If you buy company lines, kind of like drinking the Kool-Aid, Drew Brees did the Indianapolis Colts’ defense a favor Saturday night.
That’s what some of the Colts were saying after Saturday’s 23-17 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium.
When the Colts watch this film to correct mistakes, there will be plenty of gaffes to go around. Players won’t be too full of themselves, they repeatedly rationalized, about where they are and what they need to improve upon at this late preseason juncture.
“It’s great that it happened now,” said inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, echoing the words of defensive end Cory Redding. “We know what we need to be. We know what type of grind it’s going to be from here on out. If we want to reach our goals, these are the things, when we’re faced with that adversity during the game, we’ve got to be able to respond.”
Part of our job is providing what players and coaches say. The other part is elaborating with perspective. And as fans know, we aren’t paid to always buy what’s being sold.
So while some Colts considered Brees tearing them apart a wake-up call, the reality is it shouldn’t come to that. A defense shouldn’t need to give up 189 yards on 28 plays in only one quarter to realize the job isn’t getting done.
When players reconvene at the team complex and watch the film again, they will see “a ton” of missed tackles, Jackson admitted. After cranking out two stories, shooting a video and heading home a little after 2 a.m., I turned on the DVR and watched the first quarter again to count how many is a ton.
The Colts missed two tackles on the Saints’ opening 13-play, 80-yard TD drive. They also allowed Brees to convert two third-and-8 plays, one a great throw to Marques Colston when cornerback Greg Toler tried to jump the route and just missed the pass, the other when the quarterback ran away from outside linebacker Erik Walden on a 10-yard scramble. Walden was too wide on his rush and nobody was in the middle of the field.
Then Walden couldn’t stop Austin Johnson on the next play, when the Saints backup fullback caught a short pass in the flat and bulled his way over the defender for the 3-yard score. Walden won’t want to watch that one again.
“All I can say is film study is going to be one fun thing to go through,” said defensive end Ricky Jean Francois. “I understand a lot of people don’t like film study, but this film study will be something to evaluate each one of us. We have to evaluate ourselves before we see it as a team.
“Nobody should be sunk down in their chair. Everybody should have their notebook out, with their pen, looking at what the coach has got to tell you, listening to what the D-coordinator has got to tell you so we can better our game.”
Back to those missed tackles, as well as some blown coverages.
The Colts defense gave up one first down on the Saints’ next series before forcing a punt. When the Saints got the ball back, well, the home team broke down again.
Jackson couldn’t stay with $40-million man Jimmy Graham as the tight end ran away from the linebacker for a 38-yard pass reception. Backed up after an offensive pass-interference call, Brees threw a second-and-16 screen pass to running back Pierre Thomas, who should have been tackled by Bjoern Werner. Missed tackle. Then safety Colt Anderson couldn’t get off a block and grabbed nothing but air as Thomas gained 26 yards.
Cornerback Darius Butler was called for pass interference, then Colston was isolated on Jackson, a wide receiver against a linebacker. In those situations, the wide receiver usually wins. He was wide open for the 13-yard TD catch. The Saints needed just seven plays to go 80 yards this time.
“Next time, I’ve got to play that a little bit better, bottom line,” Jackson said.
Don’t get me wrong, the Colts first-team offense doesn’t get a pass. Andrew Luck admitted he made his share of mistakes, most notably a “bad” interception and the team’s failure to score a touchdown on first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line in the final minutes of the half.
But we’ve seen Luck and the offense carry this team the past two years. Push come to shove, you expect this offense to score points and there’s no reason to think that won’t happen, even with questions about the interior of the O-line as well as the run game.
This blog focuses on the defense because that’s the side of the ball which needs to show marked improvement for the Colts to take that next step come January. They reached the playoffs in an inspiring 2012 turnaround from 2-14. They won 11 games again and took a step with one playoff victory.
But if the Colts are going to be Super Bowl contenders, it can’t be because the offense scores 45 points, as it did to rally from 28 points down to beat Kansas City in the wild-card round last January.
“This is the game where we can see all of our mistakes, see our areas where we need to get better in,” Jean Francois said. “Come September, when it’s time to be up in Mile High, we can’t make these mistakes. We played against a good quarterback that’s probably the same caliber as the quarterback we’re going up against (on Sept. 7.).”
Everyone knows that’s Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. And we know from experience what Peyton can do to a mistake-prone defense.
So study that film, guys. Study it intently. Because if you don’t learn from these mistakes, those study sessions some players hate will be even worse. And no company line rationalization will be able to hide the truth.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.
Colts defenders miss tackles, blow coverages and fail to get off the field on third down in humbling opening quarter.