Each week, I will look to break down two of the best or worst plays (or situations) from the previous game, but I’ll need your help deciding what plays should be given a closer look as I hope to explain what happened in greater detail than the broadcasters can. Often you’ll hear “how did that guy get so open?” and I hope to be able to answer that question for Colts fans this season.
This weeks poll winners were the Eagles goal line stand that by essentially ended any real chance of a Colts victory and also the penalties that extended the Eagles 11 minute drive in the fourth quarter. I’m going to start with this weeks winner, the drive extending penalties.
The first of the drive extenders:
On first down of this series, Carson Wentz was sacked by Darius Leonard for a loss of 10 yards, setting up 2nd and 20. Then on 2nd and 20 the Eagles ran the ball and were flagged for holding. The Colts accepted the penalty which gave the Eagles 2nd and 26.
Question 1: On 2nd and 26 when you’re in coverage and you’re about to get beat on a 15 yard out route do you:
A. Try to recover to make a tackle setting up a 3rd down play and chance for a stop
B. Throw your hands in the air in disgust and let your teammates bring him down short of the first down marker
C. Fall down and hold your knee while your teammates bring him down short of the first down marker
D. Hold the receiver, risking a flag that will yield an automatic first down
This multiple choice question has 3 correct and 1 incorrect answer. The best answer is A, followed by a two way tie for B and C, neither are great but are preferred to the completely wrong answer: D. Nate Hairston chose D.
Was this a horrible penalty? No. Hairston didn’t mug the guy but this is absolutely holding. The refs were correct to throw this flag, had it happened to Eric Ebron I would have been beside myself if there were no flags on this one. It was the right call and Hairston screwed up.
Three plays later Margus Hunt jumped offside and was flagged. I could break down a guy jumping offside but that seems stupid. He clearly did it. Five yards, set up 1st and 5. Then this happened on 1st and 5:
Watch Pierre Desir at the bottom of the screen, he was called for illegal contact downfield, the penalty was declined because the completed pass gained more yards than an accepted penalty.
Here’s the thing; it was the correct call. You’ll see similar plays that don’t draw flags every Sunday but those will all stay in bounds. Had Desir not ridden him out of bounds, there’s probably no flag here. Further this looks like cover 2, Desir should have released his man to the next level so that he could over his zone that Zach Ertz happily filled because no one was close.
Even though this penalty wasn’t accepted it was a bad play that extended the drive and that’s what we’re doing here, right?
The next penalty is the one that I’ve seen most Colts fans complain about so let me set up the scenario for you to refresh your memory. On the 1st and 10 immediately following the above Pierre Desir disaster the Eagles handed the ball off to Wendel Smallwood who picked up 7 yards. On 2nd and 3, Darius Leonard once again sacked Carson Wentz for a loss of 9. On 3rd and 12, Wentz threw to Jordan Matthews for a gain of 7 setting up this play on 4th and 5:
Did Lane Johnson embellish? Flop, even? Yeah, probably so. Is he getting held? Yes. Yes he is. I know what I’m about to type is probably going to be unpopular but this was the right call.
Once again, Jabaal Sheard didn’t need to hold on this play, Lane Johnson wasn’t going to be able to stop Margus Hunt, had Sheard just let him go. Maybe he doesn’t hit Wentz, maybe Johnson gets just enough of Hunt that Hunt can’t make contact but Wentz is still going to feel the pressure and make the same throw into the dirt he did on the play above.
Again, is this a horrible hold by Sheard? No. Would it have surprised me if there were no flag? No. If this were Joe Haeg being held by Chris Long, I would be upset if there were no flag, especially on 4th down.
I get it we all want to be upset about the flag, you don’t see this called often but this was the right call. If defensive linemen were allowed to hold offensive linemen, we would see a lot more sacks and a lot more linebackers making tackles for loss after going completely untouched.
There was another penalty on this drive, Al-Quadin Muhammad lined up in the neutral zone, again I could break that down but I’m not going to. He lined up too close to the offense, there’s nothing I can tell you about it that you don’t already know.
The real problem about this drive wasn’t that the refs “took over the game”, it was the fact the penalties were all actually committed, they didn’t need to be committed and had they not been the outcome either wouldn’t have changed or would have given the Colts a chance to get the Eagles offense off the field.
Next we’ll take a look at the Eagles goal line stand. I know there was a Hail Mary thrown, but this series of plays effectively ended the game.
1st and 10 on the Eagles 11 yard line:
The Eagles come out in a zone and there’s absolutely no one open. All things considered Luck threw a heck of a pass here, just a hair over the fingertips of the underneath linebacker. There was no where to go with this ball.
2nd and 10:
Once again the Eagles drop into a zone and both Eric Ebron and Erik Swoope run curls which opens a hole in the zone just big enough for Andrew Luck to fit a pass in. Swoope catches this ball and gains 7 yards down to the Eagles 4. This brings up 3rd and 3:
I hate this play call. Not because it’s a fade, not because it’s a throw to TY Hilton, I hate this call because it wasn’t a called run. This is an RPO. Luck has the option to hand this ball off or throw the fade, Luck saw the outside linebacker crash to stop the run, Luck made the right read and threw a catchable ball. The offensive line blocked run. This was an RPO.
My problem with it is the fact that you know this is a 4 down situation. You’re going to go for it on 4th down if you don’t score pick up the first down or score on 3rd. Further you can still pick up a first down and give yourself 4 more chances to score 6 points. In this situation I want to see you line up and follow Quenton Nelson wherever he goes. This situation is the reason you draft a guard 6th overall.
You don’t draft a guard 6th overall and then pass the ball in this situation. I don’t care who the running back is, you hand this ball off and hope you score or get 4 more downs. Either way it brings us to 4th and 3:
Why did Andrew Luck look so upset after the sack? The sack did seal the game, but it was more than that. Look at this:
Andrew Luck had worked through his progressions and made it to the back side of the play where he sees Eric Ebron right as Derek Barnett makes contact. A couple frames later:
The defender on the outside turns to the outside, while the defenders in the middle of the field have bunched on the right, as a result Ebron is as open as he possibly could be:
This is the exact same picture just focused on Ebron:
All Luck has to do is put the ball near Ebron’s back shoulder, no one is getting to that ball and it’s a simple adjustment for the very athletic Ebron. All this is, is a simple throw and catch for 6 points if Le’Raven Clark is able to keep Barnett in check.
Ultimately this was an ugly game marred by an awful fourth quarter of Colts football. It was a disaster from whistle to whistle. Had the weather been good, I honestly believe the Colts win this one, and pretty easily. Instead they struggled to move the ball and mental mistakes resulted in an 11 minute game winning drive for the Eagles offense.
This would have been a good win to get, but ultimately I don’t think it means much to us as fans. It should just be a bump in the road for what should be a promising year. The players however, they should be upset, they gave this one away.