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30 Jan 2007

Every Play Counts: Colts Offensive Line

by Michael David Smith

Do the Indianapolis Colts have a good offensive line? The general consensus around the league seems to be that they do. After all, Peyton Manning threw 557 passes this year and was only sacked 14 times. And the Colts' running game gained 1,762 yards this season. It's hard to do that without the guys up front contributing.

But after watching that line on every play of the Colts' AFC Championship victory over the New England Patriots, I'm not convinced. I saw a line with a good player in the most important spot -- left tackle Tarik Glenn -- but big problems elsewhere, especially in short-yardage situations.

Those short-yardage problems are borne out in the statistics. The Football Outsiders offensive line stats show that when the Colts had a yard or two to go on third or fourth down, they converted just 60 percent of the time, ranking 22nd in the league. And 22nd is actually the best the Colts have ranked in the last five years.

In the first quarter against the Patriots, the Colts faced third-and-inches at the New England 26-yard line. This is where offensive linemen earn their paychecks, when they have to push the opposing defensive line back in short yardage. The Colts' line didn't earn much of anything on this play. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork had no trouble at all getting past center Jeff Saturday and hitting Addai behind the line of scrimmage. Addai fell forward, and with the help of what appeared to be a generous spot by the official, he picked up the first down, gaining about five inches when the Colts needed about four inches. Still, there was no excuse for the Colts' failure to move the Patriots back. Not only did Wilfork easily win his individual battle with Saturday, but right tackle Ryan Diem got pushed back and got in Addai's way on the run.

That was one of many bad plays for Diem. On the next play Diem was called for holding, pushing the Colts back 10 yards. That stalled the drive, and the Colts ended up settling for a field goal.

The problems with run blocking aren't confined to short-yardage situations. Late in the second quarter Addai was stopped for no gain on a second-and-10. Left guard Ryan Lilja got knocked straight back, and even Glenn, usually the stoutest member of the line, was overpowered on the play. Addai never had anywhere to go because none of his linemen opened any holes at all. Jarvis Green made the tackle, but the Patriots' entire defensive line got into the backfield without much trouble. When an offensive line plays this badly on running plays, it's easier for the defense to focus on stopping the pass.

There were some successful run blocks. Early in the third quarter Lilja had a nice block on New England linebacker Eric Alexander, allowing Rhodes to run directly behind him to pick up the first down. Even on that play, though, nothing came easy, as Wilfork overpowered Saturday.

Saturday is often mentioned as one of the best centers in the league, but Wilfork beat him for most of the day. Saturday did have a noteworthy block against Wilfork in the third quarter on a second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, when he gave Addai room to take the ball inside the 1-yard line. And he beat Wilfork on Addai's winning touchdown run, although on that play it looked to me like Wilfork's feet got tangled up in the scrum. On most plays, Saturday wasn't strong enough to beat Wilfork one-on-one.

The Colts' offensive line -- particularly the guards -- also struggled in pass protection. The Patriots sacked Manning on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. On the first sack, New England's Ty Warren lined up directly opposite right guard Jake Scott and flushed Manning out of the pocket. Manning had nowhere to go and tried to roll out of the pocket, but he should have thrown the ball away, as Alexander took him down a yard behind the line of scrimmage.

On the second sack, Lilja looked clueless. At first he tried to help Glenn block Richard Seymour (Glenn was doing fine and didn't need any help), and then he turned and saw linebacker Rosevelt Colvin coming at him. He barely even laid a hand on Colvin, falling down as Colvin ran past him to sack Manning.

During the Colts' drive at the end of the first half, Manning frequently faced pressure. On one pass to Aaron Moorehead, Seymour drilled Manning by looping to the outside, around both Lilja and Glenn. Later on the drive, Scott initially looked like he got into good position on Ty Warren, but as soon as Warren tried a spin move, Scott was helpless to stop him, and Warren hit Manning just as he threw an incomplete pass to Clark.

In fairness to the Colts' linemen, it should be mentioned that certain aspects of the Colts' offense make life harder for them. For instance, the Colts' constant use of the no-huddle means they get less time to rest between plays than most linemen do. Huddles aren't just for calling plays, they're also for getting a breather. Asking 300-pound men to run straight to the line of scrimmage and get into their stance as soon as the whistle blows at the end of the previous play is asking a lot.

And the Colts' linemen look as well-conditioned as 300-pound men can be: Despite playing in that no-huddle attack, in the last two playoff games, the Colts' line has looked fresh in the fourth quarter while the Ravens' and Patriots' defensive linemen looked gassed.

The Colts' offensive line also does a good job on the stretch handoff that is the staple of the Colts' offense. The stretch play requires more quickness than power, and that's what the Colts' line has been designed for. And the Colts' play-action passes work, in large part, because the Colts' offensive linemen sell the fake as well as Manning does -- their first step is the same whether the play is a run or a pass, meaning opposing linebackers can't get a read on them.

Finally, it should be noted that the Colts don't devote as many resources to the offensive line as most teams do. Glenn is the only offensive lineman who has a big contract, and Colts general manager Bill Polian practically pretends the offensive line doesn't exist when draft day comes around. You get what you pay for, and the Colts don't pay much for the offensive line.

The Colts' great offensive numbers are a reflection on the type of offense they run and on the great skill position players they have. Manning gets rid of the ball as quickly as any quarterback ever has, meaning the Colts don't have to sustain their pass blocks as long as most linemen do. And Addai's speed (combined with the fact that opposing defenses play pass-first, run-second) means he can make things happen even when he doesn't get big holes. But the offensive line is the weak link, and if the Bears stop the Colts' attack, it will be because their front four outplays the Colts' line.

(Ed. note: Mike criticizes Jake Scott's pass-blocking, but I did want to note that I wrote a FO FOX blog post back in November, talking about how great his run-blocking was against Denver.)

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 30 Jan 2007

74 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2007, 10:42pm by Rob Sartelle

Comments

1
by TheMonkeyMan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 11:34pm

Yippee - a new one by you guys. I hate the 2 weeks off between the conf. championship games and the Superbowl. Of course, that's better than the 7 months following the Superbowl.
By the way, excellent article MDS - not that they all aren't good.

And, by the way, first!

2
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 11:38pm

I agree with MDS in general that the line appears to perform better than it actually does because of Manning, Harrison, Wayne, and Edge/Addai. That was definitely true in the AFC Championship game.

