Tale of the Tape: Colts/Rams
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INDIANAPOLIS – Yes, it was as bad as it looked the first time.
Going back and watching film of the Colts’ 46-9 loss to the Rams should have been labeled as “not safe for work.”
Nonetheless, each week we will go back and have a “tale of the tape” series to get a final look at what happened in the previous Colts’ game.
What was observed in Week One?
Quarterback Change Needed
You can’t help but grimace watching some of the throws/decisions from Scott Tolzien on Sunday.
Let’s break down the two pick sixes, which led to a quarterback rating of 33.8 for Tolzien.
On the first one, there’s simply no need to make this throw on the first possession of the game.
The Colts motion T.Y. Hilton to the left, so No. 13 is in the slot of a three-receiver set. The Rams bring six guys after Tolzien, and the Colts actually initially pick it up decently well. But as the pocket begins to close, Tolzien thinks he can thread one in to Hilton on this 3rd-and-10. Even in 7-on-7 drills, this would not be an easy pass. Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson is in perfect position for any slightly underthrown ball. Tolzien doesn’t really step into the throw and next thing you know Johnson is running 35 yards the other way for a touchdown.
On the second one, Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner read Tolzien perfectly.
It’s a bunch set for the Colts, again with three receivers, and Hilton is the intended receiver. As soon as Tolzien hits the top of his three-step drop, Joyner is locked in on the quarterback and sprinting to break on the ball, in front of Hilton. Textbook work by Joyner. Awful telegraphing by Tolzien.
The Colts ended Sunday with just 11 completions, and Tolzien is lucky the Rams didn’t corral a couple of more interceptions returned for a touchdown
Finishing an NFL game 0-for-10 on third down is nearly impossible, but the Colts did the impossible on Sunday.
“The Colts will play to Tolzien’s strengths,” is how CBS' color analyst Dan Fouts relayed Chuck Pagano’s message to him during Saturday’s production meetings.
What are those after Week One?
Tolzien is a super nice guy (and I really mean that), but this is the NFL and it’s nearly impossible justifying him as a starter again in Week Two. Get a package of plays ready for Jacoby Brissett and see what you got in him.
Goff Shreds Colts
The first surprise on Sunday came with T.J. Green in the starting lineup. The converted safety, who has played corner for about three weeks, not only started, but he played the second most defensive snaps of any Colt (62-of-65).
On the first drive of the game, Goff fired two quick completions, one coming against Green, the other against opposite CB-Rashaan Melvin.
From there, the Rams used quick tempo, play-action and long-developing routes to slice up the Indy defense.
With Goff working behind clean pocket after clean pocket, the Rams struck routinely on deep crossers and over routes down the field.
Per Pro Football Focus, Goff hit on four “deep completions” Sunday in 29 pass attempts. He had a total of four “deep completions” all of last year (205 pass attempts in seven starts).
Goff had seven completions of at least 21 yards on Sunday, hitting those chunks more so through the air, as opposed to involving yards after catch.
What we saw from Goff on Sunday was some obvious influence from the respected offensive mind of new coach Sean McVay, and some clear growth from Year One to Year Two.
Four different Rams had at least 53 yards receiving against the Colts, as Goff threw for a career-high 306 yards and finished with a quarterback rating of 117.9.
How effective were the Rams on Sunday?
They scored on five of their first seven drives. The two they didn’t score on? They had five penalties (four accepted) on those two series, leading to the lone punts the Colts forced during the game’s first 40 minutes.
Terrific game plan from McVay (the up-tempo idea was smart, given the Colts’ newness on defense and the field temperature hovering above 90 degrees in LA), executed to perfection by Goff, hence Chuck Pagano’s reference to being “outcoached” following the 46-9 whipping.
You think Bruce Arians was taking notes of this passing game plan?
The Only Positive?
Prior to Sunday, Chuck Pagano would have instantly signed up for this Todd Gurley stat line: 19 carries for 40 yards, 2.1 yards per carry.
This is exactly what the Colts needed to do to achieve defensive success on Sunday. But then they forgot to pressure Jared Goff at all, or have any semblance of pass coverage.
Let’s stick with the positive here, though. The run defense was a bright spot for the Colts.
The new starting front of NT-Al Woods, DT-Johnathan Hankins and a healthy DE-Henry Anderson did a very sound job against the Rams running back. In all, the Rams averaged just 1.9 yards per rush on 33 attempts.
Woods, in particular, was very stout in re-drawing the line of scrimmage into the Rams’ backfield on several occasions.
The Colts got a brief scare in the fourth quarter when Woods went down after getting rolled up on. Woods did return though later in the contest.
For a three-man defensive line, the trio of Woods, Hankins and Anderson played quite a bit on Sunday, especially the two newcomers (Woods and Hankins).
Their health is beyond paramount for the Colts trying to repeat this sort of run defense throughout 2017.
Before we get to the challenge debate, which really isn’t a debate. The play should have been challenged, like Chuck Pagano said afterwards. And it was a touchdown.
