Taylor Blitz Crystal Ball- Super Bowl LV: Colts over Packers: Colts Story

The 2020 season is underway and taking shape and several teams have stepped to the fore. The defending champion Chiefs look completely unbeatable as all world QB Patrick Mahomes continues on a torrid pace. The same with Russell Wilson up in the Pacific Northwest. Yet two teams are just under the radar and will gain momentum although they aren’t the sexiest picks as the season will progress.

A formidable defense is growing in the midwest that will finish as the best defense in football and currently ranks #2 in all the NFL. The Chiefs are busy putting the finishing touches on the Ravens no longer being the #1 defense which will leave the Colts at the top of the heap. 

Indianapolis Colts defense:

  • Will be ranked #1 in defense once the Ravens lose tonight.
  • Will be ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass.
  • 5 of their top 6 defenders have allowed 73% or less pass completions in their territory.
  • Colts have given up just 56 points through 4 games…29 in the last 3 games combined.
  • Through 4 games have garnered 10 sacks, 2 safeties, 7 ints returning 2 for touchdowns.
  • This defense has scored nearly as much as their opponents in the last 4 games 18 to 28.

It was the Colts who signed away DT DeForrest Buckner (19.5 sacks the last 2 seasons in San Fran) and CB Xavier Rhodes that have handicapped both the 49ers and Vikings defenses so far this season. Rhodes has scored on a pick 6 against the Jets and Buckner has scored on a safety with his 1.5 sacks this year. The other safety was recorded by former KC Chief Justin Houston who has 3.5 sacks and on pace for 14 this season. 

Keep in mind Houston is a 4 time Pro Bowler and had 11 sacks last year in his first year as a Colt. In 2014 he missed Michael Strahan’s record by 1 when he recorded 22 sacks. How well will he play with a lead and the best back 7 covering opponents receivers??

All this before we talk about emerging star Darius Leonard. Last year #53 turned heads accumulating 121 tackles, 5 sacks while forcing 2 fumbles and intercepting 5 passes and had 7 pass defenses. This year teams are staying away from him and have run into his talented teammates who round out the best defense in football.

The NFL will take notice once this team shuts down Cleveland and can make their way to the bye week at 5-1.

Head Coach Frank Reich who won Super Bowl LII as the Eagles Offensive Coordinator is getting into sync with Phillip Rivers. He doesn’t have to carry the Colts as they have the best offensive line in football and rookie RB Jonathan Taylor learning the pro game. Reich also coached Rivers during some of his best career years from 2013-2016 as first QB Coach then Offensive Coordinator.

The offense has taken a slight step back with Marlon Mack’s injury and Phillip Rivers just needs to be a guiding hand as the offense adjusts to Taylor and he can connect with TY Hilton. Rivers just needs to make key first downs and finish drives Jacoby Brissett left on the field last year. His role is similar to that of Peyton Manning’s in 2015 on the way to Super Bowl L with Denver. Minimize turnovers and get the young Colts an early lead and sic that defense on their opponent and turn to the running game. 

In case you forgot the Colts have the NFL’s best offensive line. Led by All Pro G Quenton Nelson and LT Anthony Costanzo, they powered the NFL’s #3 rushing attack last year. They just need their rookie RB Taylor to hit his stride and timing now that he is a surprise starter due to injury. Taylor will catch stride and rush for 1,000 yards before season’s end. His 250 yards and 2 TDs have just scratched the surface and the Colts should be rolling fully around midseason.

Taylor after scoring against the Jets

Which is just in the nick of time as they host the Packers in 7 weeks that will be a preview of Super Bowl LV. If they handle Green Bay in that week 11 matchup this team will win 13 games and will be vying for home field advantage. We’re upping the ante when The Chancellor of Football predicted they would win 11 and go to the AFC Championship before the season began in this preview.

