Colts 27 Broncos 13
Colts 27 Broncos 13
As a happily married man of 11 years, I've got plenty of love advice.
Item #1: The NFL is bad for romance.
Welcome to the non-twitter using version of the 18to88.com Twitter feed. Each week I'll be discussing the game live on Twitter using a follow list. As always, I invite you to join in the conversation. The easiest way is to use a Twitter App like Tweet Deck. Then you can reply and interact in real time. If you don't use Twitter, the Cover-it-Live app below will be publishing the tweets from the list. Remember that if you reply on Cover-it-Live, moderation may be slow and none of the people on Twitter will see your responses. Because of work obligations, I'll activate Cover it Live fairly early today. IT WILL NOT BE MODERATED until around game time. Don't bother commenting before 4 PM because no one will be tending the feed.
I have to work today, so I might miss the start of the game. If you don't see me commenting for a while, there's nothing wrong. I'll get to it as soon as I can.
Garcon, Session and Brandon King did not travel to Denver. UPDATE: Blair White has been signed and Humbler has been cut.
By the way, if anyone is willing to moderate tomorrow's 'chat' portion of the Twitter feed, please email me.
18 Things to Watch For in Sunday's Colts Broncos Game
This is scary on soooo many levels.
Last week the Colts erased all fears and in the process destroyed the Giants. Now they head back on the road to take on the Broncos. The Colts have had their way with Denver in recent years, and will need to get the best of them one more time if they hope to have a winning record for the first time this season. This week, watch for...
1. Watch the Ace. With Pierre Garcon hurting, it stands to reason that the Colts will use a lot of their two tight end set. Frankly, it's a welcome change. The two TE grouping creates more flexibility than the three wide package. The Manning can seamlessly check from run to pass plays knowing that he can use Dallas Clark however he wants. After a strong game by Brody Eldrige blocking last week, watch for more playing time by the rookie.
Editor's note: Please welcome Joe Baker (aka Shake n Bake) to the 18to88 fold. He's a personal favorite of mine. You can check out his previous work on Stampedeblue.com and the Washington Post's The League Blog. Joe is one of the most popular Colts' writers, and I'm thrilled to bring him on as a partner in the 18to88 fold. We'll post a bio soon.
With Broncos starting CBs Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman yet to practice this week and availability for Sunday in serious question it looks very possible Peyton Manning and the Colts elite group of targets will be working against a group of corners with 3 rookies and a career backup among it's top 4.
If Bailey's foot and Goodman's ankle keep them out the Broncos will start rookie Perish Cox and a man with more years in the league than career starts, Nate Jones. Cox was a 5th round pick known more for his return skills than his CB play, but his blazing speed and solid size led many to think he could play CB in the NFL. The knocks on Cox (besides character concerns) were technique issues and just 2 games into his rookie year those aren't likely to be fixed. The other possible starter for Denver is Nate Jones, a 7th round pick of the Cowboys who clung onto the end of the roster for 4 years, contributed as a reserve for 2 years in Miami and arrived in Denver this offseason.
While the Colts may have to draw WR depth from their TEs, RBs and/or Practice Squad if Garçon joins Gonzalez on the sidelines, the Colts haven't hesitated to spread it out on offense while thin at WR. Clark, Tamme and Addai are all dangerous out at WR. If the Broncos regular starters are down the Colts will be able to attack the bottom of their CB barrel. 3rd string for the Broncos are rookie 7th rounder Syd'Quan Thompson and undrafted rookie Cassius Vaughn, a fantastically named duo, but not one likely to hold up against Peyton Manning and the Colts targets.
Further pointing to the major (quite likely fatal) blow the the Broncos both starting CBs sitting would be is FO's breakdown of Denver's D vs receiver types. The Broncos have the 3rd best VOA in the league against #1 WRs and 9th best against #2, holding them on average to under 70 yards a game, combined. However, the Broncos rank 26th in the league against "Other WRs" giving up nearly as many yards to 3rd and lesser WRs as to their opponents starting pair. Those opponents, by the way, have been the Jags and Seahawks, neither quite possessing a murderer's row of WRs.
In the seemingly likely event that the Broncos are down one or both starters at CB, the backups look ripe for Peyton and his targets' plucking, and we won't even get into what Eldridge could open up from Addai and Brown against their #28 ranked run D.
Normally, this is a "links" kind of story, but when I saw it this morning, I knew it had to get more attention. On Monday, Peter King listed his five most feared pass rushers over the next five years. Because he was trying to list younger players, he omitted Freeney.
Perhaps Freeney got edged out because he's 30. But it still didn't sit well with him.
"So I guess it's over?" he said, shaking his head.
Freeney is curious to know who NFL foes would prefer to face, him or Orakpo? "Would you rather see him or would you rather see me?"
What would be ideal, Freeney said, is a survey of the opposition.
