Setting the Stage:
With their multi-talented star David Johnson (wrist) on retrievable IR for 8 - 12 weeks, the Cards re-signed veteran RB Chris Johnson and New England Practice Squader RB DJ Fowler. Johnson was big enough to run inside, fast enough to run outside and had the hands to to be effective on wheel routes. (But Cry Me a River - Colts are without starting QB Andrew Luck, with no apparent decent backup in sight). Question of the Day - How, if at all, will the Cards alter their offense in order to stay competitive this season? (Note - Shout out to Kent Somers for his half-page feature on the Cards in AZ Republic's parent daily, USA Today).
Last Sunday, the Cardinas led for 3 quarters in Mo-Town before the Lions caught them in the 4Q and won going away 35 - 23. "Luckless" Indy got waxed by the Rams 46 - 9. Last thing either team wanted to happen was to open the regular season 0 & 1, but the Colts figure to be more desparate (expecially given their margin of defeat). Since the only NFC West team to win last Sunday was the Rams At least for the next 7 days, they'll be the team with the great big target on its back. Cards should be desperate to break into the win column. Colts, at the very least, will be eying respectability.
Opponent's Last Game
Colts were blacktopped by the Rams 46 - 9. They gave up two Pick-6's and went 0 for 10 converting 3rd downs.
Rams - Received. Moved to Indy 32 and settled for a Zeurlein FG. Rams 3 - Indy 0.
Ind - Tolzien opened for Colts and on the 4th play of the series threw a Pick 6. Rams 10 - Colts 0.
Indy - 9-play scoring drive capped by a 20-yd Viniteri FG. Rams 10 - Colts 3.
Rams - 8 plays and a punt.
Indy -( Started from their 7). On the third play from scrimmage, T Johnson fumbled. Recovered by Rams at the Colt 34 two plays before the quarter ended,
First Quarter Score: Rams 10 - Colts 3
LA - 4 plays and a punt
Indy (Starting from their 7 again) - Five plays and a punt..
Rams - A 39-yard pass from Goff to Everett set up a 5-yd TD run up the middle by Gurley. Rams 17 - Colts 3
Indy - 3 & out.
Rams - Five plays after a 24-yd Goff to Watkins hookup, Goff hit Kupp for an 18-yd TD pass up the middle. Rams 24 - Colts 3
Indy - Four plays after Tolzien hit T Hilton for 32-yds, Indy punted.
Rams - 3:08 till halftime. On the 6th play of the drive, Zeurlein kicked a 35-yd FG. Rams 27 - Colts 3
Indy - 0:17 left. TB on KO. Tolzien kneeled to end the half.
First Half Score: Rams 27 - Colts 3.
Indy - 3 & out. T Austin muffed the punt. Still Indy ball.
Indy - 3 & out.
Rams- Put together an 8-play scoring drive ending in a 44 yd FG. Rams 30 - Indy 3.
Indy - On the first play from scrimmage, Joyner joined LA Pick 6 Club with a 29-yd TD return. Rams 37 - Indy 3.
Colts - 3 & out (an improvement over the pick sixes)
Rams - 3 & out
Colts - 3 & out.
Rams ran off 5 plays before end of quarter
Third Quarter Score: Rams 37 - Indy 3.
Rams - 2 plays into the quarter, punted
Indy - Brissett in for Tolzien - Hit Moncreief for +50-yds to set up a 5-play scoring drive ending in a 3-yd TD run by Mack. (XP no good). Rams 37 - Colts 9.
Rams - Five plays and a punt.
Indy - Fumbled in the end zone on the first play for a safety. Rams 39 - Colts 9.
Rams - Goff led Rams on an eight-play scoring drive ending wit a 3-yd TD run off left guard by Brown. Rams 46 - Colts 9.
Indy - 3 & out.
Rams - Ran out the clock.
Final Score: Rams 46 - Colts 9.
Passing: Tolzien - 9/18 128 yds, 0TD's, 2 Int. Brissett 2/3 51 yds 0 TDs, 0 Int.
Receiving: Hilton 3 for 57. Doyle 2 for 41.
Rushing: Gore - 10 carries for 42 yards.
