49ers vs. Colts: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Dreadful

Welcome to the initial installment of my post-game analysis, where you will get my observations on the Colts’ performance, and specifically, who did well, who did poorly, and who made you want to bury your head in the sand and just wish it would go away.  Obviously some things will stick out, and other things may take some analysis and require taking a step back.

The Good

Peyton Manning: First and greatest on this list is Peyton Manning.  He completed 8 of 10 passes for 91 yards, ranging from dump-offs to down-field strikes, to five different receivers .  Manning put up our first 10 points in quick order and showed great poise in the pocket, as we have come to expect.

Sam Giguere: As the initial kick returner, Giguere showed power and quickness we’ve not had from a returner of late.  He averaged 24 yards per return, even after a breakdown in the blocking on his second return.  It is a small sample size, but it is still encouraging.  Giguere also played well as a receiver, and as a gunner on special teams.

- Brandon James: As the punt returner in the first half, and the kick returner in the second half, James performed well beyond his size.  He averaged 24.8 yards per return on four returns, and if it had not been for a Taj Smith penalty, his average would have been in the 30′s.

Austin Collie: Collie got top billing as Wayne’s side-kick, and didn’t disappoint.  He got great separation and had very good speed in his short time on the field.  Collie averaged 14 yards per reception.

Anthony Gonzalez: In Gonzo’s first game back, he was targeted on two passes — the first was knocked away in the back of the endzone.  Gonzo is showed very quick feet and made a couple of great cuts to beat coverage and avoid tackles.  However, he will need to work on securing the ball to ensure it doesn’t get punched out again.

Pat Angerer: Angerer was an absolute beast when he took over with the second team linebackers mid-way through the game.  He recorded two consecutive sacks on David Carr, and added a number of pressures — as well as showing some metal in coverage.  He finished the game with eight tackles and two sacks for six yards lost.

Fili Moala: Moala was a fairly stable component of the second team defensive line, performing well both against the run and in pass rushing situations. He even recorded a very rare (for the Colts) DT sack.  He ended the game with four tackles and a sack.

Devin Moore: Even though he played against second and third team defensive units, Moore was simply destroying the run.  He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and kept finding holes to plow through.  Even when he was getting hit, he powered through tackles to gain extra yards.

Javarris James: Javarris James also played against third team defense, but proved to be a very strong back — powering through gaps to gain extra yards.  He finished the game with an average of 4.3 yards per carry, but did not show the break-out potential of Moore or Hart.

First team defense: The defense was brilliant in the first couple of series.  Between Bethea’s first play forced fumble, or Powers interception of a (Bethea) tipped ball, the defense held its own and more against the 49ers’ first team.

Colin Cloherty: Cloherty did well as a backup TE during the Painter drives.  He blocked well both on the line and down-field.  Cloherty also had a couple of great stops on special teams on punt returns, displaying quickness and hard-nosed style.

Brody Eldridge: Eldridge excelled at TE today, grabbing another powerful catch — he simply out-muscled the coverage to secure the ball.  He also did an excellent job blocking.

Jacob Tamme: Tamme is showing glimpses of Clark-like abilities, as he has been working with the first team in practices as a receiver, and hauled in a 16 yard sideline reception from Manning on the second drive.  He finished the day with 3 catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.

The Bad

Curtis Painter: Painter went 9 of 19 for 64 yards, a sack, and three interceptions.  Horrible stats, but this is one instance where context may be useful.  Of the 10 incompletions, three were drops by Smith, three were picks (two of which were to their receiver who tipped the ball), and two were drops by Brandon James.

Painter was also facing a mixture of first and second team defenses while taking snaps from the second team offensive line, who barely held the pocket for two seconds throughout most of the first half.  Still, Painter played poorly and belongs on this list.

Tom Brandstater: People are singing the praises of Brandstater because he got a touchdown pass, but he got sacked and picked by the 49ers’ third team defense, and finished the game with a lower average yards per attempt than Painter (2.8 vs. 3.4).  Brandstater showed guts with on a couple of passes, but overthrew open receivers, and at times seemed to struggle with accuracy.

While the Blair White reception/interference throw seemed to be good, it was under-thrown by about four yards — had the defender been calm, it would have been an incompletion.  Still, he showed some coolness under pressure and that is encouraging.

Run defense: Dixon ran all over us after we pulled the starting line.  It wasn’t until they switched to their backup offensive line that we started to get control of him. Even then he made some great runs avoiding tackles from Angerer and King near the goal line.

Punt return blocking: Brandon James got very few chances to demonstrate his quickness today because despite the average hang time of the punts being normal, the up-field blockers simply couldn’t handle the opposing gunners. On a number of occasions, James had to stand surrounded by 49ers before making the catch.  Later in the game, the blocking improved and we were able to get a few moderate returns.

Joseph Addai: Addai got stuffed time and time again with Manning under center, and averaged only 2.2 yards per carry.  The only thing that saved Addai from being in the dreadful category was the fact that he seemed to get his mojo back just long enough to complete a seven yard run for a touchdown.  Without that one play, Addai averaged one yard per carry.

The Downright Dreadful

Second team offensive line: People may prefer to blame Painter, but Brandstater’s poor performance solidifies the second team offensive line as a dreadful part of the game.  This unit lost all cohesion after snaps, drew three penalties, and barely held a pocket for two to three seconds.  While they should not receive all of the blame for bad performances by Painter, Brandstater, Brown, and Hart, they did not help matters at all.

Taj Smith: After performing so well in practice, Taj Smith absolutely bombed today.  He tipped the ball twice on good throws by Painter, one was hauled in for an interception.  He dropped a perfect deep throw that hit him in the hands, and could have given Painter a serious boost, and dropped two other mid-range passes that could have extended drives.

Smith ran routes fairly well and got good separation on a number of plays, like the go-route he mishandled, but the simple fact that he couldn’t hang on to anything doomed his day, and justifies being listed among the dreadful performances.

Donald Brown: Brown was another victim of the second team offensive line, but still failed as a running back today.  His longest run was one yard!  He averaged -0.8 yards per carry!  The offensive line was bad, but he should have at least been able to make it back to the line of scrimmage every play. Even as a receiver, Brown’s only reception netted negative-three yards.

The Silva injury: This was painful to watch.  It seems that every team has had some kind of injury during their first pre-season game this year — and this one was nasty.  Silva is a strong contributor on special teams, and while he was not carted off of the field, one can only imagine the kind of damage that was inflicted on his locked right knee.

Silva may very well be relegated to the injured reserve because of this injury, and the fierce competition for roster spots.  It is a shame to possibly lose a guy like Silva.