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[Grades] Week 3: Colts Vs. Steelers


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Things to watch for

Offense, C-: 20 points, 241 total yards, 3.9 yards/play, 14 first downs (10 passing, 4 rushing), 7/16 on third down, 1 turnover

Offensive line/blocking -- Still room for improvement, but this is the first game this year that I can say our offensive line outplayed the defensive front, for the most part. They lost a couple of battles here and there, and there were a few carries for no yardage, but overall, our offensive line outperformed the Steelers defense. And that's saying something, not only because they have a great front, but because we don't outperform anyone. Maybe we'll play to a draw, but our guys really took control, especially in the run game. If you watched this game and didn't remember a bunch of long carries, and so are wondering why I'm saying that they played well, it's really the intermediate plays that made the difference. The fact that Addai was able to average 5.1ypc, and his longest run was only 11 yards, shows that the blocking was consistent. As far as I remember, he didn't have a single negative carry. A big part of that is Joe, but the line did much better than expected against the Steelers. Not as good in pass protection, but they gave our quarterbacks time for most of the game. Just one sack, that led to the fumble. No, they don't allow anyone to stand around and bounce up and down in the pocket for five or six seconds, but we have a quick read, hot throw game plan, and the line blocks well enough to allow enough time to get rid of the ball. AC got his butt-whipped on the sack, other than that, he and Reitz have done a good job all year. The holding penalty on Reitz at the goalline was bogus. And the other three teamed up very nicely as well. Saturday looked great, Pollak looked great, Link looked great. Addai is a great backfield blocker, and prevented a lot of pressures. Brody did what we expect him to do. Credit where due for our blocking. Only down side is we missed a couple of blitz pickups, and we asked Dallas to block elite pass rushers. Scheme more than performance, if you ask me. B-

Backs/receivers -- I'll say this right off the bat: Our backs (namely, Joe) outplayed our receivers. Not all the receivers fault, of course, and I'll get to the passers in a minute, but Joe deserves phenomenal credit for a really good game. Capped off with the great touchdown run, where he really should have been stopped for a five yard loss, and instead, he makes three or four defenders miss, and falls forward into the endzone. Gonna have to start calling him Twinkle Toes in a minute. People rag on him because he dances, but it's games like this one where you really appreciate how well he runs, not to mention how good he is in other facets of the game. He's one of the best blocking backs in the game. Garcon was hot and cold. He's added a couple of routes to his repertoire, but those don't do any good if he drops catchable balls. Collinsworth brought up the Super Bowl drop, and he's absolutely right. You've got to make the routine catches, because those are the plays that open up your offense and move the chains. Collie got a little more involved, but he seemed hurt. Gonzo got on the field, but didn't get a look. Dallas looked out of sorts. Reggie got 13 targets and only caught 3. I don't blame the receivers for this, for the most part, but they didn't seem as into it throughout the game, especially Dallas. He's also battling an injury, but we need our auxiliary offensive players to pull some magic out of their butts, given the quarterback situation. Kind of hard to fault them when the quarterbacks are throwing passes over their heads, though. C+

