Colts offense lacking 3rd-and-short success
It's easy to understand why the point shortage being experienced by the Indianapolis Colts' offense is a big deal.
The Peyton Manning-directed unit led the NFL in scoring in 2004, averaging 32.6 points on a franchise-record 522 points. But heading into Sunday's AFC South game with the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, the Colts rank 23rd in scoring (15.7). The offense has scored only four touchdowns.
A possible remedy: improving execution on short-yardage situations.
"We're doing a good job of getting into the third-and-shorts," Manning said. "When you get into those, you've got to be able to convert them."
The Colts haven't been.
In three games, they've faced 11 third-down situations requiring 2 yards or fewer to move the chains. They've converted only four. That has stalled drives and affected productivity.
Short yardage was particularly problematic in Sunday's win over Cleveland. The Colts had three third-and-2s, two inside the Browns' 6-yard line, and a third-and-1. They were 0-for-4.
Failing to convert within the shadow of the goal line forced the Colts to settle for 20- and 23-yard field goals by Mike Vanderjagt. Had they finished the drives with touchdowns, the final score might have been at least 21-6 instead of 13-6.
One of the squandered opportunities was an incomplete pass in the right corner of the end zone to tight end Dallas Clark. Manning cited inadequate spacing between Clark and tight end Bryan Fletcher that allowed a defender to come off Fletcher and deflect the pass. The other, in the third quarter, involved a blown blocking assignment and resulted in Ran Carthon being stopped for no gain.
"When we do what we're supposed to do and execute the play, we've been pretty good on third-and-1 or 2," coach Tony Dungy said.
The Colts are converting only 36.8 percent of their total third downs, 19th best in the league. In 2004, they were No. 7 (42.7 percent).
More work for Jackson
Rookie Marlin Jackson has seen extensive action as a third cornerback in the Colts' nickel package the past two games, and he's ready for that next step.
Sunday against the Titans, the team's first-round draft pick is expected to get some exposure in the base defense at left corner. Veteran Nick Harper is expected to start for a fourth straight game, but Jackson will get some repetitions with the No. 1 unit.
"We need to get him in some early downs," Dungy said.
I want to see Marlin starting soon. I wish we had two of him to get rid of both David and Harper, but oh well.