Playbook: How two big zeroes went away

On Sunday, two big zeros were erased from the NFL landscape – the Colts’ potential freefall toward 0-16 and the Packers’ bid for a 16-0 season.

Both Indy’s win and Green Bay’s loss were shocking, enough so that we had to take a look at the tape and figure out what happened.

Here’s what we saw:

Colts 27, Titans 13

The Titans struggled to move the ball versus a 28th ranked run defense. Why?

Indy ran an “over” front, shifting  a three-technique defensive tackle to the tight end side of Tennessee’s formation. That put a “one-technique” tackle over Titans center Eugene Amano.

Amano, who is not the most powerful at the point of attack, struggled to block Antonio Johnson and Ricardo Mathews off the snap. They affected Chris Johnson on zone stretch plays, bringing instant penetration on weak-side runs and eliminating the cutback on plays to the strong-side. When Amano received help from either guard, that freed up linebackers to flow to the ball.

On the Titans’ 17 designed runs versus the Colts’ over front, they gained only 22 yards. Only once Indy ran an even front –- leaving Amano uncovered -– and Johnson rattled off a 35-yarder on a shotgun draw.

And with their lack of a ground game, the Titans’ lack of a vertical passing attack left them with no way to compensate through the air. Matt Hasselbeck was just 2-of-4 for 37 yards and an interception on passes over 10 yards (he didn’t throw a single pass over 20 yards). We credit much of Hasselbeck’s woes to his receivers, who ran sloppy routes and were unable to create separation downfield.

Chiefs 19, Packers 14

While Aaron Rodgers probably had his worst performance of 2011, Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton continued to have success versus the Packers defense over the middle.

When Orton faced Green Bay in Week 4 as the starting quarterback for the Broncos, he completed 13-of-15 passes over the middle. Against the Packers Sunday, he exploited the same area of the field, hitting on 15-of-17 throws over the middle. Using a variety of screens (seven plays for 72 yards) and play-action (9-of-11 for 141), Orton was able to keep Green Bay off-balance.

The Packers had only one quarterback hit on Sunday – and that came on the Chiefs’ first pass of the game. On that play, a 3rd-and-8, the Packers brought six-man pressure, blitzing Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett, but Orton stood in and delivered a hitch to Terrance Copper for 10 yards. That was a huge confidence boost for the Chiefs, who went on to have drives of 14, nine and 15 plays.

On the flip side, the Packers offense couldn’t stay on the field. Kansas City’s defense took advantage of a reshuffled Green Bay offensive line; more specifically, Tamba Hali (3 sacks) manhandled left tackle Marshall Newhouse.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (AFC) and 9 p.m. ET (NFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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