Quarterbacks -- How do I grade this? When is the last time we had two quarterbacks take snaps in a meaningful game? But that's not the real problem. The real problem is that, without making Painter out to be a Pro Bowler, the offense was much more effective with him than it was with Mr. Collins. I don't even think it's close. In one quarter of the time, he led our offense to more than half of it's production, and he did it with the game on the line. He also turned the ball over, though it was on a backside pressure where AC got blown by. He also missed a couple of throws. I'm not so concerned with the overthrow, though it sucks missing on a potential touchdown pass like that. Still, even great quarterbacks overthrow receivers down the sideline. I'm much more concerned with the one-hoppers, including the final pass of the game. Can't throw the ball five yards short of your receiver directly into the ground, son. Still, he looked poised and decisive, and he made a couple of nice throws, including a deep out and a corner route, throws that Collins hasn't been able to connect on at all. Speaking of Mr. Collins, I expected more out of him. I know he's got a great arm, and I know he's a veteran who has seen a lot of defenses. I thought he would be able to hit the high percentage throws, read pressures and throw hot, etc. He hasn't done that at all in 2.75 games. He averaged 3.2 yards/attempt, with 13 completions. It's really been pathetic. He's shown no touch on throws where his receivers have created adequate separation, he's shown no ability to determine where his hot receiver is. He's not hitting his receivers as they come out of their breaks. He's used to throwing to receivers who ARE open, not receivers who WILL BE open. He's used to standing behind a line that blocks everything directly in front of him and allows him to wait for separation. I don't think it's an issue of grasping the offense. He's just not a timing/rhythm passer. I didn't anticipate that he would step in and not miss a beat, but I didn't expect him to be completely unable to generate any offense. I think it's time to move on from Mr. Collins. Not for the sake of the season; we're not going to win many games either way. But for the sake of his teammates. They're playing their butts off, and he's not holding up his end of the bargain. Collins: F / Painter: C- / Combined grade: D-

Defense, B: 16 points, 408 total yards, 6 yards/play, 19 first downs (14 passing, 4 rushing, 1 penalty), 8/15 on third down, 3 turnovers

Secondary -- Simply put, too many big completions. That's obvious on the touchdown pass (yes, they only scored one offensive touchdown), but there were a number of other 20-30 yard passes that were the result of missed assignments and poor tackling by the corners and safeties. We had reserves and first-time starters in several positions, and for the most part, they did a good job staying close to receivers and stopping them with good tackling. Terrance Johnson and Joe Lefeged were two of my favorite preseason players, and they both showed that they can track and pop. But there's nuance to any passing game, especially against a good quarterback, and that's essentially what did us in and led to 364 passing yards from Roethlisberger. This is the reason our coaches like to use cushions on the outside. Even still, with experience, those big plays will be minimized and even erased. All the defensive backs tackled well, both against receivers and in support of the run game, despite a couple of misses. Did a great job with run containment and keeping Roethlisberger from getting into the open field. To quote Herm Edwards: WE CAN BUILD ON THIS. C+

Defensive line -- Amazing performance. Just dominant, bell to bell. Another showing where they simply stopped the other teams run game, the difference being that they didn't give up additional yards after contact. Mendenhall was going down right away, partly due to the linebackers, but the linemen held up their assignments and made sure the backers could get to the ball carrier, many times unimpeded, and other times just to finish the play off. This was an example of what happens when your linemen play with gap integrity. Mookie even decided to play true nose tackle football. Then, the ends and Nevis were able to penetrate, get loose, and wreak havoc. I should mention, Coffee called this in his What to Watch For before the game, right down to Drake Nevis being able to beat Mike Pouncey and get in the backfield. Now, of course, we can't fail to mention that the Steelers have line issues, and they were missing guys due to injury. I don't know what possessed their staff to come into Indy with only 7 linemen in uniform, but they did, and they got their money's worth. Freeney and Mathis are still the best tandem in the game, and with Mookie and Nevis playing how they did in the middle, this line can really hold their own. I don't know what to make of the stunts. A couple worked, several others seemed pointless. In a game like this where we actually have the upper hand straight up, I'd scrap the stunts. Wore down at the end for the last drive of the game, including Foster missing the sack, but that's Ben's greatest attribute. Still, really good work fellas. A-

Linebackers -- I want to give them the solid A. I haven't seen a game where our linebackers fly to the ball and finish like this in a long time. We've made a habit of calling Angerer a drag-down tackler, but he was knocking folks straight down in this one. And it's not because he's suddenly a better tackler, it's because he's reacting faster and getting into position sooner, and so he can unload on the ball carrier. And if Angerer was the star, Conner and Wheeler were a great supporting cast, with Wheeler taking on blockers and Conner chasing down backs. Our corps combined for a total of 36 tackles, and I believe they went bell to bell with minimal subbing. Here's the problem: They still struggle against the pass. Frequently out of position, sometimes by just a hair, but balls going over their heads, receivers getting to the inside on them, etc. In a game where the other team threw the ball 37 times, many of them short and intermediate throws, the linebackers had zero passes defensed. Young corps, which we know has a deficiency against the pass without Brackett, but on a night where they tackled well and teamed up with the linemen for an almost mistake-free game against the run, they still didn't do much against the pass. It's not a death sentence for our defense, but it can and should be tightened up. B+

