It was always going to be difficult for the Colts, coming off an emotional comeback win against the Packers, to travel to New York and defeat even a banged up Jets team. There were times, especially early in the game, where Indianapolis’ offense looked like it could score but the inconsistency of Andrew Luck and an inability to establish the running game crippled them. The red zone offense was poor and the defense couldn’t stop a rejuvenated Shonne Greene.
Speaking of the Jets’ offense, Greene, along with an offensive line that finally appears to be gelling, overpowered a weak Indianapolis front on their way to a huge rushing game. Mark Sanchez did enough (and no more) to move the ball and, combined with the trickery of Tim Tebow on special teams, the Jets had possibly their most complete game of the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the key performances.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
The Colts’ offensive line hasn’t been good in a while, but they’ve made a few nice moves recently to retool the unit. It all starts with first round pick LT Anthony Castonzo (+3.3) who bounced back from a terrible game against the Packers to have one of his best games as a pro. He didn’t have the toughest test against a Jets team that lacks pass rushers, but it’s still impressive that he conceded just a hit and hurry in 54 drop-backs. The only mistakes he made were against Aaron Maybin when he over-extended and allowed the nickel rusher to dip back inside, but that didn’t ruin a good day in pass protection. It was also a positive day for Castonzo in the run game, where he graded positively aside from a play in the second quarter where Muhammad Wilkerson was able to beat him on a tackle for short gain.
On the other side, right tackle Winston Justice always proved a good pass protector during his Eagles days and it looks like he’s brought that ability to Indy. His injury at the end of the half was another blow to a unit that can’t seem to stay healthy. Justice missed seven plays at the end of the game but was perfect in the 47 snaps he did play, gaining a +3.2 grade. If, and it’s a big if, he can find a way to improve his run blocking (-0.4) he could become one of the better tackles in the league. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely and the tackle for short gain he gave up to David Harris with 8:54 to go in the second quarter is a good example of that.
Lack of True Nose Tackle Hurting Colts
Antonio Johnson (-3.1) is not an ideal starter, and a 3-4 team without a quality nose tackle is always likely to struggle when the opposition doesn’t run many three receiver sets. He hardly made an impact in his 35 run snaps, and recorded just two tackles and the solitary stop. Even that play was basically gifted to him by D’Brickashaw Ferguson who fell while attempting to block him and left an easy tackle. Otherwise it was a clinic from Nick Mangold, who controlled him with ease consistently and to either side. Matt Slauson also got in on the act and it was their dominance that helped spring Greene’s career game. It’s interesting the Colts are reluctant to use Antonio Dixon much on the nose, considering some of the success he had in Philadelphia against the run. With just eight snaps we didn’t get to see enough of what he could be like there, but he did make two tackles around the line of scrimmage (one of which was an assist) which suggests he could have the ability to do the job.
Hughes Steps Up in Mathis’ Absence
With Robert Mathis out and Dwight Freeney hobbled, a lot of pressure fell on Jerry Hughes’ (+2.2) shoulders. He responded to that pressure in a very positive manner to play well both against the run and as a pass rusher. With seven tackles, six of which were stops, Hughes proved very active against the run. He made four tackles around the line of scrimmage, which included a very impressive tackle for a loss with 12.15 to play in the second quarter when he rocked Dustin Keller backward and then was able to get off his block to make the tackle.
Hughes was the only Colt pass rusher to register multiple pressures. In just 15 rushes he accumulated a sack, hit and two hurries, which means he’s now registered at least a pair of pressures in every game this season. Despite limited opportunity, Hughes now has 14 overall pressures on the season, which gives him a pass rushing productivity of 16.0. That mark leaves him second of all 3-4 outside linebackers, and goes some way to disproving the suggestion he’s a bust. The only real negative was his eagerness to get involved sometimes saw him lose backside contain, which gave the Jets back more space to work with than Colts fans wanted to see.
New York – Three Performances of Note
We first glimpsed Greene’s (+3.7) ability in the 2009 playoffs, but he hasn’t really put it all together since then. The challenge will be to carry this performance into the rest of a season where, aside from Sunday, he’s graded negatively in every game. The numbers really tell the whole story as Greene accumulated 82 yards after contact and an impressive eight forced missed tackles. To put that into context, in the previous five games combined he’s forced just one missed tackle (Week 1) and amassed 141 yards after contact. His most impressive play was undoubtedly his touchdown run late in the third quarter where he used a magical spin move to escape Antoine Bethea before cutting inside the other Colts’ safety, Tom Zbikowski, and left him also grasping at air. In fact, Greene had a habit of making the safety pairing look silly as Zbikowski got bowled into the end zone on another of his TD rumbles.
Wilkerson Continues to Shine
The Jets’ best player, with Darrelle Revis sidelined, may well be five technique Muhammad Wilkerson (+2.8). The Temple product has simply been outstanding this season. and Rex Ryan’s penchant for finding talented defensive lineman is clear to see. Wilkerson’s run defense against the Colts was especially impressive as he proved too much to handle for the makeshift interior. He made four tackles after short gains against Castonzo, Hills and McGlynn respectively. Wilkerson’s most impressive play came with 11.31 to go in the third quarter as he got inside McGlynn and chopped down Vick Ballard after a gain of just two. He ended with seven stops on just 14 run defense snaps, which is simply a marvel.
It wasn’t as positive a performance for Wilkerson as a pass rusher where he generated just a sack, hurry and batted pass. The sack wasn’t an especially good rush as Luck had tons of time in the pocket but Wilkerson was able to strip the ball out, which ended the game.
Cromartie Talks the Talk but Can’t Walk the Walk
It’s all very well for Antonio Cromartie (-3.1) to say he’s the best corner in the league now Revis is out, but that definitely didn’t appear to be the case against the Colts. He was regularly beaten by both Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery, although the numbers tell a misleading story. On the face of it he only gave up three of seven targets for 32 yards with a pick, but he was fortunate on a number of occasions. He benefited from a Wayne drop in the second quarter and also would have given up a big gain and a touchdown but for Luck horribly overthrowing an open receiver at the start of the fourth quarter. There was also a significant issue with penalties. He gave up three (two pass interferences and an illegal contact), and it’s worth mentioning that while his pick was an impressive play, it did come on a deflected pass. He’s played well this year, but this won’t be the game he uses to justify his claims.
– Samson Satele gave up as much combined pressure (four) as the rest of the team combined.
– Andrew Luck fared badly when facing pressure, going 0 of 10, with two picks and four sacks.
– The Jets’ defense missed just a solitary tackle, while the Colts’ missed 11
Shonn Greene claims the prize for some outstanding running that allowed New York’s offense to dictate the tempo, control the clock and ultimately kill off the game.
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