“The Stew” illuminates the highlights and headaches from each week’s game. If someone is overlooked, whether positively or negatively, please feel free to discuss.
[caption id="attachment_2086" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="The Colts are still winless after eight long weeks."]09000d5d823999f4_gallery_600
Another week of the 2011 season is in the books and the Colts collectively failed to show up, once again. Even though the Titans pretty much had the game wrapped up at the half, leading 20-0, the Colts gathered some "momentum" in the second half. Whatever it was, it didn't last long. Jim Caldwell further proved his "worth" by deciding to kick a FG on 4th and 2, despite being down by 20 in the 3rd friggin' quarter.
This game could have certainly been worse, so I'll do my best to extract some positives and optimism from Nashville. Regardless, I think we've all become quite accustomed to the ugliness that is known as the 2011-12 Indianapolis Colts.
Every Sunday the Colts look more and more like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day
. It doesn't matter what they do, they always
wake up in the same exact situation. However, I'm still holding onto hope that I'll be able to eventually write one of these things on the winning side before it's too late.
0-16 is only eight games away...
The Main Ingredients:
I still don't understand why this guy isn't getting the ball more consistently and earlier in the game. He runs extremely hard and seems to net at least five yards every time he carries the ball. After showing some attitude and determination last week, Carter carried the same ingredients over to this Sunday. This guy is the real deal. Everyone can see that, but despite his proven abilities, Carter still only managed to see the ball 9 times resulting in 46 yards and a 5.1 AVG. Carter was being limited right out of the gate, so I'm not going to blame his lack of carries on the Titans' lead. The o-line may have new faces every week, but their run blocking has been very serviceable and a total waste. Painter threw the ball 49 times. If we ever plan on winning a game this season, that formula isn't going to work.
Clark hit his cuts cleanly, ran perfect routes, and overall just looked extremely crisp (We FINALLY executed a TE screen properly!). This was probably Clark's best game of the season and the most reminiscent of the Pro Bowler form of Clark that we all love. Statistically, Clark led the way with 6 catches for 77 yards and a nice 12.8 AVG. If Peyton Manning is ready to go in 2012, this offense will once again be unstoppable with a healthy Clark and Austin Collie. That should be a no-brainer for anyone, but there were definitely some doubts after both suffered season-ending injuries. More so with Collie.
Garcon may not be your prototypical possession receiver, but he has made leaps and bounds in 2011, continually improving his ability to hold onto the ball. Garcon made a very clutch catch on 3rd and 8, which is most likely a drop if this takes place a year ago. The new Garcon is starting to make the important catches that he always seemed to drop before, and he continues to constantly beat guys deep. Much like the first play of the game last week, Garcon torched Titans' CB Jason McCourty for an easy TD, but of course, Painter overthrew him (missed Garcon a couple of times). Garcon missed out on yet another
big day. If Garcon doesn't cash in big with Indy in 2012, he definitely will somewhere else.
This was probably the most involved Collie has been all season and it still wasn't enough. Why was he more involved, you ask? It's quite simple. Peyton Manning was clearly getting involved on a majority of the plays, especially in the third quarter (when we had a chance). There was a point where the camera clearly showed Manning talking in Clyde Christensen's ear, directing three straight plays that favored Collie. One of these plays was identical to the one that sent Collie to the IR with his 3rd concussion of 2010. This is how I know Collie is back to his old form. His talent was obviously never a concern, but I always wondered if he would be able to overcome the thought of hesitating when entering the slot. I was worried about his route running suffering because of it, but from this game I could see that he's clearly over his injury and Colts' fans should be very happy about this. It's a pleasure watching him and his routes/execution is really a thing of beauty. Welcome back, AC.
Angerer continues to do his job and more, sticking him a top the NFL with 90 tackles. The closest to Angerer is NaVorro Bowman of the 49ers with 68... This puts Angerer on pace for around 200 tackles in a single season. You can say whatever you want about tackles and what they mean (d-line isn't doing their job, blah, blah...), but Angerer is just a total ball hawk. He had 10 tackles and two for a loss against the Titans. The guy never quits and is the model of determination. A diamond in the rough, if you will.
Once again, this offensive line, who likes to play musical chairs every week, managed to open up some holes for Carter (5.1 AVG) and Donald Brown (3.3 AVG). After getting blown up time after time in pass protection, Seth Olsen was replaced by Jamey Richard who came into the game and played infinitely better. I'm not sure why Olsen even got the start, but this is the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff we're talking about. Jeff "Get in the Basement" Saturday continues to play at a high level, so I'm not exactly worried about the o-line's future when everyone is healthy. They have been consistently solid in run blocking, injuries and all.
