Wednesday, December 16, 2009



If you look at the stat sheet for the Colts` 28-16 victory over the Broncos, you`d think it was Dallas Clark (left) against Richard Marshall and little else. Well, you`d have a point. But we here at ColtPlay look at Clark, Marshall, the guys trying to cover them and every other minute detail about the game.

We'll start with Clark, whose three touchdown scores resulted in more points than the Broncos scored in total. Clark has always run hot and cold, and on Sunday he was white hot. The Broncos decided to cover him primarily with nickel `backer Wesley Woodyard. It seemed like a good decision at the time because Woodyard is much better than their other linebackers in coverage, and is bigger and stronger than most safeties. But he is not bigger and stronger than Clark, and nor is he as fast, quick or talented. Clark beat him four times, three of which went for TDs.

His other big catch was a thing of beauty, not just for him, but for offensive coordinator Tom Moore. It was 4th-and-4 at the Broncos` 34. The Colts line up single setback with Clark at tight end on the right, Reggie Wayne split wide left and Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon in the slot on the right. The Broncos counter with a bizarre-looking 2-3-6. Clark goes in motion, splits wide right. The Broncos are confused. The snap. Clark blows by the corner (was it Champ Bailey?), who went after Garcon, and was matched one-on-one with Brian Dawkins. Dawkins has had a long and distinguished career, but was beaten badly on that one.

The other tight ends didn’t do much. Gijon Robinson caught the only pass thrown his way (a seven yarder on 2nd-and-9), while Jacob Tamme did not catch the only one thrown his way. Robinson was so-so as a blocker, while Jamie Richard – who showed up in short yardage packages – looked better than he has recently. I like this kid and hope to see him get more snaps. By the way, when was the last time anyone saw that Pollak kid?

Although Collie’s touchdown on the opening drive was a thing of beauty, the wide receivers as a group did not impress. Catching just 9 of 22 passes for 121 yards, they seemed unable to get as open as they are used to. Even Collie had problems when he was not matched up against fellow rookie Alphonso Smith.

Peyton Manning’s butt injury is bothering me. He went 27-15-154-3-1 for a 93.8 rating in the first half, and 15-5-66-1-2 for a 44.8 rating in the second. He’s known as a second-half performer, so the injury could have been bothering him as the game wore on. I guess it bears watching, but since Manning has missed just one snap in his career due to injury (a broken frickin' jaw), and veteran No. 2 passer Jim Sorgi is on the IR, I expect he’ll pull it up.

This is the point where I’d normally be saying that Colt fans are unduly praising a halfback. And I will, but this time it’s fan favourite Mike Hart, not fan favourite Joseph Addai. Actually, Addai had a fairly decent game, gaining 67 yards on 16 carries (4.19 average) and 49 yards on five catches. Still, he caught just five of the eight passes thrown his way, and even dropped a crucial one. And he did not look that sharp as a blocker.

People are praising Hart’s “courage” and “ability to get tough yards.” To me, that usually means he had terrible stats; and it's true this time. Hart rushed 28 yards on 9 carries (3.11) and failed to catch the single pass thrown his way. Of course, total stats never tell the whole story, so let’s look at his carries:

1st quarter 11:15 1st-and-10 @ Denver’s 17 Off LT for three yards
1st quarter 5:51 1st-and-10 @ Denver’s 11 Between LG and C for one yard
3rd quarter 8:02 1st-and-10 @ Indy’s 25 Between C and RG for four yards
3rd quarter 4:28 2nd-and-10 @ Indy’s 14 Between RT and TE for two yards
4th quarter 4:41 1st-and-10 @ Denver’s 14 Off RT (no TE) for five yards
4th quarter 3:53 2nd-and-10 @ Denver’s 14 Off LT (no TE) for nine yards
4th quarter 3:12 3rd-and-1 @ Denver’s 5 Off LTE for two yards
4th quarter 2:43 1st-and-Goal @ Denver’s 3 Between RT and RTE for two yards (note: three TEs and a FB)
4th quarter 2:35 2nd-and-Goal @ Denver’s 1 Between RG and RT for no gain (note: three TEs and a FB)

Not that impressive if you ask me. Denver’s decent against the run, but not special. On a team like the Colts, a halfback that can take over in the second half, keep the chains moving and taking the pressure off Manning would be ideal. I don’t see that back on the roster.

