Tale of the Tape: The Falcons and Long Third Downs

Yeah, so the film review is a little late this week. Sue me.

Per a reader's (paulcareyjr) request, the subject for this week's film review is going to be third downs. Specifically, long third downs (six or more yards) will be the focus of the study.

First, we'll be looking at the Colts' offense on third downs.

3-10-ATL 33 (8:16 First Quarter) (Shotgun) C.Painter pass deep right intended for R.Wayne INTERCEPTED by K.Hayden at ATL 15.

As Painter takes the snap, Anthony Castonzo and Jeff Linkenbach both let their guys swing around wide, pressuring Painter. Painter doesn't step up into the pocket, so the pass is forced. Painter tries to pass it to Reggie Wayne, running an out route, but the pass is way behind him, and he didn't have any separation anyway. In these situations, Painter needs to have some pocket presence, step up into the pocket, make a good read, and deliver the  pass. Instead, ex-Colt Kelvin Hayden picked off the pass, leading to the Falcons second touchdown.

3-6-IND 35 (4:41 First Quarter) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass incomplete short right to J.Tamme.

Painter gets good protection to start, but left guard Mike Tepper begins to slip, and Painter once again feels rushed. His throw to Tamme was too high for him to pull down, and likely wouldn't have made the first down anyway. If Painter had any pocket presence, he could have avoided the rush and seen an open Pierre Garcon behind Tamme.

3-11-IND 19 (2:18 First Quarter) C.Painter pass short left to A.Collie to IND 30 for 11 yards (K.Hayden; D.Robinson).

Solid protection this time, with Brown helping out Linkenbach on the right side, and Castonzo taking care of Abraham on the left. Austin Collie finds the hole in the zone, and Painter makes the on-target throw for the first down.

3-11-IND 29 (:25 First) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass short middle to D.Clark to IND 41 for 12 yards (C.Lofton).

Here Painter finally steps up to avoid the rush, then leaves the pocket as it begins to break down, extending away. He buys enough time for Clark to find the open spot in the middle of the field, then he makes the (somewhat risky) throw across his body, on target and on time as Clark makes the catch as he's getting hit.

3-7-ATL 44 (13:48 Second) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass incomplete short right to P.Garcon.

This seemed to be the perfect play. The offensive line held up and  Garcon ran a great curl route just past the sticks, coming back with plenty of room. But Painter just missed him, throwing the ball way too high.

3-8-IND 19 (11:14 Second) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass short left to R.Wayne to IND 30 for 11 yards (K.Hayden).

Just like the previous play,except this time Painter makes the throw on target to Wayne who's in the slot on the left side.

3-7-IND 46 (8:48 Second) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter pass incomplete short right to D.Clark [J.Babineaux].

Here, the safety down on the slot receiver blitzes right at the last second. Left guard Tepper doesn't realize it until it's too late to get over, and Painter doesn't see it until the last second, and throws the ball away.

3-13-IND 43 (4:38 Second) (Shotgun) C.Painter sacked at IND 31 for -12 yards (C.Peters).

On this play, Jacob Tamme (flanking Painter in shotgun) tries to help out Anthony Castonzo, getting up on his outside shoulder. Tamme then sees a corner blitzing, and jumps inside to pick it up. However, AC had felt him on his outside, and had quit moving laterally to block his man. He was left flat-footed as his man went right around him for the sack.

3-7-IND 5 (1:21 Second) (Shotgun) C.Painter pass short right to P.Garcon to IND 8 for 3 yards (S.Weatherspoon).

This play was a bubble screen as the Colts were backed up to their end zone, but the Falcons sniffed it out before hit could get any further than three yards.

3-10-IND 22 (11:02 Third) (Shotgun) C.Painter pass short right to J.Tamme to IND 25 for 3 yards (S.Weatherspoon).

The Falcons blitz  the corner here, which Brown picks up nicely, but Painter's shaken by the pressure and gets the ball out to his outlet pass: Jacob Tamme in the flat for three yards, far short of the first down.

