Watching the Jaguars run all over the Colts on their way to a 44-17 win, you can't help but wonder if Indianapolis is looking at another early playoff exit. Jacksonville pretty much laid out a blueprint on how to beat the Colts, and if they are going to avoid getting eliminated early again they are going to have to improve in a number of areas.
• Tackle the ballcarrier: The Colts have to do a much better job tackling. A number of missed tackles against the Jaguars turned what would have been short gains into 15- to 20-yard plays. Their tackling has been very sloppy.
• Occupy blockers: The Colts have to start forcing opposing offensive linemen to account for the four defensive linemen before they go after the linebackers. Right now, teams feel like they can single block all four of the Colts defensive linemen, allowing two or three blockers (including the tight ends) to go directly after the linebackers.
• Play responsibly: If the Colts are going to continue to have their defensive linemen shoot gaps and pursue the ball, rather than meet blockers head on, they need to make sure everyone plays his responsibility. It just takes one defender attacking the wrong gap to open up a running lane.
• Build an early lead: The Tampa 2 defense Tony Dungy runs in Indianapolis is predicated on his offense's ability to strike early and often, forcing opponents to play from behind with a lot of passes. When opponents play with a lead, they can keep the ball on the ground, burning clock time and lessening the chances of a turnover. The Colts need to build an early lead, then tighten the screws.
• Health class: Finally, the Colts need to get healthy. There is some question as to just how healthy defensive end Dwight Freeney has been all season. He started the season with a pulled groin muscle that severely limited him, and it doesn't seem like he has been completely healthy since. It is very hard to push off for your first step when you have groin problems. Safety Bob Sanders also has struggled with injuries, missing nine games this season. He's a big part of their run defense.
Doug Kretz spent 24 seasons as a scout with four NFL teams, 19 of them with the Seattle Seahawks. He scouts the AFC South for Scouts Inc.