Charting a Drive: Who needs to run the ball?

Welcome back Kasey_Junk for what for now (happily) seems to be a weekly look at a key drive.

I thought I’d take a crack at charting an offensive drive this week.  Due to the way NFL games are shot, it’s hard to chart the play of the receivers in routes (come on, NFL, sell me the coaches tape!) so I decided to only pay attention to Peyton’s protection. 

This game was emotionally brutal to watch.  After the Brandon Lloyd touchdown the Broncos had scored 10 unanswered points, we were up by 3 but I sent my brother a message saying that we were definitely losing this game (I’m a pessimist about the Colts so this is relatively normal).  After the Lloyd touchdown the Broncos caused a 3 and out and things were looking grim.  The Colts D responded by causing a 3 and out of their own.  The Colts got the ball on their 21 at the 9:31 mark in the third quarter.  They proceeded to march down the field on an 11-play drive for a score.  The play calling was the opposite of balanced, 10 passes (7 completions) and 1 run.  Indy took a 20-10 lead.  They wouldn’t look back.

1st & 10 from the Ind 21
Denver Formation: 3-3-5 (1 LB standing on LOS at RE, 1 LB on LE in coverage of Clark).
Colts Formation: 2WR/2TE (Clark in slot)
Play: Play action, short middle pass to Collie for 22 yards.  Denver rushes 5 (3 D lineman, RLB, and the LB covering Clark who actually blitzes). Manning holds onto the ball for 4 seconds and moves up into the pocket to avoid the rush.
- Eldridge blocks the RLB.  Very good block.
- Diem chips the RE and then moves back with no one to block.
- Pollack finishes of the RE with a good block.
- Saturday is single on the NT and has a good block.
- Richard is singled on the LE.  The LE splits the gap but Richard rides him to the ground.
- Linkenbach blocks the LLB.  He actually blocks him way out of the play but sandwiches Addai between himself and the LLB taking Addai out of the play.

1st & 10 from the Ind 43
Denver: 2-3-6 (Outside LB on each side of the LOS).
Colts Formation: 3 WR/1TE Shotgun.  Collie left, White right, Wayne slot and Clark between Wayne and White.
Play: Incomplete deep left pass to Collie. Holding on Richard. Champ Bailey makes a good play.  Denver rushes 2 and Manning holds the ball for 3 seconds.
- RLB drops into zone coverage.
- LLB covers Addai out of the back field.
- Diem has no one to block.
- Pollack blocks the RE well.
- Saturday and Richard double the NT.  The NT splits them and is thrown to the ground at Mannings feet by Richard (obvious holding call).
- Linkenbach has no one to block.

1st & 20 form the Ind 33
Denver: 2-3-6 (LLB in coverage on Wayne, RLB standing on the LOS)
Colts: 3WR/1TE Shotgun (Clark wide left, Wayne inside left, Collie inside right, White wide right)
Play: Bubble screen to the right to Collie for 27 yards.  Manning holds the football for less than 2 seconds.
- LLB jams Wayne then blitzes.
- RLB bites on the play action moving him out of position to stop the play.
- Diem levels the DB he is assigned to.
- Pollack has a great sweeping arm move to knock the NT to the ground and release to the next level to block a DB.
- Saturday blocks a DB well.
- Pollack covers the LE well.
- Linkenbach blocks the LLB.
- Blair White makes a great block on a DB.

1st and 10 from the Den 40
Denver: 3-4 (ROLB is standing on the LOS).
Colts: 2WR/2TE Shotgun.  (Clark in the slot to the left).
Play: Incomplete deep middle to Eldridge.  Manning over throws him.  Denver rushes 4 and Manning releases in 3 seconds after a little play action to Addai.
- ROLB stays outside to contain the run.  He then rushes Manning.  Pollack is pulling behind Diem and blocks him.
- Diem blocks the RE.
- Saturday and Richard block the NT.
- Linkenbach blocks the LE. He is too tall in his technique, but it isn’t taken advantage of.

2nd and 10 from the Den 40
Denver: 3-4 (ROLB is standing on the LOS)
Colts: 2WR/2TE (Clark in the slot to the left).
Play: 3 step drop from Manning, who holds the ball for less than 2 seconds.  Complete short pass to the left to Clark for 4 yards.
- Diem blocks the ROLB.
- Pollack blocks the RE.
- Saturday and Richard double the NT.
- Linkenbach blocks the LE.  Once again he is too tall.

3rd and 6 from the Den 36

Denver: 2-3-6 (RLB with hand on the ground at the LOS, LLB standing at the LOS).
Colts: 3WR/1TE (Clark inline on the left, Wayne wide left, Collie slot right, White wide right)
Play: Short pass to the right to Collie for 8 yards. Manning has a 3 step drop and has the ball for 3 seconds. Denver rushes 3.
- Diem is almost beat on a speed rush by the RLB.
- Pollack has a great block on the RE.
- Richard is singled on the NT.  He gets pushed way back, but not enough to impact the play.
- Saturday whiffs on his double team of the RE but it is unnecessary.
- LLB follows Clark into coverage.
- Linkenbach has no one to block.

