Four Downs: Patient Jaguars can win in Indy

Here’s a look at four items from my film notes of Week 14:

1. I think Jacksonville can go into Indianapolis and win. The Jaguars continue to play to their identity — which is as a power-running football team — as well as anyone in the league. When you look at the 30-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew to end last week’s game against the Raiders, it was the perfect example of a team that is patient and believes in the running game. The touchdown came on Jones-Drew’s 23rd attempt of the game, but before that he had eight carries of 1-yard or less. Most teams won’t call a run on second-and-10 there, but the Jaguars did, and it paid off. This is a team that believes in what they do, and they do it well. There’s a lot to defend with the Jaguars’ running game, and the Colts are not good at defending the run.

2. Credit the Patriots for tailoring their game plan to the winter conditions last week in Chicago. People were amazed the Patriots threw the ball in those conditions, but I think there’s a saying in New England that says, “The more it snows, the more we throw.” In snowy conditions on a slick field, offensive players have the advantage because they know where they’re going. Defensive players can’t react or make quick movements. Taking that into consideration, the Patriots shortened their routes to be quicker. Because the defensive linemen couldn’t make quick, explosive moves, they knew Tom Brady was going to get time. He sat there like a statue, throwing quick, 5-yard routes, play after play. Plus, he was extremely accurate, especially considering the conditions. Then in the running game, the Patriots didn’t try to move defenders off the line, knowing they can’t get traction. Instead they turned to the angle running game, getting short, quick angles to seal defenders and create alleys to run in. Shame on Chicago for never adjusting.

3. The happiest I’ve ever seen Eagles coach Andy Reid in his 12 years of coaching was at the end of last week’s win over the Cowboys. Leading 30-27 with 4:22 remaining in the game, the Eagles got the ball at their own 10-yard line. The Cowboys had three timeouts, but they never got the ball back. The Eagles ran nine plays, eight of which were runs, and got four first downs. They ran a perfect 4-minute drill. They got it done by basically blowing Dallas off the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage. The left side of Todd Herremans and Jason Peters is the best left side in football. Peters has been to the Pro Bowl, but I think this is the best he’s ever played. The Eagles went out and executed the drill exactly to how it’s practiced and talked through during OTAs and training camp, and they did it in Week 14 in Dallas — to perfection.

4. Baltimore is keeping pace with Pittsburgh, but the offense is really a mess. The Ravens don’t run the ball well, and they haven’t all year. It’s kind of a head-scratcher. But what the Ravens also aren’t doing is protecting QB Joe Flacco, who has been sacked once every 13 attempts. Going back to the Troy Polamalu sack/fumble play in Week 13, I saw the Texans run the exact same blitz last week. The Ravens made the exact same mistake, and Flacco was sacked and fumbled again. Their response to the Texans’ pressure was to use max-protection with eight-man protection. Twice, they allowed sacks and were forced to throw the ball away multiple times. The whole offense is out of sync right now for the Ravens, and I think they’ll struggle against the Saints because of it.

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