However, I think MDS's subjective judgements probably could do with some sort of opponent adjustment. The Patriots have the best set of three run-stoppers anywhere in the league. The truth is that nobody can block Warren, Wilfork, and Seymour all that well on running plays. If you did an EPC of the Colts' line versus, say, the Texans, you'd come away with a very different impression.

I think they're overall a pretty average line, and that means that against the Patriots, they're likely to look pretty bad. They have good speed on stretch plays, but they're extremely poor in power situations, and they're better than average in pass protection.

3
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 11:43pm

"the great skill position players they have" Any chance we can stop insulting the linemen by calling the backs and ends "skill position players"? At the very least, it implies that the other players are less skilled. Consider, however, that many "skill position" players can come into the league as rookies and have immediate impact, while it often seems to take young linemen a few years to develop the techniques necessary to be successful in the NFL. To me, that suggests that the linemen are learning or improving skills. It used to be a commonplace (before free agency) that an offensive line had to play together for a few years before it really jelled into a good one. Again, that sounds like an increase in skill. I realize it's a minor, mundane point, but it really grates on my nerves to hear one group of players described as uniquely possessing "skill," with the unstated, but implied, message that the other guys lack it.

By the way, it isn't personal--I'm a still thin, formerly scrawny, guy who ran cross country in high school.

4
by doktarr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 11:49pm

I guess this is the second repeat EPC With the Ogden-Freeney series being the first.

This one focusses more on individual players, while the other addresses the overall scheme more. They make nice companion pieces.

5
by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/30/2007 - 11:58pm

No arguments from me. I think that a lot of people would be surprised at the way Jax and the Titans just smothered the run this year while in nickel playing deep cover 2 against Indy.

Go back and look at the Pitt games last year or the SD games from 04 and 05 if you want to see an O-line get abused. Miami in 03. There are a bunch more, but you get the drift.

6
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:20am

"On most plays, Saturday wasn’t strong enough to beat Wilfork one-on-one."

But isn't that somewhat to be expected? Isn't the role of a 3-4 nose tackle to require a double-team? If Saturday could beat Wilfork one-on-one, I'd take that as an indictment of Wilfork.

7
by johnt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:31am

6: That's definitely true. Wilfork's job is to soak up blockers, and the true elite 3-4 DTs (and I don't think Wilfork is one, but I think he's right below them) like Hampton and Williams DEMAND a double team or they will eat your lunch. I think the true indictment wasn't on display in this case because of the Pats personnel. The true weakness of the Colts is when teams go into nickel and multi-DB defenses and dare the Colts to power run on them, like the Steelers did. There have been times when teams tried and they were able to run (that Eagles game), but it really says something about the Colts that a) teams would consider playing the nickel on every down to even be an option and b) that it might not be that detrimental to run stopping.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:33am

A good piece that highlights the Bears' path to victory, but I too doubt that the Bears defensive line will be as stout against the run as the Patriots. Having said that, there is no way I'd give seven points while taking a team which has an inferior defense and less powerful offensive line, no matter the discrepancy at quarterback.

Also, thanks to MDS for countering TMQ's nonsense about Saturday being the best center in the league, and of his being worthy of first-ballot HOF (!) status. To give Saturday his due, however, if the Bears don't have the lead going into the fourth quarter, it is very doubtful they win, because rightly notes the Colts o-line does proficiently gas the opposing defense over the course of a game. The Bears aren't likely to outscore the Colts in the fourth.

9
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:34am

I don't know if there's any articles here about it, but which is more important; power blocking, or finesse blocking?

10
by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:51am

9: If your running philospophy centers around getting the RB free to go manno-a-manno with LBs and safeties, probably power. If the plan is to use misdirection and draws to set-up running and you have a running back that hits the hole as fast as anyone else in the league, probably finesse. I think scheme is a big issue.

The team that could be said to have the most "finesse" O-line in the league could be the Denver Broncos, which uses fast under-sized O-linemen in its zone-blocking scheme, where the idea is sort of to outflank the D-line by blocking from a position rather than blocking a man. (And blind cut-blocks and cheap shots. But what do I know. At least they've never got into a shouting match with Mike Sherman.)

11
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 2:10am

Re 6

You beat me to it. I always thought that the nose tackle's primary mission was to occupy 2 blockers. Any center who could routinely stone a nose tackle by himself would be worth his weight in gold.

12
by tim (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 2:46am

from what i've seen, the colts execute their reach blocks quite well on the stretch zones, allowing their low center of gravity to dictate the angle of momentum, but are barely adequate in maintaining a directed run block, where it seems they try to move defenders laterally before getting a real push on them.

13
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 3:16am

I'm a huge Saturday fan. First-ballot HOF is a claim made by an insane person, but he's awfully impressive for an undrafted FA ;o) The only people I ever really see him get beat by are nose tackles - and as someone has already said, you don't see other centers take on good NTs one-on-one too much.

Tarik Glenn is a second-tier LT in blocking, but is good for 1-2 penalties a game. Their other 3 lineman are pretty average. That said, their lineman fit their scheme, their scheme works, and (as you said) they are very fit and regularly excel in the 4th quarter (check the Baltimore game).

14
by Tal (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 5:49am

"And the Colts’ linemen look as well-conditioned as 300-pound men can be: Despite playing in that no-huddle attack, in the last two playoff games, the Colts’ line has looked fresh in the fourth quarter while the Ravens’ and Patriots’ defensive linemen looked gassed."

Just one thing to note: contrary to those other two teams, the Bears rotate their D-linemen a lot. Inside, they use Tank and Ian Scott a lot, but they also put Boone in there a lot and, on passing plays, sometimes also put Israel Idonije in there. On the outside, while Alex Brown and Ogunleye play most of the time, Mark Anderson and sometimes even Idonije also get playing time.

Thus, I'm not sure if the Colts can wear out their D-line. Add to that the fact that the Bears will probably run the ball a lot and keep their D fresh out of the field...

Then again, the Bears have no Wilfork, no Williams, and no Shaun Rogers on their line, so Saturday should do better... it is both guards that seem to be in for a long long day.

Mike, one question: which is the worse matchup for the Colts' line? It seems to me that Diem is in for a hard day against both Ogunleye and, particularly, against Mark Anderson...

15
by anton (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 6:16am

i don't think the colt's o-line will have a big problem against the front seven of the bears..... a sack or two maybe and an int if the bears also read the signals when peyton passes to marvin.... but peyton will have that defense figured out and the o-line will protect the qb enough for him to make plays... no offense to the bears.. they got great d.. but the only defense manning would truly have a problem with was knocked out by patriots before the afc championship game..

