After reviewing the first half tape, I immediately had two thoughts. The first one, which was obvious to anyone who watched the game, is that the offensive playcalling was a disaster. You don't need to break down tape to figure out that running the ball should have been Texans plans A, B, and possibly C. The second was that I was really unimpressed by the Colts offense too, and they got pretty fortunate that they were running up against a pitiful defense that was able to mask some of the choices they made. Like giving Gijon Robinson extended playing time. They'd better hope that Austin Collie is healthy and ready to go next week, because they had no vertical passing game at all without him and Dallas Clark.
A note: due to increased demands of my time because of this here new gig I have, I am going to cut back to doing one of these a week. Because of the short week and the time I've had to spend getting up to speed with said gig, I'll only be looking at the first half this week. Upcoming weeks I'll look at the full game, but still only make one post.
Behind the cut, we see a passing offense in disarray, a passing defense that still gives up way too easily, and Bernard Pollard, misser of tackles.
One of the first plays I want to look at was one of the ones that ESPN actually gave us a full screen breakdown of, and one that annoys me to no end as someone who is not a fan of Rick Dennison's reliance on the bootleg with a non-mobile quarterback. So we're already starting off on a bad note on this play. Now, watch Andre Johnson, look at the Colts jerseys, and try to find another receiver out there that Schaub could throw it to.
Are you seeing one? Because I'm not. I realize that play-action blocking often involves keeping more guys into block, and because of that you usually have one deep target and some underneath ones. Well, Kevin Walter stays in to block, the rest of the eligible receivers are coming out of the fake still, and despite Schaub being relatively unhurried, the Texans still get nothing out of this play.
It was definitely a confluence of factors in the first half that lead to the passing game being off. It all started, of course, with Dwight Freeney's absolute mastery of Duane Brown. Schaub had some drops, Schaub made some bad throws, and he had a few receivers that looked absolutely confused at times due to crowd noise. That's right, I'm talking to you Owen Daniels. The Colts were a lot more aggressive than they have been, often sending five rushers in the first half, trying to get some one-on-one matchups for Freeney and Robert Mathis. Brown, however, started the cascade by being just awful. In fact, the only time the Colts were able to hold Arian Foster from getting yards the entire half? You guessed it!
Did Brown suddenly forget that Freeney had a spin move while he was suspended?
One of the reasons the Colts were so slow to move the ball was that they started out schematically with both Jacob Tamme and Brody Eldridge on the field. They split Tamme out as a Flex tight end often in the first quarter, and tried to run on the Texans. Other than a few draws (surprise!) and a big Mike Hart gainer, they weren't very successful there. Eventually, they wound up going back to Anthony Gonzalez a little later on in the half, and while he wasn't very successful either, he at least opened up their passing game a bit since he got the blocking tight ends off the field.
Despite all the handicaps that the Colts handed the Texans -- the power scheme and a ton of dropped passes, the Texans still managed to flub it with typical staples of the Frank Bush defense: overpursuit, bad tackling, and a complete lack of interest in even pretending to cover the first five yards of the field. This one had me steaming:
Note that it's second and goal. From the 8. There are only 8 more yards until the Texans give up a touchdown. Yet, Bush decided to leave the opposing running back completely uncovered. The only positive side to this was that they didn't score. Had to wait all the way until the next play to do that.
Third and eleven, with the Colts barely in their own territory. Boy, I wonder if the running back will be left completely uncovered? Yep, he will.
The Colts didn't get the first down, but from the Houston 47 with 4th & 1 it was a no-brainer to go for it and they converted easily. Let's not even get into the fact that Peyton Manning actually rushed for a first down, because that will drive me to binge drinking.
Intensity still doesn't beat talent.
It was a common talking point all offseason that Bernard Pollard (and Brian Cushing to an extent) had added a new toughness to this defense. That we needed that attitude and swagger. You don't hear that being said anymore, partially because it doesn't make for a compelling emotional storyline that talent is more important, and partially because the players around them can also be blamed for the defensive collapse.
Let me be frank when I say that this first half that Pollard played was right up there with the worst of the worst in Texans history. I'm talking Brandon Harrison, CC Brown, and Eugene Wilson. In fact, Wilson actually outplayed Pollard on Monday night.
Of course, we all expect Pollard to fail in coverage, so I won't bother showing Jacob Tamme abusing him for the first touchdown. Let's look at tackling. How about this?
Not good enough for you? Or perhaps you're blinded by the fact that Zac Diles was equally terrible on that play? How about this one?
I don't know what happened in this half, but I hope we find the Pollard of old back. Not for his intensity, but for his competency in tackling people.