What does this loss mean in the big picture? More importantly, where are the Texans in the grand scheme of things?
(Photo Caption: Let's hold on a second and look at the big picture)
First of all, in spite of Joel Dreessen's solid play and the inclusion of Kevin Walter in the passing game, the Texans miss Owen Daniels. Not only was Daniels among the league leaders at tight end in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns, he was Matt Schaub's security blanket.
Daniels had built up great chemistry with Schaub, and the two were so locked in on third downs. It was like they were able to see what the other was going to do before it happened. That is very hard to replace.
Schaub has similar chemistry and connectivity with Andre Johnson. Perhaps Schaub trusts Johnson too much, as he threw into triple coverage and hoped Andre could out-wrestle three Indy defenders for the ball. Not even the otherworldly Johnson could keep this pass from being intercepted in the first quarter.
Daniels' loss hurts in many ways. Not only is he absent from the lineup, but opposing defenses can afford to send more coverage towards Andre without fear of being burned. Other players such as Walter, Jacoby Jones, and David Anderson must step up to replace Daniels.
Second, it appears the Texans have finally found a good player at strong safety in Bernard Pollard. This Kansas City castoff is a thunderous hitter and plays with an intimidating swagger. His infectious attitude energizes the other defenders.
Not only does Pollard excel against the run, he is above average against the pass. Sure, one of his interceptions came off of Reggie Wayne, but Pollard still managed to pick off Peyton Manning.
The Texans have cycled through so many players at safety over the years and even this season. Pollard has been a godsend at the position and can help this team going forward for years to come. He was a second round pick out of Purdue in 2006, so it's not like he's long in the tooth. I hope the Texans lock him up long-term.
Third, we saw that things remain just as cloudy, if not worse, at running back. Ryan Moats started because Steve Slaton fumbled too much. Well, of course, Moats fumbled on a controversial play near the end of the second quarter. More on this later.
Adding to the uncertainty is that Slaton didn't fumble and managed to score a rushing touchdown. Still, neither player was able to generate much on the ground.
At this point, not knowing what either back will bring on a week to week basis seems like it will be the only answer for the Texans this season. Moats may get four yards on a carry by falling forward, but Slaton is more likely to create an explosive play.
Uncertainty is likely to hang over the running game for the remainder of 2009. How else can we explain the team kicking the tires on Larry Johnson, another player cut by the Chiefs?
Maybe Johnson can be productive for the Texans behind a better offensive line, but perhaps (and probably more likely) he will continue to be one of the worst teammates in the NFL and a locker room cancer.
Fourth, it's time people recognize that the Texans have a good defense. Sure, Dallas Clark caught a lot of passes, and Manning threw 40 times in the first half. But most importantly, two early drives were turned into field goals and not touchdowns. Texans defenses of years past would have given up three touchdowns and fallen behind 21-0 rather than 13-0.
The defense, and the rest of the team, did not fold when things got tough. They fought back against the undefeated Colts. I know they didn't win, and we're too far along to celebrate moral victories, but this was an effort worth celebrating. It's worth repeating: The Texans finally have a good defense.
Fifth, Gary Kubiak remains on the hot seat. A three-game winning streak was fine and dandy, but the time has come to win big games. I don't want it to sound like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, but the time to win is now, and the time to celebrate every moral victory is long gone. The Texans must either make the playoffs or come very close in order for Kubiak to keep his job, in my opinion.
Sometimes, it appears Kubiak is the man for the job. Clearly the offense is humming along. The Texans haven't looked outcoached very often this season. Also, the team is a franchise-best 5-4 and in the middle of the playoff hunt. But then again, sometimes the old ugly Kubiak comes out from wherever he was hiding.
I know you don't want to read all the grisly details, and I certainly don't want to go into them (this still hurts), but waiting for the two-minute warning and allowing the Colts more than enough time to look at replays of Moats' controversial fumble was flat-out foolish.
I almost screamed myself hoarse trying to cajole the Texans the snap the ball. Yes, some of that blame falls on the coaches in the replay booth, but Kubiak is the captain of the ship. If the Texans' ship sinks, Kubiak rides it to the bottom.
Something else Texans fans can take away from this game is that the Texans are close. Oh, man, are they close.
They had three first half turnovers on the road against the Colts and still had a chance to tie the game. Schaub led the offense on a great two-minute drill to set up the field goal. The defense created turnovers and pressured Manning.
These are all good signs. The Texans are close, but not quite all the way there. This game showed that the Colts are still the better team, but that gap has shrunk. The Texans are on their way.
Finally, even after letting another victory slip though their hands, the Texans are still in the middle of the playoff hunt in the AFC. The Texans are competing with the loser of the AFC North race (either the Bengals or Steelers), Baltimore, New York, Jacksonville and San Diego for the two wild card spots.
As of now, the Texans have a better record than the Ravens and Jets. They've beaten the Bengals. They have proved in the past capable of beating the Jaguars. Things are looking promising for Houston.
Also, the schedule looks good for the Texans. Only three road games remain, and all three are winnable. The Texans visit St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Miami. The Dolphins are the toughest opponent, but the Texans have played the run well this season. Are you concerned about Chad Henne and Ted Ginn running up points against the Texans? I didn't think so.
At home, the Texans should be able to defeat the new-look Titans and Seattle. A home game against the Colts could be another win, and a week 17 matchup with New England could easily be won if the Patriots are resting starters. (Note I said "could.")
I'm not saying the Texans are going to win the rest of their games this season, but those are all winnable games. Getting to 10-6 or 11-5 is possible.
In the big picture, the Texans are not a perfect team. They are in the playoff hunt though, and that is reason enough to celebrate.