Given the Colts dominant 27-7 victory over the 49ers, what I'm about to say may shock some people: Sunday's showdown with the 0-3 Jaguars is a must win game for the Indianapolis Colts.
No, I'm not trolling. I'm not trying to get a rise out of you with a controversial statement. The truth is, over the next 4 weeks the Colts play @ Jaguars, vs Seahawks, @ Chargers, vs Broncos. Three really tough games, and the Jaguars. This is the type of game that a playoff team doesn't lose. You only get so many opportunities to play the worst team in the NFL, you cannot afford to waste them.
So yes, the win over San Francisco was amazing. It was the best start-to-finish performance in the Chuck Pagano era. But if the Colts lose on Sunday, it will have meant nothing. And with that happy opener, let's break it down!
Tale of the tape
How do the Colts and Jaguars measure up against each other on offense and defense? Let us take a look. NFL.com conventional rankings are listed first, with FootballOutsiders.com advanced stats (DVOA) in parenthesis.
|Passing||26th (10th)||11th (11th)||29th (32nd)||9th (26th)|
|Rushing||4th (2nd)||26th (30th)||30th (32nd)||32nd (26th)|
|Total||12th (4th)||14th (21st)||32nd (32nd)||19th (28th)|
When the Colts have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Offense||Jacksonville Jaguars Defense|
|87 WR R. Wayne||93 LDE T. Alualu|
|80 TE C. Fleener||97 DT R. Miller|
|74 LT A. Castonzo||99 DT S. Marks|
|69 LG H. Thornton||58 RDE J. Babin|
|64 C S. Satele||55 OLB G. Hayes|
|75 RG M. McGlynn||51 MLB P. Posluszny|
|78 RT G. Cherilus||50 OLB R. Allen|
|81 WR D. Heyward-Bey||27 CB D. Gratz|
|12 QB A. Luck||37 SS J. Cyprien|
|39 FB S. Havili||25 FS D. Lowery|
|44 RB A. Bradshaw||23 CB A. Ball|
But it wasn't a perfect game, by any stretch. Here are my issues, in no particular order:
My point? You came out in a power running formation. This has the natural byproduct of compacting/compressing the defense's formation. Then you run a play action, which has the natural byproduct of pulling the defense in closer to the offense. Then you run all of your routes within 7yds of the line of scrimmage? What are you looking for out of this 1st-down passing play? I don't think they should be running any 1-WR sets on normal downs. If they are going to, at least have run routes that can take advantage of the image you've been building in the running game.
1. Put the Fullback where he belongs!
In the kitchen, cooking dinner The backfield - Leave the fullback on the sideline unless the team is in a power-running situation. I know, I know... that will never happen. So can we at least limit the fullback to the backfield? I feel like Picard in First Contact, "The line must be drawn HERE. THIS FAR. NO FURTHER!"
2. In the words of the prophet Miyagi: "Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, football good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand? - Let's really go after a bad Jaguars secondary and let Luck win this game with his arm. TY Hilton and Coby Fleener had relatively quiet games against the 49ers (but I loved Fleener's game: only 2 catches, but both times he had a chance to try to do too much, he didn't, and instead made the simple play), but the Jacksonville secondary will afford both of them the opportunity to get free and make big plays.