This is the back 7 the defending champion Chiefs don’t want to face. Leonard is the most athletic Linebacker in the game and can cover TE Travis Kelce. He ate up underneath routes all last year when he led the team with 5 picks as teams were trying to throw to their “Y” receiver. “Y” is Tight End in coach speak…

This team will win Super Bowl LV with a group of hungry players who don’t have a distorted ego and a sinister sneaky defense against the pass. Much like the Philadelphia Eagle team Coach Reich was a part of in winning LII. Taylor Blitz Times said it first.

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Overcoaching Vol IV: 2019 Week 1 Editorial Rant – Packers v Bears

Quit overcoaching!!!! All these young goofy coaches know nothing of running the football to establish tone and attitude. Who are you fooling in shotgun and a shuttle step handoff?? Your running back isnt generating any momentum once they get the football. Each time they go down at first contact at the line of scrimmage. Yes talking mainly about Chicago Bear coach Mike Nagy but this extends to Green Bay’s Lafleur’s play calling as well.

3d illustration of an NFL logo behind a transparent silver American football on top of a green football field

How many times did we see that last night with both teams?? Root your lineman in the ground, three point stance and fire forward…have your running back back step and explode forward generating momentum when he hits the line of scrimmage whether you run through 1, 3,5, or 7 hole.

He might break a tackle!!!

Employ a hop step, counter step, or back step for the runner and go!!

With your QB constantly in Pistol or Shotgun you cant fool the linebackers. They are seeing their keys and even the ball movement is too evident with this shotgun handoff bullshit… they’re looking right at the exchange.

What is being lost is nuance… and physicality. Keep this up and Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be lined up in a Power I and taking another title. All these gimmicky Sports Center coaches swam upstream like fish to get swallowed by a fat old carp named Belichick who knew better.

What most people havent noticed is Belichick is the greatest collector of information and teacher of situational football. Yes he runs pick plays to get slow mediocre receivers open but he runs the football with muscle and authority UNDER CENTER. He keeps the linebackers from gaining half a step in scraping toward the hole the runner is heading for.

Belichick actually is employing elements of his 2001-2004 playbook when he was feeding Antowain Smith and Corey Dillon down opponents throats. Go look at the TDs when Smith scored in Super Bowl XXXVIII against Carolina. He has DE Richard Seymour and LB Mike Vrabel on offense blocking at the goalline and knocked Panthers back in the endzone.

Fast forward to last January and the Super Bowl and Sony Michel was behind #46 Devlin and a power set and ran for 3 TDs against San Diego in the playoffs, nearly 100 yards in the AFC Championship and another score in Kansas City… then when the Super Bowl was on the line and gimmicky Los Angeles needed the ball back, Belichick put the team in power running sets and ran it down their throats…

Remember the NFL is starting its 100th season. Running the football with force has won all 100 of those years!! Get your knuckles in the dirt and fire off the damn football and knock your opponent back!!

Last night were two anemic offenses that never set anything up. It was like a boxer not throwing jabs…to set up the cross or uppercut to knock the opponent out. If you throw punches your opponent can see coming from a mile away…??

Quit with the 725 colored chart play call sheets… ain’t nothing but 25 pick plays from 12 formations anyway. Run the football with power and nuance linebackers to be where you want your offensive linemen to block them. Under center YOU get to dictate where that happens.

Jesus I see another 4 receiver spread formation from the 5 yard line and I’m going postal….

2019 NFC North Previews & Predictions

Welcome to the 2019 NFL round robin version of “Be Careful What You Wish For?” No division has had its teams decide to go down a given path then have to ask themselves if they have bitten off more than they could chew. Over in Packerland Aaron Rodgers questioned the game planning of Mike McCarthy and became downright ambivalent. Now he’s already made grumblings about new caoach Matt LaFleur’s decision to hold joint practices. Not exactly the way to show unity with the new coaching regime establishing a new culture.

Then off to Chicago where the NFC North defending champions entered last year’s playoffs, and the fear The Chancellor had “Would Coach Nagy call too cutesy a game in blustery conditions and cost the Bears a playoff game?”

