Yesterday's game provided a lot of fodder for the complaint folder: the offense continues to rely heavily on the fullback, the Colts once again acted like a 3-point lead at the start of the 3rd quarter was an insurmountable lead, and the defense went from bad to good to bad faster than seasons 2, 3, and 4 of Heroes. And while each of those issues would, individually, be worthy of a gripe or two, let's be honest about a few things.
First, I didn't expect much this year from the Colts defense. Sure, they spent a lot of money improving the unit in the off-season, but the truth is, it still has quite a few holes, especially in the front-seven, where there is nary a dynamic play-maker to be found. Robert Mathis, who quietly has 3 sacks through 2 games, is great, but he is the only one along the Colts OLB/DL who can get after the QB. This forces the team to blitz.
Lack of pass rush leads to blitzing. Blitzing leads to one-on-one coverage in the secondary. One-on-one coverage in the secondary leads to suffering. The next thing you know, Andrew Luck is slaughtering a camp of Sand People for the fun of it.
As for the offense: yea, Stanley Havilis should be heard, not seen. And the sequence seen on the Colts 2nd drive of the 3rd quarter: pass to the FB, run, run, punt - when they had a 3-point lead and a chance to put the reeling Dolphins away - was inexcusable. But overall, when you factor in the loss of Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, and Donald Thomas, the Colts moved the ball pretty well. As a matter of fact, after taking a few deep breaths and re-watching the game, I think the offense played well enough to win.
So today's gripe-fest won't be about the offense or the defense. Not today. I'm sure they'll make appearances in future editions. But today? Today is reserved for a special group of strangers.
This week's Monday Morning Moaner honor belongs to Clete Blakeman and his merry band of "officials". First, who names their kid Clete? Isn't that what Europeans wear as they sully FOOTBALL'S good name? Name your kid Clete if you want comfortable, well-protected feet. Not if you want a COMPETENT NFL REFEREE. Now, I don't normally sink to whining about officials OR name calling (shut up, Blaine Gabbert), but Sunday's effort necessitated it.
You see, apparently, during a 60-minute football game between two (seemingly) even-matched teams, the Miami Dolphins committed, according to CLETE AND COMPANY, 0 penalties. This isn't a totally-rare occurrence mind you: it's happened so often that, as I try to research it, all of the sites list the number of teams to commit 0 penalties in a game as "many". That seems like a significant number. Still, let's consider that the Dolphins committed, on average, 5.2 penalties per game in 2012 and just last week, in their Week 1 victory over the Browns, they committed 10. So, without even watching the game, I'd find it hard to believe that the Dolphins suddenly found religion this week.
But I did watch the game. And let me tell you, sirs and madams, the Dolphins did actually engage in activities, which, were the game officiated by someone with a soul, would have been grounds for punishment (likely in the form of a penalty, except for Texas, where they would have received the death penalty).
1) 15:00 - 2nd quarter: Donald Brown is pushed out of bounds by the defender, then, once the duo is approximately 8-yards out of bounds (I'm very bad at guesstimating length, it's why I always have a tape measure with me wherever I go), the defender slams Brown to the ground. The play is so egregious that even the normally-"who gives a poo about officiating" announcers said it was a bad no call.
2) 14:55 - 2nd quarter (yes, the next play): Coby Fleener is running a seam route. He's beat his man. Andrew Luck throws him the ball. Coby goes to catch it, but the aforementioned defender decides to hook both of his arms! In some states, these two would be married. Reverend Clete was having none of that, however. No call.
3) 12:15, 3rd quarter: Andrew Luck's go-ahead TD pass to Coby Fleener is nullified by an "illegal shift" penalty on rookie WR and neophyte to NFL Rules Reggie Wayne. I've watched this play 100 times. The official who threw the flag is at the top of the formation. Reggie does come set for a second. Is it a SECOND? Or a second? And what degree of second is required for the official to be appeased? Said Reggie Wayne in his post-game comments: "I hope they're right. If they're not, it's gonna be a tough pill to swallow."
Coat that pill in peanut butter, Reggie. It helps it go down.
4) 11:00, 4th quarter: Andrew Luck is hit in the helmet by two fists and a helmet after the ball is gone (not that it matters). Clete, currently reading 50 Shades of Grey before its theatrical release, is unaware of the rule making it illegal to use fists on the QB in any manner. Who knows. Maybe Luck liked it.
5) 8:20, 4th quarter: Andrew Luck's deep pass to Reggie Wayne is intercepted by Brent Grimes. Unrelated: Brent Grimes holds Wayne during the route, then, in the end zone, pushes (with full extension) off of Wayne before intercepting the pass. Pass interference was introduced to the world in 1960. Clete Blakeman, unfortunately for the Colts, wasn't introduced to the world until 1964.
6) Colts penultimate play of the game, 4th quarter (duh): Griff Whalen is running a crossing route. Have you ever seen "Christmas Vacation"? Clark and Eddie are standing by the Christmas tree discussing Eddie's dog, Snotts? Eddie mentions that if Snotts gets a hold of your leg, to just let him go. In this scenario, Griff Whalen is your leg and Dolphins' CB Nolan Carroll is Snotts. As you might have guessed, Clete Blakeman is a big Chevy Chase fan, and appreciated the homage to one of his favorite movies. Instead of a flag, he gave a round of thunderous applause to Carroll for his acting job.
