Last week was a total unmitigated disaster. Thankfully this week the Browns are in town which should help ease the pain. This isn't to say week 2 is going to be easy, but ever if there was a winnable game, its against Cleveland.
Against the lowly Bengals in Week 1, the Browns looked disorganized and confused much of the game. This was certainly not the way rookie head coach Pat Shurmur was hoping to start, especially after all the pre-season hype. After all the Browns do have talent. Colt McCoy and Madden Cover boy Peyton Hillis (beware of the jinx!!!) lead an up-and-coming offensive unit and Joe Haden and T.J. Ward anchor a talented young secondary.
That being said, the Browns gave up way too many passing yards to a rookie QB and his backup and made Cedric Benson continue to look like the 1,000 yard rusher no one thought he could be.
Offensively the Browns sputtered as well. Not sure if 40 passes for a second year QB with little experience was part of the game plan going in, but only 19 completions should have Shurmur and the coaching staff rethinking that strategy. Yet at times it looked as if the Browns felt compelled to throw given how poorly Hillis ran the football. In the end, poor play on both ends and their horrendous showing on special teams led to a underwhelming losing effort to the lowly Bengals.
For the Colts, the Browns should be the remedy to many of their problems. That being said, if the Colts don't clean up the 'little things' as Coach Caldwell said they would, it won't matter how bad the Browns are.
More after the jump:
Here are the early keys to this weekend's upcoming game:
1. Get off to a fast start and get the crowd into the game early
With good reason Indy fans are feeling a bit shaky. Watching the Colts without Peyton is uncharted territory and causes more than a few butterflies for Colts' faithful. If the Colts play even 1/16 as poorly as the did vs. Houston the crowd will really start to get nervous and could lose hope/interest quickly.
We all know how much of a difference in the energy level - especially on the defensive side - playing at The Luke provides. Guys like Freeney and Mathis really get charged up and play remarkably better in front of a roaring home crowd. A fast start will settle the fans' unease and help put the Houston debacle behind us.
2. Run the damn football
We were down 34-0 at halftime. I get that such a disparity in the score (aka a beat-down) doesn't lend itself to power football. But, there is no way Kerry Collins in his first game with a new team and just un-retired should have thrown 31 passes. Inexcusable. Especially since Addai and Carter (to a lesser extent) ran the ball so well.
If the Colts want to win this game and have success down the road, they are going to have to rely more on the run game. The way Addai was running he should receive about 20 touches. Carter should get another 10. Running the ball 25+ times will take pressure off of Collins, eat up more clock and save Collins arm for later in the season when he will need it most.
3. Get Clark and Collie the ball
How 31 Kerry Collins' throws resulted in only 4 catches for Clark and a big goose egg for Collie is simply astounding, and quite frankly horrible game planning. After Wayne, Clark (and maybe Collie right behind him) is the Colts' second most explosive offensive weapon. Joe Haden is going to be focused on Reggie Wayne all day and will likely have the help of T.J. Ward who will shade over.
That means that when the Colts do throw the ball, Kerry needs to exploit the middle of the field - the weakness of the Browns' defense - by connecting with Collie and Clark on seam routes and various crossing patterns.
Both players should have a big day.
4. Stop the damn run
We've mentioned this a million times. Everyone knows its are weakness. At some point we just need to freaking go out and do it. Another year for Fili Moala and the addition of Drake Nevis were supposed to help in this department. If week one is any indication we still could be screwed.
The defensive line just needs to man-up, come out with a killer instinct and play with attitude. At some point its just about refusing to be pushed off the ball and being relentless at the point of attack. Stopping Hillis would quickly make Cleveland's offense very one-dimensional and basic. Given his penchant for running right up the gut, thus eliminating the Colts speed to the outside, stopping Hillis could be a tall order.
5. Blitz McCoy
Colt McCoy is a very smart promising young quarterback but he is essentially only a few games removed from being a rookie. In the preseason McCoy seemed to make a drastic leap and began to flash his true potential. However, if the Colts can stuff the run (big if) and are thus able to unleash Mathis and Freeney, I'm betting it won't take long before McCoy would start to panic and relapse into making rookie mistakes all over again.