I hadn't had many opportunities this year to dive into the NFL's All-22 coaches film feature, which is part of NFL.com's Game Rewind package. While that last part might sound like a cheap plug (and I'm sure, somewhere on Manhattan's east side, my friends at NFL.com are grinning profusely) the All-22 is feature is very handy if you want a deeper understanding of the game. Mind you, it does not make you "smarter." The tired, cliched idiocy of Bill Polian when he used to utter "YOU DON'T KNOW! YOU DON'T WATCH THE FILM!" to Indianapolis fans on his radio show is very apparent when you finally get a chance to watch the film. It's like the annoying peoples who say, "How can you KNOW the Ryan Reynolds flick is bad if you don't see it?"
That said, let's enjoy this video of Jim Mora lashing out at reporters in New Orleans before we dive into the All-22 goodness:
Note, I only focused on the offense. Sorry, but I value my free time, and spending it watching coaches tape isn't as fun as it sounds. Even with alcohol.
Here are my observations:
- I've often said that Andrew Luck is the best rookie quarterback I've ever seen. Yes, better than Robert Griffin III, and the numbers seem to back that up. However, rookie QBs often do rookie things that annoy me. Example: Patting the ball. They teach not to do this in Pop Warner. Luck was consistently doing it Sunday v. the Browns. It signals he is not confident with his reads, his receivers, and/or his protections.
- I think Delone Carter is a fine back, but he is not hitting holes strong. An example: On a six-yard run to the Cleveland 33 with 11:17 in the second quarter, Carter was able to bounce outside and make a good gain. However, the bounce outside was not necessary, and it seemed to be done because Carter made a mistake. A good hole was created on the right side. Coby Fleener was on the field as a blocker (kind of shocking, but they are using him in this way), and he did a good job sealing off the linebacker. Reggie Wayne came in motion and blocked the Cleveland safety who had shifted down to the line, pre-snap. If Carter hits the hole created by Fleener and Wayne, he gets 10 yards and a first down. Maybe more, if he can shake the safety. Instead, it's 6.
- Luck missed some easy reads in the game, which is part of him growing and becoming more consistent. At 10:33 in the second quarter, Luck saw single coverage on Wayne. However, underneath that, Fleener is running over the middle with a slow linebacker trailing two yards behind him. If Luck hits Fleener, who is on the same side of the field as Wayne (thus, he should have seen him), Fleener would have gained 20 yards. He might even have scored. I saw a consistent theme with Luck in this game, and it might be a reason why Fleener and Dwayne Allen haven't really done much in the passing game in 2012. Luck is ignoring his tight ends and focusing too much on Wayne.
- The 5 yard Luck TD run on 2nd and 5 was a great call by Bruce Arians. The defense bit on the fake end around to T.Y. Hilton. The Cleveland defender knocked Vick Ballard off his route (Ballard was intended target), and then went after Luck. Because the defense bit so hard on the fake, Luck just ran to the corner for a TD. If Ballard is not knocked off the route, it's an easy TD throw. Instead, it’s a pretty good TD run. Good call either way. Smart play by Luck.
- With 2:04 left in the half, Luck failed to complete a pass to Wayne. It's a throw Luck needs to hit. Single coverage, and if he throws it towards the sideline, over the head of the corner, Wayne hauls in a big gain. Pressure from the Cleveland pass rush forced Luck to step up, but he had enough time to make that throw. After the game, Luck and Arians spoke of leaving lots of "chunk yardage" out there. This play was one of them.
- Another example of Ballard recognizing holes and following the blocks better than Carter. On a second down run for 6 yards early in the third quarter, Ballard saw initial hole was clogged by a linebacker waiting for him. He bounced outside for 6 yards.
- On the fourth down conversion by Delone Carter, there was great push up front by offensive line, especially Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn. Really, the o-line played great against Cleveland. Very impressive effort and execution overall.
- A good Colts drive following Cleveland third quarter touchdown as killed by Andrew Luck taking a sack and Winston Justice getting called for a penalty on the next down. Luck got sacked because Ballard was ineffective stopping the inside blitzing backer. It's one of the few times Cleveland blitzed, and it achieved results. I have no idea why Cleveland did not blitz more. I guess Cleveland defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is just THAT dumb. If Luck doesn’t get sacked, he had Fleener open for a touchdown. The Browns corner let Fleener go into endzone, but the safety late to help. Would have been a TD.
- The Andrew Luck sack with 1:25 in third is all on him. Should have thrown it away, or hit Ballard out of fake. Instead, Luck tried to run, got sacked.
- Arians said after the game that the bootleg play that resulted in the sack-fumble of Luck was a bad call on his part. He was right. During that drive, the Colts were KILLING the Browns with the running game. If Indy scored a touchdown on that drive, it would have ended the game right there. Colts pounded the Browns with runs of 6, 8, 1, and 7. They even got an unnecessary roughness penalty called on Cleveland. Then, for seemingly no reason, a bootleg? Dumb call. That said, it might have worked had left tackle Anthony Castonzo not whiffed on his assignment to block on Sheldon Brown. Brown was obviously blitzing as there was no WR was over on left side for him to cover. Castonzo whiffed and Luck got crushed.
- On 3rd and 1 with 5:11 left, we saw another example of Carter not following his blocks, hitting the wrong hole. If he goes where he is supposed to go, it's an any first down. Instead, he hesitates while cutting, and then gets buried. Colts punt. All he had to do was run to left side as Jeff Linkenbach (who was outstanding all game long) and Castonzo had pushed forward for a clean first down.
One thing I took from this game is that I had a misconception.
Yes, I, the lord and master of Stampede Blue - who presides from his irony tower while being fed wine, grapes, and blue cheese by a train a vestal virgins - actually had a misconception about the Colts offense.
The issue isn't that the offense "got conservative" in the second half. The issue is execution and quality of playcalling. The bootleg play was dumb, but it was not a conservative call. It was actually a rather aggressive one. It was simply the wrong call at the wrong time. Running the ball and playing "conservative" in that situation would have worked better.
Thus, now I know (or, at least, I think I know), thanks in no small part to the All-22 footage.