Since their 39-33 win over the Broncos at home, the Colts have endured some brutal first halves, particularly on offense. Three times now, they’ve bounced back for an exciting win. Just as often, however, those rocky first halves have been too much to overcome. Even last Sunday’s offensive fireworks weren’t enough after spotting the Bengals a 14-point lead early on.
One major area Pep Hamilton and the offense want to improve upon this week is their third down success rate. The Colts only converted 3/14 third downs in their 8-point win over the Titans on December 1, and went 0 for 6 in the first half at Cincinnati before lighting up the scoreboard in the second.
According to Hamilton, “0-for-6 in the first half of the Cincinnati game was completely unacceptable and I got to do a better job of finding ways to create matchups that are in our favor.”
A couple of the bright spots from last week were previously seldom-used backup wide receivers LaVon Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers. Hamilton said he expects Brazill, who showed up with a walking boot on at practice this week, to be ready to play this Sunday.
Hamilton also said what Rogers was able to do last week is something he wants to see more of. “It was exciting to see a young guy step in and make plays for us, in particular, make big plays,” Hamilton said of Rogers. “He caught a four or five-yard pass and it resulted in a long touchdown and we need more of that in our offense. So we’re excited about Da’Rick and what he can offer us moving forward.”
Defense Wants to Shut Down the Big Plays
During their 3-3 stretch since their win over the Broncos, the Colts have given up an average of 29 points per game. The defense that came to the rescue against the Titans and in a couple fourth quarters is looking to find a way to limit the big offensive plays that have plagued them lately.
Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky wants improvement in communication and staying on assignments. “We got to make sure that we cover the guys we’re supposed to cover,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t. We got some stack situations where some guys were left free. We can’t do that. We got to make sure that communication is always the most important thing. It’s vital.”
One of those important coverage assignments for Indy’s defense will be 10-year veteran receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson, who tends to have some of his best games against the Colts, torched Indianapolis in their last meeting for 9 catches, 229 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Manusky indicated that the Texans’ star might not be isolated on a single cornerback very much this time around. “Talented receiver,” he said of Johnson. “You got to put some roll coverage on him. You got to make sure that you double him in certain situations. Good football player. He’s got a lot of catches. It’s still a good football team that we’re facing this week.” Double-team Andre Johnson? Sounds like a plan.
The Texans have some weapons on offense, but taking away Johnson, making quarterback Case Keenum go through his progressions would go a long way toward making it a good day for the Colts defense.
LaVon Brazill on expecting to play despite not practicing all week: “Oh yeah. I definitely feel pretty confident. I’m just waiting on the trainers and what the coach is going to say.” The Colts only have four receivers and didn’t elevate anyone from the practice squad (or sign Dieon Branch) this week, which likely means they are very confident Brazill will play.
Pep Hamilton on Da’Rick Rogers: Well, his receivers coach, Charlie Williams, has done a great job of putting in the extra time with Da’Rick. They’ve had somewhat of a regimented schedule above and beyond the typical player weekly schedule. And I think it paid tremendous dividends on Sunday.”
Vance Joseph, Texans DB coach and interim defensive play caller, on facing the Colts offense: “It’s challenge. It’s a multiple offense. They run the ball well. They throw it well. The quarterback is amazing. He’s a very smart guy. You can’t trick him. It takes solid football to beat that guy.”
Texans DE Antonio Smith on playing in Indianapolis, where the Texans have never won: “I do not know. I don’t know if it’s a special something or one specific thing. We just have not been able to pull a win out of there.”
Here’s hoping the that sentiment remains. Prediction: Colts win ugly but do so by two scores. How about 24-13?
Colts Notebook: Looking for Improvement against the Texans
Just wondering what everyone makes of FO DVOA rankings of the Colts line. Posted as 13th in run blocking and 8th in pass protection. http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol
@Bobman testing... just lost a long comment...
"Texans DB coach and interim defensive play caller, on facing the Colts offense: 'It’s challenge. It’s a multiple offense. They run the ball well...'" Okay, was he just TRYING to not put up bulletin board material, or can he be that stupid? Who, exactly, runs the ball well? Brown is competent, but is not doing "well." ("Okay" might be more accurate.) Luck is great, but 4 runs a game for 8 YPC hardly make a good running team. He should have been honest: "Right now, what they excel at is screwing up third down conversions. They're what, 70% at that recently...?"
What excites me about the remainder of the Colts season and beyond??
It is whether or not the Colts passing game can evolve using Fleener, Da'rick Rogers and next year Allen to incorporate 3-dimensional passing schemes. That is explicitly take advantage of our TEs and WRs height and leaping ability against undersized DBs.
The Colts have traditionally been a conventional 2 dimensional passing team using more or less excellent standard size receivers and TEs like Harrison, Wayne and Clark. But today teams like the Cardinals with Fitzgerald and now Floyd, and the Bears with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jefferies and TE Martellus Bennett exploit having multiple big receivers that force mismatches against average size DBs
One sees it already in some of the passes that have been targeted towards Rodgers. Balls thrown high along the sidelines where only Rodgers could get the ball against the undersized DBs. One pass resulted in an interference call, in another case the catch was broken up by the DB as Rodgers came down with it, an excellent defensive play. Still one sees the extra potential dimension Rodgers could add to the passing attack.
I was watching the coaches film from the Cincy game, and although they weren't particularly successful the actual play calls and designs looked alright. It seemed to be little things, drops, players tripped, bad throws always seemed to crop up on 3rd down. Normally the actual plays put someone on close or beyond the marker. I wonder if this is to some extent a regression to the mean for the Colts. I mean obviously loosing Wayne was huge, but the rate at which they were converting first downs was insane earlier in the year. Some sort of drop off even if the offense remained the same.
This game feels like a two-score win, too. Of course, that assumes that the O-line plays the way it did last week, and that Rogers and Brazill continue to make plays. But this is a division game against a wounded opponent, so anything is possible.
@hanksterMayhaps DVOA is a bit flawed.
@Bobman Well, Vance deserves points for his grammar, at least. Mostly, I wanted to share what he said about Luck. I thought that was pretty cool. Otherwise, it does kind of sound like he thinks they'll be facing the 2005 Colts this weekend.
Sounds interesting. I haven't been impressed with Pep's use of 2d space (stretching the field vertically or horizontally), but since he seems to think of himself as a match up guy that might be more his strong suit. I would also love to see Fleener used as a Jimmy Graham lite. That guy is better than a lot of people give him credit for and perfectly suited to be WR/reciving TE in the slot and on intermediate routs.
p.s. No colts radio this week? One would think you have lives and jobs or something! :o)
@hankster They also just aren't as good with so many offensive starters gone. If a couple of those offensive starters were back, namely Wayne and Dwayne, no one would be sounding the alarm bells because the team simply would be better. If Rogers and Brazill can draw some of the defense away from T.Y., and Fleener can continue to be one of the most reliable tight ends in the league, these guys might be alright.
@chip_bennett Division game is right. Even in the best of Manning years, it seemed like what should have been a cakewalk ended up being a 3-7 pt division win (usually on the road). And don't forget JJ Watt, who might just decide to mutilate, roast, and eat alive the whole OL for lunch. I'm through predicting anything (like SD wining in Denver last night?!). Yeah, we should win pretty comfortably, but yeah, it could look like last week as well. No idea. Some weeks I am glad I can't get the games on TV.
Yeah, they'll be shuffled around again. Satele is supposedly hurt while Thornton is back. So I think will mean AC, Thornton, McGlynn, Reitz, Cherilus.