16
by Chad (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 6:19am

The proof is in the pudding. Edge ran for thousands of yards with this line. He left, people said the Colts would suffer, and Addai and Rhodes have been more than adequate replacements.

Manning is the least-sacked QB in the league.

The Colts have won either the most or second-most games in the league (I forget which and don't want to be flamed) since 2000, despite the much-maligned defense.

The Colts' line doesn't always have the power, but they have enough power, combined with their intelligence and conditioning, are a great unit.

17
by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:23am

Re:14 One of the aspects of the Colt no huddle offense is they can make it very difficult for teams to rotate defensive players in and out of the lineup, So while the Bears may want to rotate the D-lineman, Manning may not allow them the time to do so.

18
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:50am

I agree with what MDS is saying and what stan has been saying for years. The Colts offensive line is average at best. I'm someone who agrees with the theory that you should build an offense from the line out, but the Colts are a great counterexample. Can anyone remember any other offense that was so consistently excellent with such a mediocre line?

19
by Purds (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:55am

Nice article. As a Colts fan, I'd like to think Saturday is a HOFer, but I think that's the homer in me. He brings intangibles (a great team leader--speaks before games, gets the line fired up, always first to congratulate a teammate after a positive play), and that's great, but it doesn't make him a HOFer.

I think the line, however, with all its faults, is the Colts reasonable answer to the Patriots policy of not overpaying for players.

Glenn: drafted in 1st round 1997
Lilja: got off waivers in 2004
Saturday: free agent 1999
Scott: drafted in 5th round 2004
Diem: drafted in 4th round 2001

I can't find 2006 numbers, but I don't think Lilja or Scott make more than $500,00

20
by Frick (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 9:55am

Good article MDS, I would look at it from a different angle. Pittsburg used to get praise for running the 3-4 D and being able to get the tweeners that dropped because other teams didn't see the value in them. I think the Colts take a different approach than most teams. Other teams get the biggest guys possible (think Parcell's comment about how there are only some many 300lb guys in the world) and use them for power running. The Colts offense is built around a fast tempo, the O-line doesn't substitute, but there were still fresher than both Balitmore and New England's D at the end of the game. Part of the reason is the Colt's O not letting D's rotate, but I think part goes to the linemen being able to play those long stretches, and part of that may be a trade-off in power running.

If a team can also save money by using UFA and low round draft picks (the Colts almost always draft 1 or 2 in the 5th or 6th rounds) isn't that a reasonable approach

21
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:01am

Anyone willing to proffer an opinion on the Colts tackles ability to handle a speed rush? Both Anderson and Brown can leave a tackle flat-footed.

22
by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:04am

15
I would argue that Manning had a problem with the Ravens offense, at least until the end of the game. If the Ravens could have done anything competent (or if the Colts D hadn't played way beyond what they were used to), the Colts easily could have lost that game.

Oh, also, the Pats D did cause some problems in the 1st half. They did wear down rather quick though. Though there were the 3-and-outs they forced that could have won the game.

16
There is no way to separate those results from what Manning does for the line. Having a QB like him will do wonders for your sack numbers, while taking pressure off the line on running plays.

I don't think they're terrible, but I wouldn't call them great.

19
According to this site, Scott made less than 500k. There aren't any numbers for Lilja, though, which is odd. Can't have been too much, give the overall cap figure. The Colts spent $17m on the line as a whole.

23
by Buzz (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:19am

14: Not sure if you missed the part about the colts going no huddle which means that you cant substitute your defensive line. If you do so Colts will snap the ball immediately with too many men on the field. My hope is they stick to their normal plan and rotate lineman as you mentioned, my guess is they will not.

24
by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:25am

22
First line should say Ravens defense, obviously.

19
According to this article, in 2006 Lilja made less than $400k.

25
by ammek (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 10:55am

18: "Can anyone remember any other offense that was so consistently excellent with such a mediocre line?"

Niners in the 80s? Packers in the 90s? The whole point of the Walsh/Holmgren West Coast Offense was that it didn't require the linemen to pound the opposition.

26
by admin :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:01am

Re: 19. I just wrote an article about this for the ESPN Magazine Draft Special. The Colts are not special in this respect. Many teams have only one well-paid and highly-drafted lineman, the left tackle. Baltimore, for example. The Chiefs before Willie Roaf retired (low-drafted in that case, but not low-paid). The Patriots before they drafted Logan Mankins. The 1999 Rams. Other teams have just two highly-drafted linemen mixed with scrubs -- last year's Seahawks, as an example.

The idea that Jeff Saturday is a Hall of Famer is ludicrous. If they put in Tom Nalen, Olin Kreutz, and Matt Birk, we can talk.

27
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:03am

Re: #18

That kind of strategy generally works only if your quarterback happens to be Peyton Manning, and by my count, only one team has ever had a quarterback named Peyton Manning.

A counter-counterexample, I guess, would be a team like the Eagles, who have won the second-most games in the NFL (I believe) since 2000, and invest heavily and often in their offensive line, mostly ignoring WRs and RBs. That system works pretty well, too.

28
by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:07am

I was surprised by how frequently Manning was having to throw off his back foot against the Pats. I was impressed that he made the throws as well as he did, but it was clear he didn't have the protection he needed to really get set.

29
by Charles Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:10am

The Colts O is no-huddle, but it's not usually hurry up. Subbing the DL will probably not be as difficult as getting the nickel package in, because it requires looking at the specific matchup.

30
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:15am

#28: I mentioned that, too. I think part of that was that he was misjudging how long he had protection for. In the second half, he was getting set more frequently.

Of course, everyone else says "oh, it was nerves, and then he calmed down." Yeah, that's not what it looked like.

31
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:32am

As a Bears fan I am hoping that the D-line gets substituted on a series by series basis. We should have enough lineman to pull it off (barring injury) with four tackles we are happy with and three ends. As the Colts line isn't full of mashers we shouldn't see too much drop off in run defense. We do need to make sure that we don't have Anderson at end at the same time as we have Idonje in at tackle though. With the extended breaks that you get in the Superbowl if the Bears line is too tired at the end of the game I blame the coaches for not rotating enough.

32
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:38am

Re: 26

I would agree. Saturday is a top-5 center, but that won't be nearly good enough for HOF status unless he has several more somewhat-famous plays like the block on Wilfork at the end of the game.

Re: 29

If you try to sub when the Colts don't (which is rarely), they will catch you with 12 men every time.

