Luck, offense continue to make mistakes

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- So much has rightfully been talked about when it comes to how the Indianapolis Colts are doing a poor job with tackling and putting pressure on the quarterback.

But Andrew Luck and the offense don’t get a free pass, either. They’ve had their fair share of mistakes, too.

They got into Denver’s territory eight times in Week 1, only to score on half of those trips. The Colts had two costly turnovers the Eagles turned into 14 points on Monday.

“Yeah, the friendly fire, it will kill you,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Just like I told them in there, it’s so hard to win at this level. It doesn’t matter how good you play, all the games come down to one-score games. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to eliminate friendly fire and you’ve got to finish games. You’ve got to put people away.

“We had a chance to put people away and we didn’t do anything in the first part of that third quarter. We got off the field on defense, but we couldn’t do anything offensively. We had our chances again and we didn’t capitalize.”

Here’s a breakdown of the Colts’ offensive miscues in the first two weeks of the season:

Week 1 at Denver
  • Failed third-and-1 pass attempt at the Broncos’ 36-yard line. A delay of game penalty pushed the Colts out of field goal range.
  • Luck tried to rush the offense to the line of scrimmage and attempt a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the Broncos’ 1-yard line. Luck was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, leaving the Colts without any points when they had a chance a chance to cut Denver’s lead to 10.
  • Luck’s pass attempt to tight end Coby Fleener was tipped and intercepted at Denver’s 32-yard line with the Colts trailing 31-17 in the fourth quarter.
Week 2 vs. Philadelphia
  • Running back Trent Richardson fumbled at the Colts' 25-yard line. The Eagles scored five plays later to tie the game at 20-20 late in the third quarter.
  • Luck threw an interception after Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin got away with a hold on receiver T.Y. Hilton. The bigger issue was why the Colts threw the ball when the clock was in their favor and they had an opportunity to score at least three points to extend their lead to 10 points with about five minutes remaining.

Tight end Dwayne Allen said it best after the game.

"There's no falling back on, 'We're a young team and we're still learning,'" he said. "The whole 'young' title is out the door. We're a football team, and we're an experienced football team."

The Film Don't Lie: Colts

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- A weekly look at what the Indianapolis Colts must fix:

It’s the battle of winless teams when the Colts (0-2) travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars (0-2) on Sunday. The Jaguars have to feel good about the opportunity for big plays against the Colts.

The Colts gave up 231 yards after the catch to the Eagles, which is the most they’ve given up in a game in the nine seasons that ESPN has kept video-tracking data, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eagles running back Darren Sproles had catch-and-run plays of 57 and 51 yards. His 51-yard gain set the Eagles up to tie the score at 27-27 in the fourth quarter.

Poor tackling continues to be an issue for the Colts. Part of the problem could be that coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t allow tackling in practice or in training camp because he wants to help prevent his players from getting injured. Health is obviously a priority, but the downside to that is that the Colts are having a difficult time tackling.

Delanie Walker: 'I'm a fast guy'

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After he bounced off cornerback Morris Claiborne, Delanie Walker saw plenty of green.

The Tennessee Titans tight end raced about 37 yards to finish off a 61-yard touchdown in Sunday’s 26-10 loss to Dallas.

He outran four Cowboys including cornerback Brandon Carr and linebacker Bruce Carter, showing great acceleration.

“My mindset is one guy is not going to tackle me, when he hit me, I just bounced. It really gave me the momentum to go down the field,” Walker said. “I saw on the Jumbotron there was no one there…

“I don’t know why people think I’m not fast. I consider myself a fast guy. I showed it. If I get those opportunities, I will break tackles and I will outrun people. That’s what I am here for.”

Former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, now the analyst on Titans radio, watched it unfold during the broadcast and said, simply, “Wow.”

Before going on to say he has seen great speed from Walker on special teams, former NFL tight end Ken Whisenhunt said he also was surprised and impressed by the show of speed.

"Delanie had more speed than I thought he did on that long run,” Whisenhunt said.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- What happened last Sunday against the Washington Redskins has become all too familiar to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Struggle to move the ball because of poor offensive line play, a lack of playmakers, and a quarterback that doesn’t scare opposing defenses. Failure to stop the run, get off the field on third down, and make big plays on defense. Players talking about getting punched in the mouth by an opponent and failing to respond.

And a loss by double digits.

