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Charting A Drive: Anatomy of a Beating

I love getting articles from readers.  I especially like articles with good statistical research, great writing, or a meticulous viewing of game tape.  Today’s offering comes courtesy of  18to88 reader Kasey_Junk.

To distract myself from Colts blogosphere hysteria after the severe beating this week, and to perhaps make myself a better fan, I decided to do an in depth analysis of 1 series that seemed to define the tone of this debacle.  I would watch every play (using a DVR and the broadcast camera angels) in the series and chart exactly what each run defender (D-Lineman, Linebackers, and any DBs pulled into run support) did on each play, and what the Houston offense did that was so successful against them.  My hope was that this would provide me with some hint as to what went wrong. 

Picking the series was easy.  At the start of the 3rd Quarter the Texans led the Colts 13 to 10.  The Colts were dominating the time of possession battle and while not devastating on defense, they were credible.  I was most worried about Peyton Manning’s protection as it had been pretty bad in the first half.  I was not worried at all about the Texans having a historic running day.  On the first drive of the 3rd quarter the Texans went 67 yards and scored a touchdown.  They held the ball for almost 8 minutes and 15 plays (13 of them rushing).  This series tired out the defense and set the tone for the rest of the second half.

1st + 10 from the Texans 33
Texans Formation:
1 TE (right side of Texans line), 1 FB, both WR in close.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel with Bullitt showing blitz at the line (left side).
Play: 8 yard run to the right between Muir & Moala.
– Session and Bullitt both blitz to the left side taking them out of the play.
– Brackett stays home to close the cut back lane (I assume).
– Wheeler cuts the FB taking both out of the play.
– The play runs completely away from Freeney.
– Muir was double teamed and unable to break through.
– Moala was initially double teamed, his second blocker disengaged and went to the next level.
– Mathis was taken way out of the play by the RT.

2nd + 2 from the Texans 42
Texans Formation:
1 TE (right side), 1 FB, 1 WR close left, 1 WR spread left.
Colts Formation: 4-3 cover 2
Play: 7 yard run to the left outside of Freeney.
– Freeney stunts inside and Brackett tries to move to his spot.  3 Lineman split between the 2 of them for the block.
– Bullitt reads the play correctly but is taken out of the play by the inside WR.
– Muir was double teamed and taken out of the play.
– Mathis releases with the TE into coverage and is taken out of the play.
– Moala takes Mathis’ place on the far side to contain/rush outside and runs out of the play.
– Wheeler is slow to react, and was blocked after one of the lineman on Freeney releases.
– Sessions is in position and is taken out by the lead FB.

1st + 10 from the Texans 49
Texans Formation:
1 TE (right), 1 FB, 1 WR spread to each side.
Colts Formation: 4-3 cover 2
Play: 6 yard run to the right. Good running by S. Slaton gets more yardage than he should have.
– Freeney is once again run away from.  He is blocked by both the LT and the FB (though the FB blocks poorly).
– Muir is legally chopped by one G.
– Moala is moving outside and is blocked by the other G.  He sheds the block in time to put a hand on the runner.
– Mathis is rode out of the play by the TE.
– Brackett is blocked by the C and rode out of the play.
– Wheeler is blocked by the RT and taken out of the play.
– Session runs out of the play (I assume to either contain the cut back route or to attack the passer).
– Bethea makes an ankle tackle and Slaton jumps forward for extra yardage.

2nd and 4 from the Indy 45
Texans Formation
: 1 TE (right), 1 FB, 1 WR spread to each side.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel with Bethea in the box.
Play: 3 yard run to the right.
– Freeney ran away from.
– Session on what appears to be a run blitz is off-sides (no flag) and on the wrong side of the play. He is destroyed by the LT.
– Muir gets the jump on his man (LG) who falls.  The FB completely stones Muir 1 on 1!
– Moala singled by the RG sheds his man but not in time, tackles Slaton from behind.
– Mathis is blocked well out of the play by the RT.
– Bethea follows the TE into coverage.
– Wheeler is not blocked but is completely out of position (no idea why).

3rd and 1 from the Indy 42
Texans Formation
: 1 TE (right), 1 FB, 1 WR spread to each side.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel but not ready for play.
Play: Quick snap catches Colts (and camera crew) napping.  Pitchout wide left for 11 yards.
– Unable to see what goes on because broadcast coverage is an issue.  Colts DBs have to chase Foster out of bounds.

1st and 10 from the Indy 31
Texans Formation:
1 TE (right), 1 FB, 1 WR spread to each side.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel with Wheeler at the line.
Play: 6 yard run to the right.
– Freeney is run away from and legally chopped by the FB.
– Johnson is legally chopped by the LG.
– Session is rode out of the play by the LT.
– King ran out of position on what I assume was a stunt.  It should be notice that he completely passed the rusher and was not blocked.
– Foster was doubled by the RG and RT.
– Brackett was pushed out of the play by the C.
– Wheeler is lit up by the TE.

2nd and 4 from the Indy 25
Texans Formation:
1 TE (motions to left), 1 FB, 1 WR spread to each side.
Colts Formation: 4-3 cover 2
Play: Run left for 4 yards.
– Freeney is either keeping the edge on his side or blocked there by the LT.
– Johnson is driven completely out of the play by the LG.
– King is driven out of the play by the RG but hustles back for the tackle.
– Foster is run away from and chipped by the RT.
– Session is once again taken out by the FB.
– Brackett is blocked out of the play by the C.
– Wheeler is slow to react and misses the play.