Net Rushing Yds - Indy: 75/LA: 63
Rushing YPC - LA: 3.1. Indy: 1.9
Tackles - Farley 10, J Bostic 7, Melvin 6, Simon 5
Third Down Eff: Indy: 0/10 (0%). LA: 5/14 (35%)
Sacked - Indy: 4. LA: 1 LA Sacks: Quinn, Walker, Westbrooks, Longacre
Net Punting Avg - Indy: 47.8. LA: 43.6
Turnovers - Indy: Minus-2 (Colts 3; LA: 1).
Penalties - Indy: 4/Rams 7
Red Zone Eff - Indy: 1/2 50%. Ramsl: 3/4 75%
Time of Pos - Indy: 25.35. LA: 34:25
WR.......13 Hilton...........80 Rogers.......11 Bray
LT.........74 Castonzo......62 Clark
C .........78 Kelly.............69 Bond..........66 Silberman
RG.......75 Mewhort......73 Haeg
WR......10 Moncrief ......17 Aiken........14Hazel
QB......16 Tolzien..........07 Brissett......12 Luck (inj)
TE.......85 B Williams....47 Daniels
RB......23 Gore.............33 Turbin.........25..Mack......xx M Jones
DT 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre
DT 98 Peters..........95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........96 K Martin
ILB 20 Bucannon....43 Reddick
ILB 56 Dansby.........57 Bynes
WLB 44 Golden.........52 Wheeler
LCB 21 Peterson......25 T Williams
RCB 28 Bethel .........26 B Williams.
SS .41 Bethea.........27 Branch
FS 32 Mathieu.......36 Baker
Matchup: Colt Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
PFF rates their two OT's Castonzo and Good a 71.2 and 78.7 grades respectfully (but Good was just put on IR). . Rest of Colt OL is rated under 50.0. Card DL didn't get much inside "push" vs the Lions. Expect them and inside-bliitzing LB's to put more pressure up the middle vs. Indy.
Last week's starting QB (Tolzien) was the lowest-rated (35.2) player in last week's contests. Colts may start Tolzien's backup (Brissett) who threw 3 passes vs. the Rams. Cards had a tough time covering Lion receivers thrown-to by a razor-sharp Stafford. They figure to have an easier time Sunday unless Tolzien or Brissett do a 180-degree turnaround.
Buzz from Indy is that Brissett (who throws a nice deep ball) fits the Colts offensive style better than Tolzien and deserves to start. *Note - he most recently spent this past preseason with the New England Patroits (Cardinal fans: What happened the last time the Cards played a backup QB with a New England pedigree)?
Last week, DC Bettcher employed somewhat weird matchups (including the Badger on the Lion's best receiver Golden Tate - who wound up 8 for 8 on Completions-to-Targets.
Moncrief leads all Colt receivers with a 65.5 ("Average") rating. Hilton (58.5) and Aiken (50.0) received "Poor" ratings. Highest-rated pass-catchers are Gore (73.2 overall and their TE Doyle.
On paper, the Cardinal pass defense should dominate - both on pass rush pressure and coverage in the secondary; but the Cards in the past have been known to defy the words-on-paper. Toughest challenge will be LB and Safeties containing TE Doyle and RB Gore (who used to shred the Cards during his days in SF).
Key Matchups: Peterson vs. Hilton. Bethel vs. Moncrief. Mathieu and Branch vs. Gore and Doyle. Nkemdiche and Peters vs. Indy Interior OL (Vujonovich, Bond, Mewhort). C Jones and Golden vs. Good and Castonzo.
Matchup: Colt Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Cards will need to contain Frank Gore ((70.4 raring as a runner). Colt run-blocking isn't all that bad (their OL problems have mainly to do with pass pro). Best run-blocker is their TE Bond (84.2 Run Block Rating). They get a 76.2 run block rating out of their OG Vujnovic and an 81.6 and 74.7 out of their OT's (Good and Castonzo - but Good was just placed on IR).
Logical Indy strategy should be to focus on a physical, smashmouth game centered around Gore pounding the rock and short passes to Gore and Doyle.