That last thing has happened a lot. In fact, it has happened a ridiculous amount of times -- really, an embarrassing amount of times.

Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Jaguars are 6-28. That's humiliating enough. But it’s even worse than that because 20 of those losses have come by 10 or more points, including the first eight games of the 2013 season.

"Just hearing it, it’s definitely something you’re not proud about," said safety Chris Prosinski, one of nine current players that have played significant roles with the team over that span. "But I know for this team, looking back to 2012 there’s so much more difference between coaches, players, schemes, what-not. ...But the best thing to do is get back out there and practice and move forward."

The Jaguars have certainly been trying to do that but without much success. In fact, things kept getting worse. The Jaguars lost eight games by double digits en route to a 2-14 finish in the 2012 season. They lost 10 in 2013 and went 4-12. This season, they gave up 34 unanswered points in the second half against Philadelphia and lost by 17 points and lost by 31 at Washington last Sunday.

The Redskins loss marked the fourth time over the past two-plus seasons that the Jaguars have lost by more than 30 points.

Here’s further documentation to show how bad things have been since the 2012 season began:
  • The Jaguars have been out-scored by 423 points in the 20 losses and have lost those games by an average margin of 21.15 points.
  • In addition to the four losses by more than 30 points, they’ve lost nine games by 20 or more points.
  • They’ve only lost three games by 14 or less.

The Redskins loss is arguably the worst loss the team has suffered since 2012. It wasn’t the largest margin -- that was a 41-3 blowout by Chicago in Week 5 of 2012 -- but the circumstances make it more troubling. The Redskins were already without Jordan Reed, one of the NFL’s top tight ends, and then lost quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver DeSean Jackson in the first quarter.

The Jaguars had made a significant upgrade to the defensive front in free agency by signing ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, and that was supposed to allow the defense to keep the games close into the second half and result in more chances to win games. That didn't happen against Washington.

Washington still rushed for 191 yards, piled up 32 first downs, and converted 6 of 14 third downs.

Maybe it’s time to start asking if the franchise is in better shape now than it was two years ago.

"We have some work to do but I definitely feel like this franchise is headed in the right direction," receiver Cecil Shorts said. "[GM] Dave [Caldwell], [coach] Gus [Bradley], they’re doing everything they can. It’s on us as players to take control of these reigns and get things going."

Defense fails to get to Nick Foles

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the perfect opportunity for the Indianapolis Colts to prove they had a pass rush. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up five sacks in their Week 1 victory over Jacksonville and they were without two offensive linemen against the Colts.

The Colts could have silenced the talk about how they would struggle without Robert Mathis (Achilles) in the lineup this season.

It turns the Colts did nothing to prove that they’ll be fine without Mathis.

They didn’t sack quarterback Nick Foles one time. In fact the Colts, who used a nickel defense most of the game, barely got any pressure on Foles. He finished 21-of-37 for 331 yards and a touchdown. The Colts hit Foles four time, two by linebacker Erik Walden and one each by Bjoern Werner and Cory Redding.

Werner talked about creating his own legacy while starting in Mathis’ absence.

That legacy has gotten off to a bad start.

Outside of a couple pressure plays during the preseason, Werner has done very little this season.

The Colts have only one sack through the first two games.

That’s not going to cut it and they’ll continue to put pressure on Andrew Luck and offense to carry the load. The Colts' offense can’t seem to avoid making its own mistakes each week.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Reading the coverage of the Jacksonville Jaguars ...

The Florida Times-Union ranked the top-five most unacceptable losses in team history, and Sunday's 41-10 beatdown in Washington came in at No. 2. No. 1 is the 21-0 loss to Houston on Dec. 26, 2004.'s Pete Prisco has a column called Monday Musings. Among his thoughts in the latest version: Time for quarterback Chad Henne to sit, and Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan destroyed right tackle Cameron Bradfield.

WJXT TV-4 sports director Sam Kouvaris and Cole Pepper talk about the Jaguars' latest loss in their podcast.

Here is my story on coach Gus Bradley naming Henne the starting quarterback, while also leaving a little wiggle room. Key players have thrown support behind Henne.

The T-U's Ryan O'Halloran posts his observations from the Sunday loss. Among the more interesting items is the fact that the Jaguars gained only 27 yards on their first 19 offensive plays.

