Mythbusting the Bye Week

There are a lot of ideas out there about the Indianapolis Colts, so Brad Keller felt the need to do some mythbusting during the bye week. See what Brad found out about supposed failures in the running game, if Peyton Manning needs to carry the team, and just how bad the run defense REALLY is.

The Colts Can't Run the Ball:

A more accurate statement would be that the Colts really don't run the ball.  Indianapolis currently ranks 19th in the league in average rush attempts per game, with 25.7.  But, 13 of those attempts are Peyton Manning kneeldowns at the the end of the first half or the end of the game.

If those attempts are taken out, the average drops to 23.5, which would rank 26th in the league.  Taking out the 40 rushing attempts against the New York Giants in Week 2 — those 40 attempts are already taking out the kneeldowns from Peyton — the Colts have run the ball only 104 times in the other five games. That's 20.8 attempts per game, which would rank 31st in the league. 

When Indianapolis has run the ball, they've been effective.  Taking out kneeldowns, they've averaged four yards per attempt, which would rank 18th in the league, as opposed to their current 25th ranking.  When they have run the ball, they've been successful as a team.

The two games in which the Colts ran the ball fewer than 20 times — ten attempts against Houston and 18 attempts against Jacksonville — they lost.  They did only run the ball 20 times against Denver, but that was because they were not running the ball effectively, averaging a shade over two yards per attempt.

This offense is most potent when it is balanced and Manning is able to utilize play action to strike for big plays.  No defense in the NFL comes into a game with the intent of stopping Joseph Addai and Mike Hart/Donald Brown and making Manning beat them.  Until that focus changes, Manning and a balanced offense will move the ball better and put up more points than an offense that is one dimensional.

Peyton Manning Needs to Carry This Team:

Manning is a four-time MVP and could be working on a fifth this season, with 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions, but the game against the Chiefs showed that the offense can struggle if Manning struggles, provided that the running game is not involved.  Fortunately, Indianapolis ran the ball 28 times for 100 yards in that game, even though Manning completed less than 60 percent of his passes and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the only time this season.

In games where Manning passed the ball fewer than 40 times — Week 2 against the Giants and Week 6 against the Redskins — the Colts won and were able to put up points in bunches, averaging 32.5 points per game.

The only game this season that Manning had more than 50 pass attempts was in Week 1 against Houston.  Manning is on pace to throw 671 passes this season, which would fall slightly short of the NFL record 691 attempts by Drew Bledsoe in 1994.

As the season wears on and the games get even tighter, the Colts will not be able to continue to win games with Manning as their only weapon.  Last season proved that lack of commitment to the run is an Achilles heel and that Manning can't do it all by himself. 

The Run Defense is Terrible:

A more accurate statement would be that the run defense is average.  Currently, the run defense ranks 27th, allowing an average of 137.3 yards per game.  Taking out the second half collapse against the Texans in Week 1, where Indianapolis allowed 191 yards to Arian Foster, the Colts have allowed an average of 105.5 yards per game, which would rank 13th in the NFL.

For a defense that allows a 100-yard rusher once every presidency like the Steelers or the Ravens, allowing over 100 yards per game would be a failure.  But, Indianapolis would take 105.5 yards per game and a middle-of-the-pack ranking regarding the run defense, which has historically been in the bottom quarter of the league.

Effort has been extremely improved since Week 1 and gap discipline was only an issue against Kansas City, but tackling remains the key issue.  During the bye week, the coaches will need to focus on wrapping up the ball carrier and trying to bring him to the ground.  Tackling was a real issue against Washington and Jacksonville, where Ryan Torain and Maurice Jones-Drew gained a ton of yards after contact.  Instead of focusing on making a collision or a big hit, the defender should be focused on making a tackle.  The Indianapolis defense excels at pursuing the football.  Let the first man in focus on tackling and holding the ball carrier up and the second (or third) man in can come in for the collision.

The Colts defense does not need big hits to be physical, they simply need to execute.  Results speak louder than hits and sure tackling and execution keeps the chains from moving.  The defense needs to concentrate on the fundamentals and work on getting better.

If they can do that, they will be at least average, which is good enough to win football games.  Above average would win games convincingly, but Indianapolis does not need to have a dominant run defense to dominate.

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