Editor's note: Edited slightly to appear better on main page. --bbs
After a very long dry spell in terms of writing material, I've decided to continue. Football is back (in a manner of speaking), even if it's only the preseason. I do stress that these plays might not matter in the long haul, but it's fun to look at, and might help the people that didn't happen to catch the game. I've focused on the first stringers, due to the fact that there's both an awful lot of material on the third stringers, and it's really not that interesting.
After the jump, we begin..Play #1 - 3rd and 8 from the IND 29 - 14:15 in the 1st Quarter - Colts 0 - Rams 0.
The significance of this play is the interception thrown by Curtis Painter with his second throw of the game. Quite how he's still working with the first stringers after last year I'm not sure, but by all accounts he's had a good summer in camp so far. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to tape.
As you can see in the first image, the Colts line up in a split backs formation, with 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 RB. Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai are in the backfield, with Clark to the left and Addai to the right. Pierre Garcon adopts his usual outside spot on the right hand side, with Reggie Wayne on the left. Austin Collie is in the slot, and is the target for the errant pass. I've drawn on the routes they'll run for your benefit (apologies for the appalling paint skills). Having analysed the Colts play a lot last year in this fashion, this is a package they run frequently, down to the exact routes. Dallas is on a little wheel out to the left, Collie is on a crossing route and the two outside receivers are simply going downfield.
As the play develops, the protection is more than adequate on both sides of the line, with Joseph Addai dropping back into pass protection. Wayne and Garcon go downfield with little separation, though even at this point it is clear to see that Collie is going to get some room.
Collie moves up the field to conclude his route, but Painter's over-eager step up into the pocket has brought him into contact with the Rams DT's. Even with pressure, Painter can clearly see the gap and in my opinion should be making this completion.
As you can see, the ball flies very high, way above the outstretched arm of Collie. The Rams are playing a simple 2 man under, where the 2 safeties lurk in deep zones and have freedom to roam and make plays on the ball. It flies right into the hands of Quintin Mikell, their high profile free agent signing.
From this perspective, you can see the pressure Painter is under when he makes the throw. Look however at the acres of space behind and to the side in the pocket. It's almost like he deliberately sought the pressure out. I understand the concept of stepping up to drive the throw, but in this case you can see the separation, and it's really not a challenging throw.
And here is the final view from behind the QB - again you can see the height on the throw, with Mikell lurking like a predator to mop up.
The pass protection was good, there was enough separation to make a 3rd down completion, and Painter made a pretty bad error. Perhaps those of you that didn't catch the game can understand where we're coming from now.
Play #2 - 2nd and Goal from the IND 3 - 12:36 in the 1st Quarter - Colts 0 - Rams 0.
The Rams line up in a 2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB formation, whilst the Colts are in their base formation. Pat Angerer is lined up on the strong side, Gary Brackett in the middle with Kavell on the weak side. The other two important players to watch on this play are Antonio Johnson (located directly in front of Conner at DT) and Robert Mathis at his usual LE position.
Conner diagnoses the play instantly, aided and abetted by the Rams Right Guard Harvey Dahl. He decides to double team Antonio Johnson, leaving a massive hole in the line. He clearly realises his mistake and manages to get an arm on Kavell, but by that point it is too late. Also to be noted is Robert Mathis' absolute destruction of the RT.
Kavell latches on, and the rest is simple.
Displaying perfect wrapping and tackling technique, he brings the man down for a 4 yard loss. Excellent play.
Play #3 - 3rd and Goal from the IND 7 - 11:56 in the First Quarter - Colts 0 - Rams 0.
This play however shows the other side of Conner, namely poor coverage leading to a touchdown surrendered.
The Rams line up with a 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB set, with Lance Kendricks the Tight End circle in red, with Conner in yellow. Again, the name of the game is a simple crossing route, and the Colts are going to drop into a simple redzone zone coverage.
As Kendricks makes his break, it appears that Conner is trying his absolute utmost to stare down the QB, to the detriment of his positional awareness. He may well be keeping an eye on Cadillac Williams, who is going to run a route out of the backfield toward his zone. (credit to Douzer for pointing out that omission)
He eventually snaps out of his reverie and tries to make a play on the ball as it reaches Kendricks, but by this point it's too late. Whilst Cadillac's route may influence his thinking, he needs to be quicker to anticipate and react to what is in front of him.