33
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:40am

The Super Bowl time schedule will likely keep both defenses fresh for the whole game. It's possible the Colts could wear out some of the Bears lineman on a long drive with no substitution, but seems pretty unlikely.

34
by Goathead (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:42am

Pat: I agree, not nerves. My feeling is more that since his primary receivers weren't getting open, it was taking longer than Manning wanted to be able to throw, and by the time he was able to unload there was no room to do anything but throw off his back foot. As I say, he delivered some impressive throws that way, but that classic confident Manning motion that I'm used to seeing wasn't there.

35
by SGT Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 11:52am

The thing with the Colts offense is that it is so hard to break it down into separate sections. This unit has been built to be a true team unit. From the intelligent but undersized lineman, to the WR's/HB's/TE's that run the various (but often identical looking) different plays...to the QB who tries to put it all together. It's a team built around a scheme. Plain and simple. Dungy inherited a magnificent team when he left Tampa Bay...and while he's tried to put his own stamp on it...he recognized the offense for what it was.

The Lineman were handpicked to be a part of this team...and then molded into the positions they play. Saturday (on most other teams) would be a #2 Center...or an average center (at best). However, his skill set matches what the Colts do. Too many teams try to bring in "good" players, but fail to find a player who fits their scheme. The Colts have done that...and found a way to do that without breaking the bank (on anyone other than Harrison/Manning)

36
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:00pm

The change in Manning's performance came when he stopped trying for big plays from Harrison/Wayne and checked down to Clark/Moorehead/Rhodes/Addai. They were also helped by the way the Patriots defense got gassed in the second half.
As for Saturday, I think TMQ's ...MVP award going to him was based entirely one one play.

37
by Darth Goofy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:01pm

It is at times like these when I think of one of my favorite songs:

You take the good, you take the bad. You take them both and there you have... The facts of life... (yeah)... The facts of life.

I tell you what, that song has gotten me through a lot recently. Regardless, the Colts are what we thought they were... and we let them off the hook.

What I am trying to say is that the Colts know that they don't need perfection on their O-line, just adequacy. Manning makes his line look great, but his line does get him the blocking, protection and intelligence that he needs to run his offense.

38
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:09pm

Two thing that have bugged me about offensive linemen this year in general, and the Colts tackles in particular:
(1) Tarik Glenn seems to do an awful lot of lining up up to a full yard or more off the line of scrimmage. It bothers me to see Wayne and Harrison one yard off the line of scrimmage with Harrison playing off so the TE is uncovered and Wayne playing "on the line" to cover up Glenn.
(2) Ryan Diem gets a quick start a couple of times a game. I know this sort of cheating shows "veteran savvy" coming from a relatively young guy, but a false start is a false start is a false start to my thinking.
If I'm the Bears, these are two things in particular I'm asking the officials to keep a good eye on this weekend. I also wonder to what extent these operate as tells it's a pass play instead of a rush; I suspect not very much, at least for Glenn, while Diem's problems aren't noticeable until after the play has started, which naturally limits their predictive value.

39
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 12:21pm

Re Lilja. The Chiefs front office/KC Star mentions from time to time how upset they were that the Colts got him off the Chiefs' practice squad. The subject came up again this year, when the Chiefs put Jason Dunn on IR just before the final game and signed some practice squader to the team so they wouldn't risk losing him. The front office took some flak for that when the Chiefs unexpectedly squeaked into the playoffs and then didn't have Dunn (who might have been healthy by then). It probably wouldn't have made a difference, but Dunn is a heck of a blocker...

40
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 2:07pm

Just one thing to note: contrary to those other two teams, the Bears rotate their D-linemen a lot. Inside, they use Tank and Ian Scott a lot, but they also put Boone in there a lot and, on passing plays, sometimes also put Israel Idonije in there. On the outside, while Alex Brown and Ogunleye play most of the time, Mark Anderson and sometimes even Idonije also get playing time.

Not "contrary to those other teams"--I don't watch many Bears games, so I can't speak to the Bears, but the Patriots rotate their D-linemen more than almost any other team I watch. That's why they gave Jarvis Green such a big contract for a backup player that plays behind three first-rounders, and why they have drafted multiple D-linemen in every draft under Belichick. In the 3-4, your linemen are massive, and tend to wear out too quickly. So you sub a lot.

That's a major reason why the Colts won in the AFC CG, and why they will give the Bears problems if the Bears do rely on substitutions to keep their D-line fresh. The Colts' offense is flexible enough to run almost their entire playbook from their base personnell set, so they run the no-huddle, not substituting their own players, to prevent the other team from substituting.

The major improvement I've seen in the Colts over the past few years or so (besides Manning learning how to move his feet) is a shift away from so many big play attempts annd towards more ball control (still no huddle, but emphasizing medium passes over home runs). Manning and the recievers can still throw home runs, but I think in the past that hurt the Colts somewhat because it reduced their # of offensive plays, so it put their defense on the field too much, and kept their opponent's defense off the field too much. Now they combine long drives with no huddles to exhaust the opposing defense.

The way to beat the Colts now is to pull out to a lead early, and then go ball control to keep your defense rested enough to stop Colts comebacks (and yes, I know that is a good way to beat almost any team). Unfortunately for the Patriots, they took care of Point 1, but somehow failed at Point 2.

41
by mb (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 2:43pm

I'd like to use a basketball analogy to describe the Colts. To me linemen are like bigs in basketball; despite doing all the dirty work (rebounding/banging in the post in bball) they get almost no credit unless they're the best of the best at what they do. The LOS in basketball is basically the paint and the surest way to win is by dominating around the basket, same as dominating the LOS is the surest way to win in football. Michael Jordan was the exception to that rule in basketball and Peyton is in football. I see some definite correlations between Jordan's Bulls and the present Colts; both built around a superstar offensive player (not to take away from MJ's great D) who eclipses the need for the solid core line/bigs. Just as Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley were valuable in their supporting roles the Colts' O line succeeds because it's built to support Peyton.

One thing the Bears D linemen have going for them is that as per their defensive philosophy and that of the Tampa 2 in general they're mostly the antithesis of massive 3-4 NTs like Wilfork or Jamal Williams. The only guy significantly over 300 is Alfonso Boone (318) and he's bascially a run-stuffer. Against some teams that's a double edged sword but the entire point of the article is that the Colts linemen are terrible at just overpowering people with brute force. It won't stop the Colts from tiring them out but it'll slow the process some. I'm not sure how the Bears will rotate linemen but they're an organized defense and I feel like they'll be able to cope as well as anyone does against Peyton. The Jets, who I know are on a plane of existence far below that of Manning, tried to go no huddle this year against the Bears and got shut out.

