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Colts v Seahawks Film Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on Defense

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts entered 2017 with a Jekyll and Hyde personality under head coach Chuck Pagano. In years past, however, the team would always come out super slow and have to furiously fight their way back into games. It is part of what allowed Andrew Luck to earn an early reputation for comeback wins.

This season it is still a tale of two halves in almost every game but Indianapolis has been starting games strong only to see opponents fight their way back in the second half. As Chris Blystone reported yesterday, this Indianapolis team has a total of 9 points in the second half in three straight games — one field goal in each.

This makes breaking down the game entirely frustrating. You have film that is peppered with good to great plays, bad plays, and some that are really ugly. It is with that in mind that we breakdown the Colts Sunday night match-up in Seattle in two pieces, starting with the defense.


The Good

One area the Colts hoped to improve upon from last season was being more opportunistic and winning the turnover battle. While, the offense has done its level best to make winning the turnover ratio very difficult, plays like this from Matthias Farley are encouraging for the future of the Colts young secondary.

This play looks eerily similar to Malik Hooker’s highlight reel from Ohio State where he gets up to bat the ball to himself for an interception. Plays like this kept the Colts in the game early.

This is another angle and shows how well Farley cut in front of Graham and timed his jump perfectly to bat the ball up in the air. This is a one man tip drill.

Look, Malik Hooker has made his share of mistakes as a rookie. He is still inconsistent as a tackler and doesn’t always take the best angles — especially against the run. He has been beat by a tight end in deep coverage and that shouldn’t happen. However, his role as a center fielder in this Colts defense asks him to be in positions just like this one.

If the pass isn’t bobbled, Hooker is in great position to put a hit on Graham as he turns up the field. The most impressive parts of this play is Hooker’s body control, vision, and ability to make a one-handed catch while setting himself up for a return. The stiff arm is also a thing of beauty.

This is one of the best punts you will see, no matter who is kicking the ball. The hang time is great, allowing the gunner plenty of time to get in position along the goal line. The distance was perfect as well. Kenny Moore played it perfectly and this lead to the Colts first points of the game on the play below.

Nate Hairston has done a lot of really good things in his rookie season. It’s just really hard to expect much more from a rookie fifth round draft pick. He has been solid in coverage and picks up his second sack of the season on this play for a safety. Wilson has no time to escape when he comes around the edge.

This is a good play for Jabaal Sheard because he put a lot of pressure on Wilson throughout the day but has continued to struggle getting home for a sack. He finally gets the job done here — barely — and it puts the Seahawks in a tough position to start the second quarter.

The Bad

It is entirely reasonable to expect that Vontae Davis will take a game or two to get himself back into rhythm. Despite that, he was beat in coverage for three big gains. No cornerback yielded more yards or a better completion percentage on the day than Davis.

On this play, Davis is playing off, which makes him susceptible to crossing patterns. We have seen this all too often. Despite the promise of playing a more aggressive defensive style, the Colts too often play off-man coverage instead of press man or bump-n-run. It makes little sense given that the secondary is better than it has been and the pieces in that secondary are better suited for a press man style.

This is another deep pass. To be fair, Wilson has way too long to survey the field while Grover Stewart and Margus Hunt fail to get pressure and Jabaal Sheard gets pressure but still is left holding air as he approaches for the sack. Still, Davis loses the battle here.

Any time you see lateral motion in the backfield from an elite athlete like Tyler Lockett with the ball snapped before he gets to the quarterback, you have to read outside contain. Tarrell Basham is learning some important lessons in his rookie season and this is an example where he spies the running back who was going away from him instead of identifying the weakside jet sweep.

If he gets up the field and cuts off the outside lane, Lockett likely gets smoked by Hairston or Antonio Morrison instead of gaining 19 yards.

The Ugly

Wouldn’t you know it, the Colts give up the longest run of the season when Jabaal Sheard slants inside. The angle isn’t the greatest here but you will see him come down and attack as opposed to trying to contain the outside on the run. This leaves Nate Hairston on an island with a running back with a full head of steam. Game over.

STOP SLANTING AND STUNTING! This defensive line is too good, against an offensive line that really isn’t, to be selling out your outside contain to try to generate pressure or get inside penetration. You haven’t needed it all game, you didn’t need it here, and you just got smoked.

This is the same play in slow motion so you can see how the play breaks down. This is a poorly designed defensive play call and the Seahawks had the perfect play to answer it.

The first time we saw Vontae Davis on camera, it looked like this. No jam, no contact to throw Baldwin off of his route, just Davis with broken ankles and a missing jock. I don’t understand why we continue to play this passive style that gives the wide receiver all of the power but Baldwin will beat Davis on this over and over again. It’s surprising they didn’t go back to it.

I want you to look at the defensive line on this play. You’ll note that the “line” consists of Margus Hunt, Henry Anderson, and Jabaal Sheard. This is the Colts favorite defensive alignment. I’ll call this the “allow” defensive scheme.

We’ll have two defensive linemen get double-teamed and send a single rusher on a play where Seattle desperately needs time for a long play to develop to get in field goal range. Then, rather than play somewhat aggressively to keep receivers from making easy catches, we’ll have massive holes in our zones and sort of meander around until we see the ball come out of the quarterback’s hands.

The good news here is that, Seattle doesn’t score a touchdown. And, hell, that’s all we wanted anyway. We’ll GIVE THEM a field goal because, well, who cares?

Once the Seahawks broke the game open, the defense fell to pieces. On this play there isn’t a single defender who has any idea that Seattle has a tight end on the field running a tight crossing pattern on the goal line. In case you were wondering, this is a very common offensive play. Every team in the NFL uses it. The Colts have used it for years.

Don’t tell anyone on the defense. It appears they haven’t seen this before.


Look, it isn’t all bad. There are signs of life on defense that hasn’t been in Indianapolis for years. There are times when this unit gives the impression that they can shut down an opponent and will carry the team to a win.

I was convinced at half time that the defense was going to “out Seattle” Seattle... in Seattle? The unit was forcing turnovers, the defensive line was smashing any attempt to run the football, even Russell Wilson didn’t have a chance to do any damage with his feet. This group held Russell Wilson to 113 yards passing and 15 yards rushing in the first half. In fact, they held him under 200 passing yards through three quarters.

The offense did not help this group in the second half at all. In the third quarter, the offense had three three-and-outs and a strip sack returned for a touchdown. Even the officials played a role in helping the defense get gassed by blowing numerous plays dead on penalties on the opening drive of the second half.

The Colts offense ended the second half with two first downs and only possessed the ball for about seven and a half minutes — two minutes and seventeen seconds of that time was running out the clock to end the game. Of course, this means the Colts defense spent over 22 minutes on the field in the second half — an impossible task.