Today’s Colts Notebook comes to you live from 9398 Bring the Heat Blvd, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out what on earth that means. We’ll look at how the Texans’ coach is catching some heat despite being extremely successful this season. Also on tap, Mathis and Wayne’s leap of faith, Luck in a snowstorm, and something about a bell cow. It's Notebook time.
Behind Enemy Lines: Are the Texans Too Conservative on Offense?
Despite their success, both the Colts and Texans have taken some heat this season for how they run their offenses. However, the reasoning for each couldn't be more different. For as much as Colts Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians and Quarterback Andrew Luck have been questioned for what is perceived as a hyper-aggressive passing attack, Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak has taken criticism for being very conservative and maybe even a little old-fashioned on offense.
Much of the criticism of the Colts offensive philosophy centers on how it exposes one of their weaknesses, the offensive line. Should their pass protection improve, it is hard to imagine fans continuing to clamor for more short drops, check downs, and quick passes (see: almost every pass by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady). With elite offensive line play and another year under Luck’s belt, the Colts’ offense should hum along rather nicely.
The Texans, on the other hand, already have elite offensive line play. They can buy quarterback Matt Schaub the extra second or so he needs to take a shot downfield, but they can also physically dominate in the run game. Their philosophy is to be physical: run, run, run, demoralize the opponent, and then throw to a wide-open Andre Johnson.
While their run first approach has helped the Texans to 12-3 with the 6th ranked scoring offense in the NFL, Gary Kubiak has been under some fire for his conservative play calling, such as running a draw on 3rd and long with the lead two weeks ago against the Colts.
When asked if he’d rather see some more big plays, Kubiak defended himself and his offense, saying, “I think we have been explosive. I disagree with you. I think we can do everything. We want to be physical. We want to run the ball. I think that’s important to winning in this league consistently. If we’ve got to line up and throw it a ton we can do that. We won games this year, Jacksonville, Detroit, throwing it all over the yard. I feel like we can win any way we have to win, but I think from a consistency standpoint it’s important that our team plays physical.”
Most Colts fans would agree that the Texans offense is sufficiently explosive after watching them two weeks ago. The Colts defense has a very difficult task ahead of them, especially coming off their struggles against the normally no-so-explosive Chiefs. Houston running back Arian Foster must be a little giddy preparing to play against a defense that just gave up 351 yards on the ground.
Having played them so recently though, the Colts have a good idea of what to expect. “Yeah, stretch left, stretch right, play action, bootleg,” Robert Mathis said of the high-scoring Texans. “They have a lot to play for and we have a lot to play for as well.” The Texans’ offense may really be that simple to run, but stopping them has proven to be much more complicated, conservative or not.
A New Appreciation For Mathis and Wayne
Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are both long-term fixtures with the Colts, and both re-signed at a discount in the offseason when uncertainty still swirled around the team. For each, their leap of faith has paid off. The expectations many had for the 2012 Colts were to put forth a valiant but futile effort through another rough season, possibly win as many as four to six games, and to establish some hope for the future. That is not the type of situation that brings quality veterans rushing back to re-sign.
Nevertheless, here they both are, 10-5, and headed to the playoffs, and the Pro Bowl. Wayne and Mathis didn’t just come back to contribute a little during a dismal rebuild. They came back to help this team drag its gutted roster into the playoffs. It sounded silly at the beginning of the season, but nobody’s laughing now.
Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky, discussing what has stood out about Mathis this year, said, “The best thing about it was the guy knows football and I’ll tell you he took his job and profession like he was a rookie, a young guy. He was just sucking up as much information as he could. It was just great to see him have success out in the field like he does each and every week.”
Andrew Luck was asked whether the Colts offense could be where they are right now without Reggie Wayne, and broke out a very Texas-sounding reference. “Absolutely not. I guess I don’t know but everything in me says, ‘No.’ Offensively, he’s our leader. He’s our guy. We go through him, not just on the field but also how to operate, how to be a professional. He’s sort of our bell cow.” That’s the lead cow, folks. Reggie is the lead cow in this offense.
Their Pro Bowl numbers this year, 30 tackles, 8 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception for Mathis, and 102 catches for 1,315 yards and 5 touchdowns for Wayne, illustrate the fact that they were each capable of contributing and winning just about anywhere. They both chose to come back to Indianapolis, and the Colts and their fans are very thankful that they did.
A Few Good Quotes: Bring the Heat Boulevard
Dwight Freeney on whether he wants to be back next year: “Absolutely. I’m kind of old school in a way. Back in the day where you couldn’t leave a team, that’s pretty much where you were and that’s what you were known as. This is all I’ve ever known, this city, these people, these fans and hopefully I can be a horseshoe again this offseason.”
When a veteran player doesn’t want to come back, it often shows itself in the vagueness of his answer to this question. Freeney didn’t blink. It’s hard to imagine him being back without a large and willful reduction in salary, but stranger things have happened with the Colts.
Mathis on possibility that he and Freeney could be playing their last home game together: “He’s been here 11 years. We’ve been playing together 10 years so that speaks for itself. It’s almost like we formed a brotherhood. It’s deeper than just a teammate. We call it ‘9398 Bring the Heat Boulevard.’ We kind of coined that term so we want to keep it going as long as we can. Came in pretty much together and in a perfect world, we’d go out together.”
Luck on driving in the snowstorm: “I think it was my second experience driving in snow. I’m just glad I have four-wheel drive. I took it slow, left early so I made sure I got here in plenty of time.” Welcome to Indiana, Andrew. Don’t worry; we don’t usually get that much snow at once.
All quotes came from the Indianapolis Colts PR Department except for Texans Coach Gary Kubiak’s, which came from Texans Public Relations.
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