42
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 3:10pm

#41: Does that make the Patriots the Detroit Pistons? Which one of the Patriots is doomed to go on to become The Worst GM In History?

43
by mb (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 3:48pm

dbt: Yes but only because I think equating Brady to the Bad Boys Pistons is hilarious; rodney harrison=bill laimbeer. Even though Matt Millen has the Isiah Thomas role on lockdown I'd say it's Bruschi. Don't know why, just a hunch. There's always room for more terrible ex-player GMs. Just ask McHale and Danny Ainge (Paxson's great though).

44
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 3:56pm

This strikes me as a flipside to the "Irrational Debate That Must Not Be Named." Is it individuals who win in football, or teams? Is it individual stats that matter, or winning games?

In this case, the Indy line, as Stan and MDS have noted here for years is not dominant, but they have a scheme and surrounding players who work well together and win. If you want pure stats, look at their historical sacks against, sack rate, and rushing yards (or even RB success rate--they have led the past three years). This does not mean Edge or Addai are the best RBs ever nor does it mean the OL is the best ever. But together...., mix in Payton and his receivers, throw in the no-huddle, and you have a group that performs as well as any in the league--not in any individual specific situation, but over the long haul. Their offensive performance is arguably the historical best over a 5,6,7 year span, and could well continue a few more years.

And Aaron (and Stan and MDS), here's a prop bet on Saturday in the HOF: If he makes 4 more pro bowls and wins 1 SB he's in. Not first-ballot, but what will voters look at in 10 years: 11 year career, 5 pro bowls, 11 1,000 yard rushers (undrafted Rhodes did it starting just 10 games and Addai never started), lowest QB sack rate in a 10-year span, 1 SB win-- then throw in the intangibles that flesh out a good story like undrafted FA, the "QB of the most complicated line in the game," his switch to guard in the Denver playoff game 3 years ago.... clearly by all the on-paper measurables and a few filler items, I say he gets voted in. If they win more than one SB, it's even surer. Then you'll get Manning lobbying for him in interviews and voters who had doubts will start to say, "Yeah, he has a point."

Here's the prop bet: 1 local microbrew, even-money odds if Saturday makes 4 more pro bowls and wins 1 SB. 6:1 odds if they win a 2nd SB or he makes more pro-bowls. I live just outside Seattle, so Red Hook will be my offering. I am fond of Sam Adams.

It's more an indictment of the HoF voting than blind praise for Saturday. If you measure his success by the success of those around him (instead of analyzing every play), it's hard to find a center (or OL) who performed better. Remember, FO stats might provide a truer measure of a player or unit's worth, but how many HoF voters are clued in?

45
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 4:55pm

"The Colts offensive line is average at best. I’m someone who agrees with the theory that you should build an offense from the line out, but the Colts are a great counterexample. Can anyone remember any other offense that was so consistently excellent with such a mediocre line?"

Well, offhand, I'd say the Run-and-Shoot teams (Oilers, Lions, and Falcons in the early '90s) fit that description pretty well, though none of them had quite as much success as the Colts have. The Oilers with Warren Moon seem to be the best example, but I'm not sure about whether they had a good O-line or not. In any case, both offensive schemes were pretty revolutionary.

46
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 5:25pm

Nice article, though I would like to see more analysis on how and why the good skill position players and offensive system help the linemen.

47
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 5:37pm

44: Hopefully, the HOF voters have access to game film. It wouldn't be hard to find tape evidence of Saturday getting beaten repeatedly in power-running situations. Also, the Colts previous playoff issues have correlated nicely with terrible offensive-line play. One great game doesn't make a career, no matter how big the stage it was on. Well, it did for Joe Namath, but that's kind of a unique example.

48
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 5:45pm

Easy there MDS, dont be too quick to dismiss Saturday's pancake block on Wilfork. According to a recent article on Colts.com

http://www.colts.com/sub.cfm?page=article7&news_id=4596

Ryan Lilja wanted to be sure and reviewed the tape the next day.

“We all looked to make sure he (Wilfork) didn’t trip,� Lilja said, laughing. “He didn’t trip on anything. It was a legitimate flat back.�

This quote contradicts your opinion that Wilfork "got his feet tangled". Perhaps you should go review the tape again.

49
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 7:31pm

48 Don B, much as I am a Colts partisan, without game tape myself to verify, I'd have to look skeptically at the source (Colts.com). Maybe we'll all get to see reruns of it in the inevitable eleven-hour pregame show.

Whatever happened to those lame "variety show-like" events the night before called (IIRC) Super Night at the Super Bowl? I recall one where Joe Namath sang "Big Bad Mean Joe Greene" to the tune of BB Leroy Brown. Even at the tender age of 12 I knew it was lame but unfortunately burned into my memory forever.

47 B, do you think they really do that all that extensively? I think they probably should, but this is not their sole career and if they have to evaluate 20 new guys each year, how can you package a 10-15 year career into 2 or 5 or even 10 hours of tape and have it be representative? And who picks the segments/games? Do you, say, pick one random game from each of their years and study it intensively?

That's not too bad, actually, but when if the guy was hurt or sick then, or facing a rookie or all-world stud? No OT looked good facing LT in his prime, but of course that's the kind of game a voter would likely select (I know I would). They probably vote largely based on (no particular order) stats, memory, reputation, and probably then some new studying of the film. Interior OL players get so little pub that memory would not be of much use--the cliche is that their name is ony called when they hold or blow a block. The stats could certainly support Saturday's theoretical candidacy, and rep and pro-bowls sort of go together--if he goes to a few more he'll have a great rep.

Watching tape would be the only real solution. But what sports writer has an extra 200 hours each year (and the inclination) to study old games?

50
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:06pm

I like to believe they do. But, I still believe in Santa Claus, so maybe I'm hopelessly naive.

51
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:09pm

49 Bobman - I dont think you got the jest of the article. A fellow o-lineman (Ryan Lilja) was also questioning the block. However, after looking at the game tape he emphatically states the block was a legitimate pancake. I dont know how much more credible the source can get. Besides, I have the game on DVR and have watched that play countless times. Everytime I watch it I am amazed at how good that block was. Not once have I noticed Wilfork tripping on the scrum, as MDS said.

Of course, this was just one play. But since MDS uses this specific play to discredit Saturday's ability, I think it is extremely important to this discussion. If MDS cannot see what was arguably the most pivital play of the game clearly, then I have to question his entire analysis.

