Great win this week. Not because of the play but because it was ugly and we won. I think the value of having a team that wins ugly close games cannot be overstated. I bet every Colts fan knows every kicker in the AFC South and hates his f*cking guts because of how many times they have stuck a dagger in our hearts. Not this year. Apart from Mr. Shorts run to glory, we have avoided the big letdown. HUGE. Unbelievable experience for a young team that will need this kind of resilience as they grow.
Coaching - I love BA but he also IMO has a lot of growing to do. Reason # 1 I love him is that he has clearly established our offensive identity. We are a down field vertical attack offense. It takes most teams years together to figure out who they are and we're on week 12 and already know. Reason # 2, he's pushed Luck to develop much faster than he would have in a lot of other offenses because the offensive identity. Luck has to stand in the pocket more, make more deep reads and throw more dangerous balls into tight coverage than any other rookie QB probably over the last 5 or 6 years. As a result he throws for a ton of yards and has a lot of yards in the air. He also does throw a lot of almost picks or actual picks. It's a testament to how good he is that he hasn't thrown 20 picks already. Really it is. Most of the QB's in the league right now would flail in this system and how much pressure it puts on the QB. Almost no check downs built in until recently. No slant routes or easy RB flares. Hell even underneath drag routes are a rarity. Reason #3, he threw the ball at the end of the game. Played to win and he did. He knows he can trust Luck to be responsible out there with the ball at the end of the game which is huge. Okay, enough with the love fest. Arians needs to fix his run block schemes. Twice in the game he calls an off tackle run out of a big set with 3 TE's and WR. However, the blocking assignments do not account for the CB sitting 10 yards out watching the whole play. It's hard to run outside when there is a free tackler is waiting on the edge. He also called a few power-O run plays with a pulling guard when there is a free blitzer from the weak side. No doubt the runner will get caught from the backside every time. For reasons, I'll explain below, our line play is so bad that you can't afford to SET THEM UP TO FAIL. Lastly, what was with all the screens? I watch the last two BIlls games on NFL rewind and even I know their entire offense is pretty much screens. Thus, what do you think their defense knows how to play better than anything else...yup...screens. They see it all day every day in any sort of permutation you can imagine. Don't try it on them. They do it better than we do. Screens, traps and draws are constraint plays to reference Chris Brown of Smart Football. You use them to keep the defense honest, not really as a base part of your defense. We should just have attacked them straight on. Frankly, it’s what they are least prepared for given their offensive gameplan every week. Lastly, for the love of god, throw Luck a bone and incorporate some slants and drag routes. We drafted and signed probably the fasted group WRs out there this year but have almost no YAC because we just expect them to go deep. They at some point, need to get the ball and make some moves. You'll notice that DB's are playing way off our WR's because they know the break in the route is going to take at least 10 yards deep. Time to recognize what people know or think they know about you and exploit it. Reggie and Peyton LIVED off slants and short drags. Very hard to defend and actually makes the deep ball easier to throw. A great surrogate for a running game.
Alright, individual player commentary.
Luck - played really well. Love that he ran at key moments. Frankly, he doesn't do this enough. It puts so much pressure on the linebackers to stay home and opens up the deep passing game. I got the impression his confidence was a little shaken this week. 3 throws behind receivers and just wasn't sharp. He also missed what few check downs are in the offense. He's really down with BA's game plan to throw it down field. Soon he'll learn to take what good defenses give him like Peyton did. Secondly, I'd like to see him audible more at the line out of bad looks especially in the run game. I think he's clearly deferring to BA but he has to recognize that some things just aren't going to work and get out of them. I can't wait for 3 years from now when he has carte blanche to make changes because it will get real ugly real fast for defenses.
Ballard - played well considering how badly the Oline got flogged. There are still times when he doesn't see an ideal lane. However, he often finds nice spaces and has learned to stop dancing. Just gets what he can when he can. Critical drop in the Red Zone that was disappointing. Would have been a tough catch but a #1 back gets it done.
Brown - still the best back in my opinion. Speed, speed, speed. Didn't make any major mistakes and is playing behind a weak run blocking line.
Wayne - always a pro. I do blame him for the pick. I thought Luck read the zone correctly and didn't want to send him into the MLB. Just a timing issue. BTW, his run blocking has gotten a lot better. Side note: WR block in this offense is huge. People used to talk about how Hines Ward is the greatest blocking WR ever. Guess why that is? It's all this system. I worry that Avery and Hilton just do not have the bulk or strength to do that consistently. Ward was a mean guy who looked forward to cleaning somebody's clock. Ask Keith Rivers. I doubt the two “smurfs” who are smaller than I am want it with ANYBODY on any defense.
