Home > Game Tape, NFL > Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 12 — Chargers at Colts

Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 12 — Chargers at Colts

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28: Peyton Manning  of the Indianapolis Colts looks to throw a pass while pursued by Kevin Burnett  of the San Diego Chargers during the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Chargers won 36-14. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

A LiveBall Sports Game Tape Review.

  • The Colts were trying to exploit #54 Chargers LB Stephen Cooper in coverage early.  The Colts attacked him a number of ways with both receivers and tight ends.
  • According to color commentator Cris Collinsworth, his film study revealed Cooper to be the weaker of the two Chargers ILBs in coverage.  Kevin Burnett is the quicker, more adept coverage player.
  • The Chargers will mix zone defenses with man defense.  Nominally, they are a 3-4 defense and usually play 3-4 defense on first down, but this is a multiple front, aggressive, pressure defense under coordinator Ron Rivera.
  • San Diego had a plan coming in to solve Reggie Wayne with double coverage and CB Antoine Cason, but didn’t come out ready to defend TE Jacob Tamme.  The Colts first response to get Wayne involved was to use him in the same way that they were using Tamme, using him on drags and slants to attack the middle of the field.
  • The news in this game was the return of WR Vincent Jackson to the Chargers’ lineup (no catches), but RB Darren Sproles has been missing in the passing game for some time.  He had 8 touches in this one.
  • The Colts did not allow Philip Rivers to make the big throw down the field.  All of the big passing plays in this game were thrown by Manning, and the Chargers scored twice off of those passes.
  • Colts cover-two is a true competency, worked against the two best offenses they will face this year in back to back weeks: New England and San Diego.  They are a little weak at the linebacker level right now, which allowed the Chargers running game to be a factor, but held Antonio Gates to 4 catches-48 yards.  Just no downfield opportunities against a defense that is supposed to be spacey in the middle of the field.
  • Kevin Burnett’s INT returned for a TD was not a designed coverage.  He mis-read his assignment’s (Colts RB Donald Brown) intention to stay in and block, and would up in an otherwise clean passing lane with the football.  The play was as much luck as skill and positioning.  Manning was also pressured on the play by NT Antonio Garay.
  • Antonio Garay is a fantastic nose tackle who is a three down player because he controls two gaps and rushes the passer.  No player is more responsible for the success of the Chargers defense this year than Garay.  He appeared in four games with the Bears in 2006 for defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.  Garay turned 31 years old two days after this game.
  • On Manning’s 2nd INT, Antwaan Barnes (acquired from Baltimore pre-season thanks to them having too many LBs) beat LT Charlie Johnson around the edge and hit manning on the release.  The pass, which appeared to be intended for WR Blair White on the left sideline, went instead to the middle of the field where only Chargers LBs were.
  • Colts are really the first team to make San Diego look like a team short on weapons.  An efficient offensive day by the Chargers enabled by the domination of the Indianapolis offense by their defense.  This game proves how dangerous the Chargers are to the AFC playoff field.
  • The Chargers were successfully able to minimize the impact of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in this game, mostly by winning the one on one battles with their offensive tackles.  Rivers was sacked twice, but only once by a Colts DL.  Good game by the Chargers OL, with only LG Kris Dielman struggling with his matchup.
  • The Colts offense uses a lot of college type swings and screens, as well as the Colts slant with Wayne and Garcon that they have made famous over the years.
  • This is an offense that needs RB Joseph Addai back, who hasn’t played since the Redskins game in week six.  Donald Brown looks like a wasted draft pick.  Too much of the Colts passing offense goes to the running backs not to have Addai in there.  The Colts essentially play with undrafted rookies behind Brown.
  • RB Javarris James appears to be a pretty good blocking back, which makes off some for him not contributing as a receiver.
  • Mike Tolbert’s longest run of the day (longest offensive play by the Colts) was poor run defense by the Colts, actually the wrong cut by Tolbert.
  • The Colts have the same problem in run defense that the Texans do in pass defense.  The scheme allows them to play with cushion and “limit damage”, but these units are really poor at limiting damage, turning simple plays into long gains with inexcusable mistakes.
  • I get the feeling that if the Colts couldn’t play cover two, they wouldn’t do anything well defensively.  The coverage ability of this group is what prevents Dwight Freeney’s statline from looking like Mario Williams’.  But when you compare that Houston’s offense is stacked compared to the Colts, you can see just how valuable that cover two ability is.
  • When you see Peyton Manning overthrowing open receivers, it’s bad.  Manning’s season is good evidence that even the best ever decline sharply when age becomes a factor.
  • Manning does need to have more weapons than he does in order to have impact in the make the playoffs.  The Colts offensive decline is part decline on Manning’s part, but a larger part injuries and having no ability to run the football.  My point is simply that 33-year old Manning overcame these issues to win games ugly while 34 year old Manning is succumbing to them.
  • At the end of the day, Manning will be back when this unit is healthy and when the Colts decide that protecting him is important.  He will be a factor in the outcome of NFL football games through 2016, and the Colts should pay him as such.
  • The Colts don’t seem to have any problem tackling receiver/runners, and are one of the best open field tackling teams I have ever seen.  Their problem is getting off blocks to make tackles.
  • It’s going to be fun watching Jacob Tamme and Dallas Clark play on the same team.  I have no idea how they are going to work both of them in the same scheme, but they are two of the top fifteen receiving tight ends in pro football.
  • Pierre Garcon always makes one play a game that makes you think keeping him in the lineup is a good idea.  It likely is not.  Garcon fits the team’s desire for big play offense, but misses most of his opportunities to keep this team on track.
  • Manning is struggling to get some of his passes to the sideline, which is causing additional interception opportunities for adept corners.
  • Philip Rivers was the best quarterback on the football field in this game, and either Tom Brady or Rivers is the best quarteback in the NFL right now.  Manning might be a distant third on the same level of Drew Brees.

If the Chargers end up beating the Raiders and Chiefs down the stretch to get into the playoffs, this will be their best chance to win the Super Bowl under Norv Turner.  This is as strong as the Chargers have been in the last four seasons.  Special teams will remain a critical issue, but the biggest threat to the Chargers is that they might miss the postseason altogether based on a 2-5 start and a much improved AFC West division.  As of right now, they are the best team in the NFL.

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