The T-U's Vito Stellino did a Q&A with Mickey Shuler, who is the only healthy tight end on the roster and could be the starter on Sunday after the announcement that Marcedes Lewis will miss 6-8 weeks with a left high ankle sprain.


Bad play call and bad no-call cost Colts

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Let's get this out way: The officials missed the call when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin held Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton as the Indianapolis Colts were trying to extend their seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Everybody saw the hold except the officials. Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't hide his anger when he saw the replay on the video board inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday night or when he talked about it during his postgame media conference following the 30-27 loss.

"I think I had the same view as you did," he said.

Hilton added, "Yeah, he pulled me down, but they missed it, so it's cool."

OK, that's taken care of.

The real issue on the play was the Colts' decision to put the ball in the air when it wasn't necessary. They had the ball third-and-9 at Philadelphia's 22-yard line with the clock running.

These weren't the Colts of the past year who needed quarterback Andrew Luck's arm to win a game. They had success running the ball Monday night. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 149 yards on the ground. Indianapolis could have run the ball on third down, killed some more of the clock and then kicked the field goal to push its lead to 10 points with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

That wasn't good enough for them.

"We knew we had the field goal in the bag," Pagano said.

The Colts spent the week planning for different situations, but Philadelphia's quick-fire offense obviously put some fear into them, so they got greedy in an attempt to go up by two touchdowns.

"Touchdowns are better than three points," Luck said. "We had been running the ball obviously very well. But I thought we also converted some big third downs throwing the ball. If we can convert that, then we had a good chance."

Greediness ended up getting the best of the Colts.

Luck thought he had Hilton open, but Boykin grabbed the receiver as he was making his cut on the play. No flag was thrown, and Malcolm Jenkins picked off the pass.

"I think everyone saw what happened on the play," Pagano said. "The last thing we said to the quarterback was take care of the ball. If the guy gets tackled, drug down, whatever it was, there's nothing the quarterback can do about it. Our thinking was wrong."

In a matter of one bad play call and a no-call by the officials, the Colts went from looking like they were going to pad to their lead to staring at the back of Darren Sproles' jersey as he took a short pass and raced 51 yards to put the Eagles in the position to tie the game with less than four minutes remaining.

The Colts have played two games and failed to take advantage of their opportunities in each of them. Now they sit 0-2 with their odds of making the playoffs at only 12 percent.

"There's no falling back on 'We're a young team and we're still learning,'" Colts tight end Dwayne Allen said. "The whole 'young' title is out the door. We're a football team, and we're an experienced football team. We've proven we can win football games, and these first two games are something we've proven that we can win and we just haven't done that. All we can continue to do is work on our craft."

Colts face uphill battle at 0-2

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Some observations from the Indianapolis Colts' locker room after their 30-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium:
  • The statistics don’t favor the Colts (0-2) when it comes to making the playoffs. Only 12 percent of the teams that started 0-2 have made the playoffs under the current playoff format, which began in 1990. The Colts will try to improve those odds. “It stinks, it’s not good,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “We realize it’s not the end of the season by any means. Our minds are now, ‘Hey, onto the next one.’ Whoever that is, we know we’ve got to get in the win column and get moving in the right direction.” The Colts next two games are against AFC South counterparts Jacksonville and Tennessee.
  • Running back Trent Richardson will likely have a sleepless night after he fumbled twice, including one that led to an Eagles’ touchdown. Richardson sat out the next series before returning to the game. His fumbles took away from his 79 yards rushing. “I don’t fumble, it’s not my identity,” Richardson said. “It’s never been my identity, and saying with that I have to make better decisions. We were running the ball well all night and you slap yourself in the face when you fumble.”
  • Colts coach Chuck Pagano said defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who left the game with a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter, will be evaluated Tuesday. Don’t be surprised if Jones is missing a few games with the ankle sprain.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 30-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

What it means: The Colts should have known the Eagles were going to get back into the game at some point despite being down 20-6 in the third quarter. It was easier for the Eagles to do it with the Colts turning the ball over. Philadelphia turned two Indianapolis turnovers into 14 points to help them come back from behind and win the game. Running back Trent Richardson fumbled and then the Eagles got away with what could have been a holding penalty by Brandon Boykin on receiver T.Y. Hilton to pick off quarterback Andrew Luck. After the Luck interception, the Eagles tied the score at 27 four plays and a penalty later. Kicker Cody Parkey, who was in Colts training camp, made 36-yard field as time expired to win it for Philadelphia.

