anything to develop in this game. The few catches that everyone did make, they battled hard after the catch and maximized their opportunities. The backs fought hard in the run game, but didn't get any looks in the passing game. No time to check down. Season low 3.4 ypc for the backs, with only a few really productive runs. The ills were mostly not the backs fault, though. They did all they could, for the most part. The couple moderate runs (9 yarder for Addai up the left side, 13 yarder for Carter on a well-timed draw up the left side), they got really good blocking, and the rest were extreme battles. However, the backs and receivers all fought all game long. Just didn't get very many good opportunities. More on that in the quarterbacking and coaching sections... B- Quarterback -- The yardage looks good, the two touchdowns look good, but beneath the surface was a mediocre performance that just wasn't enough of what we need, and was too much of what we can't have. The positives are that Painter seems more comfortable throwing the ball on timing routes and when he's under duress; the negatives are that he's not a consistent passer, which means that some of his throws are really bad. He looks better than I thought he would look after the first two preseason games, and he helped the offense finally score a first half touchdown, followed up with another long scoring play. It's still problematic for any hopes this team has or may have had that Curtis Painter is our best quarterback at our disposal. But there is simply no question that he is the best quarterback at our disposal. The offensive line is going to have to pass protect better, and the coaching staff is going to have to focus on (a) being more balanced in the playcalling, and (b) giving him more high percentage chances to throw completions. He had two horrible stretches, one where he was 0-7, and another where he was 3-10 with three sacks, and I believe the bulk of the blame goes to the playcalling during those stretches. (More in coaching.) I'm encouraged, and I expect that he'll get better, but we still have big issues at quarterback. C- Defense, C-: 24 points, 466 total yards, 6 yards/play, 25 first downs (14 passing, 10 rushing, 1 penalty), 7/17 on third down, 2/2 on fourth down, 0 turnovers Defensive line -- Started off well, playing gaps perfectly, getting pressure on the quarterback, opening plays up for linebackers, and keeping the quarterback contained. As the game wore on, they started to get battered and bruised, and an already short-handed crew took a severe blow as Eric Foster suffered one of the most gruesome injuries I've ever seen. And from there, we started playing Tyler Brayton at tackle, who didn't do horribly, but the line just couldn't keep it up. They were on the field for two thirds of the game, going against a powerful back and a well-coached offensive line. Started to make some mistakes with gap assignments (which is why Graham got out for a 31 yard run), and I think frustration set in as the Bucs kept holding and grabbing, and then we started committing silly penalties also. Two ticky-tack offsides calls against Freeney (Thank You, Ron Winters, for a 20-penalty game; that's always fun). Jerry Hughes got his first NFL sack, so good for him. Freeman's mobility proved to be an issue at the end of the game, and everything in between neutralized the pass rush. The promising start for our front came to an end as the Bucs pounded them into submission, and with the injuries mounting, I don't know what to expect moving forward. If we have to play Brayton at tackle, we might see more of Hughes on passing downs. C Secondary -- I've been grading them harshly so far, because we're giving up too many completions, and we're giving up too many big completions. The Bucs had several pass plays of 20 yards or more, and had two called back due to penalties. Freeman also completed 25 passes overall, which makes it incredibly hard for you to win games. The guys also missed some tackles after underneath completions. But I think the pass coverage issue lies mostly with coaching. We can't vacate the middle of the field and allow 8-12 yard completions over and over again. And if you are okay with that, then you better make sure you're not getting beat for bigger pass plays, but we did get beat for bigger pass plays. It has to be one or the other. We've all been hard on Lacey, and now we're being hard on Terrance Johnson, and both players deserve some criticism, but the scheme is a bigger problem for me than the players right now. Give me better tackling, and give me fewer mistakes on the back end. That lies with the players. I'll get on the coaches in a minute. C- Linebackers -- They deserve their share of the blame for the pass coverage also, but like I said, this is more a scheme issue than an execution issue. Didn't miss very many tackles in this one, though there were a few, particularly one by Wheeler that allowed a first down. Still, our linebacker corps has made huge strides in the first month of the season. Started out