Today's recap was written drive by drive during the game.
Today, in a rocking Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts came out rolling on offense (yes, I went there with the rocking and rolling bit). As the Indianapolis Star’s Mike Chappell pointed out before the game, Indy had gone 37 straight first half drives without a touchdown through 6 games. If any streak should end today, why not that one?
The Colts came out in a shotgun trips right formation with the running back on the other side, then spread things out the rest of the way, save for a couple plays. A quick pass to T.Y. Hilton, a couple big runs by Donald Brown, and a pair of 3rd &1 conversions by Trent Richardson all led to a pretty, pretty 14-yard touchdown pass to Griff Whalen, who had been on the active roster for approximately 28 hours.
After going 3/3 on third down to open the game (as many conversions as they had in their entire win over Tennessee), along with a pair of neutral zone infractions on the Texans, the Colts found themselves in territory that had become unfamiliar in recent weeks: up 7-0 after the first drive of the game. According to CBS, it was the seventh time the Texans had given up a score on the opening drive this season
With the crowd charged up from the touchdown, the defense forced a quick three and out with some fine tackling by the inside linebackers. Luck trotted back onto the field with Hilton, Whalen, and Da’Rick Rogers as his receivers. A second touchdown seemed imminent after a brilliant escape act by Luck led to a tough catch by Rogers, and an 18-yard screen to Richardson set them up deep in Texans territory. A play later, however, Luck was picked off by Houston’s Jonathan Joseph, ending an otherwise solid-looking drive with a very good play from the veteran corner.
The Texans came back out moving the ball well, but they had to settle for a 49-yard field goal and a four-point deficit after LaRon Landry broke up a short pass on third and one. Appearing beaten, Landry laid out to get his fingertips on the pass, a great effort by a guy normally known for big hits.
Luck and the Colts offense fizzled out after trying twice to gain two yards with Trent Richardson near midfield, but the defense perfectly sniffed out a play action bootleg on the ensuing Texans possession, getting pressure from rookie Bjoern Werner, and an interception in Houston territory from Darius Butler.
Indianapolis had to settle for a field goal after a shaky three and out, however. Adam Vinatieri stretched the lead to 10-3, but Mike McGlynn committed a personal foul on the play, a head butt (why does this keep happening?) that earned them a 15-yard penalty, sending McAfee to the Colts 20 for the kickoff. The Texans returned it to the 42-ard line.
Houston’s good fortune with field position didn’t pay off, however, after a penalty, some pressure by Robert Mathis, a pass batted down by Cory Redding, led to another punt.
Indianapolis saw Donald Brown head to the locker room with a stinger on the next drive, but a deep pass to T.Y. Hilton and an interference penalty on the linebacker covering Coby Fleener in the endzone set up a 9-yard shovel pass TD to Richardson. 17-3, Colts. At this point, the Texans had racked up 7 penalties for 67 yards (after a holding call on the return), to the Colts 2 for 20.
The Texans looked ready to answer again, as every big play by the defense seemed to precede an even bigger one by Case Keenum or one of his running backs, that is, until yet another pass found its way into the waiting hands of Darius Butler, Colts ball at the Houston 44 after a 25-yard return by Butler.
Indianapolis struggled to move the ball but nonetheless capitalized on the turnover with another Vinatieri field goal, this one a 43-yarder, for a 20-3 lead.
Houston tried to answer back with 1:45 left, but the Colts, trying to muster some kind of pass rush, blitzed safety Antoine Bethea up the middle on a pivotal first down with 40 seconds left in the half for a sack. Mathis was held (yep, a no call) on the ensuing third down, but Keenum’s pass bounced harmlessly to the ground, sending the home team into the half up by 17.
The Texans, who deferred after winning the toss to open the third quarter with the ball, found themselves punting once again. Griff Whalen caught it and took off for a 51–yard return, setting the banged up Colts (now playing without OG Joe Reitz as well as staring RB Brown) up in great field position. After a toss sweep left to Richardson on third down, it was time, once again, for Adam Vinatieri, who delivered for a 23-3 lead.
The Texans and Colts traded punts afterward as the Colts offense began to sputter while the defense continued holding Houston in check for three straight three and outs. Hey, if you’re going to sputter, sputter with a 20-point lead, right?