1st and 10 from the Den 28
Denver: 3-3-5 (RLB standing on the LOS)
Colts: 2WR/2TE (Clark in the slot left).
Play: Addai run right between the Guard and Tackle for 1 yard.
- Eldridge misses his block and the RLB jumps around him making contact with Addai 2 yards behind the LOS.
- Diem has no one to block.
- Pollack blocks the RE 1 yard off the LOS.
- Saturday helps Pollack with the RE.
- Richard doesn’t move the NT and tries to release to the next level.
- Linkenbach cuts the NT.

2nd and 9 from the Den 27
Denver: 3-3-5 (RLB and MLB standing on the right side of the LOS)
Colts: 3WR/1TE (Clark inline on the right, after motion Wayne/Collie bunched close to the left)
Play: Incomplete pass short middle to Addai.  It was a 7-step drop with play action.  Manning has the ball for almost 5 seconds after moving up into the pocket. Denver rushes 4.
- MLB drops into coverage.
- Clark blocks the RLB behind Manning.
- Diem has no one to block.
- Pollack is driven back 3 yards by the RE.  The RE gets Manning at the end of the play.
- Saturday and Richard double the NT with a chip from Addai.  Unfortunately, they move him into where Addai is positioned for the dump off pass.  The NT breaks up the pass.
- Linkenbach is beat by the LE causing Manning to move up into the pocket.

3rd and 9 from the Den 27
Denver: 2-3-6 (RE standing on the LOS, RLB lined up to cover Clark, a DB is on the LOS to cover Clark)
Colts: 3WR/1TE (Clark in the slot right, Collie in the slot left, Wayne wide left)
Play: Short play action pass left to Wayne for 13 yards.  Manning holds it for 4 seconds.  Denver rushes 3.
- Diem has no one to block.
- Pollack blocks the RE getting him pushed back .5 a yard.
- Saturday and Richard double the NT but are pushed back almost impacting the play.
- Linkenbach blocks the LE.  The LE has a pathetic pass rush.

1st and 10 from the Den 14
Denver: 3-3-5 (LLB/MLB lined up on LOS to cover Clark)
Colts: 3WR/1TE (Clark inline on the left side, Collie in slot right)
Play: 2 step drop, pass to the right to Collie for 5 yards.  Manning holds the ball for a second.  Denver rushes 3.
- No blocking necessary.

2nd and 5 from the Den 9
Denver: 3-3-5 (RLB standing on LOS)
Colts: 3WR/1TE (Clark inline on the left side, Collie in the slot left)
Play: 3 step drop, pass to White for 9 yard TD.  Manning holds the ball for 3 seconds while Denver rushes 4.
- Diem and Pollack double the LLB behind Manning.
- Saturday has a good block on the RE.
- Richard (in a clear zone block) has no one to block.
- Linkenbach has a real feisty block that stops the NT cold.
- Clark with help from Brown push the LE well back.

Impressions:
Schematically, Denver sold out their pass rush in an attempt to keep guys in coverage.  Further, in general they seem to be lacking in pass rushing talent.  Denver was clearly terrified of Dallas Clark and made a point of neutralizing him (after Collie’s performance I’m not sure teams will try that any more).

From the Colts’ side of the board the personnel packages were the same standard fare we’ve seen for years.  When the Colts decide to get crazy it means putting Wayne inside of Clark in their 3WR/1TE package.  From a strategy point of view the Colts were clearly protecting their offensive line with play calling.  They had lots of 3 step drops and quick hitting plays designed to not require a lot of blocking time.

I was actually pretty disappointed with the play calling.  It is hard to argue with results, but when you see repeated 2 man fronts you would hope that the Colts have the confidence to audible to a run play.  That they didn’t is a strong indictment of the offensive linemen in my mind.

Pollack stood out as the best lineman while Richard stood out as the worst.  Saturday seems to get a pass from fans, but this drive at least confirms what I’ve been thinking for a while, which is he is might be becoming a liability.  Diem was mostly average and spent a lot of the drive not blocking anyone.  Eldridge’s big whiff seems like a classic case of a college player not realizing the athletic ability of the guys lining up against him.  I’m not too worried about it.  Linkenbach is the most interesting player on the line.  On one hand, I loved his feisty attitude and he kept Manning clean.  On the other, the left side of the Denver defensive line was atrocious and Linkenbach’s technique seemed flawed even to a neophyte like me.  I would seriously worry about him going up against an elite pass rusher (maybe Freeney can teach him a thing or two).  All the talk of using Linkenbach when Charlie Johnson comes back seems very premature to me (and I am not a Johnson fan).

Note:
I am not nearly as familiar with the Denver defense as I am with the Colts defense.  Further, they were playing some pretty muddled sets with LBs on the line of scrimmage and DBs in the box, so I may have charted some of their formations incorrectly.

About The Author:
Kasey Klipsch (kasey_junk@myrealbox.com) has no football experience above the grade school level.  He grew up in Indianapolis rooting for the Colts and is a season ticket holder.  He comments around the Colts blogosphere as kasey_junk.  He also writes a weekly picks column for The Fantasy Ninjas (www.thefantasyninjas.com) under the nickname “The Real KC”.

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