AFC South: 2013 Week 3 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of five topics from the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/Ben MargotAhmad Bradshaw's aggressive running helped fuel the Colts in their win over the 49ers.
Don’t forget about me: The recent hype surrounding the Colts centered on running back Trent Richardson after they acquired him from Cleveland on Sept. 18. Richardson will eventually become the starter, but current starter Ahmad Bradshaw played Sunday like he’s in no rush to hand the starting spot over to Richardson. The tough-running Bradshaw ran for 95 yards on 19 carries. He averaged 5.5 yards on 16 rushes between the tackles. Richardson scored the first time he touched the ball, but he’s still finding his way with his new team, which was expected since he’s had only three practices. He averaged 2.7 yards on 13 carries and was 0-of-3 on passes quarterback Andrew Luck targeted him. Bradshaw and Richardson played about the same number of snaps, with Bradshaw getting 30 plays to Richardson’s 28.

Not going down: The offensive line doesn’t only deserve credit for helping the Colts rush for 179 yards, the unit also should be praised for allowing only one sack to a physical 49ers defense. That’s worthy of a high-priced steak dinner paid for by Luck. The Colts did it with two starters out and right guard Mike McGlynn sliding over to start for injured center Samson Satele. The Colts kept 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who went into the game with 5.5 sacks, from getting to Luck. “It was a battle,” Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “I was just working my butt off. When you’re going against a great player like [Smith], you can’t take any plays off.”

No need to go deep: Luck passed for fewer than 200 yards for the second time in three games this season thanks to the Colts' impressive rushing attack. You won’t hear any complaints from him because they won both of those games and it also means he’s not in the position to get sacked. Luck’s average pass attempt traveled a career-low 4.9 yards downfield after he entered the game averaging a league-high 10.1 yards. When Luck did throw downfield, though, he was 4-of-6 on attempts of at least 10 yards.

Some help with the foot: Indianapolis’ defense got a few assists from punter Pat McAfee. McAfee nailed three of his four punts inside the 49ers' 20-yard line. Speaking of special teams, kicker Adam Vinatieri made his first field goal at Candlestick Park. Seattle and Green Bay are the lone stadiums in the NFL in which Vinatieri, who is in his 18th season, has not made a field goal.

Filling in for Landry: There couldn’t have been a better game for safety Delano Howell to make his first career start. The former Stanford safety, starting in place of the injured LaRon Landry, had four tackles, three of them solo, and two defended passes after being inactive the first two games. Howell’s best solo stop -- and best Landry impression -- came in the second quarter when he made an open-field tackle on San Francisco receiver Anquan Boldin that saved a touchdown.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 45-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

First-down woes: The Jaguars continue to struggle on first down. Of the 27 first-down plays the Jaguars had against Seattle, they had negative yardage or no gain on 17 of them. The offense does not have the kind of playmakers, especially when the offensive line is struggling, to overcome that. It’s not because the Jaguars weren’t aggressive, though. Chad Henne threw 17 passes on first down, but he completed only seven. He did throw for 121 yards, but nearly half of that came on one play (a 59-yard catch-and-run by Cecil Shorts). Here’s a startling stat: Through three games, the Jaguars have 18 three-and-outs on 41 possessions (44 percent).

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Tony Overman/The OlympianSeattle free-agent defensive linemen Michael Bennett, No. 72, and Clinton McDonald are likely to get hefty contract offers this offseason.
Ineffective ground game: Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said the team will examine whether switching from a zone blocking scheme to a man or gap blocking scheme is warranted. Something has to be done to fix the paltry production. The Jaguars rushed for 51 yards against Seattle, including just 20 (on 12 carries) in the first half. Jones-Drew had just 17 yards on nine carries in the first half. He had 8 on one carry, meaning he averaged 1.1 yards on his other eight carries. The Jaguars ran more gap blocking schemes in the second half, and things were slightly better (31 yards on 12 carries), but they had to throw the ball because they were behind. The lack of production in the ground game is killing the offense, and it has been that way all season. Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri and Will Rackley aren’t getting consistent push off the ball or enough movement to create holes or creases for the backs.

Tight end damage: Seattle tight ends Zach Miller, Luke Willson and Kellen Davis combined to catch nine passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Up until then, the Jaguars had done a solid job of limiting the damage done by the position (five catches for 40 yards in two games). Play-action hurt the Jaguars on Sunday. For example, safety Chris Prosinski got caught looking in the backfield on Miller’s 1-yard touchdown catch because of Russell Wilson's play fake to Marshawn Lynch. Miller cut-blocked defensive end Tyson Alualu, then popped up and was wide-open in the end zone for an easy catch.