"There has to be something said for longevity and consistency," he said. "There's only one year I didn't get hurt where I didn't have the stats. And look at how many fewer pass attempts we had against us.
Freeney is a smart man. Other than Manning, he does more interviews and makes more noise than any Colt. He's clearly positioning himself for a post-playing career in the media. He's 100% right in this case, but if you note his overall strategy for media exposure, it's also brilliant.
He loves the media spotlight and is gaining a rep as a savvy interview and a smooth talker.
It should serve him well...
once he's done being the most feared pass rusher in the NFL for the next five years.
A few disclaimers:
1. Due to scheduling conflicts caused by a funeral, Luke and I only covered 6 plays together.
2. I tried to cover the rest myself as an experiment. I'll never do it again. I'm sorry for the result.
3. There was some ambient noise because of the way I recorded my section. Nothing I could do about it.
Basically, it's not my finest effort. I'm sorry. From now on, if we can't do it together, I'll just post write ups. I tried something. I didn't like the results.
Watch for Eyes tomorrow.
As part of the discussion of my post yesterday, many 'truisms' about football came up.
Readers suggested that we instinctively know that line play matters for a variety of reasons. One of the suggestions was that better line play means more rushing yards, which helps the Colts play action and makes the offense better. While that certainly makes logical sense, I wanted to test to see if it was accurate.
I've taken a variety of statistics to see if any of them produce any correlation to positive outcomes for the Colts since 1999. I certainly don't think that offensive line play never matters to any team, but merely that I don't know how much it affects the Colts' ability to win games and score points. The Colts present a rare opportunity to watch one offensive system with the same quarterback, and relatively low skill player turnover for an entire decade. My hypothesis is that offensive line play has become less important to winning in recent years, and that Manning (and theoretically other QBs of a similar ilk) can mask poor line play. The first step is to see which of the stats have a correlation on positive outcomes. Note: These sample sizes are small. That's the nature of the beast.
18to88 reader Kasey_junk is back with another look at the tape. This week he breaks down a stop by the Colts D.
Picking the drive to chart this week was much more difficult than last week. The offensive line play is intriguing. They clearly did a better job than last week, but I suspect that they are getting more credit than they deserve. On the defensive side of the ball there were myriad drives that would have been great to relive (the strip sack for a TD comes to mind). Conversely, I could have charted the one defensive drive that allowed a meaningful score. Instead, I chose a drive that I believe embodies the Colts defensive vision. Even the biggest optimist can't hope that every drive ends in a 3 and out, or that the Freeney/Mathis causes a TD.
I think if you ask the Colts defensive players what they are really looking for are drives that even though the opponent makes progress, they frequently end up in positions where they must get lucky. At the end of the day, the Colts just aren't built to keep offenses from getting yards, they are built to keep them from scoring touchdowns.
With that in mind, the drive I chose was a longish drive by the Giants. It started on the Giants 28 yard line with 3:13 left in the first quarter. The Giants had the ball for 4:16 and 7 plays. The Colts were up 7-0. The Colts had just had 2 offensive series that were 3 and outs. The game was still very much undecided.
1st & 10 from the Giants 28
Giants Formation: 6 Offensive Lineman/2 WR to the right right next to the line 1 WR split left
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: Run right (half-back through the 2 gap between the C/RG) for 3 yards. D Line holds the point of attack. King/Mookie make the tackle.
- Freeney is blocked by the LT
- Mookie blocked by the LG but sheds him and gets to the point of attack.
- King blocked by the RG with help from the C who releases and moves to the next level to block Brackett.
- Mathis blocked well out of the play by the RT.
- Connor/Wheeler blocked by WRs but both shed and are close to the play when the tackle is made.
- The extra RG the Giants brought in runs himself out of the play trying to block a DB who was not playing run support.
2nd & 7 from the Giants 31
Giants Formation: 2 TE (1 on each side)/2 WR
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: 1 yard pass right to TE in flat. Connor gets first contact (which might have been for a loss) but the TE spun out. He is then ganged tackled by about 5 Colts.
- Freeney is 1 step too late getting to QB (the LT whiffed on a spin move).
- King gets penetration being blocked by the C/LG. The LG releases too late to help with Freeney.
- Mookie is well blocked by the RG.
- Mathis is well blocked by the RT.
- Wheeler covers the left side TE out of the play.
- Brackett covers the HB coming out of the back field and runs out of the play.
- Connor covers the right side TE.
3rd & 6 from the Giants 32
Giants Formation: 4 WR (3 left, 1 right)/ 1 TE
Colts Formation: Dime with Brackett/Bethea showing blitz.
Play: Incomplete pass over the middle. Hayden is called for pass interference. This is a very tough call. Hayden was playing about as good defense as you could get and knocked the ball out of Nicks' hand.
- Freeney is well blocked by the LT
- Brackett (started the play standing at the LOS) is blocked by the C.
- Foster stunts behind Brackett and is blocked by the LG.
- Bethea pulls back from the blitz into coverage.
