AFC South: 2013 Week 6 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 6

October, 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- A review of four hot issues from the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Peyton factor: A legitimate argument can be made that the Colts were looking past the Chargers and ahead to this week's showdown against the undefeated Denver Broncos. I didn't think that would be the case after several players declined to talk about Denver when I asked them last week while trying to work ahead on some stories. San Diego was the only thing they would talk about. But how else can you explain the Colts' stinking worse than a baby's diaper while playing in the national spotlight of "Monday Night Football"? They had way too many self-inflicted wounds. Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Penalties at the wrong time. The Colts beat themselves against the Chargers.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
AP Photo/Denis PoroyTrent Richardson, playing in his fourth game for the Colts, only had 10 carries for 40 yards in the loss at San Diego on Monday night.
No running: Indianapolis arrived at Qualcomm Stadium as the fourth-best rushing team in the league. The Colts walked out of there not only with a loss, but they also dropped to sixth (the same spot they’re at in this week’s Power Rankings) in rushing at 130.7 yards a game. The 72 yards gained on the ground are a season low for them. The Trent Richardson show in the backfield continues to remain in neutral. The running back led the Colts in rushing, but it was nothing you can get excited about because he only gained 40 yards on 10 carries. Richardson is now four games in with the Colts, and it’s time for him to get rolling. "We came in averaging [142 rushing yards] per game," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "And today they held us under 100. We didn't get ourselves in enough third-and-manageables. We popped ourselves a few, but we were inconsistent.”

Harvey steps in: Let’s quickly get the good news out of the way with linebacker Mario Harvey. He led the Colts with a career-high 10 tackles (nine solo) while stepping in for Jerrell Freeman, who sat out the second half with a concussion. Now the bad news. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers constantly picked on Harvey, who had a difficult time keeping up with San Diego’s tight ends and receivers when matched up against them. The Colts needed Freeman because he’s more athletic than Harvey. “When I first got out there, I didn’t have a feel for them because I just came out at halftime,” Harvey said. “I started picking it up once I got a feel.” The Colts better hope Freeman can pass the league’s concussion protocol, because Denver's Peyton Manning will pick on Harvey every chance he gets -- and there will be a lot of opportunities -- in Sunday's game.

Case of the drops: Not that any time is a good time to have a case of the drops, but the Colts picked a brutal time to have multiple players get hit with the bug. They had four drops, including a key one by tight end Coby Fleener. Indianapolis is the third team to have at least four drops in back-to-back games this season. That stat is alarming when you consider the Colts dropped only two passes total in their first four games. “I don’t know, just dropped the ball," receiver Reggie Wayne said. "That’s all I can tell you. Nobody wants to go out there and drop balls, miss blocks and make penalties. That is part of the game. We have to correct them. We know this was out of the norm for ourselves."

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 35-19 loss to Denver Broncos:

Who's the starter? Quarterback Chad Henne completed 27 of 42 passes for 303 yards. He did throw two interceptions, but both came after deflections at the line of scrimmage. Coach Gus Bradley, however, was non-committal about whether Henne would remain the starter even after Blaine Gabbert (strained left hamstring) is cleared to return. “He did some very good things, and that's what he's supposed to do,” Bradley said. “He's supposed to come in and lead our team. He's supposed to come in and make plays. He's supposed to come in and [get] the playmakers the ball, and he did some of those things.” Henne still made some significant mistakes. He missed a wide-open Clay Harbor on the first offensive play. He also could have run for a first down on fourth-and-3 from the Denver 11-yard line but threw behind Justin Blackmon in the end zone. Still, Henne has outplayed Gabbert, who has missed three starts because of injuries, all season.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Chad Henne
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesChad Henne passed for 303 yards against Denver, but also had some significant mistakes.
Umbrella coverage: The Jaguars' game plan against Peyton Manning was pretty simple: Play two-deep safeties to eliminate big plays down the field and try to flood the secondary with defenders. It worked pretty well. Manning threw for a season-low 295 yards and two touchdowns and was intercepted for only the second time this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars sent four or fewer rushers on 41 of Manning's 42 dropbacks. They blitzed one time and Manning beat them with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas. Jaguars defenders limited Broncos receivers to season-low 116 yards after the catch and forced Manning to throw to the running backs a season-high 14 times. The result was a season-low in points, total yards, and passing yards.

Brown contributes: Lost in Justin Blackmon's 14-catch performance was the way receiver Mike Brown filled in for Cecil Shorts, who suffered a sprained right shoulder on the game's third offensive play and did not return. Brown caught four passes for 49 yards, including a 19-yard pass on third-and-20 that put the Jaguars in position to attempt and convert on fourth down. Sunday was Brown's first game since he suffered a fractured bone in his back in the season opener. Brown, a converted quarterback from Liberty, will have to produce like he did against the Broncos if Shorts, the team's leading receiver (31 catches), is out for an extended period.

