SOME people dismiss our 33 – 23 win over the Colts, because a number of their starters didn’t play due to injury. It makes me wonder: Would they rather we’d have lost? This was a game for sending a message, and since 13 of the Colts 23 points came in the 4th quarter, this game was never as close as the final score indicates. This was a game for sending a message and our starters dominated theirs. We didn’t play down to the opponent. We handled business. As Keenan Ivory Wayans would say:
But what about the stuff that the final score doesn’t reveal? That’s the reason for these “Four Things” articles. To have an idea of what needs addressing BEFORE the game, so that we’re forced to honestly answer questions AFTER the game.
So, of the four things we were looking for in this last game, what exactly did we see?
1) RB Wendell Smallwood has to play more than a series. He sort of did, getting 3 touches before he was hit and taken out of the game, per concussion protocol. By and large he looked like a third version of RB’s we already have (Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall, and himself). What he didn’t look like was a guy who could step in for Ryan Mathews. Especially if he’s going to be less durable than Mathews. We need a veteran here.
2) A starting receiver catching at least 3 balls for 40 yards. This didn’t happen, but it’s hard to write it off as a bad thing. In fact, what we got might be better than what I asked for. WR Josh Huff had 2 grabs for 60 yards, and both TE’s Trey Burton and Zach Ertz, (neither of whom started but both were in the game early) had 5 catches each for 35 and 25 yards respectively. Burton scored on a 3 yard pass.
3) The deep ball must make a few appearances. This flat out didn’t happen and I think this will haunt us early in the season. Thinking that spreading out a defense is the same as unloading the box, is what caused the Offense to cave in after we lost DeSean Jackson. Right now we’re back to being a team that doesn’t legitimately scare anyone vertically. The plan is that Dorian Green-Beckham will add that dimension, but so far that looks like a miscalculation.
4) Andrew Luck must be sacked early. We all kinds of did this! He was sacked, hit, hurried and harassed on almost every dropback. It was a thing of beauty. The ball was at times thrown too early, hit the dirt… He was 13 of 18 but that’s not at all how it looked in the game or on the scoreboard.
This week was a mixed bag, but I’ll call it 2 out of 4. We did #4 clearly. We did #1 technically, but not well enough to say that it counts. We didn’t do #2 statistically, but again, what we did got in it’s place is at least as good and more likely, better. We didn’t do #3 AT ALL, and it will be a problem when teams start to game plan for us. For those keeping score, that brings us to 7 of 12 for these three weeks.
As far as sending a message to the other 31 teams, this was the first glimpse of what the team will be, or what the team is trying to be, under Head Coach Doug Pederson. We were tough, methodical, and quietly efficient. Even when we had trouble, no one lost composure and we were in control the entire time. To quote the Stone Temple Pilots, “I got the message and the message stood…” If the rest of the NFL has not yet gotten the message, don’t worry, Keenan. They will.