3rd and 2 from the Indy 21
Texans Formation
: 1 WR spread to each side, 2 WR close on the right.
Colts Formation: Dime with Freeney, Foster, Mathis as down rushers and Dawson standing on the line to the right of Mathis.
Play: 1 yard rush to the left.
– Freeney does an inside move and he and Foster are met by the LG, RG, and one of the blocking WR.
– RT attempts to block a stunting Mathis and misses.  Mathis makes the tackle.
– Dawson runs out of the play on an outside rush/contain and is chipped by a WR.
– Brackett is cleared by the LT.

4th and 1 from the Indy 20
Texans Formation
: 1 TE on each side (after motion), 1 FB, 1 WR spread right.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel with Brackett in the middle on the line, Session on the right of the line and Powers on the left at the line, and Bullitt running in from the left at the start of the play.
Play: Run far right for 1 yard (and a killer first down).
– Powers is run right away from and is not blocked.
– Freeney is run away from and legally chopped by the 1 TE.
– Moala gets good penetration but the LT prevents him from making the tackle.
– Muir gets good penetration, causing the back to bounce outside, but is taken to the ground by the C.
– Brackett is also there to cause the back to bounce outside but is prevented from tackling him by the RG.
– Mathis is completely rolled by the RT.
– Session is blown up by the TE (great, great block by Owen Daniels)
– Wheeler is never in the play.

1st and 10 from the Indy 19
Texans Formation
: 2 TE (both left), 1 FB, 1 WR spread right.
Colts Formation: 4-3 personnel with Bullitt in the box.
Play: Run to the right for 4 yards.
– Freeney is once again ran away from and slowed by a TE.
– Moala is blocked by the LT with help from the releasing LG.
– Muir is blocked by the C with help from the releasing RG.
– Dawson is taken out of the play by the RT.
– Wheeler is chipped by the RG and runs out of the play.
– Session is taken out by the FB.
– Bullitt is stoned by the TE.
– Brackett is not in position.

2nd and 6 from the Colts 14 was an incomplete pass play.

3rd and 6 from the Colts 14
Texans Formation:
1 WR spread right, 3 WR bunched left, Schaub in shotgun.  Slaton motions to a WR position.
Colts Formation: Dime with Dawson standing again.
Play: Pass into center zone for 6 yards.
– Brackett clears the center zone in coverage of Slaton.
– quick slant, great pass to Andre Johnson. Still almost a stop.

1st and 10 from the Colts 9
Texans Formation: 1 TE to each side, 1 FB, 1 WR spread left.
Colts Formation: 4-2 personnel with Bullitt and Session at the line of scrimmage on the left.
Play: Run left for 8 yards.
– Dawson (playing for Freeney) does an inside move and is blocked by the C.
– Johnson is completely out of position and legally chopped by the RG.
– Muir is run away from and chipped by a TE.
– Mathis is run away from and chipped by a TE.
– Session on an inside move is blocked by the LT.
– Bullitt is blown up by the FB.
– Brackett is swallowed by the LG.
– Wheeler is taken out by the RT.

2nd and G on the Colts 1
– didn’t chart this as I assume that the Colts cannot play goal line defense.  They do end up holding though as Brackett either illegally face masks Foster or holds up in run support.

3rd and G on the Colts 1
– again didn’t chart this.  It was a right side run for an easy TD.  I noticed Mathis getting destroyed by the RT and Wheeler blown up by the FB.

Conclusions:
When I entered this I assumed that I would be disgusted by our line play.  I wasn’t.  It’s true that the first unit did not play great, but they weren’t horrible either.  Mathis is a liability in run support but we knew that.  Freeney gets run away from, which makes me think he may be good at playing the run.  There was a serious drop off when our first unit defensive line was off the field.  Most startling was how poorly Mookie Johnson played.  I assumed that he was our best against the run, if this series is any indication this is not true.

Much more problematic was the Linebacker play.  I have no way to know how much of this was due to undetected bad line play, but our backers were frequently blocked by lower tier blockers.  I grew tired of writing down that Session was taken out of the play by the FB.  Wheeler, whom I thought would have a breakout year, appears to be the goat of the defense.

Finally, it seems to me that the greatest share of the blame for this may lie with the coaching staff.  Far too often Colts players were blitzing or stunting themselves right out of the play.  The Texans did not do any trickery (the only play they tried that failed) and if the Colts had played straight up they would have had more players that needed to be blocked and that may have made the difference.

If there was a positive to this atrocious display by the defense was that there were still 2 different plays that were inches from being stops.  A single extra incomplete pass or 1 negative run play could have changed this entire series and possibly the game.

About The Author:
kasey_junk (kasey_junk@myrealbox.com) has no football experience above the grade school level.  He doesn’t even play that much Madden, but he will take your money in Super Tecmo Bowl.  Take everything he says with a grain of salt as he probably doesn’t know what he is talking about.  He would pay good money to have access to an NFL teams video system and/or a query-able database of NFL stats.