But seriously: pass interference, holding, unwanted advances... anything would have been appropriate in that situation, Clete.
Here's reality for the Colts: their roster isn't good enough to win games while overcoming hurdles. On Sunday, Clete Blakeman and his crew provided Andrew Luck and the Colts enough hurdles to qualify the team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And while this column has no problem making light of Sunday's officiating, the truth is, yesterday's game had very-real implications for the Colts. It was, in many ways, a must-win on a schedule that includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Chargers, and Broncos over the next five weeks. If the Colts wind up missing the playoffs by a game, no one will be laughing.
And Clete will deserve his name sake to the bottom side.
I´m reserving my judgment on the impact of officiating on the game until I see FO´s rankings, but meanwhile, Greg, gotta say, on fire again! "Reverend Clete" ? My ribs hurt. "Pass interference was introduced to the world in 1960. Clete Blakeman, unfortunately for the Colts, wasn't introduced to the world until 1964." ? Diaphragm gone awry.
Your winner, though, undoubtedly is, "Clete, currently reading 50 Shades of Grey before its
theatrical release, is unaware of the rule making it illegal to use
fists on the QB in any manner. Who knows. Maybe Luck liked it." If you top that this season (as you undoubtedly will), I´m gonna have to be interned for recurrent explosive laughter (which isn´t as Blaine Gabbert as it sounds, except for my neighbors in the middle of the night).
Your guest on your radio show yesterday stressed this point about the officiating, effecting the integrity of the game. I thought the secondary played shaky again including Toler. They have to let Luck use his natural ability to make plays when they have a chance to extend the lead. I thought Pagano was outcoached two games in a row, with his conservative style starting the second half.
More than like, the crap officiating will drive Luck over the edge.... He comes out at a special press conference tomorrow: They're like animals! And I slaughtered them like animals!
Just an FYI: According to PFF, Anthony Castonzo (+4.6) was the best performing player on the team and Mike McGlynn (-3.1) and Samson Satele (-3.1) tied for the worst. Surprise! For those of us hoping that Thornton would eventually replace McGlynn sometime this season, Thomas' season-ending injury was awful news.
I'm not seeing how the play calling was conservative in the second half. By my quick count, even before the last drive, the Colts had called 8 run plays and 13 pass plays. Again, excluding the last drive, on first downs in the second half, the Colts had 3 rushes and 5 passes. On the 3 out drive, it was pass, run, run. But running on 2nd and 3 and 3rd and 1 doesn't seem overly conservative to me. Especially the 3rd down play where they seemed to be trying to quick snap it and catch Miami off guard. On the 5 and out drive, they ran twice and threw 3 times. Again, it doesn't seem overly conservative to me.
Certainly the offense was much less effective in the second half. It seems like the Colts didn't adjust well to Miami clamping down on the wide receivers. I didn't, however, see a lot of evidence that they were happy to try and sit on a 3 point lead.
Yup. A pretty even game that bad penalties and no-calls tipped in the Dolphins favor.
I really want to know what the heck Pep/Pagano were thinking on that one fullback powered three and out though. Did the Dolphins have great coverage on those plays or something? It sure looked like the coaches figured they needed to play conservative and ice the three point lead in the third quarter. Hopefully they learned something and will be more aggressive in the future.
One area that I do think looked better was the pass protection. Yes Luck took a few hits, but for the most part the OL and backs held up against a pretty good front seven. Thornton looked decent too, or at least I didn't see any huge errors.
Here is what baffles me,
1. Why Ahmad Bradshaw was so heavily misused. On the first drive the guy cuts off two 9 yard runs and the O line is moving mountains, but a "power running" team can't take a gamble and go for it on the first drive on 4th and 1? Also, why is Donald Brown on the field to get pummeled by an ILB blitz on 4th and 10 the last play of the game? Isn' t that a key reason WHY we have Bradshaw, top pass blocking running back in football. It would be a bit more excusable had the running back even had a route drawn into the play, but it was clear he was in to block. Plus, it was after a timeout, so the opportunity to make that adjustment was there.
2. The illegal shift/motion call on Reggie Wayne was beyond terrible. Between that along with the no calls on some of the plays listed above completely confused me.
3. Antoine Bethea. Had to have been one of his worst games in a Colts Uniform. Just looked lost all day long.
4. How the Colts can play NOT to lose with a 3 point lead, rather than putting a game away at home. Look around the league at players like Peyton, Brady, or Brees, and those guys have coaches that are putting them into a position to take a 10 point lead and not have the weight of the world on their shoulders to have to come back because their defense can't stop a mediocre offense.
If Alanas Morissette were writing the soundrack to this game, I believe the Canadian Songbird would point out that along with a free ride when you have already paid, it is ironic that in a game where only three penalties were called one of those was for a phantom motion penalty.