52
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:32pm

Thanks Don. No, I followed the article pretty well and saw it as "teammates supporting their own." If it HAD been a trip, I doubt they would have said anything, true, and there's be no article on Colts.com... but if the tape was not definitive, I bet they would have stood by the claim.

If you have seen it multiple times, good enough for me. I only saw it once and had three little boys in blue jerseys on my lap, so my level of critical observation was rather limited.

Now I really hope this DOES get major airtime this week (unfortunately guaranteeing Wilfork a couple sacks and tackles for loss next time).

(And what ever happened to their kangaroo court that penalized fellow linemen whenever they got quoted in the papers? If they still have it, I assume Saturday will get severely penalized for TMQ's MVP award.)

53
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 8:40pm

How many power situations are their, exactly?

54
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Wed, 01/31/2007 - 9:04pm

How many power situations are there, exactly?
i.e.....60% of what?

55
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 1:54am

re: 48 (Saturday's block of Wilfork)

Wilfork stepped on Bruschi's foot and sort of tripped. I think the block would have been good anyway, as Wilfork was being driven back pretty quickly, but in the end he did trip.

It's easy to see this from the endzone camera angle.

56
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 4:38am

53 Not 100% sure what you are referrig to, but I'll take a stab: Power rushing is probably better defined in the glossary (under About This Site above left), but IIRC it's 3rd and 4th downs with 0-2 yards to go. Not every team has a lot of them, and no idea how often they occue, but they sure seem important to sustaining drives. Just a blind stab at frequency, but I bet teams average about 6 per game or roughly 100 per season.

Indy probably faced more than the average because of all the 4th down attempts against their D (assuming they were short yardage) because (A) teams often play catchup and are willing to "risk" a 4th down try and (B) it's not much of a risk against Indy.

For all Indy's OL gets battered on this site, the stats also support them in a weird way: last year when Edge was about to leave the FO discussions focused on their running success and ALY, run success rate (they have led the league the past 3 seasons) and how Edge never had those long runs that other guys pad their stats with, meaning that every run was consistently 4-5 yards and the line got him the first 3 yards every time and he managed a one or two more after that, but not any more. FO consensus was that Indy would be fine without him because of those indicators and that was right, and also that Edge would struggle behind a bad OL in AZ and that was right, too.

What is mystifying (at least to me) is why the OL is quite good in one metric (run success) and has been for years, and quite poor in a similar metric (power) and has been for years as well. My only explanation may be that in most instances, Indy's runs work because of the D's concern about the pass (i.e. they sell-out to stop the run at their peril), which is less of a factor in power situations.

But wouldn't the power-run failures harm their overall run success? Yes, but I assume they have so few actual power runs that it does not materially affect their annual 400 rushes or so. And maybe that's why they're lame on them as well, come to think of it.

57
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:02am

Hey, Even Manning says: "Matter of fact, he would like it to be known as The Block, just like The Drive and The Catch. I thought it might have been The Trip because I thought Wilfork was kind of off balance."

Now I HAVE TO see this damn thing again....

58
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:37am

Here's a decent link for the "Irrational Thread" but I am including it here because Jeff Saturday is saying it: Brady did a better job than Manning of getting his OL speaking parts in a commercial. (near the end of the inked article)

Man, It's like I am the only guy awake in America this time of night. Oh well, back to work.

59
by stan (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 11:15am

I don't remember the thread where someone was questioning whether Manning works harder to prepare than other QBs, but this is interesting (sorry it doesn't pertain, but I knew Bobman would like it):

It's been said innumerable times that Manning prepares like nobody else, but nobody's ever fully quantified that. Well, just listen to quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.
"I'll give you an example,'' Caldwell said. "Peyton may see (a Bears assistant coach) who was on another staff four years prior. He may then take a look at that film (of that coach's previous games). He's a researcher. He makes certain he delves into the scheme of the opposition even if that means following the trail back six or seven years ago.
"The uncanny thing is his recall is so outstanding. He can take a look and say, 'OK, Cowboys versus the Vikings in 1999, so-and-so was their defensive coordinator at the time and they had a similar game plan. So let's take a look at that.' "
Said Sorgi: "You would think with all that stuff in there, it would be like a computer that needs an upgraded system. But he has the mind that can handle it.''

60
by mb (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 2:30pm

Bobman: Concerning the Colts' consistent run success and great ALY vs. their futility in power situations; the O line isn't built to forge straight ahead and they have trouble just overpowering anyone. They're designed like the Broncos' line to run block using angles and position even if they don't use zone blocking scheme. MDS mentioned most of this in his article and the stats bear it out.

I went back and looked at the Colts' O line stats for every year FO has them and there were some pretty crazy splits. This year they were 5th in ALY and 22nd in power situations, but in 2004 and 2005 they were the BEST line in the NFL in ALY and DEAD LAST in power situations. That's a crazy contrast, best line in the NFL (statistically) at everything except short yardage. As far as the other years this year and in 03 the line was above average in ALY and below average in power, and in 02 the line just sucked at everything.

The Colts have also been 1st or 2nd in adjusted sack rate every year FO has measured O line stats, even in 2002 when the they were horrible otherwise. This suggests to me Peyton being sacked isn't really dependant on O line play as much as a regular QB; of course he really only came into his own and become "Peyton Manning" in 2003 when line play improved significantly. Who knows how much that was due to his own improvement and how much was due to improved line play? It's one of those unresolveable questions.

As a an interesting aside (especially to you MDS) I discovered that the Detroit freaking Lions led the NFL in ASR in 2002 and 2003. How did that happen?

61
by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 3:38pm

Dude it aint 100
The colts only had 187 3rd down attempts and 4 on 4th down
most of those were passing plays
Also consider that their td/drive stats on the drive charts are really good
I think its fair to say the colts are really really good at turning drives into td's
I am guessing it is 30 or 40 tops
But no way is it 100
Of course MDS could have told us this
He just chose to give us numbers with no context
I think the whole power thing is incredibly irrelevant

62
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 5:36pm

Stan,
His freakish recall has been chronicled a bunch (and thank God Marvin shares some of that!) but you are freakin' kidding me about the asst coach 4 years ago research. At some point, the law of diminishing returns for this type of effort has to kick in. Let's hope that's around 2014 or so....

I do recall the interview after a big TD pass to Marvin a few years ago in which PM recognized a D look, and called out to Marvin something like "Miami 1999." Marv understands, nods, and 8 seconds later they're up by six.