Marlon Mack needs to get his pads lower and clearly get into the end zone there.
I know Mack isn’t known as a bruising runner, but at the goal line like that, you get low and deliver the blow. Be more physical in that situation.
Mack still did enough to score though, as replays indicated.
The 21-yard run and catch by Mack ends at the 8:05 mark of the first quarter and the Colts next snapped the ball at the 7:46 mark. They tried to get cute and go hurry-up on the goal line.
Still, even in 20 seconds, the coaches up in the booth have to alert Pagano that a challenge is needed. In that situation, Pagano should also be the one to call off the quick snap try, knowing how precious points were, given the injuries on offense.
You can’t afford to give away points like that and the Colts did it on Sunday.
Would it have mattered in the outcome of the game? No.
But I’m a believer in momentum in sports and it would have certainly changed the course of the game, at least a little.
As Fouts said on the broadcast, “I don’t understand why you don’t challenge that.”
Mack said after the game he thought he was definitely in the end zone.
Pagano took full blame for the no challenge afterwards. But these are the sorts of in-game coaching decisions that ultimately will be evaluated by Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard this year.
To make matters worse, the Colts did not re-group after the first down stuff of Mack. Robert Turbin should have entered the game, giving the Colts their goal-line presence for second down, when they instead ran Mack again.
One note on Mack, you saw more flashes of why the Colts wanted him. That 24-yard fourth-quarter run by Mack was the longest for a Colt running back since December 2015.
Offensive Line is Not Fixed
So much for having “never felt better” about an offensive line.
Even without All-Pro Aaron Donald, the Rams’ defensive front was dominant.
They had seven tackles for loss and sacked Scott Tolzien four times in just 24 drop backs, leading to the third best sack percentage for any team in Week One.
Frank Gore was solid running the ball (4.2 yards per carry), but the pass protection was woeful.
Every lineman, outside of right tackle Denzelle Good, contributed to a sack on Tolzien.
Rookie center Deyshawn Bond must snap the ball with more consistency.
The sacks came from mostly getting beaten one-on-one, and what appeared to be some miscommunication with stunts.
Get a stopwatch and time the difference in pocket time for Tolzien compared to Goff. It had to be at two ends of the spectrum in Week One.
Worried About Vinny
Maybe this is premature, but when the GOAT misses two kicks he usually knocks home in his sleep, it must be noted.
Coming into Sunday, I was more worried about a first-time long snapper (Luke Rhodes) and a rookie holder (Rigoberto Sanchez), than I was Adam Vinatieri.
But on both missed kicks from Vinny on Sunday, a 38-yard field goal that was hooked, and a 33-yard extra point going wide right, the pre-kick operation looked smooth.
“What is going on?” is how announcer Ian Eagle described the missed PAT by Vinatieri.
It’s too early to seriously worry about Vinatieri. The guy has been one of the NFL’s best kickers over the last three years.
But with points so, so hard to come by right now, the Colts cannot afford Vinatieri to miss these types of kicks.
-The Colts have been beaten by 35-plus points six times under Chuck Pagano. That's three more times than any other team. Wow.
-What is Stephen Morris thinking right now?
-What is Andrew Luck thinking?
-Could we get a mic in Jim Irsay’s suite while we are at it?
-Nice outing for Sanchez, the undrafted rookie punter. He averaged 50.3 yards per punt, and had a net average of 47.8, with two punts inside the 20.
-T.J. Green is a really reckless tackler, and not in a good way.
-On the T.Y. Hilton fumble, he’s got to secure that ball. Having said that, Scott Tolzien should have led Hilton better into the open field.
-Let me say it again: Colts’ fans should be breathing a big sigh of relief that NT-Al Woods returned to the game after getting rolled up on. That didn’t look good.
-As Chuck Pagano hinted at earlier in the week, we did see some rotation at right guard. Jack Mewhort started and played 40 of 50 snaps. Reserve Joe Haeg got 10 snaps of work at right guard.
-At running back, with the score likely dictating some playing time, the reps were: Gore (19 snaps), Mack (17 snaps) and Turbin (14 snaps).
-Quincy Wilson only played 17 snaps as the team’s fourth cornerback. That needs to change.
-Rookie safety Malik Hooker did not start at safety, but did play 30 snaps. Didn’t notice Hooker too much on Sunday.
-Good scouting find for the Colts with linebacker Jeremiah George. He goes from a camp body, to making the 53-man roster and finished Sunday with a couple of nice plays on defense and special teams.
-Felt like the Colts’ run game had better moments than the stats showed (24 carries for 75 yards, 3.1 yards per carry).
-Really like Rams rookie wideout Cooper Kupp. Goff and Kupp should have a nice future together.
-It’s one game, but I’m a believer in the offensive mind of Sean McVay.
-The playing surface at Memorial Coliseum looked in pretty good shape, considering USC and Stanford had played there the night before.
-I enjoy listening to play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle.