What We Learned: Colts at Rams

We learned a few things on Sunday aside from the fact that the Colts are a much better team than the Rams. Brad Keller takes a look.

Teams may have devised a way to defend Dallas ClarkSafety at the line, help from a linebacker or cornerback.  That means that Clark needs to be double-covered, possibly by two defensive backs, to be contained.

Of course, he wasn't shut down, since he still managed three catches for 44 yards and the game's second touchdown, but this is the least productive he's been in any game thus far this season.  He was also only targeted five times.

That having been said, there seems to be no defensive strategy devised thus far to even slow Reggie Wayne down.  A big reason for that is the fact that Wayne is the only player that Tom Moore and Peyton Manning focus on and isolate according to formation and motion.

If Wayne misses time with an injury, look for the coaches to shift their focus to Clark, even if it's throwing him more screen passes.  But, even if Wayne is out for one or more games, it will not be a crippling blow to the pass offense.  He's the most important aspect of the passing attack aside from Manning, but the Colts do have a number of other weapons (including Clark) that they can utilize.

They'll struggle a bit more, no doubt, if Wayne is forced to sit, but you could already see them adjusting in the fourth quarter after Wayne left.  Given a full week (or weeks) of practice, they should be able to adjust as well as they can.

Daniel Muir's seven tackles don't mean he's an all-star.  He made most of those tackles trailing the play, so it's probably too early to say that he's the "missing piece" that Indianapolis has been searching for.

He did also pitch in a half a sack — completely blowing up a play with a cat-quick move — and had a tackle for loss, but he and Antonio Johnson were also dominated at the point of attack for most of the third quarter, leading to Eric Foster and Raheem Brock coming into the game for the fourth quarter.

That, coupled with the fact that Steven Jackson rushed for 134 yards and a 5.8 yard per attempt average, does not mean that the Colts run defense is suddenly suspect, either.  Jackson had ten carries for only 33 yards in the first half and and only six yards on four carries in the fourth quarter.

There were a number of lapses in concentration in effort for Johnson and Muir to start the second half.  Combine that with the halftime adjustments that St. Louis made and it's easy to see how Jackson was successful in the third stanza.

But, nine carries for 97 yards in the third quarter alone?  That is cause for concern.  Hopefully, the benchings sent a message to Muir and Johnson and they will come back focused in practice this week.

If Donald Brown is healthy, he needs to get more carries.  It's true that the score and his shoulder injury prevented him from coming back in the game after a couple of electric plays in the first half, but Brown has shown that he should be getting more touches than he is currently getting.

He had only two carries in the first 25 minutes of the game when he was still healthy and those two carries went for 58 yards, versus 20 carries for 64 yards for Joseph Addai.

The thinking all along was that Brown could be a replacement for Addai, but there's no reason to think that he can't be an exceptional complement to Addai.  The two backs have different running styles and would need to run different plays behind different blocking formations — Addai is perfectly suited for the standard stretch play that the Colts run, but Brown works better between the tackles — but they're similar enough, yet contrasting enough, that it would be a considerable change of pace without Indianapolis needing to completely restructure their offense.

Up to this point, the Colts have been trying to fit Brown into their system.  If they can tweak their system just a bit and get the ball in his hands in situations where he is set up to succeed, it will pay serious dividends.  He may only end up with seven to ten touches a game, but it's intriguing to think of what he could do with those touches.

Bob Sanders is back.  Kinda.  He only had one tackle and the coaching staff was limiting his reps, but the important thing to note is that he was back in the starting lineup and was able to contribute for at least some of the game. The Rams were able to take advantage of his eagerness to be back on the field, using a flea-flicker to catch the Colts' backfield off guard. That play truthfully should have led to a touchdown for the Rams.

The Indianapolis staff will bring him back slowly — Melvin Bullitt was more involved on Sunday than Sanders, with three tackles and more reps — but they also need to keep in mind that they can't bring him along too slowly.  With all due respect to the Rams and their players, this was a tune-up game.  Next week's game against San Francisco has a similar feel to it even if it will be a tougher contest. 

After that, the Colts play the high-flying Texans twice, the Ravens, and the Patriots, so they will need to have their best and most game-ready personnel in the lineup.  Will Sanders be ready?  Only time will tell.  But, Jim Caldwell and company will be doing themselves a disservice if they send Sanders out there and he's not 100 percent.  Bullitt has played exceptionally well filling in for Sanders and deserves a shot to play if Sanders isn't fully healed.

The Colts are taking care of business:  Another week, another blowout victory.  The Colts have been able to stay focused throughout this "easy" stretch of games and that has served them well.  They need to maintain that focus for the rest of the season, starting next week against the 49ers.

The road only gets bumpier from here, so they will need every last bit of resolve and heart that they can muster to make it through the season.

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