Oh, and the battle for dominance at fullback continues unabated. Cody Glenn, Eric Foster and Chad Simpson all saw snaps there. My money’s on Glenn, who has yet to see Down 1 as a linebacker.

I predicted the right side of the line would have problems with Elvis Dumervil and Vonnie Holliday; and I was right. But other than right tackle Ryan Diem – who had fits with Dumervil – nobody looked bad. Special nods to guards Ryan Lilja and Kyle DeVan, both of whom played well.

On defense, nobody could cover Marshall. He hammered Tim Jennings, Jacob Lacey, Jerraud Powers and the linebackers. Actually, I have to admit Kelvin Hayden did okay against him, but Marshall wisely stayed out of his zone. As a whole, the defensive backs looked better than Marshall’s stats would indicate (the rest of the Broncos caught just 8 of 13 passes for 77 yards and no scores). Their coverage was generally tight, but their tackling was terrible. They’ve been having problems with big wideouts all year, and Marshall is one of the biggest. Jennings’ leaping interception at the Indy 1-yard line was a bright spot, but he was later beaten for a touchdown on what looked like exactly the same play.

Poor play in the secondary is often blamed on the pass rush, but the Colts actually did okay in that area. In truth, nobody other than Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and the suddenly blitz-happy Gary Brackett mounted much of a rush, but they were sufficient. Both Freeney and Mathis also looked quite good against the run, as did defensive tackle Dan Muir (I’m a solid fan now). Antonio “Mookie” Johnson was okay aside from a couple of boneheaded penalties, and Eric Foster did his normally good job. As has become disturbingly familiar, Raheem Brock – he of the big contract – was easily nullified once again. He's gonna have a tense spring. Fili Moala showed up, and did nothing of note.

All three starting linebackers looked good, especially Brackett. It should be noted, though, that strongside starter Philip Wheeler was on the sidelines for more than two thirds of all defensive plays. That does not scream confidence.

On specials, Pat McAfee continues to amaze, both as a punter and kickoff specialist. And he’s pretty automatic as a holder too. The coverage teams looked very good containing Eddie Royal, and shout outs go to Glenn, Hart and Simpson. But Simpson and TJ Rushing showed me once again why I think the Colts should invest in a return specialist.


The Jaguars always play the Colts tough, and are 5-2 at home this year. The guys to look out for on offense are halfback Maurice Jones-Drew (I still can’t get over Bill Polian drafting Addai ahead of him!), receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Jarett Dillard (another guy I lobbied for).

On defense, they have some nice linebackers in Daryl Smith and Justin Durant. And big defensive tackle John Henderson must be accounted for. Defensive backs Reggie Nelson and former Pro Bowler Rashean Mathis have had some problems in coverage, so look for Manning to target them.

According to Stampede Blue, the following Colts are unlikely to play: HB Donald Brown, S Aaron Francisco, WR Anthony Gonzalez, CB Jerraud Powers, K Adam Vinatieri, DT Eric Foster, DE Dwight Freeney, T Charlie Johnson and DE Robert Mathis.

Okay, lots of those guys we’re used to seeing in street clothes. But Freeney, Mathis and Foster account for virtually all of the Colts’ pass rush, Johnson is their only capable left tackle and Powers has spent his rookie season as the Colts’ No. 1 and No. 2 corner.

The Jaguars’ starting offensive tackles – Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe – have been turnstiles against pass rushers, but without Freeney and Mathis, the Colts won’t be able to take advantage of that. Can you actually see Keyunta Dawson and Brock (or rookie Ervin Baldwin) getting any kind of rush? To tell you the truth, I’m not sure David Garrard – who’s more smart and resourceful than talented – can take advantage of that.

I’m less worried about Johnson’s injury. While backup Tony Ugoh has his problems, he should be able to stand up to Jaguars’ starting right defensive end Quentin Groves, who has a grand total of zero sacks this year. The return of Hayden should offset the loss of Powers.

The key is Manning. If he’s okay, the Jags don’t stand a chance. If he’s ailing, they do.

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