Colts vs. Texans: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Houston
The Indianapolis Colts fought valiantly, but the Houston Texans prevailed with a gritty, ugly win, 29-17. Houston has clinched the AFC South and appears to be back on track after last week's debacle in New England.
Andre Johnson and Arian Foster carried Houston's offense. Colts rookie signal-caller Andrew Luck gave the Texans defense a scare, but the unit managed to slam the door shut on Indy in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Here's a look at the final report card and player grades for today's game.
Matt Schaub: B+
Despite being put in awkward situations by the offensive game plan, Schaub had another solid day for the Texans. The 52-yard completion to Andre Johnson on the second play of the game set the tone for Houston's passing attack. Schaub hit his receivers on all levels of the defense all game. He trusted his targets even when they appeared to be covered (see Owen Daniels' catches).
The Texans offensive line was uncharacteristically poor in pass protection. Too often Houston's quarterback was hit hard, but he managed to secure the ball and live for another down. The toughness Schaub showed in this game was impressive to say the least.
Arian Foster: A
Foster's 165 yards rushing on 27 carries is impressive. But what was most impressive about his performance was the clutch yardage he ate up in the fourth quarter. Often Foster found yardage that wasn't even meant to be blocked for. Having the intelligence to consistently stay in bounds on runs to juice the clock was key to Houston winning the game. Enough can't be said about Foster's performance.
Ben Tate: C-
It's probably cruel to grade a runner who only received five carries. His grade of C- stems from his tendency to bounce his few runs outside. Tate is in the game to pound the defense. He's missed a ton of games this year, so that's likely on his mind when running to the sidelines. Tate is a much better runner when he's running aggressively.
James Casey: C+
He's usually more of a presence in the passing game, but Casey still turned in a solid performance against Indy. His presence on the field is vital for the Texans' offensive disguise. Even when he's not making catches, he's making an impact on the opposing team's game plan. His run-blocking wasn't spectacular today, but it got the job done.
Andre Johnson: A++
Anyone who thinks Andre Johnson has lost a step isn't watching the games. The Texans wouldn't have won this game without Andre Johnson. His 11 catches for 151 yards were essentially the Texans' entire big-play passing game. He made a variety of circus-like grabs that extended drives at crucial times. Whenever the Texans needed a big play, Andre Johnson delivered it.
Kevin Walter: C+
Walter wasn't involved in the passing game much at all. He caught the two balls thrown to him for 11 yards and wasn't heard from other than that. Walter is always solid as a run-blocker, which often goes unnoticed. He doesn't need to catch a ton of balls to be a factor on the offense.
DeVier Posey: A
It's official: Posey has passed Keshawn Martin on the wide receiver depth chart. He may even be stealing snaps from Lestar Jean going forward. Posey had his coming out party as a Houston Texan. His 36-yard reception late in the game gave Houston's offense life. Posey also made an impact in the running game. On Foster's biggest run in the fourth quarter, Posey was 30 yards down field throwing blocks on defensive backs. He's someone to watch out for.
Owen Daniels: B+
No one gives Owen Daniels enough credit, and it's starting to become an absolute travesty. Houston's No.1 tight end goes out and makes acrobatic catches almost every game. OD has a ridiculous catch radius that allows him to haul in passes even when the coverage is tight. His strength in traffic allows him to break tackles and secure the ball. He's also a big part of Houston's ability to run the ball outside. Today's game was another example of how important he is to Houston's offense. It seems every catch he makes is crucial to moving the chains.
Garrett Graham: Incomplete
Graham returned to the offense after missing a game, and it was clear the staff wanted to ease him back slowly. He didn't register a catch on two targets. He wasn't used in the running game as often as he normally is.
Duane Brown: C-
Dwight Freeney was absolutely abusing Brown at times during this game. This was one of Brown's worst games in quite some time. Freeney has given him trouble in the past, so it's not a complete surprise. Brown was solid in the running game as always, which kept his grade from being lower.
Wade Smith: C-
The entire offensive line struggled out of the gate in this contest, and Smith was at the center of most of it. He was hit with penalties and struggled against basic bull rushes. Smith was unable to engage from initial blocks and get to the second level. Antonio Johnson gave him fits in the first half. Smith's play improved greatly in the second half, and he looked like his normal self when the Texans were running it effectively in the fourth quarter.
Chris Myers: C+
Myers wasn't as bad as Brown or Smith, but he also struggled at times. The Colts defensive line was stout against Houston's interior offensive line. Like Smith, Myers struggled to win at the line of scrimmage early on. His play also greatly improved in the second half.
Ben Jones: B+
For a player who has struggled mightily in recent games, Jones had a much-needed bounce-back performance. He was the most consistent Texans offensive lineman in the running game. He was much cleaner in pass protection, which has been his biggest issue lately. If Jones can build on a game like this, Houston's running game will benefit.
Derek Newton: B-
There were times when Newton could've set a harder edge in the running game, but for the most part he was solid when he was in. He's still in a rotation with Ryan Harris, but his snaps were clearly the better ones in this game. Houston's offensive game plan didn't put him in the best position at times, and he still managed to play effectively.
Ryan Harris: C-
When Harris was on the field, he struggled to move many Colts defenders. No one will confuse Harris for being a legitimate right tackle in the NFL. He's out there to spell Newton. Less snaps equals a better performance for Newton at this point, so Harris will continue to play.
J.J. Watt: A+
It was just another stellar day at the office for Watt. The biggest question is whether Watt was a bigger factor in the passing or running game. He gave the Colts trouble on nearly every down. His three sacks in the game now give him 19.5 on the year. Simply put, this man is ridiculous.