Stock watch: Richardson's stock is down. You're probably wondering why after he rushed for 79 yards, his most as a Colt, on 21 carries. The problem is Richardson couldn't hold onto the ball. He fumbled twice. Receiver Reggie Wayne bailed Richardson out when he recovered his first fumble. Richardson's second fumble cost the Colts because the Eagles turned his miscue into seven points to tie the game at 20. Richardson spent their next series on the sideline, but returned after that.

Not-so perfect: It took 34 games, but Luck has finally lost back-to-back games in his NFL career. The last time Luck lost back-to-back games prior to Monday was when he was at Stanford. The quarterback who gave Luck his second consecutive loss? Philadelphia's Nick Foles. Foles' Arizona Wildcats beat Luck and the Cardinal on Oct. 17, 2009.

Hilton steps up: Receiver T.Y. Hilton was non-existent in the first half, catching only two passes for 13 yards because the Colts were focused on running the ball. But he became Lucks' go-to receiver. He had four catches for 52 yards in the second half.

Game ball: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw continues to show that he has no concerns with his neck. He rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries to go with five catches for 26 yards.

What's next: The Colts (0-2) head back on the road to play their first AFC South game at Jacksonville on Sept. 21. The Jaguars, who blew a 17-point lead against Philadelphia in Week 1, are 0-2 after losing to Washington on Sunday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker was not good in the first half of Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, but not all the quarterback's difficulties were solely his fault.

Protection issues and route problems also contributed to the offense's poor first 30 minutes, coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

On more than once occasion, Locker held the ball long and was still in OK shape protection-wise. My thinking is with an extended clock, there should be more time for a receiver to break free and for Locker to find him.

Instead I felt as if he threw some of his worst balls when he had good protection and maybe even additional time, like the alarm went off in his head and he panicked.

"It really depends," Whisenhunt said. "I mean, we had mistakes from our receivers yesterday that changed the spacing on some of those routes. Sometimes it was the way they came off the ball. Sometimes it was getting jammed up, not being in the right spots. That can lead to a quarterback holding on to the ball, that can contribute to where it goes from there."

I wrote earlier about two third-down throws from the first half that Locker did poorly with: He seemed late on one and he was high and behind his target on another.

That second one, he scooted to his left to buy time and had plenty of time before making a poor throw. He could have run.

He had good time on a third-and-10 from the Tennessee 27 and couldn't find anybody, overthrowing Delanie Walker by a great deal and finding the deep safety behind him, Barry Church for his first interception. That was early in the second quarter.

He had good time on a second-and-10 from the Tennessee 32 later in the second quarter when play-action deep shot up the right side to Taylor Thompson was well overthrown.

The Titans have invested a lot in protecting their quarterback. When he's got a clean pocket and/or a lot of time, he's got to fare better.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To his credit, Ken Whisenhunt didn't spend the Monday after a terrible game telling the press the Titans did a lot of good things.

Mondays in Nashville with Jeff Fisher and Mike Munchak as the team's head coach almost always featured a positive spin off even the worst performances.

"We did a lot of good things" was just about a guaranteed line from the podium at the day-after press conference.

Defensively, Whisenhunt wasn't playing that game a day after Tennessee's 26-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

“It's hard to say anybody is doing a good job after yesterday's game,” he said.

Particularly bad was a run defense that allowed 220 yards on 43 carries -- an average of 5.1 a carry.

The troubles for the run defense were predominantly gap issues, Whisenhunt said. The Titans “weren't as detailed in our approach,” as they were in Kansas City and that's where it showed up the most.

After Week 1's win over the Chiefs, Whisenhunt emphasized it was just one game. Week 2's poor showing is getting plenty of attention, but it was also 1/16th of the schedule.

The Titans travel to Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals are 2-0 and playing well.

Whisenhunt said he expects they'll run the ball intending to see if the Titans have fixed a big issue.

Giovani Bernard has 41 carries through two games, the third-most in the league. He's only got 138 yards and a 3.4-yard average. But if the Titans play the way they did against the Cowboys, those will grow.

Texans could spread out RB carries

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
HOUSTON -- Texans running back Arian Foster has 55 carries already this season -- the highest total any running back has had since 2006.

Texans coach Bill O'Brien steadfastly maintains the team will give Foster as many carries as is necessary for the team to win, whether that's 10 carries a game or 35. On Monday he admitted the Texans will probably spread out carries among the rest of the Texans' running backs later in the season.