Then came this nonsense on a 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter of the Wild Card Game at home against the Eagles:

Wouldn’t you know that ill fated 2 point conversion is the difference between the NFL’s #3 ranked defense going to New Orleans in the divisional round. They lost 16-15. Why not run former RB Jordan Howard on the 2 pt conversion vs a shovel pass in frigid conditions?? Remember him?? The 6’0 224 lb running back nicknamed “Bulldozer?”

Shovel pass to a 165 lb WR Taylor Gabriel at the goal line?? That is too cutesy…

This was the difference between winning a playoff by 1 and losing by 1…17-16 well that and Cody Parkey’s missed field goal at the end of the game. Then turnaround and trade your power back to the NFC rival Eagles who just beat you in the playoffs?? Who does Chicago give the ball to for the tough yards. On that ill fated 2 point conversion that was Khalil Mack motioning out of the backfield. What did I say about cutesy play calling??

2019 NFC North Predictions

  1. Minn. Vikings 12-4** (Homefield)
  2. Chicago Bears 9-7
  3. Green Bay Packers 6-10
  4. Detroit Lions 5-11

Watching all this is the division’s best team in the Minnesota Vikings. The national press and pressure is off of QB Kirk Cousins who didn’t live up to expectations after signing a huge contract to come over from Washington. As a team they fell from grace after an NFC Championship visit in 2017.

Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the smoke Cousins completed 425 of 606 passes for 4,298 yards 30 TDs and 10 picks and has the best WR tandem in Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen. All Diggs (102 rec / 1,021 yds/ 9 TDs) and Thielen (113 rec / 1,373 yds/ 9 TDs) did was power the 13th best passing attack with room for improvement. There were 87 missed connections on passes that short circuited drives forcing punts and disrupted offensive rhythm in games. Cousins is a beta quarterback however this is the spot where he performs without expectations.

This is also the year Dalvin Cook has his break out year now that he is 2 years removed from a knee reconstruction. The same time frame Jamal Lewis ran for 2,000 and a year shorter than Adrian Peterson ran for his 2,000. Not to say Cook is going for 2K, just illustrating this is that explosive year post surgery and a 1,400 yard season is within reach.

Keep in mind the Vikings field the 4th best defense in all of football. This could vault to a number one status if Cook and the running game dominate time of possession. LBs Anthony Barr and Eddie Kendricks need to have great seasons against the run and covering speedy backs and crossing receivers.

Smith intercepting a pass in last year’s 17-16 wildcard loss to Philly.

Chicago is going to field an even better defense although their statistics will be skewed with an offense that won’t possess the football as it did last year. Not only is defending Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack going to be in game shape week 1, Roquan Smith is ready to leap into player of the year status himself. Wearing #58 is like watching Wilber Marshall reincarnated and making plays all over the field.

Smith will now have his first complete offseason to get ready for 2019. In a year he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, he led the Bears with 121 tackles with 5 sacks and 1 pick. In the Wildcard he took an interception 60 yards for a touchdown that was called back when he was ruled down by contact.

Danny Trevathan was second in tackles (102 / 2 sacks/ 2 ints) roam the intermediate passing lanes with Smith. Together they knocked down an additional 17 passes.

Mack is the only 2 time TBTDPoY and still lose in a division with no pro bowl tackles.

Keep in mind these hunters are behind Pro Bowl and All Pro Khalil Mack, Pro Bowl DT Akiem Hicks, and both Pro Bowl and All Pro S Eddie Jackson & CB Kyle Fuller had the same accolades. This bunch will play for a new coordinator in 2019 but expect the same results. This overall is an incarnation of the 85 & 86 Bears who endured a coordinator change and will have that type of impact.

The problem is this defense will be let down by the offense who traded their hammer (RB Jordan Howard) and accounts reporting Mitch Trubisky has been off in training camp. Can Tarik Cohen carry the load at RB?? Taylor Blitz doesn’t think so. Great change of pace guy but doesn’t have the rocks in his pockets to last the season. Quick and flashy but doesn’t run with body lean to get tough yards.

