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Things We Learned From Week 3: Chuck Pagano Wants To Lose

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Week Three in the NFL saw a lot of surprising developments. We all watched as the Ravens, Broncos, Steelers, Seahawks and Raiders lost in surprising fashion while the Rams, Packers and Patriots pulled out late wins in games few expected to be close. Further the New York Jets were the preseason favorite to earn the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft, this week we saw them nearly shutout a Dolphins team many thought would battle for a wildcard playoff berth. It was a wild week in the NFL, but what did we learn about our Colts?

Jacoby Brissett is a Real NFL QB

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Now I know every quarterback in the league is technically a “real NFL QB” but Brissett, a second year pro, looked like a real option to lead an offense. Which seems like a low bar but when you consider Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon and Case Keenum all started games for NFL teams (and went a combined 3-1) yesterday, it feels really good knowing Brissett is the guy we get to watch while Andrew Luck works his way back.

In our win against the Browns, Brissett went 17 for 24 with 259 yards, 1 touchdown and no picks, he also ran two TD’s. Brissett led the offense down the field consistently in the first half. After the first two drives resulted in punts, the young signal caller found his rhythm and led the team on four straight touchdown drives.

Through little fault of his own, he cooled significantly in the second half, seeing five punts, a field goal, and lost fumble courtesy of Jack Doyle. As I said this wasn’t as much Brissett playing like less of a QB, but rather a schematic change that saw Frank Gore earn his 2.3 yards per carry by running into the backs of his offensive line.

Our Run Defense Might Actually Be Good

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you’re thinking; “Chris Shepherd is an idiot, we gave up 111 yards on the ground at 5.3 yards per carry”. While most of that is true, those numbers don’t provide context for how, or when, those yards came about.

The Browns ran the ball 9 times in the first 18 minutes of the game. In those first 9 carries they gained 60 yards good for a 6.67 yard per carry average. The other 42 minutes of the game saw the Browns rush 10 times for 38 yards and if you take out the Kizer scrambles the number drops to 8 carries for 18 yards at 2.25 yards per clip.

I know, there are a lot of variables here. You run less when you’re behind by 21 points, sure, on the other side of that fact is the defense isn’t looking to defend the run, either. After Duke Johnson’s 19 yard scamper the Colts answered with a TD of their own. Down by 7 points with ten minutes remaining in the second quarter the Browns ran the ball 3 times for 8 yards leading to an eventual punt.

The game started out rough for our front seven. This Browns line was the most talented group they’ve faced all year and the first quarter proved it. I’m not sure what sparked the change, GamePass hasn’t put out the All-22 tape at the time of this writing, but beyond the first 18 minutes of the game, our defensive line made the needed adjustments and stopped the run.

Indy Needs Davis and Wilson Healthy ASAP

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In my scouting report of the Browns offense I made note that the only viable pass catchers the Browns had were Corey Coleman and David Njoku. I pointed out that Njoku is a rookie and will be inconsistent and then Coleman was put on IR. The Browns have no one decent to catch passes from Kizer.

So instead Duke Johnson caught 6 balls for 80 yards. Kenny Britt, managed to catch 3 balls for 54 yards and a touchdown. Britt only caught 2 passes for 15 yards coming into our match up and despite having a career year in 2016, shouldn’t have been able to have an impact at all. Kizer threw for 242 yards and I can’t help but feel that number would have been much lower with a healthy group of DB’s.

Rashaan Melvin had a big week, picking off two passes and, based on one viewing of the game, did a nice job in coverage most of the day but he was flagged three times, once for holding and twice for PI. He was flagged on the touchdown he gave up to Kenny Britt, but the Browns declined, obviously.

Melvin is a solid player. Please don’t misunderstand me, but he isn’t a CB1 and he can’t do it all himself. Week 4 our Colts will face a Seahawks team that hasn’t played well, but is far and away the most talented opponent we’ve faced this year. A healthy lineup of Davis, Wilson and Melvin have the potential to completely change the outlook for week 4 and could lead to a surprising outcome against a team that most thought would contend for a title this year.

Russell Wilson is better than DeShone Kizer. Without these guys in the lineup, you expect different results.

Even When He Wins, Chuck Pagano Wants To Lose

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If you asked him, I’m positive he would disagree with this take. If you asked him why he went away from the more aggressive offensive approach that worked so well in the first half he would likely tell you that he wanted to limit the possibility of his offense making mistakes leading to Cleveland Browns points. He would tell you he wanted to eat clock using the ground game. He would tell you he trusted his defense to protect a 14 point halftime lead.

What he won’t tell you is he doesn’t trust Jacoby Brissett to play well with a lead. He won’t tell you that his starting center, Deyshawn Bond, was destroyed on nearly every play and as a result the Browns superior defensive line prevented the running game from ever doing anything. He won’t tell you that Jack Mewhort, wasn’t much better. He won’t tell you that the reason the Browns were held to 7 points in the first half was because of the aggressive play calling that allowed Brissett to lead the team on drives, keeping his defense fresh.

Chuck Pagano believes he did the right thing yesterday. He would tell you he made good decisions. He would tell you that players have to execute when called on. He would tell you he wouldn’t do anything differently. If you could get him to be honest, he would tell you the near comeback was the fault of a lot of people, but not his. Just like 2015.

The problem, Chuck, there aren’t any more assistants to throw under the bus. You can’t pin this on the players. No one can control the direction of the team without your guidance. You’re not a head coach in this league. Not much longer.