Welcome to Six Points for Week 4, with Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen. This week we hit the Colts' brutal offensive line, remind fans not to give up on 1-3 teams, and debate Kaepernick vs. Dalton.
Indy's inability to protect Luck a predictable problem
It's easy to say it and see it now, but with Colts QB Andrew Luck out of Thursday night's game at Houston due to a sore right shoulder, Indianapolis needed to do more to build its offensive line and protect its quarterback.
Start with this: Since the Colts drafted Luck, he has been hit 90 times while attempting to throw a pass, the most of any quarterback in the league over that time.
Then there's this: Since the time Luck arrived in Indianapolis, the Colts' average annual cash value of its offensive line has been $17.2 million -- with only the Lions ($13.4 million), Bears ($15 million) and Bills ($16.2 million) spending less. And some of that money went to sign free-agent tackle Gosder Cherilus, who is no longer in Indianapolis.
And: During Luck's time in Indianapolis, the Colts have drafted only six offensive linemen -- guard Justin Anderson, center Khaled Holmes, guard Hugh Thornton, tackle John Ulrick, lineman Jack Mewhort, tackle Denzell Goode -- but none higher than the 2014 second-round pick spent on Mewhort. High picks have gone to other positions instead.
Lastly: From the time Luck was inserted as starter, the Colts have used 86 different offensive line combinations, the second-most in the NFL over that span, behind only the Panthers. By contrast, the Cowboys have used 16. Already this season alone, the Colts have used seven OL combinations. Instability has led to inefficiency and, unfortunately for Indianapolis, injury.
Indianapolis' lack of attention to its offensive line issues has brought even more attention to it now. Luck has gotten clobbered. Its offensive line has gotten outplayed. And Luck needs more time, just what this organization failed to utilize properly in the course of building a fortress in front of him.
Since Indianapolis drafted Luck, it has invested little money and few draft picks on solidifying its line and protecting its most important asset. The cost is now being felt.
QBs on historic pace
If anyone needed any more evidence that this is a passing league, just look at this year's numbers. Quarterbacks are preparing to take an eraser to the NFL record book in some notable passing categories, most notably single-season completion percentage.
Back in 2009, Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL single-season record, completing 70.62 percent of his passes.
This season, nine quarterbacks -- nine! -- have a higher completion percentage than the record Brees set six seasons ago.
The league's highest completion percentage belongs to Dallas' Brandon Weeden, who has to continue playing well to keep his job despite the fact that he has completed 76.3 percent of his 59 passing attempts.
Other quarterbacks tracking to shatter Brees' single-season completion percentage record include Ben Roethlisberger at 75.3 percent, Tony Romo at 75 percent, Aaron Rodgers at 72.4 percent, Tom Brady at 72.2 percent, Tyrod Taylor at 71.7 percent and Philip Rivers at 70.7 percent.
Part of the reason for this success is that the NFL has tailored the rules to favor passing attacks. It also helps that coaches are smart enough to engineer ball-control passing attacks. And some of the names at the top of the list are so talented and so experienced, they're bound to succeed. The only question is to what extent. And the extent so far is unprecedented.
No doubt these percentages will be tougher to keep up as the season goes on, the weathers turns cold, and their bodies ache more. But for now, we are witnessing a greater percentage of completions than we ever have in NFL history.
Why the sky isn't falling for teams in a hole
What last season taught us, as much as anything else, is that sometimes when it seems the sky is falling one-quarter of the way into the season, it is not.
At this time last year, Kansas City crushed New England, quarterback Tom Brady completed 14-of-23 passes for one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss, the Patriots' record dropped to 2-2, and the questions that seem so laughable now began to surface.
At this very time last season, reporters actually asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick whether Brady was too old and whether there was enough talent surrounding him.
To each combative and controversial question, Bill Belichick responded quickly and succinctly, "We're on to Cincinnati."
Others coaches have adopted similar messages during their own crises, pointing out to reporters that they're on to whatever team is next on the schedule. But there is a bigger point that should provide hope for any 2-2 team -- such as Pittsburgh, which lost a game in part because of missed kicks, or Buffalo, which just got its doors blown off at home in a tough loss to the New York Giants.
