Haven't had any time at all to compose the series of Round Ups this season as I hoped I would, but a fair few things grabbed my attention this week so I decided to polish off my typing skills and put pen to paper so to speak. Sadly, these Round Ups will likely be spread out at random times across the season.
This is why they play the games. The Indianapolis Colts when playing at home will always play with a higher level of energy, especially after an embarrassing loss to the Browns in Week Two. After looking like a blowout was ensuing early on, the Colts defense got some momentum after a couple big defensive plays midway through the 2nd quarter and made a game of it. Lets break it down.
Mike Wallace continues a dominating stretch that he has had, now with six straight 100 yard games in a row, after tonights 5 catch, 140 yard performance. He runs his routes crisper and more defined than last season, and shows excellent hands, as well as awareness after the catch to grab extra yardage. He notched the longest reception of his career with the 81 yard touchdown bomb from Big Ben in the first quarter. After that however, he was held to just two more catches the rest of the way, but his presence opened up big holes for the rest of the passing game. Wallace entertained the idea of 2000 yards prior to the season, and whilst still an unrealistic goal, anyone who doesnt respect his game is going to get burned.
Marcus Gilbert. I was actually very impressed with our Rookie Right Tackles performance tonight. He held his own in pass protection against the very dangerous Robert Mathis for most of the night. He was not bothered by speed rush, he was patient and showed Mathis the pathway deep in the backfield around Ben. If you didnt notice, they actually started Mathis looping around on blitzing plays, and I think some of that decision making can be attributed to Gilbert, as Mathis just wasnt getting consistent pressure on Gilberts side. The only worry now is that Gilberts shoulder injury that he suffered in the second half is nothing serious and hopefully subsides quickly.
Antonio Brown had a solid game as well, and I hate to dog on Manny Sanders, but Antonio Brown just seems the tougher of the two and has more "big play" ability, if nothing more than he definitely has a better rapport with Big Ben, as well as consistency. After Mike Wallace's explosive start, the defense emphasised priority on him, and Brown was one of the beneficiaries. Good on him for taking advantage.
James Harrison still isnt 100%, but tonight he looked one step closer. He fought off double teams, gave Costanzo a run for his money on most passing plays, and could not be contained by a mere tight end when it came to it. He looked much better against the run tonight than he has of late, and had a few explosive plays, none more crucial than the go ahead sack - strip Troy Polamalu touchdown. He is nearly there healthwise, and when he does, we will be all the more potent.
Run blocking left a hell of a lot to be desired, especially against a defense that had allowed 230 yards combined on the ground to Ben Tate/Peyton Hillis. Even All-Pro Center Maurkice Pouncey failed to make key blocks in the run game tonight. Mendenhall doesnt deserve some of the flak I have seen him getting, he had absolutely no help up front tonight. However he did run hard all night and eventually it tired out the Colts D Line in the closing stages of the game.
Left side of the defensive front seven struggled tonight. I have been one of Aaron Smiths biggest defenders, but maybe tonight showed that it could be time to let Ziggy Hood take the top slot in the depth chart once Keisel returns to his side of the line.
Likwise, Lamarr Woodley is no secret one of my favorite players on the team, but tonight he was outmatched by a previosuly Undrafted free agent Tackle. Woodley had a few good pushes in the running game, but left a lot to be desired in pass rush. It may have just been what I saw, but Woodley seemed to be bullrushing every play right into the opposing tackles chest and failed to change up his style of attack. I expect more out of him in coming weeks, but that was a game where he couldve and by all means shouldve had an impact, and failed to take advantage.
Injuries to our Offensive Line. Our guys up front just cannot seem to get a break. I think we had four different combinations on the line tonight. Jonathan Scott left with what appeared to be a knee/ankle injury, and Legursky and Gilbert both left with apparent shoulder injuries. Rest up guys, its a long season ahead and we will need you.
Closing Thought of the Day:
I am having a few concerns about the character of our young wide receivers. Whether it just me being overly critical of unsportsmanlike play, but as much as I was excited at the time, when Mike Wallace pulls up from his sprint 10 yards from scoring to taunt and stroll backwards into the endzone, I have a problem with that. Especially with three quarters of play to go. Mike Wallace is a real talent, I am just a little paranoid that his ego may be getting a little too big.
Likewise, Antonio Brown dances around after every catch he makes, and it reminds me a little of Santonio Holmes. Thats the only reason why it "upsets" me if that is the correct word to use. Make the play, celebrate with your team mates, but nothing good ever comes out of taunts and showboating.