- Dawson (playing RDT) is blocked by the RG.
- Mathis is blocked by the RT with help from the chipping TE.
1st and 10 from the Giants 46
Giants Formation: 3 WR (2 left 1 right)/ 1 FB (HB and FB move to the LOS pre-snap leaving an empty backfield)
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard.
Play: QB scramble right for 6. Ran out of bounds by Muir.
- Wheeler/Brackett/Connor all release into coverage.
- Moala sheds LG/C double team and causes the scramble.
- Dawson blocked by the LT and C (who after getting beat by Moala moves to Dawson).
- Muir blocked by RG (he gets penetration and pulls back when the QB scrambles)
- Foster blocked by the RT.
2nd and 4 from the Ind 48
Giants Formation: 6 O Linemen (extra on left side)/ 1 TE (left side) / 2 WR (1 on left side in close, 1 split right)
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: 5 yard run to the left (outside the TE, inside the WR). Powers gets the tackle. Defensive line is pushed back about a yard.
- TE blocks Foster
- Extra O Lineman blocks Wheeler
- LT/LG double Moala. LG releases.
- C/RG double Muir.
- RT blocks Dawson.
- Connor reacts correctly to the play but is blocked into Muir by the LG.
- Brackett starts into coverage. Reverses and is there to help with the tackle.
- Powers is blocked by a WR. He sheds his block and makes the tackle.
1st and 10 from the Ind 44
Giants Formation: 2 TE (1 each side)/2 WR (1 each split wide)
Colts Formation: 4-3
Play: 2 yard run left outside the LT. Tackle by Connor/Brackett.
- Dawson holds the point of attack against the LT (who might have been trying to block him for an inside run).
- Muir holds the point of attack against LG/C double.
- Moala holds the point of attack against the RT with a RG chip.
- Foster is run away from. TE seals him away from the play.
- Wheeler plays his gap correctly, play is away from him.
- Bracket avoids the releasing RG to run to the play.
- Connor sheds a TE blcok to make the initial contact.
2nd and 8 from the Ind 42
Giants Formation: 2 TE/ 2 WR. 1 WR split left. Other WR and both TE in trips formation to the right.
Colts Formation: 4-3
Play: 1 yard run between LG/LT (with RG and 1 TE pulling into the gap). Tackle by Connor.
- Mathis run away from.
- King holds the point of attack against a RT/C double.
- Mookie is blown well out of the play by the LG.
- Wheeler is both run away from and blatantly held by the non-pulling TE.
- Freeney is blocked by the LT (it appears he is attempting to keep contain).
- Connor sheds the pulling TE/RG double team to make the play (outstanding work).
- Brackett avoids Mookie (being blown up by the LG) and is in position to backup Connor.
3rd and 7 from the Ind 40.
Giants Formation: 3 WR (2 to the right, 1 left), 1 TE (left), shotgun formation with HB.
Colts Formation: Dime with 3 down linemen and Dawson standing to the left of Freeney (far outside). Brackett is showing blitz (right side).
Play: Eli running for his life and throwing it away.
- Brackett is blocked by the RT.
- Mathis is doubled by the RG/C
- Foster pulls up and is not blocked (I assume he is either in coverage, or is there to contain a draw/qb scramble)
- Freeney splits a LG/LT double causing the QB to run out of the pocket. Freeney trips before he gets the sack.
- Dawson follows Freeney in and chases QB after Freeney trips.
This led to a punt by the Giants.
I believe this is the sort of drive that the Colts would be happy with every time. There was only 1 play that really went against them (the 5 yard run) and that play relied on a super jumbo package. Even the pass interference was worth taking. If Hayden can play that kind of defense every time against first rate WR, I'll take the occasional penalty. If you look at the play calling it was very similar to the kinds of things the Texans were doing the previous week. There were 3 main differences to me:
- Our linebacker play was much improved. There were no plays on this drive where it was obvious the linebackers were in the wrong place.
- Our second set of D tackles played a much better game. Mookie had one play were he was absolutely destroyed, but for the most part they looked good. King was much improved.
- A couple of outstanding plays. Moala's early pressure, Connor's beating a double team, and Freeney blowing through the offensive line on the last play of the drive are all examples of just good work by a single player making all the difference.
I don't like to make player judgements with so little evidence, but it is starting to seem obvious to me that Moala did not get the starting role based on anything other than his merits. The drop off between him and Mookie has been pretty startling on both of the drives I charted. I will have to endeavor to avoid confirmation bias in the future because of how much I like Moala's play.
Connor also looked outstanding on this drive. I'm a huge Session fan, so I'm not looking for him to be replaced (especially with so little evidence) but between my impressions of Angerer and Connor I am well satisfied with our backup linebackers.
I am currently using my own made up charting system. I suspect that there are much better ways to do this. If anyone that can suggest a website, book, or other reference that can teach a more standard method for this, I'd really appreciate it.