Since Tony Dungy arrived in Indianapolis in 2002, the Colts have run a very "vanilla" Cover 2 defense. The front office has focused on drafting players that fit this style that values speed and intelligence over all else. When Jim Caldwell took over last year, he brought in Larry Coyer to be the defensive coordinator and change the culture of the Colts defense. This, as they say, is where the plot thickens!
As I was watching the game on Monday, especially the first half, I kept thinking to myself this is not the Cover 2 Defense the Colts normally play. I finally had a chance to go back and look at the tape. I saw some interesting things.
I broke down the tape into by half and them by down, hoping to see some trends. Not having access to the All-22 (MAN would I LOVE that!) I had to guess a couple of times, but I think I'm pretty close. I did simplify the breakdown a bit so that we could see some trends. Here is the chart with some explanation after the jump. Sorry about the picture of the table. If you click on it you can enlarge it.
Description of Plays:
Man 1 Session Blitz
Normally Bethea on a TE with all CBs man on WRs. Brackett and Angerer man on backs or third WRs. Session normally off the edge only three times up the middle.
Base Cover 2
Standard 4-3 personnel. Sometimes Man Under, sometimes Full Zone. Often a Safety in the box reading run all the way. Biting hard on Play Action.
Nickel Cover 2
Townsend in for Angerer. Most often full zone. Some Man Under. Rarely an 8th man in the box.
Nickel Cover 3
Bracket starting at least 15 yards behind line and ending up 30 yards deep. Used almost exclusively on the last Houston drive.
Show Double A, Cover 1/2
Only shown in Nickel. Bracket and Session either side of center showing blitz. Back out to coverage on snap.
I know these are overly simplified categories, but this is the gist of our defense on Monday. I am concentrating most on the first half. When the D hit the field in the second we were up by 21. Totally different gameplan. Notice anything? I sure did!
Session is now our blitzing LB. Not once did Bracket or Angerer go on a blitz. Look at the number of blitzes on first down! Almost as often as we played a Cover 2 look. Coyer decided that to stop the run we needed to make the Texans account for an extra rusher. With the odd gameplan that the Texans employed, we just happened to by blitzing the QB instead of trying to stop the run plays.
Look at the 3rd and Long and 3rd and Short in the first half. The only time the Texans had less than 3 yards to go in the first half was the 4th down play. We kept them in long to go for first downs. THAT'S why they didn't convert a third down in the first half.
Look at the scoring plays. Both TDs were given up on blitzes. Just goes to show that this is the NFL. You blitz, sometimes you lose.
Compare that to the Game ending sack. We showed blitz, so the Moo Cows had to think about it, but didn't come. Could that be why Dwight got singled up on that play? I think it helped.
There may be no one out there that finds this interesting other than me, but I think this shows an evolution in our defense. No longer are we a show the same look and do the same thing all the time squad. Each week we have new wrinkles for which other teams must prepare! I love it!
There are things to watch out for. The Texans did not exploit Andre Johnson in the slot matched against a LB though they got that look multiple times. They got the match up by sending the TE to the opposite side, by himself. The CB stayed with the TE and an LB was expected to cover one of the best WRs in football. Not a great plan! I also see a lot more Man coverage than what we are used to. If this is going to be the norm, then Powers and Tryon need to start. Hayden made a good read on his Pick 6, but that throw was late coming out. If it's on time, that pass is complete. Hayden is an above average Cover 2 corner, but not good in man.
This gameplan also show confidence in Angerer. Would Coyer have sent Session so often if Wheeler and his lack of tackling and gap discipline where in the game? I don't think so. I know Pat didn't light it up, but I think he was a big part of why we had success. This rookie is has a good head and is steadily improving.
Are we still a Cover 2 team at heart? Sure we are. Do we have some new looks that can make coaches think twice. You BET we do! Let's hope to see more than the "vanilla" we are used to.
Thanks for reading and GO HORSE!