Special teams, B-

I'm kind of torn here. On the one hand, we only made one mistake on coverage, and it was a moderate one (37 yard punt return, where we should have stopped him right away for 5 or 10 yards, at most), so there's an improvement there. On the other hand, we sacrificed yardage in field position with punts that went out of bounds. I'd rather sacrifice 15-20 yards with an out of bounds punt than give up 40-50 yard returns, but I don't understand why we should have to make that choice. Seems like every other team in the NFL can cover punts just fine, so why not us? The Steelers had zero kickoff returns, because Pat was booming them. I'm fine with that. Just take that play out of the equation and let them start at the 20. But we've got to figure out a solution to the punt coverage. Kick it high and toward the sideline. Sacrifice 5 yards with a high directional punt, and force the fair catch. But Pat can't kick it out of bounds 20 yards short. On the plus side, we forced the missed field goal with a rare pressure, coming from Jamaal Anderson. Great to see something there, but I'm not going to expect it. And AV did what he does with two gimmes. Nowhere near as bad here as the first two weeks.

Coaching, B-

On defense, there's not much to be said. We made a few mistakes, mostly due to execution. The scheme was fine, I thought. Reduced the frequency of the cushions, brought significantly more pressure, dropped extra defenders in the box to stop the run. Real good job. I said earlier I don't really like the stunts when we have mismatches straight ahead, but they yielded mixed results, as stunts often do. For the most part, these are the adjustments I'd hoped to see from Week 1. Glad to see we're gradually getting more out of our guys with smart decisions. Some people complain about coaching no matter what: they give all the credit to the players, and all the blame to the coaches. I think our coaches deserve some credit for the defense on Sunday. On offense, I've been wondering why we don't put Mr. Collins in situations where he's a little more comfortable and allow him to get rid of the ball right away. He's not going to hit Reggie on an out or a comeback, because he's not a timing passer. But I've seen Mr. Collins completely disregard hot receivers on quick slants and seam routes far too often so far, making me think the problem with the passing game lies mostly with Mr. Collins. We have an offense tailored around timing and execution, and it's hard to change things for a passer who doesn't get those fundamental concepts, for whatever reason. When Curtis came in and threw hot and with touch, it convinced me further. We should have run the ball more in the first half, but other than that, I didn't think there was too much to be critical of with the offensive gameplan. We just don't have the right guy running it. Special teams, we took the coverage out of the teams' hands and gave no room for error. It worked, with one exception. Now we've got to salvage some of that field position. Getting better every week. I think that's a testament to sound coaching.

We came this close :: snaps fingers :: to a real victory in this one. Maybe we can salvage a moral victory and continue to get better. Tough game in Tampa coming up. Play tough up front, force a couple turnovers, get some points up and score touchdowns in the red zone, and who knows? 1-3 would be a lot better than 0-4. Let's do it, fellas.


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A fair and balanced analysis.

QB's and DB's need some work, but Peyton usually made the jobs of both categories easier. ;)

Speaking of which: could anyone imagine what the last two games would have looked like with Peyton at the helm and our defense playing like it did? Or even game one, were we can ignore the QB fumbles? I think we'd be a white hot 3-0 right now.

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A fair and balanced analysis.

QB's and DB's need some work, but Peyton usually made the jobs of both categories easier. ;)

Speaking of which: could anyone imagine what the last two games would have looked like with Peyton at the helm and our defense playing like it did? Or even game one, were we can ignore the QB fumbles? I think we'd be a white hot 3-0 right now.

I thought the texans game was debatable,but the browns and steelers would have been easy wins.

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