Since their 39-33 win over the Broncos at home, the Colts have endured some brutal first halves, particularly on offense. Three times now, they’ve bounced back for an exciting win. Just as often, however, those rocky first halves have been too much to overcome. Even last Sunday’s offensive fireworks weren’t enough after spotting the Bengals a 14-point lead early on.
One major area Pep Hamilton and the offense want to improve upon this week is their third down success rate. The Colts only converted 3/14 third downs in their 8-point win over the Titans on December 1, and went 0 for 6 in the first half at Cincinnati before lighting up the scoreboard in the second.
According to Hamilton, “0-for-6 in the first half of the Cincinnati game was completely unacceptable and I got to do a better job of finding ways to create matchups that are in our favor.”
A couple of the bright spots from last week were previously seldom-used backup wide receivers LaVon Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers. Hamilton said he expects Brazill, who showed up with a walking boot on at practice this week, to be ready to play this Sunday.
Hamilton also said what Rogers was able to do last week is something he wants to see more of. “It was exciting to see a young guy step in and make plays for us, in particular, make big plays,” Hamilton said of Rogers. “He caught a four or five-yard pass and it resulted in a long touchdown and we need more of that in our offense. So we’re excited about Da’Rick and what he can offer us moving forward.”
Defense Wants to Shut Down the Big Plays
During their 3-3 stretch since their win over the Broncos, the Colts have given up an average of 29 points per game. The defense that came to the rescue against the Titans and in a couple fourth quarters is looking to find a way to limit the big offensive plays that have plagued them lately.
Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky wants improvement in communication and staying on assignments. “We got to make sure that we cover the guys we’re supposed to cover,” he said. “Sometimes we didn’t. We got some stack situations where some guys were left free. We can’t do that. We got to make sure that communication is always the most important thing. It’s vital.”
One of those important coverage assignments for Indy’s defense will be 10-year veteran receiver Andre Johnson. Johnson, who tends to have some of his best games against the Colts, torched Indianapolis in their last meeting for 9 catches, 229 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Manusky indicated that the Texans’ star might not be isolated on a single cornerback very much this time around. “Talented receiver,” he said of Johnson. “You got to put some roll coverage on him. You got to make sure that you double him in certain situations. Good football player. He’s got a lot of catches. It’s still a good football team that we’re facing this week.” Double-team Andre Johnson? Sounds like a plan.
The Texans have some weapons on offense, but taking away Johnson, making quarterback Case Keenum go through his progressions would go a long way toward making it a good day for the Colts defense.
LaVon Brazill on expecting to play despite not practicing all week: “Oh yeah. I definitely feel pretty confident. I’m just waiting on the trainers and what the coach is going to say.” The Colts only have four receivers and didn’t elevate anyone from the practice squad (or sign Dieon Branch) this week, which likely means they are very confident Brazill will play.
Pep Hamilton on Da’Rick Rogers: Well, his receivers coach, Charlie Williams, has done a great job of putting in the extra time with Da’Rick. They’ve had somewhat of a regimented schedule above and beyond the typical player weekly schedule. And I think it paid tremendous dividends on Sunday.”
Vance Joseph, Texans DB coach and interim defensive play caller, on facing the Colts offense: “It’s challenge. It’s a multiple offense. They run the ball well. They throw it well. The quarterback is amazing. He’s a very smart guy. You can’t trick him. It takes solid football to beat that guy.”
Texans DE Antonio Smith on playing in Indianapolis, where the Texans have never won: “I do not know. I don’t know if it’s a special something or one specific thing. We just have not been able to pull a win out of there.”
Here’s hoping the that sentiment remains. Prediction: Colts win ugly but do so by two scores. How about 24-13?
Colts Notebook: Looking for Improvement against the Texans