When the Jaguars have the ball
|Indianapolis Colts Defense||Jacksonville Jaguars Offense|
|90 DE C. Redding||94 WR C. Shorts III|
|97 NT A. Franklin||75 LT E. Monroe|
|95 DT F. Moala||65 LG W. Rackley|
|93 OLB E. Walden||63 C B. Meester|
|51 ILB P. Angerer||77 RG U. Nwaneri|
|50 ILB J. Freeman||76 RT L. Joeckel|
|98 OLB R. Mathis||89 TE M. Lewis|
|28 CB G. Toler||14 WR J. Blackmon|
|26 FS D. Howell||11 QB B. Gabbert|
|41 SS A. Bethea||45 FB W. Ta'ufo'ou|
|23 CB V. Davis||32 M. Jones-Drew|
What I'm watching for, defense:
1. Cut out the Cut back - The Colts defense was dominant on Sunday, but it did have one horrendous drive. That drive saw the 49ers go 91yards in 9 plays. 77 of those 91 yards came on the ground. The 49ers used a nice mix of cut-backs, misdirections, and draw plays all designed to exploit the Colts aggressive nature. There is NO running back in the league better at exploiting cut backs than MJD. The Colts should want the Jaguars to throw. They need to force them to throw by bottling up the running game and allowing no easy yards. Play fast, play aggressive, play disciplined. You did it on all but one drive Sunday against the 49ers. Do it every drive against the Jaguars.
2. Cecil Shortage - Shorts, III's last-minute catch in week 3 of 2012 was a dagger in the heart. He has the explosiveness to make every play into a big play. He's also the team's only real receiving threat. Like they did against Boldin of the 49ers, the Colts need to press, jam, suffocate Shorts. Force Gabbert to throw into tight windows. He'll make a bad throw more often than not.
3. BLAINE GABBBBBBBBBBBERT - There is no witty title here. IT'S BLAINE GABBERT. Be Aggressive. Be Be Aggressive. Attack him. Attack him with blitzes. Attack him with disguised coverages. Attack him with aggressive plays in the secondary. The dude stinks. Whether or not it's by choice or just an unfortunate habit, the guy is trying to turn the ball over. Accept his gifts. Seriously, Blaine Gabbert better not beat this team.
Keys to the game (Besides outscoring your opponent)
1. Protect Luck (For the fourth-consecutive week!) - I'm on autopilot at this point, to be frank. The Jaguars are tied for 24th in sacks with 6. They have 26th-ranked pass rush according to PFF's stats. And they rank 17th in Adjusted Sack Rank. Given how the offensive line played against the 49ers, even with the absence of C Samson Satele (or is that because of his absence?), the Colts should find some success in pass blocking on Sunday. If they do, I expect/hope Luck and the Colts to take some shots down field.
The Colts' offense was patient on Sunday. Luck didn't try to force any bad passes, he took what the defense was giving him, and eventually they found enough holes to earn a victory. On Sunday, those big plays will be there. I hope the Colts look for them. Being a ground-and-pound offense is all well and good, but the pay off for that commitment to the run has to be explosive passing plays off of the play-action.
2. Make Explosive Plays in the Passing Game - I covered the thought process behind this in key 1. Let's look at some stats now:
The Jaguars rank 26th in pass defense according to DVOA. That's bad, but let's look deeper. They rank 30th in covering #1 WRs (Hello, Reggie Wayne!), 8th against #2 WRs (don't worry, DHB, more good news coming!), 30th against "Other" WRs - think TY should be able to exploit this defense? - and 32nd against TEs (another big day for Fleener?). While those are just "ranks", look at how those ranks line up with real Colts players: 3 of their best receiving targets - Wayne, Hilton, and Fleener - have favorable match-ups. This is the week that the Colts passing game needs to go off. In a good way. (For those interested, PFF ranks the Jags 25th in pass coverage)
3. Get on em Early - The last thing you want to do with a bad team is give them any reason to live. No hope, no prayer, no thoughts of an amazing upset. Score early, score often, score a lot. I believe more in Xs and Os and advanced stats than in rah-rah speeches, emotions, and psychology, but there's no denying that the Jags are a bad team, and bad teams start to look for reasons to lose. At 0-3, their season isn't quite over. If they were to beat the Colts, 1-3 isn't the end of the world, especially in a volatile AFC. But they are expected to lose. They are 9.5pt underdogs. If the Colts get a 14pt lead early, watch the body language. Watch how they move. Is there a belief that this offense can come back from a big deficit? Let's find out.