I saw some funny Sorgi quotes from media day and did not realize PM and MH sit on opposite ends of the bench--Sorgi said he's their message boy during games. Jeez, you'd think that for something as important as that they could talk directly. Let's hope Sorgi doesn't go out boozing it up Saturday night: "Marv, Peyton said to.... um, crap, I'm pretty sure he said something about... a pass route...?"

60 I was just making a SWAG--on any given drive some teams might have 2 or 3 power situations. I was assuming league-wide, three per half. And when I said Indy had more, I meant FACED more as a D unit. As an offense I agree with your logic. And now with Klecko out there lead blocking, they're better at power plays, at least in the playoffs.

Stan, you'll appreciate this from media day interviews: Manning was dismissing talk of him being more mature and less selfish this year than, say, three years ago. He said that the 3 runs to Addai to finish off NE were the exact same as the three runs to Edge that NE stuffed three years ago. What he left out was the fact that his jumbo package was mutilated by injuries in that game 3 years ago--Clark broke a leg in that game, another TE was injured, as was a lineman (and maybe even Jim Finn if he was still FB at the time). So when he motioned for the jumbo package at the goal line three years ago, the coaching staff sent out the Indiana State Ballet corps instead. Cue the Pats victory song.

63
by Don M (not verified) :: Thu, 02/01/2007 - 9:30pm

I've seen most Colts games for the last... Well since they've been in Indy, but I think the last few years are what's relevant, the O-line is awesome, they execute exactly the way the staff intends them to, and they've paved the way for an awful lot of rushing yards, as well as protected Peyton Manning while he broke a number of NFL records. Now the *way* they go about this is unconventional, mostly finesse a lot of "getting in the way" as opposed to smashing people in the mouth, the individual players are hardly worldbeaters, their running game is mostly based on deception and fear of their passing game, in fact their pass protection is not based on not holding the pocket for ten seconds, but rather delaying the rush for as long as Manning needs, it's like protecting for Marino, one..two..Throw.
Several times on here we've seen some highly critical comments about how all you have to do is manhandle the Colts front five using only your DL and play nickel and you can easily stop the colts offense... Sure great plan if you're the healthy Jags with their truly awesome DTs, but for most teams it ain't happening. (Bears DL is good from what I've seen, but not awesome.)

64
by dje (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 12:03am

I'm with Don on this one. I was very critical of the O Line until 2004, but they've done a great job for the past 3 years. Sure they've had some protection problems against some athletic, blitzing 3-4 fronts, but for the most part they have done very well.

The Colts O is built on play action. If the Colts were a straight-ahead power blocking O, it would be very easy for linebackers to recognize running plays.

65
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 2:35am

Ahhhgh! dje, you , sir, are a bus-under-thrower and a terrible team mate.

I mostly agree with you and Don. These guys execute their scheme very well and are ably assisted by the other 6 guys on O. Put them on another team (a power-driving run-first team, perhaps) and they might not thrive as well. Power stats may not be helped by TEs that have been receivers first and foremost.... one wonders if teams that typically lead in power stats have a TE with more OT in him than WR...?

THOERY ALERT--IT'S LONG. SKIP IF IN A RUSH: I think FO stats were created with some bias--that is not to denigrate the stats, but the analytical machinery was built in a manner sort of like: "X and Y and Z have traditionally been indicators of success. We will scrub each play for these to eliminate the "noise" of traditional stats, which can be deceiving," to try to measure the true worth of a player/unit/team."

And FO's methods are superb, but there are always exceptions that derail systems--Last Year's Colts for example in just about everybody's book were ready to take over the world. But Pitt was playing the right game at the right time to prove most people and FO indicators wrong. They matched up well with Indy's few flaws, and everybody else's. Good for them, dammit. Dam damn damn.

The Colts this year have a lot going for them, but based on how the FO stats are built, based on traditional NFL stats as well, based on what has worked well in the past, they're bucking the odds. But have bucked them successfully for about a month now. Somehow. Remember, these are people with emotions and flaws and good/bad days. Some learn from mistakes, some do not.

I think that theory holds for their OL as well--what they do to succeed is not what has proven to be sustainable and successful in the past (i.e. a poor "power game"). But there has never been a Peyton Manning before, and the combination of the OL that does what its scheme requires and superbly well-blended skill guys, and perhaps a staff that knows how to assemble and teach these guys just right... well, maybe what we are seeing is a once in a lifetime offensive show. They've shown they can be the best in 9 our of 10 metrics, poor in the metric that traditionally has been very important, but the way their game plan is executed, power rushing is an afterthought. Sure they'd like to be the best in it, but not at the cost of being too slow-footed to execute the stretch, or not being able to sell the play-action fake as well as they do.

Like I said, theory. I think the Indy OL is flawed but very good (better than Stan and MDS think they, fer sure). The rest of the O, including sideline staff, makes them excellent. We can pick out problems when we look for them, but in the long run, from a distance (example: step back from an Impressionist painting), they do what is needed and do it better than most. Arguably (and this goes back to my not-entirely-serious, but not-entirely-jokey "Jeff Saturday for the HoF" posts), when you look back in 10-15 years, you could look at the Colts' freakish offensive stats and say, "Man, they sure didn't look it up close, but those guys must have been one of the all-time great units." I can't separate line play from Manning play from the execution of the others on offense.

Maybe it's more of a case for Howard Mudd going to Canton than anything else. Gene Huey, Mudd, Tom Moore... man, if I could have one of them over my house for dinner and a couple hours of educational discussion, I'd be a better and happier man for it.

And just to prove me wrong, we'll see a heretofore unknown level of protection problems on Sunday. I shoud have shut up when I had the chance.....

66
by Don Booza (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 12:10pm

64 - Whew. Bobman I made it through your entire theory (thats right, I have no life). I'm not sure I understood all of it, but have to agree with your overall assessment. The Colts o-line is good, but not in the traditional "smash-mouth" style of the great lines of the past.

The Colts line probably has more in common with the Broncos line, meaning they are not that big and rely on scheme and technique more than brute force.

Having said that, I find it interesting that the Broncos o-line of the late 90's early 2000's was often lauded for its great play - in addition to the complaining about illegal chop blocks. On the other hand, the Colts line is heavily scutinized. In fact, some (or many) people claim the Colts line is a weak link of the team. Maybe this is because of the glaring breakdowns in big playoff games - i.e. Pittsburgh, N.E. '03 and '04.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Personally, I think a Colts win on Sunday guarantees a spot in the HoFame for Saturday. Manning will continue to sing his praises and like Bobman says, looking back in time it will be hard to argue against the amazing statistics the Colts offense has put up for the past 5 to 6 years.