Jerraud Powers has a desperate attempt at making a play on the goal line, but with Kendricks' momentum and the fact that it's a clear physical mismatch, he gets into the endzone. You can't help but be disappointed by the play in its entirety, to be honest. I'm even slightly irked by Powers' missed tackle, but you can't expect a corner to make that tackle, and if the play were 10 yards further out, everyone would be lauding the attempt.
Play #4 - 2nd and 4 from the IND 47 - 9:04 in the 1st Quarter - Colts 0 - Rams 7.
Possibly the best play of the game from a Colts perspective, Pierre Garcon again showed his penchant for making excellent grabs on difficult balls. If he could catch a 3rd and 5 on a slant, he'd be an excellent receiver.
The Colts line up in a 2 WR 2 TE 1 RB set, with Donald Brown in the backfield and Jacob Tamme split out right. Mike McNeil is on the left side of the formation with Austin Collie out left, opposite Pierre Garcon in his usual position wide right. He's running a simple 9 route, with the cornerback (Justin King) giving a fairly ample cushion which should protect him against a deep ball.
Painter has a nice clean pocket in which to step up, and he delivers a rainbow to Garcon down the right side.
You can see on this image that the ball is a little bit behind Garcon in terms of trajectory, which goes some way to explaining what he does next.
Garcon realises that the ball is behind him and so actually begins to fall backward before the catch gets to him, whilst remaining focused on the ball.
He keeps his concentration on the ball and with one supporting leg makes the catch over the outstretched arm of King. I think in this case the receiver has made the QB look very good, but at least the ball was in the neighbourhood, which isn't a regularity with Painter.
He maintains control of the ball and flips backward, and gets to his feet having made a fantastic grab. I don't understand Garcon, but I can't pretend to not enjoy ridiculous catches like this.
Play #5 - 1st and 10 from the STL 44 - 7:35 in the 3rd Quarter - Colts 3 - Rams 30.
Moving away from the first team, I decided that the biggest play of the game for the Colts in terms of points and territory was worth a look. I'm also a fan of Taj Smith, given his abilities as the only Colts special teamer that actually seems to want to make plays.
The Colts line up in a 2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB set with Delone Carter in the backfield, Tyson DeVree and Mike McNeil on the line at TE, with David Gilreath wide left and Taj Smith wide right. He's running a fake hitch against an undrafted cornerback (Tim Atchison).
Orlovsky sells the play fake to Carter, which puts the largely undrafted and inexperienced Rams defense on its heels.
Orlovsky then turns round with an intact pocket, looks downfield and locates Taj, who by this point has executed his route and is in the clear behind Atchison.
The throw is as good as it needs to be (which isn't much).
Here's another view of the fake hitch, with Taj's agility and execution too much for the undrafted free agent. According to the telecast, the guy was a safety in college, and I can't imagine the transition to corner in the NFL is an easy one.
The Colts were clearly outclassed throughout, given the absence of several top flight players on both offense and defense from the start, along with the policy of removing starters after a single series. The Rams kept starters in much longer, and it was a similar story with the second string. The main thing about the preseason is to avoid injury and shake off rust, and with no injuries suffered and a couple of bright spots, its acceptable for the front office.
Above all else, the preseason does not matter a jot. With the tedium of the lockout, it's certainly nice to be back to football, but I caution people that want to take too much from it. We're the most successful team in terms of consecutive playoff appearances and regular season wins in the last few years, with the worst preseason record. I'd also be wary of judging players like Jerry Hughes too much based on preseason action, despite how I myself am a bit concerned about his progress. Wait until the regular season to judge the players.
Having watched the game thoroughly, I do question the quality of coaching throughout the team, and I'm particularly concerned schematically about our defense. I don't like the Cover 2 at all with our half hearted investment in defense, and I'm not sure whether our offseason moves will lead to improvement against the run. Again though, I do figure that waiting until the regular season is the least I can do.
I'll be doing similar pieces for all of the preseason games and regular season encounters this year, so watch out in future if you like what you see. If you like it, recommend it. If you don't like it or have a point of contention with anything I've said, please don't hesitate to comment.