Chicago is much better starting Mike Davis #25, who is 30lbs heavier than Cohen, and ran for 514 yards on 114 carries last year. Without a prominent running game to rest this defense puts the ball in Trubisky’s hands. Opponents have to watch for constant “jet sweeps” and “bubble screens”.. trickery plays where the propensity for fumbles and issues will arise. Taking this team back to the pack.

Speaking of the Pack, for the first time we can say this team is in a rebuilding year in many a moon. Rodgers is still the staple at QB and has a younger team around him than in year’s past. Entering year 15 it seems like just yesterday this was the fresh faced QB with so many years to come… now he is where Brett Bavre had been.

In 2018 Rodgers enjoyed a season where he completed 372 of 597 passes for 4,442 yards and 25 TDs to just 2 picks. However he was short circuited by a defense ranked 22nd against the run and 18th overall. Despite his best efforts he was forced to come onto the field in deficit situations pointwise and momentum-wise.

How do we know this??  The Packers were 22nd when it came to time of possession. It’s a catch 22 where Green Bay wasn’t in position to work on their running game if they wanted to.

By the way did you see the last preseason game against the Ravens? They gave up 36 carries for 171 yards and 4.6 yards per carry. You can’t win football games that way as the defense was pushed off the ball all night. Yes it’s preseason but you can’t turn on and off the ability to knock your opponent back. A staple in football for more than 100 years. 2019 will look much the same way as this will be a rebuilding year and defensive leaders and playmakers need to emerge.

In 2019 it’s all Minnesota Vikings and they will go deep in the playoffs.

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On Any Given Sunday: The Lions Historic Upset of Green Bay in 1962

Unlike any other sport, football has an ebb and flow where a wild swing of momentum can feel like a psunami for the team the tide is against. When Bert Bell, former NFL Commissioner, announced in a call with the press “On any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team.” he had to have this game in mind. Now of course he said this while he was the NFL’s head honcho in the 1950’s, he wouldn’t be around for this game in ’62 with his passing in ’59.

Well as the 1960’s beckoned change had come to the NFL. The league office moved from Philadelphia to New York after Bell’s passing with a new Commissioner in Pete Rozelle. The Colts, who had ruled the closing of the 50s with back to back championships had fallen from grace as the doormat Packers had emerged from the shadows.

Doormat?? In 1957 and 1958, which were the two years before Vince Lombardi was plucked from New York as coach, Green Bay finished 3-9 and 1-10-1 respectively. Then their  meteoric rise to a winning season in ’59 and appearance in the NFL Championship in 1960 with a 17-13 loss to the Eagles.

Lombardi’s team stormed to the ’61 title with a 37-0 win over the New York Giants establishing a new era where they became the league’s dominant team. As defending champions they stormed to a 10-0 record in the most powerful start to a season in NFL history to that point.

Considering they had outscored their opponents 309-74 which included 3 shutouts while holding 7 teams to 10 points or less. Lombardi’s men seemed destined to repeat as champion & traveled to claim their 11th consecutive victim 11 on Thanksgiving Day in the motor city.

What is lost to history is how great an era of football the Lions had enjoyed during the 1950’s. They had won back to back championships in 1952 & ’53 over the Cleveland Browns. Although they won just as many championships (3) in the decade it was the Browns who were known as the Team of the ’50’s.

Head Coach George Wilson was rebuilding the Lions after a losing season in 1959. He succeeded Buddy Parker and led the Lions to their last title in ’57 as a rookie coach yet had to start anew at quarterback. Hall of Famer Bobby Layne had been traded to Pittsburgh and bullpen ace Tobin Rote was out of football. Detroit then traded for QB Milt Plum who had been a 2nd round pick of the Cleveland Browns to lend stability to the offense in 1962.

Although they had lost earlier in the season at Lambeau 9-7, the Lions were riding a 4 game winning streak and were 8-2 heading into their annual Thanksgiving Day game which they had played in since 1934.

