Well, it was a nightmare, then it was just uncomfortable, and then it was elation.
Welcome to the Luck/Pagano/Grigson-era Colts!
In one of the most frustrating halves in Andrew Luck's career, the Colts struggled to move the ball, score and stop the other team, all things that are semi-important in the NFL. Luck completed just 3 of 12 passes in the first half for 56 yards, and was sacked three times as the offensive line decided to invite J.J. Watt in for tea and biscuits.
The receivers weren't helping anything, with just about everyone (T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Griff Whalen, Donald Brown, and Trent Richardson all were culprits) dropping a Luck pass at one point or another. Defensively the Colts seemed completely surprised by Case Keenum's athletic ability and downfield accuracy. Oh, and Andre Johnson? Even though he has over 100 catches and 1500 yards against the Colts in his career (more than double anybody else over that time), the Colts tried to single-cover him.
It didn't work.
So, the Colts went into halftime down 21-3. They left Houston with a 27-24 win and a two-game lead in the AFC South.
How did they do it? We have all the GIFs to explain it!
It started off with a bang, as the Colts came out in a heavy-run set, and just about every Houston defensive back got caught in the middle of the field, leaving Coby Fleener wide open in the middle of the field.
That would pretty much be the most effective the offense would be for the rest of the first half, as the Colts struggled to get first downs. The biggest culprit for the stall was the offensive line breakdowns and drops by Luck's targets, like this one from Hilton.
Well, if the drops and interior line suckitude was good for anything, it's that it allowed us to see this dismal yet amazing play by Pat McAfee.
McAfee dropping the ball was a poor mistake for the veteran punter, but his athletic ability to still get the punt off was jaw-dropping. And this punt? It would be downed inside the Texans' 20. Now, it didn't count because of a penalty (caused by the whole dropping-the-ball fiasco), but it still was a great showcase of athleticism.
Now, on the make-up punt, McAfee gets run into by the Houston player attempting to block the kick. You can clearly see that the ball is not touched, and the play should have resulted in a Roughing the Kicker penalty.
Really, it's a scary play for McAfee, who could have been seriously hurt.
It looks like it would have hurt me, anyway.
Now, the officials reportedly told Pagano that he couldn't challenge this play, but it actually is a reviewable play. The Colts should have gotten the ball back here, and if the officials really did tell that to Pagano, it's a huge oversight.
Of course, the Colts won so I can't complain too much.
There wasn't much else in the first half of note, outside of the Colts' only sack on the day, brought to you by Erik Walden, who had a nice game overall. On this particular play, you'll notice that Walden doesn't actually get any pressure on his initial rush, but when Keenum leaves the pocket Walden does a nice job of tracking him down. Keenum avoided defenders outside of the pocket with ease for most of the day, so for Walden to take him down for a 10-yard loss on this play (making a field goal much harder — it was missed) was impressive.
The Colts finally found the end zone in the third quarter thanks to drive-extending personal foul by Houston LB Darryl Sharpton, who hits Luck as he is going out of bounds.
That occurred on third down, but the Colts picked up a fresh set of downs on the play, and would find the end zone a few plays later on a play that was very similar to Reggie Wayne's touchdown against Oakland in Week 1 (H/T Greg Cowan).
On both plays, the outside receiver runs a short (4-5 yards) in route, while the slot receiver (Hilton here, Wayne in Week 1) runs a post-corner route. Both plays came on a blitz, and on both plays the offensive line does a good job of picking it up and giving Luck room to make the throw.
Luck sneaks the ball just over the DB's shoulder, and Hilton makes the grab, even without his left shoe.
But, the fourth quarter is where things would get interesting.
After the Colts forced a field goal attempt on defense (Bullock missed the 43-yard attempt), the Colts got the ball back in decent field position and took two plays to find the end zone, this time on a gorgeous throw-n-catch from Luck to Hilton.
Luck stands in the pocket just long enough for Hilton to break his skinny post between the corner and safeties, and throws a rainbow while getting plastered by J.J. Watt. You would think that Houston would have learned from those skinny posts up the seam by now, but apparently not.
Hilton celebrated with his traditional "T.Y." celebration, with a little extra flair.
After Darius Butler ripped the ball from Andre Johnson and forced an incomplete pass (after the review anyway) on third down, the Colts got the ball back with about six minutes left in the game and a chance to take the lead.
With Andrew Luck's nine game-winning drives (and a winning record in fourth-quarter comeback opportunities), the Colts were in good hands.
Speaking of good hands, that's something we didn't see from Griff Whalen for most of the game, as he dropped two balls outright and didn't play well overall. But, on third down on the go-ahead drive, Whalen pulled in this catch to preserve the drive.
On the next play, we saw Trent Richardson's longest play as a Colt: a 24-yard screen pass. Now, Richardson had all kinds of daylight on the play, and it wasn't an elite play or anything, but on a day when he and Donald Brown both dropped passes, it was nice to see both the catch and the yards following.
Two plays later, Luck once again targeted Hilton, this time on a little route to the flat while Whalen and Brazill cleared out the area. The play was always going to Hilton, who made a nice step-back move to beat CB Kareem Jackson for the touchdown.
On the ensuing two-point conversion, Andrew Luck threw a perfect back-shoulder throw to Coby Fleener, who makes a great catch over the double team.
Note: I hate this play call. It was always designed to go to Fleener, and it's a low-percentage play. As one of the plays in a goal line situation? Sure. But when you have one shot to get into the end zone (i.e.. two-point conversion, fourth-and-goal, etc.)? Not my cup of tea. Great play by both of these two though, and it works. So, whatever.
I will not excuse Fleener's "jazz hands" celebration though. I don't care if it's referencing Jimmy Fallon's sketch. It still makes me weep for touchdown dances.
But, when he scores and makes plays like this, he can do whatever he wants.
Speaking of weeping for dances, I don't know exactly what Pat Angerer's sack dance is here. It's… interesting.
Of course, he made it after this play, which was a great play call by Greg Manusky and perfect execution by Angerer.
The play set the Texans up on third-and-long, and Angerer would hit Keenum again to force an errant throw… which just so happened to hit Erik Walden in the face.
I love so many things about this GIF.
- Always love Angerer hitting a quarterback. That is fun.
It ended the Texans' drive, and allowed the Colts to
finish the gamerun the ball into a pile three times and waste just a minute of time.
- The vibration of Erik Walden's head when the ball hits him.
- The way Walden snatches his arms up after the ball bounces off. It reminds me of a dog snapping at a treat you are teasing him with.
- Mathis wildly waving his arms about as he tries to locate the ball. I imagine this is what I looked like when I tried to catch passes in pads in Pop Warner football for the first time.
That seems like a good one to end on.