Colts Defensive Improvement and More Opinions

Ryan PopilchakCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 06:  Dwight Freeney #93 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a defensive play against the Kansas City Chiefs during their AFC Wild Card Playoff Game January 6, 2007 at RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won 23-8. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Colts defense is one of the most under-rated stories in the league this year. New defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, has brought a more aggressive edge to a team that already was quite solid. The element of pressure he’s added with a few blitz packages has really seemed to help on 3rd down defense.

They’ve markedly improved on 3rd and short situations but will always struggle somewhat since most of the players on the defense are cut from the “smaller and faster” mold.

That said, they have the best 3rd and Long ranking in the league by a long shot. To this point in the season they have a DVOA 30% higher than the next team in 3rd and Long situations.

While it seems odd to see them slip on 3rd and Mid situations, it may be from the more riskier blitzing approach. With the overall ranking for third downs at 2nd in the league, I would assume that they’re forcing more third and long situations than most.

Great teams step it up on third downs and the Colts defense is definitely doing that in 2009.

Terrible Decisions of the Week

Josh McDaniels’ made a monstrous rookie mistake on Sunday by deferring possession when the Broncos won the coin toss. The whole point to the coin toss is to take the ball and hopefully jump out to an early lead. It’s even more ridiculous when you realize that he willingly put the ball in the hands of the red hot Colts offense.

Jake Locker made a terrible decision to stay at the University of Washington. In a variety of mock drafts, Locker is generally listed as the top quarterback prospect and an almost universally acknowledge top 5 pick, with some ranking him as high as first overall. By going back to school, Locker is risking between $20-40M in guaranteed money and possibly more on his next contract. Just ask Sam Bradford how his decision has turned out.

Great Play Call of the Week

I love watching creative play calling, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, so I’ll be adding this section to the weekly Analysis Post from now on.

With the Bengals in the Red Zone versus a very stingy Vikings defense, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski called up a great passing play. With Minnesota cornerback overplaying the run, Chad Ochocinco motioned to his right as if to trigger a WR Reverse play. As Winfield over-pursued the reverse, Ochocinco reversed field to the left and took a pass in the flat, which he waltzed into the end zone. The play call was a classic example of taking advantage of your opponents strengths and using them to your own advantage.

Another Sign that College Football Needs Help

Despite the ridiculous bowl game situation that we explained last week, the bowl game system also destroys coaching credibility.

My prime example is the circus that surrounded Notre Dame’s head coaching search. As you all know, they settled on Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly. There’s nothing wrong with the coaching search, but the timing of the bowl games along with head coaching changes has ruined at least one bowl game in my mind. The unbeaten Bearcats are set to face Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

This game should have been Brian Kelly’s final game with his team and a chance for all of them to finish the season in a special manner.

Instead, since the recruiting season is starting, Kelly needs to leave his former school before the end of the season and has left his players disappointed. There is no need for the recruiting season to start before the bowl games are over, but the NCAA just doesn’t think these things through.

NFL Coaching Changes

Mark me down for the prediction that Wade Philips will be replaced by either Mike Shanahan or Bill Cowher is offseason.

The Swedish Meatball made #4 on our coaching hotseat rankings.

With all the talk about how terrible Dallas has been in January, that falls on the head coach, not the quarterback. Wade Philips looks lost and the Dallas job would be extremely attractive to either coach, especially with Jerry Jones desperate to win in his new stadium.

Shanahan will love the offensive weapons available to him in Big D. Jason Witten might catch 120 balls in a Shanahan-designed, play-action offense.

Cowher would have much of the defensive talent for the 3-4 defense he loves and the big stage he would want for his comeback.

The Cowher-Shanahan debate may not approach the walrus-like proportions of Andy Reid vs Mike Holmgren but it is about to happen this offseason.

Philips is gone, trust me.