Dead zone: The Jaguars' struggles inside the red zone continue. They scored only one TD in three trips. It was a mix of play-calling and bad decisions that doomed the latter two trips. Henne was penalized for delay of game and then offensive coordinator Jed Fisch called a sweep to the short side of the field. Those plays moved the ball from the 4 to the 12. Henne could have run for a first down on their last trip but instead threw behind Blackmon.

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Houston Texans' 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Alec Ogletree
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAlec Ogletree returns an interception 98 yards for a touchdown against the Texans.
On the return game: Texans safety Danieal Manning suffered a hyperextended knee against the Rams and is having an MRI on Monday. It looks gruesome in this screen grab. Manning handled kickoff returns for the first time this season while Shiloh Keo handled punt returns. The Texans opted for the two of them instead of Keshawn Martin. Martin was questionable for the game, but did have a role in the Texans' offense. Once Manning left the game with his injury, Martin became the returner again and gave up a costly fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Not a good play from Martin, but it wasn't all his fault. The blocking on that play was lacking and should take a hefty chunk of the blame.

Turnover margin continues to tumble: The Texans entered the game with a minus-8 turnover margin. That has fallen to minus-12. I know the whole playoff discussion is far down the list of things to worry about with this team, but as I don't believe the season is lost just yet, I'll address it here. Most playoff teams have positive turnover margins. It's rare for teams to make the playoffs with negative double-digit turnover margins. I analyzed this with the help of ESPN Stats & Information here.

Yards allowed still low: I was surprised to see this, but the Texans' defense allowed only 216 yards of total offense on Sunday. Think about that. They gave up two 80-yard drives and a 65-yard drive, which included penalties, and still allowed only 216 yards of total offense, well below their season average. Two season-long themes persisted. The Rams' red-zone efficiency was perfect. They entered the red zone three times and scored touchdowns every time. (Meanwhile, the Texans' offense entered the red zone six times and scored one touchdown.) And the Texans did not force any turnovers.

Is it the coaching? After Sunday's game, several Texans players said their losing streak is not head coach Gary Kubiak's fault. "He can’t control penalties and turnovers; that’s on us as football players and men out there battling to get the job done," left tackle Duane Brown said. "It’s not his fault and anybody who says that is wrong." The thing is, penalties and turnovers are related to discipline and that is something coaching can impact. Getting the most out of the talent on the team is also something coaching can impact.

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 20-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

One change coming: I don’t expect the Titans to make a big shakeup, though they should be considering Brian Schwenke at center when the bye week arrives. But one change that should arrive this week is the re-emergence of No. 2 running back Shonn Greene. He hurt his knee in the opener and had it scoped. He should practice on Wednesday. The Titans will be equipped to run better against San Francisco with a one-two punch of Chris Johnson and Greene, and if Greene gets on any kind of roll they won’t hesitate to go with the hot hand. They are desperate for a hot hand.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Ryan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonTitans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been struggling lately.
Doling out consequences: While I am ready for Schwenke, there aren’t viable alternatives at most of the Titans’ trouble spots. Ryan Fitzpatrick is struggling, but he has always been streaky. There is a far better chance he plays better next week than there is that Rusty Smith would play well. And the Titans won’t even consider turning to their No. 3 QB. But that Kenny Britt played, by my count, two snaps, shows that Mike Munchak will take playing time away from a bad performer when he has an alternative.

Repeat mistakes: Brett Kern dropped a second punt snap in a month, which is hard to fathom. Darius Reynaud had a 40-yard kickoff return, but let yet another punt bounce and was lucky to get away with it when it turned into a touchback. Rob Turner sailed a couple more shotgun snaps. Guys making mistakes are the No. 1 people who have to be accountable for those mistakes. But when they make the same mistakes repeatedly, I have to wonder about the message of Munchak and his staff, and about how good they are at correcting things. Do they have guys who don’t get what they are being told, guys who aren’t capable of fixing those things or guys who are just mistake-makers? Whatever the answer, it’s a problem.

Look across the field: The Titans aspire to be a physical team that controls both lines of scrimmage and can impose its will as it runs and stops the run. Well, they just lost to two teams, the Chiefs and Seahawks, who follow that blueprint far better than Tennessee does. And the 49ers are of the same ilk and will be in Nashville on Sunday. The Titans pledged what they were going to be, and we’ve seen it a little bit, particularly in the wins in Pittsburgh and over the Chargers. But we haven’t seen it enough. Never mind fans who heard the identity promises. I wonder what owner Bud Adams thinks about the Titans failure to be who they pledged they’d be when he spent more than $100 million on free agents to help them be it?