After a brief war of the punters, the Colts decided to end the next drive differently. Robert Mathis strip sacked Keenum in the endzone on a second effort for the 108th sack of his career. The Colts recovered the ball in the endzone for the safety, and Mathis became Indy’s all-time leading pass rusher. 25-3, Colts.
Indianapolis found themselves in the punt formation again, however, their third straight, after Luck took a sack from Houston’s Brooks Reed on third down. Strangely, it was a fake, a direct snap to reserve safety Corey Lynch. The play failed, and Houston took over near midfield.
They came up short again – the story of the game, as Erik Walden charged in for a sack (and ensuing sack dance), giving the Texans their fourth straight three and out.
Green 90, hut, Richardson for two yards. Then Gosder Cherilus committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play (punching J.J. Watt in the gut is just ridiculous), setting up 2nd and 19 at the 11. Green 70, set set, Richardson up the middle on a draw for 14 yards, but he was unable to convert on 3rd and 5, and so the war of the punters continued.
Richardson had a couple nice runs after the defense forced yet another Texans punt, but the Colts, now in clock killer mode, eventually had to send McAfee back onto the field.
After a false start, Bjoern Werner joined the sack party late in the fourth quarter, bringing Keenum down deep in Texans territory for his first career sack. Houston began moving the ball again, however, for the first time in quite a while, but Keenum took a couple heavy hits as he threw from Josh McNary and Antoine Bethea, before Bethea barely managed to stop a fourth down conversion by tight end Ryan Griffin.
Clock-killer mode continued, as the game, like most blowouts, began to look something like the preseason. Tashard Choice looked decent in garbage time, and Richardson had a few good plays late in the game. The clock ticked down, and the free falling Texans never so much as closed the gap.
Andrew Luck as Andrew Luck. The Colts offensive line added a second consecutive solid game pass blocking and opened up some good holes here and there in the running game. Although Rogers struggled to come up with an encore for last week’s performance, Hilton and Whalen combined for 123 yards and a touchdown.
The defense held a division opponent, one that scored three first half touchdowns on them in their last meeting, to 3 points and an absolutely hellish afternoon, hitting Keenum 8 times, sacking him 4 times, and picking him off twice.
People are going to say they aren’t impressed with this win because the Texans aren’t very good. Many of the same fans and self-proclaimed experts who would have decried a close win over this team nearly as much as a loss will focus on how bad the Texans are. That’s okay.
Here’s the other way to look at this game. It wasn’t perfect. Perfect is rare, especially for a banged up team playing guys off the street in December. However, if the Texans are so terrible (and I believe no team is as bad – or as good – as their record indicates), then the Colts did exactly what they should have done today. They dispatched an inferior opponent with ease and coasted to victory. Celebrate this, Colts fans. Big wins are fun, and perfection is rare. Next up, the Kansas City Chiefs (yikes).
A few quick notes:
- The Colts appeared to have trouble generating a pass rush early on. Robert Mathis needs some help. How about Antoine Bethea on a safety blitz inside the two minute warning? A couple big time hits by Josh McNary? A sack by Erik Walden? We’ll take that.
- The drop off from Donald Brown to Trent Richardson, in terms of current production, is very steep. However, at halftime, Richardson was the Colts’ second leading receiver with 3 catches on 4 targets for 33 yards and a TD. 10 carries for 4 yards before a big run in the third quarter.
- The injuries keep coming, and Indy is running out of bodies.
- Tashard Choice (a reader said his name sounds like an off-brand coffee) had a very good kick return early on, and Griff Whalen returned a punt 10 yards late in the second quarter. Whalen then ran a punt back It’s great to see both players doing well after joining the roster so recently.
- Both teams finished the game 5-15 on third down, but the Colts made the most of their early conversions.
- Greg Manusky wasn’t kidding around when he said he would roll coverage toward Andre Johnson. They focused on him all game, and Vontae Davis had a very good game, as did Darius Butler.
- The Texans had referees at practice to help them with reducing penalties. Did they have a real ref or Jeff Triplette? Houston racked up 14 penalties for 114 yards, accounting for 4 of the Colts first downs.
- The streak continues. The Houston Texans, since their inception in 2002, have never won a game in Indianapolis.