More Denard: The Jaguars tried to get Denard Robinson more work on Sunday by having him return kicks. He was solid, averaging 27.0 yards on two returns -- but he also nearly had a disaster by starting to take the ball out of the end zone but taking a knee just behind the goal line. The team is in desperate need of playmakers, so it was a good idea to try to take advantage of Robinson’s open-field ability. That might be the best way to use him because the Wildcat formation is not working. Robinson fumbled an exchange and had minus-2 yards on his other carry.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 20-17 win over the San Diego Chargers:

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsTennessee's offensive line needs to buy Jake Locker more time in the pocket.
Protection issues: The Titans have not protected Jake Locker as well as most of us expected considering the interior line rebuild. Left guard Andy Levitre and right guard Chance Warmack aren’t going anywhere. Center Rob Turner beat out Fernando Velasco in the preseason, while fourth-rounder Brian Schwenke fell behind while hurt. Velasco is with the Steelers now.

If Schwenke is up to speed, the Titans ought to consider making the change in the middle. It will not be easy, but Turner has not been good enough. Locker reacted to pressure pretty well against San Diego. But he’s been sacked seven times so far and under pressure too often.

Slow starts: The Titans have not been great out of the gate this season. In Pittsburgh they gave up a safety and a long drive at the start, but took the ball away with a goal-line fumble. The offense punted away its first possession. In Houston they traded first-drive touchdowns. Against San Diego, the Titans went three-and-out, then gave up a touchdown drive. Combined first possession scoring: Opponents 16, Titans 7. That’s not resounding, but Tennessee can start better.

Locker hurrying up: Two weeks in a row we’ve seen a very well-executed drive by Locker and the offense when they picked up the pace. In Houston they went 99 yards in nine plays for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Against San Diego they went 94 yards in 10 plays for a game-winning touchdown.

The Titans aren’t going to be a no-huddle, hurry-up offense all the time. But they ought to incorporate it more often based on how well Locker and the offense have been doing with it. It can still be a changeup if they do it a bit more often.

Get smarter: The penalty issue Sunday -- 11 for 116 yards and four first downs -- was something the Titans had to fight hard to survive. The Titans talk about being smart, but that is different than actually being smart.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Locker raved about the heady play Delanie Walker made on a drop during the game-winning drive. The tight end realized his mistake, kept playing and broke up an interception by Marcus Gilchrist.

“Smart players do smart things, dumb players do dumb things,” Loggains said.

Right now Kenny Britt fits into the second category. Others have flashed in to join him.

The Titans have to show they have more smart players and fewer dumb players.

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Texans' 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

[+] EnlargeTandon Doss
AP Photo/Gail BurtonTandon Doss dealt the Texans a critical blow with an 82-yard punt return for a TD just before halftime on Sunday.
That pivotal punt return: Though Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Ravens their first lead of the game, Tandon Doss' punt return for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half might have been more deflating for the Texans. Doss returned the punt 82 yards, after catching the punt long before any Texans player was near him. Three Texans -- Shiloh Keo, Bryan Braman and D.J. Swearinger -- had positioning to tackle him, but Doss sliced through all of them. "We had three guys free around him," Texans special teams coach Joe Marciano told Mark Berman of Fox 26. "He made them all miss. To me it's inexcusable." There was some good from the Texans' special teams in Baltimore. Shane Lechler's start was just as strong as his previous games have been, pinning the Ravens at their own 7-yard line and their own 1-yard line early. Kicker Randy Bullock also made all three of his field goal attempts. But the bad seemed to be a continuation of last season. From ESPN Stats & Information: "Entering Sunday [and before Doss’ touchdown], the Texans' special teams unit has cost Houston 52.4 expected points since the start of 2012, more than 10 expected points worse than any other team."

Divergent snap counts: The Texans kept Ed Reed on a snap count, but he still played most of the game. Reed played in 73 percent of the Texans' defensive snaps. Seven players played in every single snap on their side of the ball: the five offensive linemen, rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins and safety Danieal Manning.

Flipping roles: The Ravens' five longest plays were all longer than any one of Houston's. Four of them came in the third quarter during the Texans' only defensive dip of the game. All of the Ravens' 10 longest offensive plays came after the first quarter and seven of them after halftime, which you'd expect. Meanwhile, only four of the Texans' 10 longest offensive plays came after halftime.

Penalties a killer: They came at damaging times, but the sheer number of penalties the Texans had Sunday in Baltimore was staggering: 14 penalties for 113 yards. Coach Gary Kubiak said the lack of discipline disappointed him more than anything else. Defensive end Antonio Smith said those penalties came from pressing too much, wanting too badly to make a play. That was a theme Reed touched on, as well. Reed said it was important for the Texans to remember to just do their jobs, rather than thinking about making a play. Whatever the reason, Ravens penalties helped the Texans early and their own crushed them late. The six defensive penalties in the second half helped move the Ravens down the field. It was the biggest issue on a Texans defense that otherwise had a strong day, allowing just 236 yards.