The Patriots were 2-2 last season before winning 10 of their next 12 games, clinching the AFC's No. 1 seed, and going on to win the Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks were hit by controversy last season during a week in which they traded wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Jets and subsequently lost their next game to QB Austin Davis and the Rams to fall to 3-3. Seattle went on to host and win the NFC Championship Game before losing to the onetime 2-2 Patriots in the Super Bowl.
So the season is not a sprint, but a marathon. Any 2-2 or 1-3 team can take solace and know that plenty of others have struggled before them only to turn it around when it mattered most.
This week, only Seattle is on to Cincinnati. But other teams are on to their next game ... and their chance to prove the sky isn't falling while replicating what the Patriots and Seahawks accomplished last season.
Did Dolphins err in letting defensive line coach go?
When the Dolphins invested $60 million of fully guaranteed money in Ndamukong Suh, perhaps they should have regretted making a $500,000 decision two months earlier.
It January, coach Joe Philbin decided to "do the right thing" when he allowed defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers to escape his estimated $500,000 per year contract to take a job as the New York Jets' defensive coordinator, reuniting him with new Jets head coach Todd Bowles. The two previously worked together in Miami and Dallas.
Although it's difficult to argue with Philbin's decision to let Rodgers out of his contract, it is not standard operating procedure. Coaches under contract are not given an automatic pass to take a promotion with another NFL team unless it is for a head-coaching position. The Buccaneers frustrated defensive line coach Rod Marinelli repeatedly by not allowing him to talk to teams that wanted him as a defensive coordinator. In turn, Tampa did its best by Marinelli by paying him more money and providing him with an assistant head coach title. Examples like this can be found across the NFL.
Who's to say Rodgers would have made a difference for the Dolphins? But despite the offseason gain of Suh (six years, $114 million), the loss of a $500,000 assistant coach might have had a greater impact on the team. Philbin played the nice guy role, but you know what they say about nice guys. Now Rodgers is one step closer to being a head coach, and Philbin is no longer one after four games this season.
Years later, fans still debating Kaepernick vs. Dalton
Dalton's career is on an emphatic ascent. He has led the Bengals to a 4-0 start and is averaging 10-plus yards per passing attempt. That puts him in elite company -- Kurt Warner (1999, 2000), Phil Simms (1989), Roger Staubach (1976) and Fran Tarkenton (1968).
Meanwhile, Kaepernick has just two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown during the 49ers' 1-3 start, and those scoring plays all came when the 49ers were trailing by 25-plus points.
It can't all be blamed on the 49ers' decision to jettison Jim Harbaugh, even as Harbaugh proves his mettle again with Michigan. Kaepernick had been on a decline before this season.
Yet Harbaugh said he ranked Kaepernick as the best quarterback of the 2011 draft, which also produced first-round picks Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder. Other than Newton, it was easy to buy into Harbaugh's assessment.
The second round of the '11 draft is what spurs revisionist history. In NFL circles, it was fairly speculated that 49ers GM Trent Baalke preferred Dalton over Kaepernick and was prepared to trade near the top of the second round to get a quarterback. It would have been more convenient if the Titans, Jaguars or Vikings had selected Dalton much higher in the first round, eliminating any debate now. But Dalton slid into the second round. Kaepernick was there, too, as projected.
Baalke did what a good GM does; he gave his new head coach the quarterback of his choice. When Dalton was selected 35th by the Bengals, Baalke made his move and traded with the Broncos into the 36th slot to choose Kaepernick.
Then again, Kaepernick has played in a Super Bowl. Until Dalton does, some Bengals fans still won't be satisfied.
This time around, family comes to Mariota
Whenever Marcus Mariota got a break at Oregon, he seldom hesitated to take a five-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to his home in Honolulu.
Family is core for Mariota. Family is still core for the Titans quarterback. An introvert to some, he is never shy to acknowledge his closeness to his father, Toa, and mother, Alana.
Only it's Dad and Mom who are traveling now. Last week during the Titans' bye week, Toa and Alana spent another week in Nashville with Mariota.
Somewhat refreshingly, Mariota admitted he wasn't totally immersed in his tablet playbook during his off time. Instead, he admitted he hung out with his parents, his girlfriend and his couch, watching college football.