AFC South: Wildcat


Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky


Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
  • The numbers may not show it, but running still matters, says Bob Kravitz.
  • Tony Dungy’s moved on gracefully, says Phil Richards.
  • A look at Larry Fitzgerald as the Colts prepare to defend him, says Phillip B. Wilson.
  • Desert heat shouldn’t be an issue Sunday evening, says Mike Chappell.
  • A look at linebacker depth, secondary injuries and the Joseph Addai-Donald Brown debate, from John Oehser.
  • Dwight Freeney says he’s got to get to Kurt Warner, writes Tom James.
  • Chappell takes questions on Hank Baskett, Addai and Tim Jennings.
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

Five things I took from Colts' win

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
1:21
AM ET
Doug Benc/Getty Images
The Colts' defense was unable to slow down Ronnie Brown and Miami's rushing offense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


The Colts' offense had the ball for only 14:53 Monday night in Miami. Surgically precise when they needed to be, the Colts took an unconventional blueprint to the extreme and beat the Dolphins, 27-23.

Colts-Dolphins coverage
Paul Kuharsky
- Five things I took from Colts' win
- Wrapup: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

Tim Graham
- Manning squishes soft Dolphins
- Rapid Reaction: Colts 27, Dolphins 23

- All Colts-Dolphins coverage
Here are five things I took from the game:

Peyton Manning’s MVP case starts earlier: More than one NFL analyst tracks MVP candidates starting in the first week of the season. Move Manning on up.

Is there another player in the league as willing and able to deal with and excel in such bizarre circumstances? In that small window, he connected on 14 of 23 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and a 133.9 passer rating.

With Reggie Wayne doubled throughout, he turned to Dallas Clark and, for the winning points, Pierre Garcon.

It was Manning’s 119th win, which pulled him even with Johnny Unitas for fifth all-time and past Unitas, who won a game in San Diego, to become the Colts’ all-time leader in quarterback wins. His reflections on the milestones seemed pitch-perfect.

Oxygen needs to be handy at the defensive bench: Not everyone is built to do what the Dolphins did in terms of rushing yards (239, a good share out of the Wildcat), third downs (15 of 21) and time of possession (45:07).

But Miami’s success certainly did nothing to lead the plan out of vogue. Certainly Tennessee, San Francisco, Houston, New England, Baltimore and the Jets have the type of personnel to try a similar approach, or have some experience having done it.

Even if none of those teams run 84 plays on offense, a well-executed plan can produce a tired Colts defense. And a tired Colts defense is a lot less threatening than a fresh Colts defense.

Stopping the run remains as issue: The 114 yards the Colts yielded in a two-point win over the Jaguars in Week 1 was regarded as a pretty good effort.

But the two week numbers are not very good. Last year’s team gave up an average of 4.2 yards a carry. This year’s number so far is 5.2.

(One aside: Teams running the Wildcat should not leave their quarterback on the field. The extra blocker sure seemed to key a lot of Miami’s success out of the formation.)

Anyone who thought Indy’s run defense was going to be fixed by adding bigger defensive tackles and installing new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer is disappointed through two weeks, but not with the end results.

Donald Brown scored some points: The rookie running back appeared to make a very nice adjustment on his 24-yard reception in the second quarter.

And he was the running back on the field for the Colts’ final two series. He had three carries and the 15-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the final period. And on the final drive, he helped pick up linebacker Reggie Torbor as he came after Manning on the quick pass to Garcon that turned into the winning score.

The broadcasters said they had no indication anything was wrong with Joseph Addai. Let’s interpret Brown being on the field for crunch time as a good development for him, not an indictment of Addai. Maybe it was matchup-specific.

It’s a bad scenario for a short week: Manning and his guys will be fresh Sunday night on another national telecast, but is there anything the defense could look less forward to in five days than a flight to Arizona?

The franchise has experience at back-to-back prime-time road games, but only 10 of these players were around for it. They’ll have to regale the kids with stories of how they won them both when they faced a similar scenario in 2003.