"Certainly when you look at one player getting a ton of carries, that’s something that you have to pay attention to as a staff," O'Brien said. "We do that. But also we do what’s necessary to win a game."

If you go back to 2001, LaDainian Tomlinson is the player with the most carries in the first two games with 63. In the past 10 years, running backs have had 50 or more carries in the first two games of the season 21 times. Three of those occurrences were by Foster. In 2010, Foster's first full year as the Texans' featured back, Foster had 52 carries in his first two games. He had 54 in 2012.

In his career, Foster has more than 1,200 carries. He's eclipsed 300 carries (including the playoffs) in three different seasons and had more than 400 carries in 2012.

That's a running back with a lot of mileage.

There's no doubting Foster's talent, which is a big part of why his coaches have used him so much. His patience behind an offensive line, that joined him in getting game balls from O'Brien today, has meant great things for the Texans' offense.

Spreading around the carries, when possible, would likely extend his time during which he'll be able to help the Texans.

The Film Don't Lie: Jaguars

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Jacksonville Jaguars must fix:

When relying on rookie receivers, coaches know things aren't going to always go smoothly. That's certainly the case with the Jaguars, who have used three rookies (Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson) as their primary targets in the first two games and will continue to do so in Sunday's home opener against Indianapolis.

The biggest issue with that trio has been mental mistakes. Coach Gus Bradley said Monday they combined to make double-digit mental mistakes, such as running the wrong route, playing with inconsistent effort, lining up incorrectly, quitting on a route and using poor technique to get open. All of that was evident on film during the 41-10 loss to Washington and played a significant role in the Jaguars giving up 10 sacks and scoring just one touchdown.

With the loss of tight end Marcedes Lewis (high ankle sprain) for six to eight weeks, the ongoing uncertainty of veteran receiver Cecil Shorts' hamstring and Hurns being day-to-day with an ankle injury, the pressure is on Lee and Robinson to play with consistent effort and eliminate as many mental mistakes as possible, or the passing offense will become even more inept.

The Film Don't Lie: Titans

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A weekly look at what the Tennessee Titans must fix.

The Titans were 0-for-6 on third down in the first half. That helped set up a game in which Dallas controlled the ball for 41:11.

In Cincinnati on Sunday, Tennessee needs to find a way to extend drives and move the chains. It’s a necessity for the offense if it’s going to drive the ball, and it’s a necessity to get the defense some rest.

Jake Locker threw on all six first-half third downs; three times he threw incomplete, twice he completed passes short of the sticks and once he was intercepted.

A look at the three incomplete third-down passes:
  • Third-and-2 from the Tennessee 28: Out of the shotgun, Locker threw to Kendall Wright at the right sideline. Cornerback Sterling Moore made a good play to break up a good throw, and Wright looked for a flag.
  • Third-and-6 from midfield: Locker stood in and threw to Nate Washington in the middle of the field. Linebacker Rolando McClain and safety J.J. Wilcox closed and prevented the catch. It looked like Washington was open earlier, though there was no guarantee he’d get to the marker.
  • Third-and-5 from the Tennessee 22: Locker slid to his left and threw back toward the middle, where Washington was open. The throw was too high and too far behind Washington, who got his hands on it but couldn’t pull it in.

Tennessee ran only eight times on 21 offensive plays before halftime. The Titans should be able to hand off on third-and-2 and third-and-3 rather than calling pass plays.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt needs to measure that out better next week and Locker needs to be more accurate on the most important downs.

The Film Don't Lie: Texans

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Houston Texans must fix.

The Texans will face the New York Giants in Week 3 after convincing wins against Washington and Oakland. Their plus-five turnover margin is tied with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals for second in the NFL. Those forced turnovers have helped the Texans win despite being outgained in both games.

On the way to a 30-14 win in Oakland, Houston allowed Raiders receiver James Jones 112 receiving yards -- 77 in the first half as the Texans built a 17-0 lead. He averaged 12.4 yards per catch and averaged 15.4 yards per catch in the first half.

To declare anything a "must fix" after that game seems nitpicky. The Texans had a 27-0 lead and gave up the second touchdown in garbage time as the Raiders ran a two-minute drill to get their rookie quarterback that experience. But the Texans are in the bottom 10 in the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up 252 per game, and that could bite them against teams with better ball security.