Hilton - fine. He made me come around. He hasn't dropped a ball in weeks and has turned into the # 2 receiving option. I will say that he's sort of emerged over the last 3 weeks because Reggie is getting doubled often. Still impressed that he's getting open and catching what he should catch. I worry GREATLY about his durability in this system. He's going to have to catch several balls deep in the middle of the field. I know I'm not the only one that cringes a little bit when our guys make a catch and a swarm of defenders come in looking to posterize them.
Avery - meh. I'm over him. Still dropping catchable balls. Too small to be a physical presence in the middle. I think he and Hilton in a lot of ways are the same guy. I'd prefer him to be a bigger more sure handed guy aka Collie or Brazil.
Brazil - NEEDS MORE PLAYING TIME. Solid size with great speed. He is a better version of Collie in the making.
Allen - bounced back this week. Had a terrible game last week especially in the blocking game. Lost his aggression. Already proven to be a steal at his draft position without a doubt. I'm impressed with him on almost every play.
And now the line
Costanzo - solid play all around. Still great in the run game. Gets beat once a game in the pass game every game. We forget that he's a second year player and he's the only lineman to play every game and play consistently well. This experience has been really valuable and very shortly, he'll be the anchor of our line.
Justice - beat at least twice that I saw. Still playing well and considering we gave up NADDA to get him I"m pretty happy. OT is not a position of need.
McGlynn - needs to go. The DT's flung him around like a small child. Said it all year, he had decent agility but no strength. He can't keep people from gaining ground on him and if he's getting played by someone using a two gap technique he gets flung every single time. He ends up on the ground probably a third of the plays.
Satele - officially done with him too. He needs to go. Balance is a real issue. Can't move backwards and push forwards at the same time. Also, surprisingly could not turn laterally to get a lock on defenders shooting into the A gap. He's still one of the better run blockers on the line because he's a mean one. Angry with the hands but better on the move than blocking in line. Give me Shipley. Ceiling is lower with him but I know he's not going to fall down.
Reitz - dare I say. I kinda want Link back at LG. Reitz is not as strong as I thought he'd be. Darius actually flung him to the ground 4 times by my count. Last week, Wilkfor put a clinic on him. It looked like Andre the Giant versus you at 10 years old. He should take McGlynn’s job at RG.
Johnson - also needs to go. He's played better in the pass rush but he's rarely on the field on 3rd down. Still not holding the point of attack. For the love of everything good and holy can we see Chapman? We will continue to bleed to the run until NT is secure.
Moala - shame. I'd been really down on him until the last 3 weeks. He's been so much better getting off his block and into the back field. His swim moves have been much much improved. This is going to hurt us even more against the run. Our back up D line are not good. Dare I say they are bad.
Redding - nothing to say. Not bad, Not good.
Mathis - looks totally healthy and is incredibly active. He moves with the speed and agility that a 3-4 OLB needs to. Still a master of the sack.
Freeney - wish more and more we could have traded him for a draft pick. He played well this game. Lots of QB pressures and even defeated a few running plays pretty much by himself. However, he does not fit in this system. He cannot cover in space and he does not have the agility to play off the ball. He is a sack machine and that's not what we need from that position right now.
Freeman - another guy making me eat my words. He's obviously the best defensive player we have. He's just all over the field. He has started firing into the back field and trusting his eyes. His sack is a good sign of things to come. He gets around the RB coming up for the block almost instantly. He should make the pro bowl.
Angerer - has been a non factor in the last few weeks. I wonder if this system doesn't suit him well. When we played mostly cover 2 he could read and then fire. Now he has to worry about man to man coverage and is a step slower in his action.
Fokou - catch bro. That is all.
Butler - i'll say it first, he kind sucks in this scheme. All the pats WR's burnt him because his agility in and out of cuts is marginal and he's slow to react to breaks in the first place. Even worse, he can't tackle for shit. These two things are let’s say massive problems in a man to man scheme with zero help. Offenses know how weak we have been to short routes and are now hitting us up with sluggos and out and up routes. He's going to live in fear for the next few weeks. Megatron is going to give him nightmares. He would be best suited to playing zone where he can watch and react like when he got his pick two weeks ago. Did play a couple of screen plays well but how could you not knowing that's the Bills whole offense.
Vaughn - a better fit in this system. Haven't seen the All-22 but he is at least more often near the receivers catching the ball and he can tackle. Got burnt a double move too. Glad he stopped celebrating. Nobody on the defense should be doing anything remotely boastful. If you want to see what we need, watch Gilmore from the Bills. He was stuck on everybody that he covered. Always present, caused a fumble, broke up several passes and almost had a pick but that's first round talent...
Zibby/Beathea - played will. No obvious gaffs.
Macafee - doing a great job this season. Pinning a team deep hides some of the flaws of this defense.
There it is. Next week is going to be rough. I fear for how we are going to stop the air assault on the road given our DB situation. If we get behind, we will become one dimensional and lose just like we did against the Jets. Davis coming back is meaningful. Like it or not, he has the most pure man to man talent of any DB on our roster.