Charting A Drive: Anatomy of a Beating (the other way this time!)

18to88 reader Kasey_junk is back with another look at the tape.  This week he breaks down a stop by the Colts D.

Picking the drive to chart this week was much more difficult than last week.  The offensive line play is intriguing.  They clearly did a better job than last week, but I suspect that they are getting more credit than they deserve.  On the defensive side of the ball there were myriad drives that would have been great to relive (the strip sack for a TD comes to mind).  Conversely, I could have charted the one defensive drive that allowed a meaningful score.  Instead, I chose a drive that I believe embodies the Colts defensive vision.  Even the biggest optimist can’t hope that every drive ends in a 3 and out, or that the Freeney/Mathis causes a TD.

I think if you ask the Colts defensive players what they are really looking for are drives that even though the opponent makes progress, they frequently end up in positions where they must get lucky.  At the end of the day, the Colts just aren’t built to keep offenses from getting yards, they are built to keep them from scoring touchdowns.

With that in mind, the drive I chose was a longish drive by the Giants.  It started on the Giants 28 yard line with 3:13 left in the first quarter. The Giants had the ball for 4:16 and 7 plays. The Colts were up 7-0.  The Colts had just had 2 offensive series that were 3 and outs.  The game was still very much undecided. 

1st & 10 from the Giants 28
Giants Formation: 6 Offensive Lineman/2 WR to the right right next to the line 1 WR split left
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: Run right (half-back through the 2 gap between the C/RG) for 3 yards.  D Line holds the point of attack.  King/Mookie make the tackle.
- Freeney is blocked by the LT
- Mookie blocked by the LG but sheds him and gets to the point of attack.
- King blocked by the RG with help from the C who releases and moves to the next level to block Brackett.
- Mathis blocked well out of the play by the RT.
- Connor/Wheeler blocked by WRs but both shed and are close to the play when the tackle is made.
- The extra RG the Giants brought in runs himself out of the play trying to block a DB who was not playing run support.

2nd & 7 from the Giants 31
Giants Formation: 2 TE (1 on each side)/2 WR
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: 1 yard pass right to TE in flat.  Connor gets first contact (which might have been for a loss) but the TE spun out.  He is then ganged tackled by about 5 Colts.
- Freeney is 1 step too late getting to QB (the LT whiffed on a spin move).
- King gets penetration being blocked by the C/LG.  The LG releases too late to help with Freeney.
- Mookie is well blocked by the RG.
- Mathis is well blocked by the RT.
- Wheeler covers the left side TE out of the play.
- Brackett covers the HB coming out of the back field and runs out of the play.
- Connor covers the right side TE.

3rd & 6 from the Giants 32
Giants Formation
: 4 WR (3 left, 1 right)/ 1 TE
Colts Formation: Dime with Brackett/Bethea showing blitz.
Play: Incomplete pass over the middle.  Hayden is called for pass interference.  This is a very tough call.  Hayden was playing about as good defense as you could get and knocked the ball out of Nicks’ hand.
- Freeney is well blocked by the LT
- Brackett (started the play standing at the LOS) is blocked by the C.
- Foster stunts behind Brackett and is blocked by the LG.
- Bethea pulls back from the blitz into coverage.
- Dawson (playing RDT) is blocked by the RG.
- Mathis is blocked by the RT with help from the chipping TE.

1st and 10 from the Giants 46
Giants Formation
: 3 WR (2 left 1 right)/ 1 FB (HB and FB move to the LOS pre-snap leaving an empty backfield)
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard.
Play: QB scramble right for 6.  Ran out of bounds by Muir.
- Wheeler/Brackett/Connor all release into coverage.
- Moala sheds LG/C double team and causes the scramble. 
- Dawson blocked by the LT and C (who after getting beat by Moala moves to Dawson).
- Muir blocked by RG (he gets penetration and pulls back when the QB scrambles)
- Foster blocked by the RT.

