Colts vs. Texans: Takeaways from Indianapolis' Win over Houston
Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton were the stars of the show in the comeback, hooking up for all three of the Colts' touchdowns.
Houston fans will go to bed blaming Randy Bullock, who was 1-for-4 in field-goal attempts on the day, including a 55-yard attempt as time expired that was wide left. But Houston is also anxiously awaiting news on Gary Kubiak, who collapsed just before halftime on the sidelines.
Kubiak reportedly did not have a heart attack, but more information is not currently available.
When it comes to football, it seems that the Colts now have the division firmly in their grasp. With a big comeback win over the former divisional champions on the road, the Colts now have the kind of win that clinches divisional titles on their 2013 resume.
No Quit, Just Grit for Indianapolis
If any day was a day for cliches and buzzwords while covering the Colts, it was today.
The Colts came back for the 10th game-winning drive of Andrew Luck's career, but it was a total team effort. No matter how bad it looked for Indianapolis, the team kept stepping up, one player at a time.
Maybe it was Coby Fleener, who has struggled with drops throughout his short career, catching a leaping, twisting grab over two defenders. Maybe it was T.Y. Hilton or Griff Whalen, who both had poor drops in the first half, taking over when the Colts desperately needed production (Hilton had three touchdowns while Whalen had a critical third-down conversion).
The running backs and offensive line had similar stories. Trent Richardson ran for just 20 yards on eight carries, but caught two passes for 33 yards, including a 24-yard screen pass on the go-ahead touchdown drive. Donald Brown had a bad third-down drop in the passing game, but ran for 49 yards on six carries.
Of course, the offensive line played a big role as well, improving greatly in pass protection in the second half.
No matter what hit them, the Colts kept coming back.
It must be all the grit. Or something like that.
Power-Running Still Ineffective, Backs Find Success in Space
Who would have guessed that the Colts would have some troubles running behind their horrific interior line?
The Colts' attempts to power run and be a physical, run-first team fell flat once again, as the Colts simply couldn't find any space between the tackles. They did find room elsewhere: Donald Brown was able to find some success in outside runs and draws, while Richardson was actually running well before he was forced to run for a one-yard gain behind a fullback.
Late in the game, the Colts drove 52-yards for the game-winning touchdown, including a 24-yard catch-and-run from Richardson.
First-Half Struggles Lead to 21-3 Halftime Deficit
Yes, the Colts bounced back, but it was their ineffective play on all three units in the first half that led to the big deficit in the first half.
Defensively, Andre Johnson couldn't have been handled worse, as Johnson caught seven passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The Colts handled Johnson better in the second half, but he beat just about every Colt at some point or another in the first half.
On offense, the Colts could not move the ball one bit. They got in position to score two field goals, but were 0-for-6 on third down and had been outgained by nearly 200 yards. Luck looked extremely uncomfortable as the Colts' offensive line was beat senseless in the first half. Luck's internal clock shortened, and he be began missing throws as well.
Even special teams got in on the ineptitude parade, getting a field goal blocked and nearly getting a punt blocked in the first half.
Andrew Luck Turns It on When It Counts
Andrew Luck, as previously mentioned, was not very good through most of this game. He was just 3-of-12 in the first half for 56 yards. He was sailing passes, failing to go through his reads and couldn't move the ball.
But the great thing about Luck is that no moment is too big, no game out of reach, no matter what happened earlier in the game. Luck came to the second half ready to play, and finished 18-of-40 for 271 yards, three touchdowns and zero picks (a passer rating of 92.8).
Luck was especially good in the fourth quarter, when he went 6-of-8 for 119 yards and two touchdowns, as well as completing a two-point conversion.
It all started up front, where the Colts improved tremendously in the second half. The extra time gave Luck a chance to actually make his reads and step into his throws, which paid off immensely.
T.Y. Hilton Steps Up in Reggie Wayne's Absence
Who was going to step up in Reggie Wayne's place after his injury?
That was the big question going into the second half of the season.
Well, T.Y. Hilton went a long way in answering that question on Sunday night, catching seven passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns.
Hilton caught long passes (like the 58-yard bomb that brought the Colts within one score early in the fourth quarter), short passes (like the Colts' first touchdown) and was active after the catch (like the third touchdown, where Hilton made a fantastic move on a Houston defender to squirt by and score the go-ahead touchdown).
Yes, Hilton had a poor drop early in the game that stalled the Colts offense, but he more than made up for it in the second half. If he's going to continue to make plays like this, the Colts offense won't miss a beat.
Robert Mathis Struggles, but Colts Pressure Case Keenum Late
Robert Mathis had been held without a sack in just one game prior to this week. Against Houston, Mathis couldn't get anywhere near the quarterback.
LT Duane Brown did a number on Mathis, dominating him in all phases of the game. Mathis struggled to read the zone read by Case Keenum and was fooled several times.
The Colts' inability to get to Keenum was a big reason why he was so successful in the first half, but they cooked up a few stunts to pressure him in the second half, and the Texans only scored three points because of it.
Pat Angerer was one of the few to get to Keenum, as was Erik Walden, who got the only official sack of the day for Indianapolis.
Pat McAfee Is a Football Player, Not a Punter
Pat McAfee is one of the most athletic punters in the NFL and isn't afraid to mix it up with other players on the field. It's one of the reasons why he's so beloved in Indianapolis. Last week McAfee rocked Trindon Holliday on the sideline, this week McAfee was even more impressive.
McAfee put on his best Houdini impression in the first half, avoiding defenders and getting off a miraculous punt after dropping the snap. The punt didn't count, as there was an ineligible man downfield, but had McAfee not gotten the punt off, the Texans could have declined the penalty and gotten the ball in even better field position.
Adding to that, McAfee also added a touchdown-saving tackle on the Texans' blocked field goal and jumped in to try to recover a fumble on one of the Colts' kickoffs in the first half.
Colts Coaching a Mixed Bag... Again
Let's do this point by point, shall we?
Positive: The Colts smartly ditched the running game in the second half, running the ball just one time before the Colts' final drive. After not scoring a touchdown in the first half, the Colts scored 24 points on five drives in the second half.
Pagano also made the correct call to go for two after Indianapolis' first touchdown, despite Al Michaels' protests. The Colts would need a two-point conversion at some point no matter what, and it was to the Colts' advantage to know earlier what they needed.
Negative: It took the Colts too long—again—to realize that the power-run game wasn't going to work. They still have too conservative of a philosophy, best illustrated by the final drive.
The Colts needed one first down to clinch the win, but ran the ball up the middle three straight times and then punted the ball. On third down, the Colts just needed to run some kind of bootleg, where Luck had the choice to throw the ball if he saw someone open or keep it and go down in bounds to keep the clock moving.
It was a simple call, but instead the Colts ran a draw, something that happens on third-and-long far too often under Pep Hamilton.