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Tale of the Tape: Reeling Colts defense gives up big plays to Jaguars

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday was defined by big plays. These plays kept the defense on its heels and placed the Jaguars in the driver’s seat. Jacksonville was able to generate 257 yards in just six plays using six different players on offense. On their 58 other plays, they generated 261 yards of total offense.

So, what happened to the Colts defense on these plays that broke the game open — particularly early?

Let’s take a look.

This play goes for over 20 yards and, at first look, it’s very easy to put all of the blame on Antonio Morrison. Make no mistake about it, the receiver comes right through his zone. However, this is a difficult position to put an inside linebacker in, particularly in the Colts defensive scheme.

Morrison’s assignment is typically the running back. When Ivory doesn’t take the hand-off he is all alone in space in front of Morrison. By the time he makes his decision to cover Hurns, it is too late.

This video shows the same play from the sideline view. You will see the flaw in the coverage and how it is exposed. Nate Hairston is at the top of the screen and is left covering nobody. He could be responsible for covering Ivory on the dump-off it goes his way but this is a flawed coverage if so. Why have Morrison cover the best Jaguars receiver over the middle when Hairston is matched up with him at the line of scrimmage.

The end result is that Hairston is in no man’s land, Ivory is on an island, and Hurns has to find it hilarious that all he has to do is beat Morrison laterally over the middle for a big gain.

This play gives us all kinds of goodies. First, 9 players in the box invites all kind of options for an offense. You better play disciplined here or the play will be behind you in a hurry. Second, Kenny Moore, Nate Hairston, and Darius Butler are all playing up toward the line of scrimmage in a bunch. Someone has to have contain here.

Now, as the video explains, there are keys that defensive players have to read throughout a play. If defenders are caught “peeking” in the backfield on a play like this, they are toast.

This is a screen play with motion from Lee that threatens an end around. It’s all window dressing in the backfield and the best way to know is to watch the offensive linemen. When they release their blocks and leak out laterally, it’s a screen. Both defensive backs who are in a position to stop this play bite hard on the motion in the backfield and react too late to make a play.

This play exposes the soft zone coverage, running a crossing route right between the short and intermediate zones. Darius Butler should see the ball, read the play, and take a good angle for a big hit on the receiver. Instead, he runs laterally and gets beat, then is blocked entirely out of the play. His poor angle is primarily responsible for the big gain.

This play displays another example of a big space in the zone allowing an easy completion. After the catch, Nate Hairston and Darius Butler miss the tackle. Hurns breaks down the sideline and Malik Hooker has to try to make a tackle he should have never had to make. The end result? Hooker takes a nasty hit and tears his ACL and MCL.

Missed tackles put teammates in bad situations.

Shortly after Rashaan Melvin left the game with a concussion, Chris Milton took the field to help on the outside (Quincy Wilson might have been a good option?). This fact was not lost on the Jaguars who targeted him immediately. While it is discouraging that Milton was beaten so badly in coverage, what I find more discouraging is the flawed scheme this coaching staff insists on running.

You will notice that four Colts defenders have no role in the play at all. Three are all alone in the short middle zone and are left to play spectator. Vontae Davis has about 15-20 yards between him and anyone else on the field. Malik Hooker, a player with comparisons to a young Ed Reed, a “center fielder” who is best used by using his instincts and athleticism to read a quarterback’s eyes and make plays on the ball down the field, he is playing up. The more natural strong safety who can lay big hits against the run or over the middle, Matthias Farley, he is playing back.

This is awful. All around. Most of it is scheme. Milton shouldn’t have been on an island in coverage. There should have been help over the top to read the deep route. There wasn’t. This is the result.

This all comes back down to setting the edge against the run. For some reason Jabaal Sheard attempts to use an inside move on the left tackle. It is the exact wrong move to make and gives T.J. Yeldon the edge. From there, there is nothing but green grass.

Notice Vontae Davis give up on the play thinking Yeldon was going out of bounds. He broke it back inside and Davis was standing flat footed. This allowed the Jaguars receiver the time to completely turn his back on Davis, see Yeldon turn the play back inside, and then turn back around to re-engage the block. Bravo Davis.

This is a complete failure of every player who had a chance to make a play on the run. Farley apparently didn’t see the hand-off, so continued moving back and to his left, Hairston got his feet stuck in sand and allowed Hurns to get a block on him, and Morrison apparently didn’t realize the run was going to his right until the offensive lineman was staring him in the face.

There are plenty of reasons to be upset with the state of the Indianapolis Colts. The offensive play-calling is horrible; the quarterback holds onto the ball too long; the offensive line needs to improve; the wide receivers are all “ghosts;” and this group has not been able to put points on the board.

The defense plays soft, the zones are killing them week-in and week-out, when they have the lead they go prevent and get gashed, players are not being utilized in ways that accentuate their strengths and downplay their weaknesses, and some of them have either simply given up or shouldn’t be out on the field at all.

Beating the Colts is super easy right now. At some point the coaching staff has to adjust to correct the problems. Nothing to this point indicates a likelihood that will happen.