- Torrey Smith announced the beginning of his NFL career with a hell of a game, heck a hell of a first quarter against the St Louis Rams. Not a lot of quality coverage was present, but give the young man credit for exploiting it. He finished with a ridiculous 5 catches for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns. I hope MaLoR had a change of underwear present
- Likewise, Joe Flacco was on point with his deep passes tonight. He hit Torrey Smith all night and moved the ball pretty well the whole game, finishing with a career high 389 yards and 3 touchdowns. Air Flacco has arrived in Baltimore?
- Surprised at the Ravens playcalling however. I did not see every play, but 48 passes, 2 sacks and 9 quarterback carries equals 59 passing plays (this is assuming the 9 runs were not designed QB scrambles) compared to just 17 running plays. Such is the way the NFL is moving with this ridiculous passing craze.
- It should be said, the Ravens returned to defensive prowess, notching 5 sacks, 1 interceptions, holding the Rams to a mere 244 yards and 7 points, not to mention holding the Rams to 4/14 on third down.
- Game Ball: Torrey Smith, welcome to the NFL rookie. Now do it against #1 corners.
- Boooooring game. Andy Dalton finally had a rookie game against a decent 49ers defensive effort, throwing 2 interceptions and barely completing 50% of his passes.
- AJ Green was held in check today after exploding during his first two outings of his NFL career. The future still looks bright for this kid, he needs to learn from these games and make his preparations for the next. 4 catches for 29 yards
- Albeit it against the struggling San Francisco offense, the Bengals defense again looked pretty good, racking up 5 sacks of Alex Smith, and they forced 3 fumbles, although only one they managed to recover for a turnover. Fanene led the way with 2 sacks.
- Nothing out of this game, but discipline off the field will kill the Bengals again this season as they prepare to lose Cedric Benson, and possibly Jerome Simpson too, to suspensions in the coming weeks.
- Peyton Hillis was held out of the game, and Hardesty answered the call (somewhat) against a stout Miami run defense, grabbing 67 yards off 14 carries in the game. Hardesty missed all of last season with injury and will look to make the most of his chances as Mr Madden takes most of the glory. Still, the running game gave Cleveland balance in a game where offensive continuity was hard to come by.
- Colt McCoy showed his leadership skills and top two inches in orchestrating the Browns comeback, leading them on an 80 yard touchdown drive late in the game, capping it with a 14 yard pass to Mohammed Massaquoi with just 43 seconds remaining. He finished with 210 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception for his third consecutive solid-but-unspectacular outing of the season. Consistency is all the Browns require out of McCoy, and so far he is giving it to them.
- The Browns defense got after Chad Henne and made some plays, racking up 5 sacks, including 1.5 to each Ahtyba Rubin and Jayme Mitchell, and Mike Adams put the nail in the coffin picking off Chad Henne in the closing stages of the game.
Final Thoughts and observations from Around the League:
- Any day the Patriots lose is a good day in my books. The Buffalo Bills erased an early 21-0 deficit to comeback and stun the Patriots 34-31. Is Ryan Fitzpatrick ready to lead the Bills to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade? Or are they still merely pretenders off to a lucky start?
- The Detroit Lions look like contenders to me, especially with how good Matthew Stafford is leading his offense, not to mention Calvin Johnson looks to be in the best form of his young career. If you didnt know, Megatron notched his third consecutive game with 2 touchdown receptions, the first time in NFL history someone has opened the season with three such games. Stafford has also notched an impressive 977 yards and 9 touchdowns through three games. The team gets a boost as first round pick Nick Fairley is set to make his debut next weekend.
- The Oakland Raiders took it to the Jets "impenetrable" run defense by absolutely torching the Jets on the ground to the tune of 234 yards and 4 touchdowns via the ground, 171 of which coming from Darren McFadden, not to mention his two touchdowns. The Raiders played a solid, balanced all around game as the defense played its part with 4 sacks and 1 interception of Mark Sanchez. Also, keep an eye on Denarius Moore, the Raiders 5th round rookie receiver who has superstar potential.
- Not ready to jump on the Newton bandwagon yet, but after two 400 yard performances and notching his first career win after a 4th quarter drive for the win, he has at least so far looked to have the physical ability to win games, the challenge will be doing it consistently once opposition has more tape on him.
- Last thing from me, possibly one of the greatest special teams fakes of all time - called back by a Holding call. Watch Johnny Knox's Punt return.