Peyton vs. Perfection

By
Andy Benoit
· More from Andy·
Ryan Fitzpatrick is 0-2 as a starter for the Titans this season, heading into Thursday night's game against the division-leading Colts. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
Ryan Fitzpatrick is 0-2 as a starter for the Titans this season, heading into Thursday night’s game against the division-leading Colts. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Colts offense vs. Titans defense

Andrew Luck is coming off his worst game as a pro. He isn’t alone. For most Colts players, last week’s loss to the Rams is one where you simply burn the tape and move on. The Titans didn’t burn that tape, though. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray (who shares duties with Gregg Williams) used to run a zone-based scheme similar to the one St. Louis runs under Jeff Fisher. While Tennessee has been blitz-happier this season, Gray loves game-planning around a four-man pass rush. He doesn’t quite have the horses that Fisher has, but defensive end Derrick Morgan has played well the past two weeks and tackle Jurrell Casey, who stands out for his initial quickness and block-shedding acumen, is having a Pro Bowl season.

The Titans likely will refrain from major blitzing and first see if Morgan and Casey can take advantage of the Colts’ athletically mediocre O-line. If they can, it will be an uphill battle for Luck. The Colts’ running game right now is nonexistent (Trent Richardson can’t change directions), while Luck’s receiving corps is still trying to reconfigure itself in Reggie Wayne’s absence (it would help if Coby Fleener started making contested catches). With stud boundary corners Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner, plus newly interchangeable safeties Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard, this Titans secondary is not an easy one to get on track against.

Titans offense vs. Colts defense

The Colts did not play all that poorly on defense last Sunday. The Rams made them pay dearly on a few aberrational man coverage snafus. Aside from five or six plays there, the Colts dominated, particularly against the Rams’ man-blocking interior running game. The Titans feature more of a zone-blocking outside ground game, as Chris Johnson can be counted on to cut it back toward open space whenever it’s there. If linebackers Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman attack with the same vigor as they did last Sunday, Johnson will be a nonfactor.

In the passing game, Tennessee likes to get Nate Washington and Kendall Wright (especially) on crossing patterns. Indianapolis has been playing more man coverage this season, though they’ve had a bit of trouble against horizontal routes, especially when pre-snap motion is involved. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains knows those tactics are tough to defend, and he uses them regularly.

The Colts might consider employing more press-Cover 3 (i.e. a Seahawks style defense) or Cover 4 (aka quarters). Both schemes have man-to-man principles on the outside, and zone principles for linebackers and safeties inside. Those zones could disrupt a lot of Tennessee’s route designs. Additionally, playing zone would allow inside defenders to keep their eyes on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which is important given his proclivity to scramble and take chances with throws into coverage.

PREV 1 2VIEW AS A SINGLE PAGE
More from The MMQB
23 comments
RichBich
RichBich

Peyton is no spring chicken. He won't have the stamina to withstand the pass rush pressure even if the rush doesn't result in a lot sacks.

MannySilva
MannySilva

All good and thoughtful comments, I don't think that people understand Alex's mind set. I have been watching from the start and he seems to rise to the occasion when necessary. He did it in 2011 seven times. He is really cool under pressure. Remember there is never been any other QB in SF to do that not even the great Joe Montana.

gary41
gary41

Denver is #1 in passing for both QB & receivers.  Manning has zero mobility and the running game is not used much.  KC is rather ordinary offensively, but very balanced.  The game could come down to key defensive playmaking.  Denver is #4 in giveaways, where KC is #1 in turnover differential.  KC is #1 in sacs and #1 in stuff percentage and #1 in 3rd down efficiency.   Whether they will be able to continue an aggressive pass rush against one of the best QB's, with so many very good receivers, is difficult to know, but this strategy worked for the Colts.             

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Chiefs are 24th in league vs run, no pass rush, difficulties scoring. No turnovers could be 48-10 ugly

TPorter
TPorter

Of course Manning is hurt, he is playing a decent D. If they hit him early he will fold like a paper bag.

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

Manning's injury will impact the Bronco's chances to win. His footwork will not be at 100%, and against a tough defensive line like the Chiefs he will be under pressure to get the ball out early. However, he should be able to pull through and have the Broncos win, my final is 17-14. However, the chiefs should win the rematch in arrowhead by about 6-7 points.

retro-grouch
retro-grouch

The two most likely scenarios for a Chiefs victory involve the Broncos playing without one or more key starters.  

Losing Manning might possibly change a thing or two about the Broncos execution on offense but another overlooked secondary lynchpin is Knowshon Moreno.  The struggles of Denver's young running backs have created a situation in which Moreno may have no fully effective backup.

The Broncos can run 90% of their offense with Ronnie HIllman but his fumbling issues have made him inactive on Sundays for the last several weeks.  

It's not clear what the Broncos offense would look like with rookie running backs under center 100% of the time.  There's the no-huddle signal calling, there's the complicated pass protection schemes, there's the timing for chip blocking and the route discipline.  How much do they know?  No outsider knows the answer to that question but it seems obvious that the Broncos would rest Moreno more if they had that option.


retro-grouch
retro-grouch

Manning is going to come out looking to punch the Chiefs in the mouth and see if they can cover ALL of his targets.  The pass rush generally only becomes a factor after about 1.5 seconds so if the bump coverage isn't perfect then the train is leaving the station.  That first impact between the leagues best units will have a huge influence on the course of the game.   