The 8-2 Lions hosting the 10-0 defending NFL Champion Packers in front of a national audience:

This 26-14 win by the Lions was the only blemish on what became the most powerful NFL championship season up to that time. Green Bay finished 13-1 and beat the NY Giants for a 2nd straight NFL title 16-7 in cold blustery Yankee Stadium. They had outscored their opponents 415-148 which was just short of the 144 points allowed which was the all time record defensively. They had scored the most points and given up the fewest for the season. Hall of Fame RB Jim Taylor had led the league in rushing with 1,474 yards and an NFL record 19TDs. Even the ’72 Dolphins can’t measure up to this type of dominance.

As for the ’62 Lions, they finished 11-3 with a roster featuring 6 Pro Bowl players and 4 Hall of Fame players in Dick “Night Train” Lane, MLB Joe Schmidt, FS Yale Lary, and Dick Lebeau off of the defense. Many feel DT Alex Karras and DT Roger Brown also deserve to be in Canton. This was one of the greatest defenses assembled whose legacy was derailed by Karras’ year long suspension for gambling in 1963. The Lions fell to 5-8-1 in that year and never threatened the Packers for supremacy in the NFL’s Western Conference the rest of the decade.

However on one Thanksgiving Day in front of a national audience this defense played a lights out game and derailed the Packer’s perfect season.

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Armchair Coordinator – What To Do with Khalil Mack in Week 1 v. Green Bay

For those of you new to Taylor Blitz Times we usually offer a parallel to current events with an episode from a generation or so ago. When the Raiders traded Khalil Mack to Chicago The Chancellor of Football dubbed it “The dumbest trade of a defensive player in 30 years!” To what am I referring to and what significance does it have now?

Khalil Mack tilts the field in the NFC North

Well in 1981 the San Diego Chargers were at an impasse with Pro Bowl Defensive End Fred Dean. Yes over contract issues and Dean held out and Charger Owner Gene Klein decided to trade Dean to an NFC “have not” in the San Francisco 49ers/ At that point a team that had not made the playoffs in 9 years and had never appeared in a Super Bowl. It was an attempt to punish Dean that backfired badly.

Well right before the 5th week of the NFL season in 1981 the trade was consummated and Dean was a 49er. Without any chance to prepare Dallas OT Pat Donavan was across from a defensive terrorist. Dean wound up with 3 sacks and several hurries, one of which a Ronnie Lott interception in a 45-14 win. Not bad for a team that had lost 4 straight to Dallas including a 59-14 loss just 2 seasons before. An also ran whose last chance in a championship game had been thwarted by their bully had now turned the tables.

The field tilted because of a pass rusher added late their opponents weren’t prepared for. It worked for those ’81 49ers who went on to Super Bowl XVI and Charles Haley and the ’92 Cowboys who went on to Super Bowl XXVII. Now am I saying the Bears are off to win the Super Bowl?? Time will tell and I have seen this happen beyond these two examples.

All of a sudden the 2016 Taylor Blitz Times Defensive Player of the Year & NFL Defensive Player of the Year lands in an NFC North without a Pro Bowl Tackle and you don’t think it will be an issue??

Well since the 2010 NFC Championship Game when the Packers won 23-10 in Soldier Field, Chicago is 2-12 against “The Pack” and QB Jay Cutler was laughed out of the division. All of that humiliation has to fuel this journey into Lambeau Field. They’re going to have to play a conservative game and it’s imperative they steal a few possessions in this game.

Not only do they have to find a way to get 1st round draft pick Roquan Smith on the field, they have to play their wildcard in Khalil Mack.

Mack after sacking Brady last year.

In this game its best to keep Mack from thinking and send him nearly every play after Aaron Rodgers. To ensure the Packers can’t slide the line to him, run combo blitzes from the strong side into the face of Rodgers.

One adjustment is to slide TE Jimmy Graham to chip Mack. If Graham was a good blocker he would still be in Seattle. Rodgers needs him downfield where he creates mismatches. If they keep him in it slows Green Bay’s passing game.

