AFC South: 2013 Week 6 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

October, 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Colts hurt themselves, and you can't point the finger at quarterback Andrew Luck, either. It’s hard to keep drives going when the receivers aren’t catching passes. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey got it started when he dropped what should have been a touchdown pass down the right sideline. T.Y. Hilton then dropped a pass. It really became contagious after that. Tight end Coby Fleener had two drops, including one that he could have possibly scored on. You know things were going bad when Reggie Wayne, who caught his 1,000th pass, even dropped a pass that would have given the Colts a first down. That was only the offensive side of the ball. The defense had a difficult time getting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers off the field. The Chargers had the ball for 38 minutes, 31 seconds and rushed for 147 yards.

Stock watch: The Colts suffered a major blow when linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the team’s leading tackler, left the game in the second half with a concussion. Freeman’s absence was notable because the Chargers wisely picked on Freeman’s replacement, Mario Harvey, time and time again. Freeman will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol test in order to be on the field against the Denver Broncos this weekend.

Silent rushing attack: The Colts entered the game as the league’s fourth-best rushing team. They didn’t look like it at Qualcomm Stadium, though. Indianapolis ran for only 74 yards, well below their season average of 142 yards a game. It’s not like the Colts were facing one of the top run defenses in the league, either. The Chargers entered the game giving up 117.2 yards a game on the ground.

What’s next: The biggest game of the NFL season will be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning, a fixture in the Colts organization for 14 seasons, returns for the first time with the undefeated Denver Broncos (6-0).
DENVER -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 35-19 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: If there are such things as moral victories in football, the Jaguars got one on Sunday. They came in as 28-point underdogs -- which tied the mark for the largest point spread in NFL history -- and ended up losing by 16 points. That still doesn’t change the fact that the Jaguars are one of only three winless teams. They are improving, especially on offense. The offensive line, until late in the third quarter when it gave up two sacks in three plays, did a solid job in pass protection. It’s odd to think the defense did a good job in giving up 35 points, but the Broncos had scored more than 50 points in back-to-back games and were averaging 46 per game. The Jaguars didn’t give up a lot of big plays and made the Broncos work. Plus, linebacker Paul Posluszny returned an interception for a touchdown late in the first half.

Stock watch: There can't be any remaining doubt regarding how important receiver Justin Blackmon is to the offense. The team’s two best offensive performances have come the past two weeks and that coincides with Blackmon’s return from his four-game suspension. What made his performance even more impressive on Sunday was that it came without leading receiver Cecil Shorts. He left the game after suffering a shoulder sprain on the third offensive snap and did not return. Blackmon finished with 14 catches for 190 yards.

Not-so-special teams: The Jaguars made three huge special-teams gaffes. Coach Gus Bradley called for a fake punt from his own 26-yard line on the first possession. The ball was snapped directly to fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou, who tried to run up the middle but gained only 1 yard. Denver scored six plays later. Long-snapper Carson Tinker bounced a snap on a failed field goal attempt. The Broncos also converted a fake punt of their own for a 35-yard gain.

What’s next: The Jaguars play host to San Diego on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

October, 13, 2013

SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans20-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

What it means: The Titans can go on the road to a tough environment and hang with a good team. But they couldn’t pull out a win despite plenty of opportunity. Their best opportunity might have been on a Marshawn Lynch fourth-quarter fumble. Zach Brown was in position to scoop and score, and the ball slid off his hands back to quarterback Russell Wilson. The Titans have lost two in a row to fall to 3-3.

Stock watch: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions and could have easily given away a third. He and the Titans never got into any sustained offensive rhythm. Fitzpatrick fumbled and recovered a snap and had a ball slip out of his hand later. The Titans were fortunate in that they recovered both.

Personnel question: On a crucial third-and-1 from near midfield with the score tied at 10, the Titans gave the ball to Darius Reynaud, who gained nothing. Chris Johnson had just been hurt, Jackie Battle was out of the game with a neck injury and Shonn Greene, still recovering from knee surgery, was inactive. Running Reynaud isn’t a viable option, no matter how much confidence the Titans have in their run game. On fourth down, they took a delay and then punted.

Invisible: Kenny Britt didn’t get on the field until late in the fourth quarter. He caught a 7-yard pass for a first down and returned to the bench. Applause to the Titans for doing what was needed. Still, without him, they dropped a couple passes that hurt.

What’s next: The Titans face another NFC West foe as the San Francisco 49ers visit LP Field.

Rapid Reaction: Houston Texans

October, 13, 2013

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Houston Texans' 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

What it means: You could explain away losses to the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and even Baltimore Ravens as coming against strong and talented opponents. But a sloppy blowout loss to the Rams showed the Texans aren't anywhere close to the team many, including myself, expected them to be when the season began. Can't pin this one on embattled quarterback Matt Schaub, either. The Texans weren't good enough in any phase of the game.

Stock watch: Backup quarterback T.J. Yates' stock rose sharply as Schaub struggled into dubious history with his trend of pick-sixes. But against the Rams, the Texans had to insert Yates when Schaub went out with an ankle injury after a sack and the result wasn't better. At the time the Texans trailed 31-6, which didn't exactly give Yates much to work with. Still, he threw a 98-yard pick-six to end one drive and then threw another interception in the end zone on the next drive.

Sloppiness invades: The Texans' turnover ratio continued to take a hit on Sunday as they fumbled twice. First, on a first-quarter drive when rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins was stripped as he hit the ground. Then in the third quarter, second-year receiver Keshawn Martin was stripped as he returned a kickoff. The ball popped out and into the arms of linebacker Daren Bates who ran it in for a score. The Texans also committed seven penalties for 95 yards in the first half alone.

One thing worked: Running back Arian Foster ran hard and smart throughout the game. He gained 141 yards on 20 carries and crossed the 5,000-yard threshold for his career. At halftime, Foster had gained 98 of those yards on just 10 carries.

What's next: The Texans have a lot of mistakes to fix. They'll play the Chiefs in Kansas City next weekend.