3-10-IND 15 (1:55) (No Huddle, Shotgun) C.Painter scrambles up the middle to IND 20 for 5 yards (J.Babineaux).

Again, Painter feels pressure and scrambles this time, gaining just five yards. Overall, on offense, the Colts suffer from one thing: Curtis Painter. His lack of pocket presence and inaccuracy under pressure was the direct cause of at least 5 of the failed 8 plays. This just shows again the difference that a healthy Peyton Manning would make on this team, as Painter continues to show us why he is a career backup (and not a very good one at that).

On defense the Colts are supposed to be built to stop the long third downs, how would they fare against Matt Ryan and the Falcons?

3-9-ATL 17 (7:21 First) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right to R.White to ATL 30 for 13 yards (K.Thomas).

Here the blame seems to lie with Jerraud Powers, who releases White into Thomas' zone just a tad too early, as Thomas still had Julio Jones on the outside to worry about, and there was nobody in the middle to watch for. On the play, Freeney, Moala, and Muir are all double teamed, leaving Mathis with the one-on-one, which he fails to take advantage of.

3-10-ATL 30 (5:56 First) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short right to R.White (K.Thomas).

Here, the Colts try something a little different. They only have three down linemen, with Freeney and Anderson at DE, and Brayton as the lone DT. Robert Mathis is in a standing position (rushing) and Angerer also blitzes on the play. The blitz is bottled up, but Ryan is clearly flustered and goes to his first read (Julio Jones) on a hook route. Fortunately for the Colts, Kevin Thomas is right with Jones, makes a great jump on the ball, and nearly gets a pick out of it.

3-8-ATL 33 (5:46 Second) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short right to T.Gonzalez.

Here was an example of the Colts simply getting lucky. Ryan had plenty of time to throw, and made  the right read as Tony Gonzalez had a step on Sims in the middle of the field. But, the throw is a bit high, and goes right through Gonzalez hands.

3-24-ATL 40 (2:00 Second) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short middle to J.Rodgers to IND 44 for 16 yards (J.Lefeged; E.Sims).

On 3rd and 24, the Colts sit every body back, and Ryan passes to the running back underneath. Rodgers breaks a few tackles, but is wrestled down before he gets anywhere near the first down marker.

3-10-ATL 40 (:15 Second) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass incomplete short right to R.White (A.Bethea) [D.Freeney] This is actually an example of the Colts defense playing the zone perfectly. Thomas holds White until a certain distance, at which point he releases him to pick up the flat route by the TE. From here, Bethea is in position to get to the ball on time if Ryan chooses to go there. Ryan does make that decision, and Bethea nearly picks up the interception.

3-9-IND 12 (5:01 Third) (Shotgun) M.Ryan pass short right to R.White to IND 2 for 10 yards (K.Thomas). This play was odd in its setup by the Colts. Instead of Thomas sitting back a little bit (cushion) on the outside, he was inside the numbers (due to the receivers being in tighter most likely). Powers had the TE, so he followed him to the flat, leaving a gap right in the middle of the field (due to Thomas' cushion).

3-11-ATL 31 (2:00) (Run formation) J.Rodgers left guard to ATL 41 for 10 yards (A.Bethea). Here the Falcons are just trying to run down the clock, and the Colts stop him before he can add even more damage to the scoreboard.

While it's easy to be depressed about the Colts' 3-11 job on long third downs, it's nice to see the Colts defense only allowing the Falcons two conversions on seven tries. Even with a solid quarterback like Matt Ryan, the Falcons had a hard time with third and long.

Although they allowed 31 points, the defense played fairly well over the course of the game. Two TDs came off turnovers, and one was an 80 yard catch and run. There were only two scoring drives in which the Falcons drove down the field and scored.

The defense will have a much lower caliber opponent on Sunday in the Jaguars, who have a rookie quarterback. If the defense can force them into long third downs, then the Colts will have a much higher chance of winning a game. Of course, that means you have to stop them on first and second down first.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.