However in “Nickle” and “Dime” situations I would intermittently flip flop him as a pass rushing end and run those same combo blitzes. Why?? If you have watched Raider games he has rushed from both the strong and weak side.

In one of his greatest games, Mack’s Raiders gave the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers the loss that knocked them out of the playoffs. All plays from the strong side where the 2nd best Tackle is normally platooned. First a 6 yard interception for a TD to put the Raiders up 24-7. Then later when clinging to a 35-32 lead had this sack and forced fumble from the strong side to close the game out:

At some point the Bears have to get tired of being sick and tired. Its time to go attack with your new weapon. You have tilted the field and have a great pass rusher to possibly turn this game.

Many Packer fans will claim “Well Rodgers practices against Clay Matthews and this game is in Lambeau.” Yet you forget the 2015 Denver Broncos won Super Bowl L and in week 14 hosted the Oakland Raiders and guess what happened? Mack starred in a 15-12 loss when he garnered 5 sacks and kept Oakland close. A bravura performance that set him up for the accolades he received in 2016. First…with Taylor Blitz Times….then the national media who were late to the party.

Is Mack a Hall of Famer like Charles Haley and Fred Dean to whom he has been compared in this article? He is well on his way….and remember when it comes to 3-4 OLBs…. the original in Robert Brazile and Kevin Greene with the most sacks, The Chancellor has advocated and saw their inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when few thought they would.

Hall of Famer Fred Dean w/ The Chancellor in 2018.

No one gets to lay a greater claim. No one…so don’t even attempt it. However I did run into one Hall of Fame pass rusher last month in Canton.

Chicago… your mission …should you choose to accept it:

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Legend of The Fall: Max McGee

One of the most interesting arguments that persists are how many of the Green Bay Packers from the ’60s can make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?? Now if you ask Packer fans they believe they all should go. This belies the truth of the matter except when you look at the accolades many of them earned during their careers.

Max McGee only made one Pro Bowl although he played on 5 world championship teams.  Yet even when you take a look at Packer greats you would consider on the bubble, they still stack up with the contemporaries of their time.

  • Max McGee- 345 rec. 6,346 yards 50 TDs *1 Pro Bowl
  • Gary Collins – 331 rec. 5,299 yards 70 TDs *2 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros
  • Del Shofner – 349 rec. 6,470 yards 51 TD *5 Pro Bowls **5 All Pros
  • Raymond Berry – 631 rec. 9,275 yards 68 TDs *6 Pro Bowls **3 All Pros

Of course these are only his fellow NFL receivers yet look at his numbers compared to former Giant Shofner. He went over 1,000 yards on 4 occasions where Max never did. Yet over his last 4 seasons he caught 54 passes and fell off dramatically. McGee did as well with only 48 receptions his final 4 years yet career wise statistically stayed with him with a steadier career.

Now McGee didn’t score as often as Gary Collins yet he had a much higher per catch avg (18.5 yds – 16 yds) over their careers. As you can see he finished with 1,047 yards more than Collins. These men all played more than 10 seasons and played for the league or Super Bowl championship 3 times, well 2 in Collins case.

Berry’s numbers are out there and he is the only Pro Football Hall of Fame member of this group. Yet he along with Shofner played in the most pass conscience offenses of their day.  Johnny Unitas, who threw to Berry, was the 1st 3,000 yard QB and threw for a league record 32 TDs in 1962. Shofner was catching passes from Y.A. Tittle who broke Unitas touchdown record with 36 in 1963.

McGee played in a run heavy offense as the Packers swept to league titles in ’61 and ’62 yet the film coming up makes it seem as though he only had Super Bowl I. His best season was the ’61 campaign when he caught 51 passes for 883 and 7 scores. Its possible he could have made it to 1,000 yards had he played all 14 games.

When looking back on his career it was a lot more than his performance in Super Bowl I. He did catch a 35 yard bomb which was the key play in the 3rd quarter scoring drive that put Super Bowl II out of reach.

McGee had a steady career not a spectacular one. If falls short of the Pro Football Hall of Fame but he definitely had an incredible football journey.

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