Mini Mailbag: Don't sit Manning

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
1:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

K.C. in Jacksonville writes: Was forced to do the unthinkable this week. Sitting down a healthy Peyton for Kyle ORTON. Bizarro world! Would u do the same with the Colts facing that Ravens D?

Paul Kuharsky: Here is my thinking: You drafted him in the first or second round -- you've got to start him no matter what. Because the week he finally lights it up, if he's on your bench, that will hurt way more than any of his bad Sundays do.

Here's the context: I am 1-4 in two leagues, always seem to make the wrong decisions and have never won a league.


Mike in Philly writes: Texans are facing the Dolphins and their two-time unbeatable Wildcat formation next week. What are the Texans doing to prepare? What kind of personnel/formations can be used to stop it? Which teams were successful against Arkansas last year with McFadden and Felix Jones and why?

Paul Kuharsky: An excellent question. I assure you the Texans won't be offering me specifics of their countermeasures. But they'll spend a lot of time on it, and it's about time people figured out how to deal with it. It shouldn't be creating chaos the second, third and fourth time it's used. Here's a blog entry on the subject.


Dustin in Lebanon, TN, writes: Paul- With the Titans current success and dominating defense, does this mean Coach Schwartz will finally get the head coaching job he has always wanted and deserves? Who would be a likely replacement? McGinnis? Enjoy your appearances on The Zone! It doesn't get any better to hear you and Frank swap jabs back and forth.

Paul Kuharsky: Thanks, Dustin. I expect Schwartz to get a head-coaching job after the season. Jeff Fisher would put McGinnis there and hire a linebacker coach.


Guy from Round Rock, TX, writes: Paul, Where do the Texans go from here? I can?t stomach much more of this!

Paul Kuharsky: Nowhere to go but up, right?

They can beat Miami. But if they don't beat Detroit and Cincy, things are way worse than I thought.


Josh Cates in Nashville writes: Purple People Eaters ... New York Sack Exchange ... Steel Curtain ... Fearsome Foursome ... "Blue Blockers" for the Titans D ... thoughts?

Paul Kuharsky: Keep working on it? (Not sure they are nickname-worthy yet, but if you come up with the right one ...)


Mad Mike in Houston writes: Paul: This is a pretty simple comment. I still cannot believe what I witnessed Sunday at Reliant. This is something that could set the franchise back further than ever before. I think we will find out a lot about this team and this coach, this upcoming Sunday.....MM

Paul Kuharsky: And Miami is hardly the pushover we might have thought before the season.

Hang in there. I think the Indianapolis game made Mike a different kind of mad.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

When the Miami Dolphins unveiled their unconventional Wildcat package, you'd have thought Tony Sparano and his staff reinvented the game.

The Texans have had enough time to examine it and consider its potential spinoffs.

"Yeah, we get to look at it for a couple of weeks, but it's changing every week," coach Gary Kubiak said. "So, I'm sure we're going to see a part of it that is totally different than what we've been seeing."

Said defensive end Mario Williams: "...As long as you go out there and you play your assignments and stay focused I think we'll be alright. Hopefully we can stop it. But, it's pretty confusing and it seems like whenever they get in that formation they seem to make plays. As long as we stay focused, I think we'll be fine. Hopefully we can stop it."

If it creates defensive chaos Sunday at Reliant Stadium, I'll think it an indictment of Houston's defensive coaches and preparations -- but more so of the Texans personnel.

Defensive players may have to actually react to something they didn't see drawn up on a dry erase board or have spelled out in a power point presentation. Imagine that?

I asked Texans GM Rick Smith for his reflections on Wildcat this week.

"It's unique, obviously," he said. "Whenever you try something and you have success with it and it's something a little different I think people pay attention to it. They certainly have run that with a large degree of success.

"As a football guy it's kind of fun to look at and try to figure out what you do to try to stop it. They got our attention with it so we've got to be prepared to stop it on Sunday."-

Here's a graphic from the Houston Chronicle that shows how Wildcat gets started.

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