Key Matchups: Reddick vs. Gore. Dansby, Peters and Gunter vs. Lion interior
WR1 11 Fitzgerald..........14 Nelson
LT 74 Humphries.........73 Wetzel
LG 76 Iupati.................75 Boone
C 53 Shipley..............62 Munyer
RG 70 Boehm
RT ......68 Veldheer..........69 Holden
TE 87 Niklas..............80 Momah
WR2 13 Jar Brown........12 John Brown.....10 Golden
QB 03 Palmer.............05 Stanton............07 Gabbert
RB 23 C Johnson......33 K Williams.......38 Ellington.......35 Penny.......37 Foster
TE 84 Gresham
DE.......98 Anderson.....92 Hunt
NT.......99 Woods........90 Stewart
DT ..95 Hankins.......91 Ridgeway
OLB....51 Simon.........52 Mingo
MLB...44 Morrison.....50 Walker
MLB...57 J Bostic......59 George
OLB....93 Sheard.......58 Basham
LCB....30 Melvin........31 Q Wilson......28 Milton
SS......41 Farley.........32 TJ Green
FS......20 Butler..........29 Hooker
RCB....21 V Davis......27 Hairston......35 Desir.....42 K Moore
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Team Colt Defense
Colts had problems dealing with Ram's passing attack last week. Hunt, Anderson and Ridgeway lead Indy interior linemen with "Average" ratings in the mid-to-high seventies rushing the passer. Edge rushers (Simon and Sheard) received pass rush grades in the 40's. LB's Bostic and Morrison only graded out in the low-mid 50's.
As to coverage: Melvin, Hairston and Wilson all had ratings in the high-forties/low fifties. Only DB with decent ratings in coverage was Hooker (73.6).
Cards had a bad day in the passing dept. from top to bottom. Palmer was picked off 3 times. Cardinal pass blockers forced CP into positions where he had to either hurry his throws and/or get rid of the ball awkwardly and inaccurately. Fitz, Smoke Brown and Nelson all dropped passes they normally could make blindfolded.
They'll be up against a defense that, last week, was weak both in pass-rush pressure and coverage. Expect BA to open things up considerably in Indy.
(Note - One thing we won't know till it happens is how BA will utilize K William, Ellington and C Johnson in theoffense in the absence of D Johnson. Our guess - work the perimiter and throw a lot of short screens and bubble stuff out of the backfield.
Key Matchups: Ellington vs. Hooker. Fitz vs. Hairston. Smoke Brown vs. Melvin. Nelson vs. Farley.
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Colt Run Defense
With or without David Johnson, the Cards had trouble running the ball in Detroit. Counter to what most fans will tell you, it was less a problem with our RB's and had more to do with a weak OL that will be without Humphries at LT Sunday.
Johnson was a big back who could move the pile between the tackles. Only other big back on the roster has been the youngster, Penny. Logically, you'd expect the Cards to attack the Indy perimeter with smallish backs like Ellington and K Williams, but we saw how effective KW could be scoring a 3-yd TD on an off-guard play. (Note- Although we re-signed C Johnson, we don't expect him to be "game ready" yet).
Cards ran the ball less than 20 times vs. Detroit. We don't expect that to change in Indy.
Key Matchup: Ellington and K Williams vs. Farley and Woods.
K 04 Vinatieri
P 02 Sanchez
H 02 Sanchez
LS 48 Rhodes
KR 11 Bray
PR 11 Bray
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 46 Brewer
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Colt Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Vinatieri uncharacteristically missed an easy FG last week. Sanchez (net) out-punted his Ram counterpart by 4.2 yds last Sunday.
Cards will counter with AARP standouts (Dawson and Lee). Neither team looks especially scary on returns.
Key matchups: Bray vs. Cardinal coverage teams. Golden vs. Colt coverage teams.
Emotional reunion between BA and his former boss, Chuck Pagano with the history leading up to BA being named Coach of the Year pinch-hitting for Chuck in Indy leading up to BA's being named HC of the Cardinals. Both will be desperately trying to get off the schneid and they both can get inside the other's head.
Both teams need this game. Cards have better team on paper, but question remains: Which team wants it more? Which team will show more poise and execute better at crunch-time?