67
by dje (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 1:43pm

Bobman - I guess I did sound a lot like Peyton there. :)

All I have to do is think back to that game and I am cured of any overconfidence I have going into the Super Bowl. That was a great defensive gameplan by the Steelers last year.

68
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 5:31pm

stan,

The discussion of Manning's mental preparation and its benefits is toward the end of the "audibles at the line - conference championships" thread.

Bobman et al,

I agree that the Colts have (with the exception of left tackle, maybe) selected linemen for quickness and technique, rather than size. There's a number of reasons for this, but I think the two dominant reasons are:

1) This allows them to spend less money/fewer high draft picks on offensive line than building a "Hogs"-type offensive line requires.

2) Having Peyton Manning allows them to get away with a system based more on misdirection runs and quick throws, than power blocking.

Denver runs a similar system with similarly sized players. That said, the reason that Denver's late 90s/early 00s line got universal praise and the Colts line gets intermittent praise mixed with criticism, is that the Denver line was just plain better. Unfortunately line stats only go back to 2002, so we can only see the tail end of the great years of that line, but the stats are clear.

2002 Denver, like the Colts, shows a disconnect between ALY and power stats. This is what we apparently should expect from a smaller, quicker line. But Denver was better at both of these stats than than the Colts have been, even in their best years. Denver had the #2 rushing offense in 2002 despite starting Steve Burlein at QB.

It's pretty clear in my mind that Manning deserves a lot of credit for the Colts' line success. Before this year, Edge probably didn't know what an eight man front looked like. Additionally, the threat of the play-action pass keeps the linebackers back, so the Colts merely have to seal out the down linemen in order to get the RB past the line of scrimmage.

Of course, all of this is interrelated. The line deserves credit for running their unusual system and, along with Manning, selling the play-action fake well. Dividing credit for offensive success between the line, QB, RB, and recievers is maybe a hopeless task for current statistics. But my general feeling is that, in an absolute sense (i.e. adjusting for the emphasis on speed/technique/disguise over power), the Colts offensive line is a fairly average unit. They have had great games and they have had bad games. Most of the time they play well enough for the rest of the offense to shine.

69
by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 02/02/2007 - 6:01pm

Actually, Griese took more snaps than Beuerlein did for the 2002 Broncos, but this doesn't change my point at all.

70
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sun, 02/04/2007 - 5:12am

Don Booza,
I have way less life than you! My three boys are asleep and dreaming of horse shoes, my wife is asleep, I've been working from home for the last four hours, it's midnight and time for bed, but oh, let's see what's happening at my home away from home.... hey, a response! From a total stranger! I better answer right away......

me = no life.

As soon as Sunday is over, I take back the 20 hours a week I spent on football recently and invest it into my actual responsibilities. Like work, remembering my kids' names, getting that haircut I should have gotten last month....

doktarr, I think they're a little better than that but think your conclusion is pretty good. I am always stunned when they plug a no-name rookie in and he does just fine.

Makoa Frietas was one of those a couple years ago and now I think he's out of football at age 24. Good enough for the Colts (an ofense you'd think with high standards) but not anybody else? Weird.

71
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 02/06/2007 - 1:10am

I just know the Lions sunk millions into Rick DeMuiling...only to watch him suckass. I think it only further proves that scheme/health/communication is so much more important for an OL then actual talent.

72
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/06/2007 - 3:40pm

#44 - Very well put. The whole offense/O-Line is stronger than the individuals.

#61 - Marvin the loner has sat at the end of the bench for 11 years. That's just Marvin being Marvin.

Tarik Glenn has been Peyton's blind-side bodyguard for #18's entire career. Jeff "Mr. Touchdown" Saturday was signed as an undrafted FA in 1999 & has been the O-Line leader all decade. Diem played some Guard in his 1st year or two before moving to his natural spot at Tackle. At Guard, the Colts have used many different guys throughout Peyton's reign. At the heart of it all is their excellent O-Line Coach Howard Mudd, who just won his first SB ring after 33 years as an NFL Coach.

In past years, the Colts O-Line has been pretty lousy on 3rd/4th & short. But they were excellent in the playoffs. The final drive at Baltimore was a thing of beauty-- 11 runs & 1 pass. Pounding the ball into the endzone from the 11 with 3 straight running plays vs N.E. was very impressive. They manhandled the Bears D-Line & ran all over them in the 2nd half even with a rookie (Charlie Johnson) at RT due to Diem's sprained ankle.

So why did they improve so much this year? I have a couple of thoughts-- first, Mudd & Tom Moore installed more zone blocking plays this season. Second, the coaches finally learned that leaving Harrison & Wayne on the field kept 2 to 4 DB's occupied better than going with 3 TE's & Klecko at FB. Third, in 3 playoff games, the Colts ran EIGHTY offensive plays-- opposing defenses were dead-tired & the Colts O-Line pushed them around in the 4th Qtr. Big-time props to them for outrushing every playoff team by a wide margin & for BEATING THE TOP THREE DEFENSES IN THE LEAGUE.

Since the late 90s, my seat at the RCA Dome has been right on the goal line at the end by the Colts locker room. That seat has provided me with a perfect view of too many crushing disappointments-- fumbles on the goal line, McGinest's 4th down tackle of Edgerrin, Mankins TD recovery, Gaffney's force-out TD catch, etc. After that Gaffney catch, I said to my brother "We've got to move our season tickets to different seats. This goal line is CURSED & it's going to kill me." On the very next drive & on the same goal line, Jeff Saturday made that fumble recovery for a TD! Later that quarter & on the very same goal line, Saturday made that crushing block on Wilfork & Addai waltzed into the endzone. Thank you Jeff Saturday for single-handedly lifting the curse on that goal line & for doing so much to bring a championship to Indianapolis!!!

p.s. Saturday won $10,000 from the guys on The Bob & Tom radio show (he has a weekly spot). They bet him that he would never score an NFL touchdown. The money will go to charity.

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by Don Booza (not verified) :: Wed, 02/07/2007 - 1:30pm

71 - Scott. Funny thing, I have sat on the same goal line for the past 9 or 10 years. Only difference is I am on the visitor's side, aisle 144. We certainly have seen some action down at our end of the stadium in recent years!

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by Rob Sartelle (not verified) :: Mon, 02/12/2007 - 10:42pm

Two things about the Colts Oline.

190 yards rushing on 42 carries.

Super Bowl Champions.