Antonio Smith: B+
The Ninja gave Watt plenty of help in this game. Smith is clearly the Texans' second-best pass-rusher. His combination of quickness and strength was unstoppable at times during this matchup. The best part of Smith's game is the level of intensity he plays with. Indy's guards had no answer for him when pass-blocking.
Earl Mitchell: B-
For a player who usually struggles in the running game, Mitchell was better in this phase of the game. He's never going to be an overly stout run defender, but he does use his quick-twitch and motor to get to the ball. He stuffed a few run plays from the nose tackle position doing just this.
Shaun Cody: C
Cody wasn't heard from in this game. He was out there, but he's still clearly not 100 percent. Houston's run defense needs him to get back to being his normal self.
Connor Barwin: B-
Fans should be especially happy to see Barwin finally have a game to be proud of. Houston's strongside linebacker was stout against the run, outside of one missed tackle in the third quarter. He also got home on a sack, which was all due to second effort. Barwin has had somewhat of a rough season, so hopefully this game will give him a positive boost going forward.
Whitney Mercilus: C-
Houston's first-round pick is playing like a rookie. He's soft in the running game, and he's not consistently putting pressure on the quarterback. Too often Mercilus doesn't take advantage of one-on-one matchups with tight ends. He wasn't much of a factor in any phase of the game today. He was able to get into the backfield a few times, but it was well after other Texans had gotten there first.
Bradie James: C+
For James, this was actually one of his better games as a Texan. He helped bust a few of Indy's protections on blitzes. His run defense will never be great, and it showed again today. He struggles when anyone gets their hands on him. At this point, the Texans have to take what they can get from James.
Tim Dobbins: C+
The Colts shocked the Texans when they came out with a run-heavy offensive attack in the second half. Houston's inside linebackers had difficulty adjusting. Dobbins is what he is: a solid linebacker who usually won't make mistakes. He's had better games as a Texan.
Johnathan Joseph: B-
Houston's No. 1 cornerback did a solid job when asked to cover Reggie Wayne. Fans shouldn't forget how productive Indy's No. 1 receiver has been this year, and he was relatively quiet in this one. Joseph took some bad angles when tackling, but he's paid the big bucks to cover, so we'll forgive him for that.
Kareem Jackson: B-
The Texans have two above-average corners now. Kareem has established himself as a quality cornerback with his play this year. It continued against the Colts this week. He's playing with confidence now, and it's been the difference for him. He even chipped in with a few big hits on Colts receivers. Hits like that can change the way receivers run routes the rest of the game. Jackson is playing very well right now.
Brandon Harris: D
Since being used as the slot corner, Harris has struggled. He doesn't look entirely comfortable on the field yet. He's essentially a rookie right now, even though he's in his second year. Harris was picked on in this game, and it hurt the defense. When asked to blitz, he was walled off by the running back. The Texans need better play from their nickel corner going forward.
Danieal Manning: D+
Both of Houston's safeties turned in poor performances against Indy. It was surprising given how well this tandem has played this year. Manning was beat on too many intermediate and deep passes. He usually gets himself in better position to make plays, but today he struggled. He didn't deliver the usual jarring hits on receivers he's known for.
Glover Quin: C-
Quin wasn't terrible in this game, but he's had better performances than this. Most of his issues came when he was playing in the box. It was unusual because he's usually a better playmaker the closer he is to the line of scrimmage. He had a crucial pass breakup on Reggie Wayne late in the game that gave the team a huge boost.
Quintin Demps: D
It's hard to understand, but Demps' play has been on a downward spiral for weeks now. He was beat deep by rookie T.Y. Hilton for a 61-yard touchdown just before the half. It allowed Indy to get back in the game, down just 10 at that point. It also set Indy up to pound it on the Texans to open the second half. It just shows how one crucial mistake in coverage can affect the rest of the game.
Bryan Braman: A+
The biggest play of the game was Braman's blocked punt, which he returned for a touchdown. Braman snuck around the edge of the protection and made the biggest special teams play of the year for Houston. He was also a factor on several special teams tackles. The Texans special teams warrior helped the team clinch the division today.
Shayne Graham: B
If it weren't for a missed field goal before the half, Graham would've had one of his best games this season. His field goal to push the score to 26-17 late in the game was huge. It made it a two-score game, and Indy was forced to throw it at that point.
Donnie Jones: B-
Jones did his best work in the second quarter when the Texans were severely losing the field-position battle. The ball was in Houston's territory for much of the quarter, and Jones kept booting it out when he was asked to.
Keshawn Martin: Incomplete
There weren't enough return opportunities to grade Martin. He remains a pretty decent threat for the Texans on returns.
Gary Kubiak: C-
The initial offensive game plan for the Texans was baffling. The running game was slow to start as usual. Kubiak called more failed play-action bootlegs in this game than he has all year. Credit should be given to the Colts for playing it well, but the calls came at odd times.
One play-action bootleg exposed Matt Schaub to a big hit from Robert Mathis. Another set up a blitzing defensive back to hit Schaub. Normally the offensive staff does a superb job of keeping Schaub clean, but today they didn't.
The staff righted their wrongs in the fourth quarter with great play-calling. The running game got going, and Houston ran off with their 12th win of the season.
Wade Phillips: B-
The terrible run defense shouldn't be attributed to Wade. Houston's front seven has to play stouter and more disciplined. The players are in position to make plays, so fans shouldn't put those struggles on Wade.
Credit Houston's defensive coordinator for drawing up one of the better game plans against Luck this year. The Colts did get the big-play touchdown in the first half, but Indy has one of the best big-play offenses in the NFL. The game plan was well-designed for containing that explosive passing attack.