Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Indianapolis Colts this season, but they lead their division and Mark Schofield previews the critical matchup in their clash with Carolina Panthers: Can Castonzo get a punch on Allen?
The Colts take on the undefeated Panthers in a game of great importance for their playoff hopes. While the defending AFC Finalists enjoy the benefit of playing in the weak AFC South, a loss tonight would see them drop into a tie in the division with the Houston Texans at 3-5. With their upcoming schedule ‒ including games against Denver and Atlanta ‒ Indianapolis needs to the win to create some distance in the division race.
Indianapolis added offensive firepower in the offseason, signing veterans Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, and drafting rookie speedster Phillip Dorsett from Miami with their first-round selection. But these additions have not succeeded on the field, as the Colts rank in the middle of the pack in terms of total offensive yardage: 351.3 yards per game, 16th in the league, passing yardage: 257.7 per game, 13th, and rushing yardage: 93.6 per game, 27th.
Their task does not get easier tonight when they clash with the Panthers, who are building an impressive defense led by an emerging secondary and a talented linebacker corps. Up front, Carolina has some young talent, including Kony Ealy and Kawann Short in the interior, and recent acquisition of Jared Allen provides depth and experience.
It is the veteran whom you should watch Monday night. His battle with left tackle Anthony Castonzo might determine the outcome of this game ‒ and the DE might have the advantage.
On this play from Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans, the Colts face 3rd and 14 midway through the second quarter. They put Andrew Luck in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel, and empty the backfield with in 2X3 formation, with the slot formation to the left side of the field. The Titans have their 4-2-5 nickel package in the game, showing Cover 2 man under:
Castonzo is matched up with Brian Orakpo (#98), who uses a wide 9 alignment, well outside the left shoulder of the LT. Castonzo starts with a solid kick slide with his left foot as he shuffles. But he whiffs on his initial punch on the OLB:
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When he misses the punch, this allows Orkapo to scrape underneath the LT, dropping his hips to turn the corner. Luck does not have a chance here, as Orkapo knifes into the backfield and drives the QB to the turf.
Let’s look at Allen here, from Carolina’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. With just under three minutes remaining, the Eagles have the football and trail by eight. They face 1st and 10 on their own 15-yard line, and have quarterback Sam Bradford in the shotgun with 11 personnel, using pro formation on the right and slot alignment left. The Panthers have their 4-2-5 sub package on the field, showing Cover 1:
Allen is matched up against reserve Matt Tobin (#64), as starting left tackle Jason Peters suffered a knee injury earlier in the game. The veteran DE lines up in a wide 9 alignment, well outside Tobin’s left shoulder:
As the play begins, the LT looks to have the advantage. He begins with a decent kick slide with his left foot, and seems to have inside leverage. But then he looks to control the DE with his initial punch:
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As with the previous example, the LT misses the punch, as Allen dips his inside shoulder under the arms of Tobin. The DE then uses a rip move, driving his left fist toward the sky under the arms of the tackle. This shifts the leverage immediately, giving Allen the inside track toward Bradford. Tobin is helpless as the defensive end drives his quarterback into the turf with a key sack.
The matchup between the Indianapolis offense and the Carolina defense is a matter of strength versus strength, as the Colts’ weapons try to find space to operate against that talented back seven. But whether Luck has the time to get the ball out to those skill position players might just come down to the matter of timing of Castonzo getting a punch on Allen.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.