2nd and 4 from the Ind 48
Giants Formation
: 6 O Linemen (extra on left side)/ 1 TE (left side) / 2 WR (1 on left side in close, 1 split right)
Colts Formation: 4-3 standard
Play: 5 yard run to the left (outside the TE, inside the WR). Powers gets the tackle.  Defensive line is pushed back about a yard.
- TE blocks Foster
- Extra O Lineman blocks Wheeler
- LT/LG double Moala.  LG releases.
- C/RG double Muir.
- RT blocks Dawson.
- Connor reacts correctly to the play but is blocked into Muir by the LG.
- Brackett starts into coverage.  Reverses and is there to help with the tackle.
- Powers is blocked by a WR.  He sheds his block and makes the tackle.

1st and 10 from the Ind 44
Giants Formation
: 2 TE (1 each side)/2 WR (1 each split wide)
Colts Formation: 4-3
Play: 2 yard run left outside the LT. Tackle by Connor/Brackett.
- Dawson holds the point of attack against the LT (who might have been trying to block him for an inside run).
- Muir holds the point of attack against LG/C double.
- Moala holds the point of attack against the RT with a RG chip.
- Foster is run away from.  TE seals him away from the play.
- Wheeler plays his gap correctly, play is away from him.
- Bracket avoids the releasing RG to run to the play.
- Connor sheds a TE blcok to make the initial contact.

2nd and 8 from the Ind 42
Giants Formation
: 2 TE/ 2 WR. 1 WR split left.  Other WR and both TE in trips formation to the right.
Colts Formation: 4-3
Play: 1 yard run between LG/LT (with RG and 1 TE pulling into the gap).  Tackle by Connor.
- Mathis run away from.
- King holds the point of attack against a RT/C double.
- Mookie is blown well out of the play by the LG.
- Wheeler is both run away from and blatantly held by the non-pulling TE.
- Freeney is blocked by the LT (it appears he is attempting to keep contain).
- Connor sheds the pulling TE/RG double team to make the play (outstanding work).
- Brackett avoids Mookie (being blown up by the LG) and is in position to backup Connor.

3rd and 7 from the Ind 40.
Giants Formation
: 3 WR (2 to the right, 1 left), 1 TE (left), shotgun formation with HB.
Colts Formation: Dime with 3 down linemen and Dawson standing to the left of Freeney (far outside). Brackett is showing blitz (right side).
Play
: Eli running for his life and throwing it away.
- Brackett is blocked by the RT.
- Mathis is doubled by the RG/C
- Foster pulls up and is not blocked (I assume he is either in coverage, or is there to contain a draw/qb scramble)
- Freeney splits a LG/LT double causing the QB to run out of the pocket.  Freeney trips before he gets the sack.
- Dawson follows Freeney in and chases QB after Freeney trips.

This led to a punt by the Giants.

Impressions:

I believe this is the sort of drive that the Colts would be happy with every time.  There was only 1 play that really went against them (the 5 yard run) and that play relied on a super jumbo package.  Even the pass interference was worth taking.  If Hayden can play that kind of defense every time against first rate WR, I’ll take the occasional penalty. If you look at the play calling it was very similar to the kinds of things the Texans were doing the previous week.  There were 3 main differences to me:

  • Our linebacker play was much improved.  There were no plays on this drive where it was obvious the linebackers were in the wrong place.
  • Our second set of D tackles played a much better game.  Mookie had one play were he was absolutely destroyed, but for the most part they looked good.  King was much improved.
  • A couple of outstanding plays.  Moala’s early pressure, Connor’s beating a double team, and Freeney blowing through the offensive line on the last play of the drive are all examples of just good work by a single player making all the difference.

I don’t like to make player judgements with so little evidence, but it is starting to seem obvious to me that Moala did not get the starting role based on anything other than his merits.  The drop off between him and Mookie has been pretty startling on both of the drives I charted.  I will have to endeavor to avoid confirmation bias in the future because of how much I like Moala’s play.

Connor also looked outstanding on this drive.  I’m a huge Session fan, so I’m not looking for him to be replaced (especially with so little evidence) but between my impressions of Angerer and Connor I am well satisfied with our backup linebackers.

Note:
I am currently using my own made up charting system.  I suspect that there are much better ways to do this.  If anyone that can suggest a website, book, or other reference that can teach a more standard method for this, I’d really appreciate it.

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