If the Broncos score quickly then they can pick and choose between revving the offense and grinding the clock.  Conversely, if the Chiefs defense can put some big first quarter hits on Manning, especially with turnovers and points, then the Broncos may be forced to adjust the fundamentals of their offense, doubling Poe and keeping skill players in blocking roles.  They might be forced to abandon their favorite "posse" personnel package and go with two or three tight ends.

The problem for the Chiefs is that the Broncos don't have to blow up the scoreboard to win this game.  Del Rio's defenses tend to be very good at scheming for limited weapons and the Chiefs' weapons are among the most limited in the league.  Conversely, the Broncos could go conservative with their three tight end package and still be very dangerous because all those tight ends can catch.  

The Chiefs almost have to get touchdowns from their defense or return game to win.

MannySilva
MannySilva

Tim,  Smith is cool under pressure and is a fourth quarter player. If Denver is close in the 4th qt. then the favor goes to the Chiefs, they play under control and can keep the ball away from Denver. Fatigue at that altitude may be another factor. The chiefs seem to be prepared for that with their conditioning. We will see. 

trangthetroll
trangthetroll

Good analysis... I agree for most part. You can throw all the stats out the window...this game will come down to execution...who plays as close to mistake free football as possible. Cooper and Smith have to have their best games of the season. Berry, with help,hopefully will keep thomas in check. Hali and Houston HAVE to re-ignite the non blitz pass rush. Poe/johnson and company have to keep the run game in check as well as the underneath. Generate takeaways is key.

I think Alex Smith knows exactly what he needs to do, and more importantly, I think andy reid knows exactly what he needs to get Alex to do to win this game. They need to use the fullback and one of the tightends to brutalize the denver defensive edges.....with Not just charles but davis and grey. They have got to get bowe going in the intermediate routes, along with Fasano and McGrath..just to open up the field a bit. I fully expect Alex to play his best game this week...sort of a rebound and put up a couple passing touch downs. I see Jamal having one rushing touch down, and the defense putting up a touchdown. A field goal or two is possible.. giving the chiefs 28-36 points. 

Defense playing best game,... denver scoring 28 or less.

MannySilva
MannySilva

I think Peter doesn't watch the whole game, what he missed, was the drives were stopped by penalties and dropped passes. You must remember Smith knows how to sling it when he has to and that may show up on Sunday. 

RichBich
RichBich

@MannySilva - Yes; and Peyton is becoming more frustrated and cranky with each game he plays. During the Charger game, he was yelling at the refs.

blynder
blynder

@retro-grouch 

Ball and Hillman have been very disappointing - particularly Hillman, who has had a year in the system and shouldn't be putting the ball on the ground.  Ball still has the "I'm a rookie" thing to fall back on.  Another back to consider - CJ Anderson.  He might not be as powerful as Ball or as fast as Hillman - but he's been somewhat reliable.  I wouldn't be surprised, if the Moreno dude goes down; we see more of CJ Anderson.


MERRILL2310
MERRILL2310

@trangthetroll I agree with your game plan but no way will the Chiefs put up 28 points against the Broncos D. They are barely putting up 20 points a game and the Broncos D is better than the stats indicate. I see this being 24 -17 Broncos. I will be at the game in Arrowhead and that one will be much closer. As for this game The Broncos will win easily if they don't turn the ball over 3 or more times.

Shyzaboy
Shyzaboy

@MannySilva There is a byline to the right of each headline. Peter King doesn't write all the articles. This one was by Andy Benoit.

That said, I'm hoping we'll see some more offense from the Chiefs this week. There have been too many nail-biters this season...

TimLynch1978
TimLynch1978

@MannySilva Smith is terrible.  If he doesn't start taking more risks, the Broncos will win by three touchdowns.  I've watched and rewatched every Broncos game and have also watched over half of the Chiefs games...

The Broncos will get at the very minimum of three touchdowns and two or three more FGs, so where are the points going to come from if Smith continues his Captain Checkdown routine against one of the best coverage linebacker groups in the league and a unit that held LeSean McCoy to 70 yards rushing and also near the top in the league against the run?

Chiefs fans don't want to admit it, but even with a great defense they won't be able to stop the Four Horsemen from getting their catches and touchdowns.  The Chiefs offense needs to be able to come and play ball and so far they are regressing into something frighteningly bad.

kisersosay
kisersosay

@TimLynch1978 @MannySilva Fear not Tim (The Banner) Lynch... When the LB's are sitting tight on the short routes is when Smith will open up. Of course you think the Broncos will stop the Chiefs offense and that the Broncos will score their points on the Chiefs defense. Maybe it will work out that way at Mile High but then again maybe not. Even if it does they play at Arrowhead in two weeks where the Broncos could only muster 17 points last year.  Funny there is that magic 17 points again.  If they split chances are the third game will be a Arrowhead.  Sounds like fun to me....

MERRILL2310
MERRILL2310

@blynder @kisersosay @TimLynch1978 @MannySilva I will be at the game in arrowhead. It will definitely be a closer game that I expect tomorrow nights game to be, but bottom line is if the Broncos don't turn the ball over no team in the league can score with them. We only lost to Indy because we had 4 turnovers, 1 in the end zone and 1 as we were about to get the go ahead touchdown from the 2 yard line.

blynder
blynder

@kisersosay @TimLynch1978 @MannySilva 

What did the Chiefs score in that game at Arrowhead last year?  Arrowhead is a TOUGH place to play; always has been. Denver isn't exactly an easy place to play either.  If Denver's D shows up in Arrowhead like it did last year, (yes, certainly we can all agree that Alex Smith is NO Brady Quinn) 17 points will be more than enough.

Newsletter