very problematic, but they were our best unit in this one. Which isn't that good, considering that they had a few problems also. Not much to say, though. WIth 36 tackles, they were certainly active. Just playing behind a depleted line and in front of a depleted secondary, and playing a scheme that doesn't make much sense right now. B- Special teams, B- Four total returns, with nothing to speak of. But we locked their return game down as well, with Pat continue to kick the living daylights out of the ball. There was only one punt return that had a chance of getting somewhere, and we held it to 13 yards. Big mistake on the botched hold, which cost us points, but that's just one of those things. At least we've fixed the coverage, it seems. And without kicking punts out of bounds every time. Good work. Tighten up that hold and this is an A. Coaching, D+ On defense, we continue to employ a scheme that not only isn't effective at limiting big pass plays, but it also completely invalidates our great pass rush. I've been saying it loudly since we lost the Super Bowl, and I've been saying it in general for longer than that: If we allow the other team to complete short passes, we have zero chance of pressuring the quarterback, our defense gets left on the field for long stretches of time, and we won't be a good defense. Not only were we back to giving up cushions on the outside, we also continued to drop the middle linebacker deep on passing plays. There's nothing wrong with that Tampa 2 coverage (really should be called Tampa 3, since the linebacker makes it a Cover 3 look), unless the other team is sitting a receiver in the vacated zone in the middle of the field over, and over, and over, and over again. We used to play man in certain situations; have we played man at all this season? We got much more aggressive on the final drive, but we had a very slim margin for error, and our defense had been battered for 70 plays already to that point, so we didn't tackle very well. I understand that we have personnel suited for a base Cover 2 defense. We don't have to stick to it so religiously, though, and I wish we'd make adjustments more quickly throughout the course of the game. D On offense, we started out very well, I thought, and then suddenly we forgot that we have those short, strong guys called running backs, who you can hand the ball off to and let them gain yards without having to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. Those guys, along with the offensive line, make up what we call a "running game," and you can use this running game in lieu of throwing passes. Why in the wide, wide world of sports would we throw the ball 30 times (not including four sacks) and only run it 18, considering who we have playing quarterback? I don't get it. We had the lead most of the first half. We didn't trail at all until three minutes left in the fourth quarter. By that time, we had already thrown 27 passes to 18 rushes, with four sacks. RUN THE FOOTBALL!!! And when you do pass, give your quarterback high percentage throws, like screens, slants, outs, crossing patterns, rubs, etc. Give him some max protect and let him throw the ball down the field a little bit to loosen up the underneath coverage and keep the safeties out of the box. I already mentioned that Painter had two terrible stretches of ineffectiveness in this game. I didn't mention that in those two stretches, we threw the ball significantly more than we ran it. The possession after the Bucs tied it at 17, we called 12 pass plays (7 incompletions, 2 sacks, one first down on pass interference penalty), and 2 run plays. Our quarterback is Curtis Painter. We can't throw the ball twice as much as we run it. C- And there were several questionable game management decisions in this one. I agree with the last punt, given the field position, the time left, and the timeouts. I don't agree with the earlier punt from midfield, on 4th and short, especially after we went play-action on 3rd and short. I thought for sure we'd called that so we could take a big chance before running it straight ahead on 4th down. No. We punted. I also thought that a challenge would have been appropriate on the incomplete pass, but I don't know for sure that it would have been overturned, nor do I really care, since we scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. The only reason I bring it up is because at that spot on the field, the other team can pin you deep in your own territory (we got the ball on our own 2), whereas you maybe have a chance to take over at your own 40 or so. I thought the challenge flag should have been thrown. Suffice it to say, the coaching left a lot to be desired in this game, and some different decisions could have led to a different outcome in such a tight game on the road. C- Next up, we host the Chiefs, who are only slightly less irrelevant than we are at this point. I thought this might be a winnable matchup, but with our offensive line banged up against their front, which can be really good, I have serious questions. GO COLTS!