Yeah, totally boned by the refs this weekend, but you'll have that every once in a while... The Stanford Offense, especially the Stanford 2 Minute drill is high on my list of things are really starting to bother me about this team. Usually the worst things about my favorite sports team are other fans (especially the smart ones). Now I know stuff (a little) and I'm sad. FWIW, the pass rush looked a little better (Werner!), and I thought the Colts raised their level of play as compared to the Raiders game. Fleener looked good too, finally.
I think the problem was too many pass attempts. How about some fullback dives to mix things up a little bit instead of running it with the running backs all the time. Maybe a Fullback Reverse? I'd line up 2 fullbacks instead of that 6th O lineman.
"The next thing you know, Andrew Luck is slaughtering a camp of Sand People for the fun of it."
If he starts doing very somber press conferences, breathing heavily into the microphone and speaking of new skills he has acquired to save Reggie Wayne, we should become worried.
Seriously, I just want to pretend that yesterday didn't happen. :(
Great read though, Greg.
@Goéland I am not going to spend the next 24 hours trying to come up with a better line... :(
@bradicus18 Where did you find these ratings? Do you need a special subscription to PFF.com to see them?
@bradicus18 this is the worst part of yesterday. I felt like Thornton acquitted himself quite nicely. An offensive line of Castonzo - Thomas - Satele - Thornton - Cherilus would have at least been approaching the realm of deliciously average. Instead... *sigh*
@bradicus18 Idea: Thornton in at LG and Holmes in at RG. Satele can keep his spot for now but he is on notice.
@bjg The lack of adjustment is a red flag, IMO. It might only be Pagano´s second season as a head coach, and not a full one at that, but unless you´re playing Washington´s defense, you won´t win many games by sitting back and waiting during the second half. 3 points? Really?
@steveb19 Regarding .1, Nate and others pointed out that Brown did well in blitz pickup in the game before that. I personally didn't chart his performance. Pagano also said that Brown is the Colts' 3rd down back. In addition, in that situation there were other Dolphins players that beat the blocks.
@DougEngland this is what really got me. How do you go from calling NOTHING on the Dolphins to calling 2 of the 3 calls on the Colts (the illegal shift and the holding on the Mike Wallace TD). I mean, the standards for a penalty for each team were vastly different.
@PacersCenter Like a band with four drummers and a bass player, I think this would be sweet. Get Luck out of there and direct snap to one of your four FBs. Added bonus, the D is so confused they can't key on any of those fleet-footed gazelles.
@PacersCenter John Conner is available!
@RvHauler1 complaining about the team is a fruitless endeavor. Nothing I say will change what they do. Complaining about the coaching is fruitless. Complaining about coverage is fruitless...
It's all the same. Just giving my opinion on something I feel is important.
@bradicus18 I'll bet $10 that Luck's on-screen romance with a canister vacuum cleaner would be more believable than the Christensen/Portman romance in Star Wars.
Greg, that was an awesome reference BTW. Really lifted the old Monday morning depression that I haven't felt too much since the early 80s and early 90s.
@bradicus18 I'm still a bit shocked. I think everyone (including the Colts) bought into Andrew Luck being invincible in late-game situations. Unfair to Luck, of course. The team has to do a better job of avoiding the need for these late-game heroics.
@codrutc @bradicus18 I do not have a subscription but I read their free stuff on the blog. This was from their reaction blog: https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/09/16/pff-reaction-blog-week-2/ They mention the three best and three worst performers from the game.
I'm sure the subscription stuff is good but I can bring myself to pay for it.
@codrutc @steveb19 Regardless of how good Brown was in Pass Pro prior to that game, he was the third ranked running back on the depth chart this time last week, and in a must win game, we have the BEST Pass Pro running back in the game sitting on the bench at that time. I understand others beat the blocks as well, but if you look at the play, Brown completely misses the ILB blitz and that player is the one who gets to #12
@GregC Obviously this crew was not going to call a lot of penalties. (Maybe CBS sent the word that they did not want this game bleeding over into the Manning Bowl.)
But when not even ONE defensive holding penality being called in favor of the home team, just seems unbelievable.
@Bobman1 I know. Entirely too much passing in this league. Entirely too much.
@naptown_ninja I bet Josh Chapman would make an excellent fullback!
@GregC @bradicus18 Seems like Pep's trying to turn him into a system "qb". Last year you could tell Luck was running for his life, making plays on instinct. That's one reason it was beautiful football. Now he gets into a hurry up situation and you can tell he's operating from a different script. He doesn't work the sidelines hard enough and is trying to hard to "rely on the run game to open up the pass." Luck was better last year when asked to justfuckingwingit
Your points on the blitzing are especially worrisome. When ILBs are a significant part of your sack numbers, you might be relying on blitzes too often. That works fine for young and poor pocket passers. But, one P. F. Manning will eat that up!
Me: "Wow, Peyton that was awesome! I'm glad I got to see that performance from you."
Peyton: "Yeah, well I wanted to make up for not doing it in Week 1."
Me: [Punches Peyton in the arm (left arm)]
Peyton: "Ow! What was that for!?!"
Me: "You big, dumb, big forehead guy! You couldn't have saved that for New England or something!?!"