- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Colts' defense: There is no explaining the inability of the Colts to stop anything Sunday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. You’d think something good would happen somewhere merely by accident. Outspoken defensive end Robert Mathis was critical of the effort, which sets off a whole debate about whether the team quit. I saw effort throughout, which actually makes the results worse. If you play hard and get beat like that, where does that leave you? I don’t know where they begin to solve things or how they hold things together.
2. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans running back: I don’t have a problem with his suggesting after the game that the blocking is a major issue in the run-game failures. But it has to come with a raised hand and an admission of just how much he’s contributing to the league’s worst run game himself. He looks timid, tentative and uninspired. It’s just not acceptable considering the faith the Titans have shown in him with the contract he got and the carries he’s still getting. If it weren’t the Colts coming to town, I’d propose he be deployed only as a third-down back this week. But Indianapolis is capable of curing his woes.
3. Coach Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts: He has to say he didn’t have the team prepared well enough after such a large-scale debacle, and there are surely things the staff could have done to help the Colts be less bad in New Orleans. His personality won’t change, but something has to. He’s not listening to the conversations about who the next coach should be. But when the owner is tweeting “Titanic collapse,apologies 2 all ColtsNation..problems identifiable;solutions in progress but complex in nature/ better days will rise again” you have to wonder what’s up.
1. Daryl Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker: Smith is a very good player who’s often viewed as underrated. He was outstanding on Monday night in the win over Baltimore, with six tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble. The fumble was the first the Jaguars recovered all season. It was a dynamic effort from Smith, and if it can be a launching point for him and the Jacksonville defense, they could present real problems for upcoming opponents. Smith needs to lead the team toward that instead of allowing the huge effort against the Ravens to qualify as a blip for a defense that’s been good, but not great.
2. Arian Foster and Ben Tate, Houston Texans running backs. Both ran with great determination in Nashville, topping 100 yards and helping the Texans absolutely dominate Tennessee in a giant AFC South game. I’d suggested concerns about Foster and Houston’s run game were overblown after they had had two poor weeks against quality defenses. I think Houston is capable of setting up games where just about everything is built off the run. The line did a great job against the Texans, with right tackle Eric Winston doing a lot of very effective work.
3. Jaguars' pass coverage: With Derek Cox back from a rib injury that had cost him three games, the Jaguars’ secondary was transformed. Cox and Rashean Mathis were both excellent in coverage against Baltimore’s wide receivers, and that was a big reason Joe Flacco had such a poor game. The safeties and situational guys were good, too. They got nice hits from Dawan Landry, Dwight Lowery was active, and Drew Coleman sealed the game with a late interception.