After the Saints game, I mentioned that it was hard to really judge how effective Thomas can be in such a ridiculous setting via the Weekly Matchup Preview
. This week the kid would be able to show what he's got, and I think he did. Thomas wasn't Darrelle Revis or anything, but he was clearly exceptional in coverage and a definite improvement over Jacob Lacey and Terrence Johnson. He made some rookie mistakes, but he's clearly learning. Thomas provided beautiful coverage while shadowing Nate Washington on a deep ball, with Antoine Bethea helping over the top. Thomas inadvertently caused a missed INT for Bethea on the deflection, but he was doing his job and was all over Washington on this play. I'll take that kind of effort any day of the week.
The defense as a whole looked surprisingly sound until about the third quarter. Chris Johnson wasn't going anywhere with 34 yards on 14 carries (measly 2.3 AVG), but Javon Ringer started to take over and managed 60 yards on the same amount of carries with a stout 4.3 AVG. This goes to show the problem is indeed Johnson. I'm not sure what that problem is, but he's not the same guy. He made our run defense look a lot better in this game, aided by some special play from Angerer and Tyler Brayton. If we didn't manage Johnson so well, the run D goes under Spoiled Goods. Thanks, "CJ2K". You are now, "CJI". I for irrelevant.
The Spoiled Goods:
Painter was hit six times, two of those resulting in a sack. It could have been worse, but thanks to some nifty scrambling in the fourth quarter, Painter bailed the o-line out from a totally disastrous performance. It seemed like everyone but
Saturday was constantly getting blown up and causing the pocket to quickly disintegrate. Olsen stood out the most, but I noticed miscues from Mike Tepper and Jeff Linkenbech quite often. As I mentioned, things got better with Richard (great block on the Donald Brown TD) but there is no way in hell that Peyton Manning could play behind this line. This o-line is definitely "bad" (protection wise), as Bill Polian stated on his weekly radio spot
(notes from the show compliments of @StampedeBlue), but I think they've certainly exceeded expectations with all of the injuries. They've kept the run productive and play-action blocking was exceptional on Sunday.
Another Sunday without a defensive turnover to file in the record books. That makes five straight games. "Winning the turnover battle is the ONLY chance for the Colts’ to remain competitive.
Thanks to two INTs, one from perfect coverage by McCourty, and the other on a low, tipped pass from Painter, the Titans banged out 14 points. That's the difference in winning and losing. We commit turnovers on offense and they don't.
Colts ST has always been a joke and this year is no different. Joe Lefeged/Blair White aren't the answer. I know when you have top ranked offense like the Colts usually do, ST kind of gets put to the side, but why? It's a very important part of the game. First of all, ideal field position is the direct benefit of having an explosive returner. Even if you're facing a strong legged kicker, chances are, you're going to get at least one attempt for your returner to make something happen. For the Bears, this is often the difference between a win and loss. Bears capitalize off punts with excellent field position because teams fear ST super stud, Devin Hester. Does this mean we need to find the next Hester? Well, no, but an explosive returner should definitely be a priority. Practically every team has one. Why don't the Colts? Are we above this or something? As for this week's ST embarrassment, the highlight came when Jerry Hughes missed a key block, resulting in blocked punt. Touchdown Titans.
Coming into this game, the Titans had one of the best pass protecting o-lines in the league. After this game, they're still one of the best, but let's try to look at some positives. Dwight Freeney was getting held, as usual, but still managed two hits on Matt Hasselbeck and paved the way for a Ricardo Matthews sack. This was the result of Hasselbeck holding onto the ball forever, but the coverage down field also actually held for once. That and two other instances (Tyler Brayton had some nice penetration) were the only real pressure the Colts created. Against this o-line, I wasn't expecting much, but most teams don't have Freeney and Robert Mathis. Most of the time, Hasselbeck had all of the time in the world to throw the ball. If this happens, it doesn't matter if you have the best secondary in the world, someone is going to eventually get open. Time to go back to the drawing board.
You want to really know what pisses me off about Caldwell? The fact that he gets his ass KISSED
, week in and week out, by Bill Polian. No matter how bad Caldwell continues to be, no matter how many moronic 4th and nothing punt calls he continues to make, he's seemingly invincible. On Monday via the Bill Polian Show, Polian said Caldwell is "doing a heckuva job."
No, that isn't a misquote or an exaggeration. That's really
what Polian said. I don't expect him to say, "Caldwell should be coaching in a pee-wee league", no matter how true. But, WHAT. THE. @!$#.
The Final Product:
Colts 10 - Titans 27
There's really isn't much else to say about this game. Turnovers sealed the deal for the Titans, allowing them to control the flow of the game and profit with 14 points. Take away those points and a field goal decides this ball game. If we don't get a lead or at least keep our opponent close, the game is simply not manageable. Teams will force us to play catch up with a stagnant offense that is already averaging a dreadful 15 PPG (30th in the league), eliminating the impact of play makers like Carter, and daring Painter to win the game through the air. From there, they just wait for more mistakes or for the Colts to play like the Colts, and profit.
That's exactly what the Titans did and that's exactly what others will continue to do.
Thanks for reading and as always, Go Colts.