idle pregame thoughts...
...Sitting down and thinking about tomorrows game, after a week long over emmersion in various stats, opinions, and comments, I thought I'd add my own. ;)
1. What I'd do if I were Pats OC this week
A.The key difference I saw in the difference between the Colts run defense during the regular season and the vastly improved one of the Playoffs, is the play of the DEs. Prior to the playoffs the Colt DEs pass rushed almost EVERY play. Now they are squeezing down to the inside and trying to set an edge LIMITING the inside, and relying on speedy LBs and safeties to contain on the outside. There are several ways to combat this.
a. Run on passing downs and pass on running downs. Sounds simple but it really is an easy way to throw off a defense's confidence in the play call.
b. Alternate, quick counts with long counts on the snaps. The quick snap somewhat negates the crowd advantage the Colts will enjoy. The long snap will take away some of rush of the DEs as they try to anticipate the snap. BTW- when I say alternate, I DON'T mean to do it every other time. ;)
c. DON'T give up on the 2 TE alignment. Current common wisdoms has been espousing the "spread them out" approach. To do this exclusively like we did in SD, not only helps the Colts by ignoring an area of THEIR weakness, it takes to of our better players off the field (Watson, Graham). Here are a few examples why the 2 TE formations will be valuable.
When you line up in this formation you almost can dictate an 8 man in the box alignment from the defense with single coverage on at least one of your outside WRs. From this formation, you widen out the DEs making more room inside to run just by formation. You put their undsized OLBs having to align head up on a blocking TE. Now that you have forced the Colts into a known defense, you can go about attacking it in several way.
First since the Colts are pinching their DE or at worst trying to establish a stalemate with the DT (almost in a 2 gap technique) By motioning one of the TE's to the other side you can create a virtual UNBALANCED line and run our own version of the stretch play with a man advantage.
Second, a simple pass play - Have one TE try and split the seam. He will be open or he will occupy the LB AND one of the S's. The other TE will block the Blitzer or help with DE (freeney)...THEN release into the middle about 5 yds over the LOS. I have watched OTHER teams to this successfully AGAINST the Pats all season. This would be the time to use FOR us. It not only is a safe pass, that's designed to gain 5+ on a regular basis. Its success, will cause the Colts to think about blitzing the OLB because if they do the TE to that side becomes the hot read.
Against the "tampa 2" the 2 structural weaknesses of the pass defense are in the seam up the middle and the deep outside over the CB and under the safety. Lining up in the 2 TE - 2 WR formation exposes the latter weakness even more. If the Colts choose to keep 8 in the box (especially on first downs), then they expose one of their CBs to single coverage, so the 10-15 yd out is exposed in a zone, or the deep go, if in press. Both their CBs are smaller than our WRs, so even if they DON'T beat their man, they will be in position to out jump the CB or cause a penalty.
Third, we have the unique oppotunity because of our personel to quickly shift from the 2 TE-2WR formation - By shift Watson to the slot on one side, and motioning Faulk/Moroney to the other, we quickly get to a empty backfield 4 WR formation and STILL have the potential of having 6 men in pass protection.
d. If I'm the OC, I keep reminding myself, that even though we basically gave up on the pass in the second half in November, WE STILL managed to rush for more than 140 yds.... WITH the immortal Bob Sanders in the secondary!!!! In other words, we can run the ball against this group and its very important that we do. WE ARE the phyiscally more intimidating front line, and the best way to slow down that pass rush in the second half, is to punch them in the mouth in the first. That means running the ball and running right at them. I want to see Corey Dillon pouning the softs spots for 3-4 yds and Moroney on sweeps that cut up inside. I DO NOT want to see ANY slow developing running plays other than an occassional draw.
e. Don't forget to take my shots deep. This is something we DIDN'T do against SD UNTIL the last pass to Caldwell. I need to do this at LEAST 2 times in each half.
IF I'm the DC:
I have too much humility to even think I have a better answer to what the Colts do than BB, However I will offer this observation. The new improved PATIENT Peyton Manning has used the dump off to the RB EVERY effectively this post season (you know the play I kind of described earlier). If I were DC, I'd have my DL/LB whacking and checking on that play early and often. I it sounds funny but MAKE Manning throw the ball down field into your obsure, and complex coverages. :D
Re: idle pregame thoughts...
What an excellent post, Ken! I thought that I'd read everything I wanted to about the game by now, but you have added a lot to my understanding.
Watching Peyton and his offense when things are going well makes the game look easy.
He is way back but the O-line seems to be bunched tightly enough for no one to slip through easily. And if his receivers are covered he's dumping it off to Addai or throwing a short pass to Addai/Clark or Utech (sp?). In other words, he is getting great protection without needing to keep running back and tight ends home. Is that all because of the threat of Wayne and Harrison? And his accuracy is great.
I'm not saying that the Colts offense is unstoppable, but I think that you have put your finger on why it is so difficult. Manning is not just a gunslinger by any means. Do you have any further thoughts?
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