4. Suffocate em on Defense - This one's simple. Just attack. Don't give up the big play. They are going to complete passes, that's fine, don't give up yards after the catch. They are going to run the ball, that's fine, too. Don't give up yards after contact. Make nothing easy for the Jaguars. Make them work for everything. They don't have the talent at any position to grind out 10-play, 80-yard drives.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not taking the Jaguars lightly. I believe they are the worst team in the NFL, but the worst team in the NFL generally wins around 2 games. DON'T BE ONE OF THE TWO!
The injury reports
NOTE: This guide comes out Thursdays, official injury statuses are not released until Friday, the Probable or Questionable designation in these reports is based on Wed/Thur participation only.
|LB Pat Angerer||KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|S Antoine Bethea||TOE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|RB Ahmad Bradshaw||NECK (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DT Ricky Jean-Francois||GROIN (QUESTIONABLE)|
|S LaRon Landry||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|C Samson Satele||ELBOW (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DE Jason Babin||NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)|
|CB Alan Ball||GROIN (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DB Will Blackmon||HEAD (QUESTIONABLE)|
|WR Stephen Burton||HEAD (QUESTIONABLE)|
|QB Blaine Gabbert||HAND (I HOPE SO)|
|CB Dwayne Gratz||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|RB Maurice Jones-Drew||ANKLE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|TE Marcedes Lewis||CALF (QUESTIONABLE)|
|DB Dwight Lowery||HEAD (QUESTIONABLE)|
|C Brad Meester||NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)|
|DT Roy Miller||ELBOW/KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|G Uche Nwaneri||KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)|
|LB JT Thomas||HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)|
Series note and a video
- The Colts and Jaguars have played 24 times in the regular season, with the Colts holding a 16-8 edge.
Identifying the coverage
Who(Visually): Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots
Who(Audio): Bob Lamey and Jim Sorgi
Is the Game on in your area? Good question! The people at 506Sports will be able to tell you.
Officiating Crew: John Parry
Colts - 24, Jaguars - 10
Pep Hamilton may be a reader of this site because he kind of touched on some of the issues discussed here in his press conference today.
This is the game that Pep Hamilton should stretch the field. The Jaguars are the worst passing defense in the league and features three rookie starters. The Colts should break out of their power run mode here and go vertical to attack this weakness. I'd love to see the power game should they establish dominance through the air.
Defensively the Colts should be able to get to the QB as the Jaguars offensive line may be switching from zone blocking to man to help the run game. This transition is going to leave the Jags scratching their head. That confusion/transition should open the door for situational blitzing on passing downs.
I totally agree on play action. I don't know if the stats actually show that a running game helps play action, but I would love to see more of is simply because Luck has been very effective with it in the past. If Richardson actually makes scars the defense like they seem to think he does, then they should be running play action like crazy with him on the field.
When it comes to playing conservatively, I wonder if comes from Pagano rather than Pep. The Cardinal put up a lot of points with Luck and Pep and they also had and excellent deep passing game. Pep was after all the Andrew Luck coordinator of offense. You would think that he knows how important it is to involve Luck and the get the passing game going.
starting FBs at Stanford during Pep's years:
2010 Owen Marecic - also starting ILB
2011 Ryan Hewett
2012 Ryan Hewett - still at Stanford (5th year Sr)
You missed one key component to all Jaguars games.
1a) Never let Scobee kick a long FG against the Colts
1B Never let Scobee kick a career long GW FG against the Colts
I swear to all the holy and unholy gods that the Colts are the sole reason Scobee and Bironas get such fat contracts.
@b_random1021 yeah this absolutely explains my issues too. No explosiveness and way too tame/predictable in reagrds to whether we pass/run
As a Mizzou grad reading your stuff, I feel like I am walking around with an undiagnosed groin pull. I am laughing at your Gabbert jokes, but it sure does hurt.
My fear is that the Jags will do what the 49ers should have done... Just run the ball. (Great mysteries... Who watches "Two and A Half Men" anymore? Does anyone really think Greg's fellow Canadian Howie Mandell is funny? Why did Frank Gore only touch the ball 4 times in the second half against the Colts?)
And finally, what is more amazing, that the miracle 2012 Colts went 11-5 or that one of those losses was to the Gabbert led Jags at home?
I'll be at the game. Coach, if you're listening, do not lose! Oh, and play T.Y. Hilton, throw the ball, and fire Erik Walden. Thanks!
Yes, Greg, the fullback should be making dinner. If I see Havili on the sideline in a "Kiss the Cook" apron next to a grill, you can take the rest of the season off. I really do want to see T.Y. turning on the afterburners and he has to be on the field. I don't expect the Colts to miss Ricky Jean No Dash, Please Francois this week, anyways.
Good stuff, as always!
My biggest frustration of the Manning era was the lack of ability to "put games away" by running clock. I sincerely hope that the Colts come out firing (like they did last week) but instead of getting up one score and slowing it down, they wait until they are up 2. In a perfect world, we'd see Luck with 200 yards passing in the first half (with 2 TDs) and 130 yards rushing in the second half. That is real balance in this NFL.
My hope is based on the fact that the play calling and personnel groupings have gotten better every week by Pep, so I simply hope that trend continues.
@codrutc Where is that press conference? I can't find anything on the Colt's website.
@andreaallennyc Well, now I can't say I don't know who they are...
I'm assuming Marecic must be relatively athletic to play both FB and LB. Not sure on Hewett. Either way, my point is still valid. Stanley Havili in college can do more lined up wide than Stanley Havili in the NFL.
@davidVSeveryone my concern is that Sunday's win will keep them dedicated to running, even in bad situations. They need to let luck loose
@DougEngland I just watched the 90-minute condensed version of Colts/9ers, which brings my total to viewing times to 4 (3 replays). I STILL CANNOT FIGURE OUT WHY GORE GOT 0 CARRIES AFTER THE FIRST DRIVE OF THE 3RD QUARTER!
I came into this not wanting to write too many Blaine Gabbert jokes. Figured that would be too obvious. But then I looked at Blaine Gabbert's stats. Whatever.
I do worry that the Jaguars have a way to win this game, and it is via the running game. That's in the back of my mind. It's there. But Andrew Luck should not lose to Blaine Gabbert. The coaching staff can absolutely make sure this doesn't come down to the 4th quarter.
@bradicus18 I don't know why I put the dash in there. I'm a horrible person. I'll stick to RJF from now on. I just like typing the name for some reason.
ENJOY THE GAME! I've been to a few in Jacksonville. They are always fun, the opposing fans are never hostile, etc...
Agree with everything else. Let TY be TY, pleeeeeeeeeeease.
@Music Man Did you forget the pre knee injury Edge teams? #32 was so punishing that by the 4th Quarter, Peyton used to say that teams did not want to tackle him anymore because it hurt so much.
@Music Man The Manning offenses could do it, they just did it via passing. Sure, it's a bit riskier because of the clock-stoppage risk, but... yards are yards.
And while I know this is a hope and dream more than anything, I would prefer the Colts (this era) find a way to not have to worry about bleeding the clock every game. They abandon aggressive passes way too early once they have a lead.
There's an article by Stephen Holder today on Pagano's philosophy. I don't think this is going to change.
@b_random1021 agreed. That shits gonna get shut down at some point. If we don't attack a bad jags secondary, it'll speak volumes about pep
@GregC My loyalties to my fellow Mizzou alum aside, your jokes about him are worth it. (And he got his one career highlight against the Colts last year, so screw him.)
Good to know about Jacksonville fans. I remember attending the losing effort in Tampa in 2011 under Curtis Painter. Tampa fans were so happy to rub it in our face that they beat the Colts. Silly Tampa fans.
@GregC @Music Man I'd be fine if they ran every play once the actually had a 14+ point lead. What I don't like is how they start trying to grind out the clock when they have a 3 point lead. I know the defense played well last Sunday, but you just can't sit on that small a lead and expect to win unless you're the 1985 Bears.
@andreaallennyc i'm not 100% sure they'll see your comment. Their conversation is taking place on twitter. LiveFyre grabs some comments from twitter (but ignores some, I have no clue how it works)
Well, to state the obvious, this is exactly the type of offense Luck led in college with great success. I would like Luck to have options at the line ... To be set free in that sense (if he isn't). When he did in college, he'd run or pass depending on how he read the defense ... And he often picked the run. My guess is that there won't be another game with as high a % of runs as the SF game. I think the Colts will vary between 45-55% for each, depending the needs of the specific game ... I'm cool with that. My only concern about this offense is that they don't have the OL that he had in college ... So we'll have to see if they can succeed with their power runs ....
@b_random1021 as long as there is zero HB tosses and we minimize those stupid 3rd down screens, I'll be happy
@davidVSeveryone pagano too. He wants a run first team...but when Luck is your QB, YOU CALL YOUR PLAYS LIKE HE'S YOUR QB! It's frustrating
@andreaallennyc Frank Gore's last hand-off came with over 12 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Even if the Colts made adjustments, it's just bad coaching to not even attempt it with someone getting over 7yards-per-carry. I'm a huge HUGE Jim Harbaugh fan, and I think they made some mistakes in play calling.
I don't have a theoretical or emotional problem with the power run concept. I've seen it work and think it can be exciting, effective, whatever (Stanford, the 49ers, thought not Sunday!). I'm not convinced that it will or won't work for the Colts because they may not have the personnel to make it work. For their level (college not NFL), Stanford is a much bigger, tougher team than the Colts (both lines, especially). For decades Stanford was a finesse QB driven team ... that was fine too though not consistently successful for them. I'm all for winning and am OK with whatever works. Like many of you, I do go nuts when calls get conservative...
@GregC @hankster @Music Man @andreaallennyc I'm not worried about his development yet. It's the entire teams 3rd game in a new offense with an OC that has called 3 pro games and a HC that has less than a full season. I did forget to mention how much I agreed with the down the field routes earlier though.
@hankster @GregC @Music Man I guess I wasn't that clear. I think the Colts should be much more "pass first" early. With a ratio that helps them establish a lead. Preferable one that is 3 scores. But I don't see that happening with Pagano. So 2 scores would be better than what happened in SF when they went conservative after the first TD.
Specifically @GregC the clock stopping is what I am referring to. Manning nearly always got the ball to the right guy. However, the receiver can't always catch it. Those incomplete's really add up over a quarter.
@GregC @hankster @Music Man @andreaallennyc Fair enough. I know Manning will always been the prototype of a great QB for Nate (and with good reason). Personally, I see Luck's skills and his running of a west-coast system more akin to Rodgers. It's not Manning and Moore 2.0, but I'd gladly take something like the Green Bay offense (with a running game) down the road.
I noticed something in the 49ers game that *really* concerned me. I need more than 3 games before I make this into a thing, though. I'll be going back to it at the bye. I'll let everyone know what it is then, if it's anything at all.
Greg, what do you think about Nate's suggestion that Luck will regress in Pep's offense. It might hurt his chances of turning into Manning, but not every great QB has to be just like Manning.
@hankster @GregC @Music Man I don't think 14 points, in a vacuum, is a big enough lead to just abandon the pass. 14pts in the 4th quarter? Maybe. 14pts in the 1st quarter? No way. Look at Colts-Dolphins. They had an 11-pt lead and the Colts erased it and had a lead in 3 drives. I'm fine with becoming more of a power running team when you have that lead, but you still have to aggressively try to extend drives.