2009 Game Recap – Week 12: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

To help pass time this off-season, I’ve reviewed the Colts’ regular season games from 2009. With this second look at how the team played, a few thoughts have occured to me which were not obvious during the initial viewing, and I thought it a good opportunity to rethink some of my previously held opinions of the team I love. So, with your kind indulgence, as I view a game at a time I’ll be sharing my impressions.

Personal Note: This is not, and was never intended to be, an objective, unbiased review of an NFL contest. It is instead a glimpse into the emotional ride experienced by the average Colt fan at game time. My Homerism switch is engaged and turned up to eleven. With that in mind, I invite you to join me as we re-live the highs and lows of the 2009 Indianapolis Colts season.

Today’s Game: Week 12 – Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans

Setting The Stage

  • It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and the Colts come into the game 10-0 on the season and 14-1 all-time against the Texans. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has 34 career touchdowns vs Houston, the most of any team. The Texans, at 5-5 and led by quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson, sport the 30th ranked rushing offense, and are desperate for a shot at a wildcard berth. Dwight Freeney has an abdomen injury and didn’t make the trip, so Raheem Brock starts and Josh Thomas gets quite a bit of playing time. Manning has a sore glute, Kelvin Hayden is out again, and Charlie Johnson is playing with a bad foot.
  • The Field: Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX. The roof is open on an overcast, 75 degree day.
  • The Crowd: 70,990 in attendance. The crowd is pretty savvy; they know when to be loud and when to be quiet. One thing is obvious; they don’t like the Colts. Haha… sure, lady; your team is Number One.

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  • The Network Coverage: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf of CBS. I like how CBS spends the first 10 minutes setting the stage for the game, including a brief recap of their Week 9 contest and pointing out strengths and weaknesses of both clubs. Dierdorf mentions that Peyton will be looking for the nickel defense and will audible to a run. Turns out to be true on the Colts’ first offensive play; Joe Addai up the middle for five. Gumble says that Dallas Clark told him ‘you know where the Texans defensive is going to be’ as opposed to a Ravens defense that comes from everywhere. Gumbel is a bit bland, but steady, and Dierdorf (Mr. Obvious) tends to over-state things. Still, they seem to know the teams well, and they’re pretty well prepared.

Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • Session! Clint sends the Houston running back flying with a huge hit (heard it clearly), forcing Schaub to rush the pass; complete to Johnson for the first. By the way, Session is the leading tackler for the Colts coming into this game.
  • Ugh. Ok, that was just too easy. Texans drive 79 yds in 11 plays, Schaub to Johnson, Schaub to Brown, Schaub to Dreessen. And when they’re not throwing, it’s Slaton for five and Brown for seven. A seven yard Schaub to Leach completion puts Houston on the board (Schaub’s 50th career TD). Powers cheats inside while Schaub bootlegs and hits the wide open FB for a quick Texans 7-0 lead.
  • Manning goes down. Dang! Diem totally whiffs on his block, and the Texans’ LE comes clean (Dierdorf calls Diem’s move a ‘soft corner’). Manning senses the pressure and drops to the turf or he’d have been blindsided; the eighth sack of Peyton this year. Colts punt on their first possession.
  • On their second drive, Houston picks up right where they left off the first; pass for 12, pass for 11, bootleg and pass for 22, runs for six and nine, and ending with a run for five and the Texans’ second TD. Dierdorf, quite appropriately, points out that “Somebody better tell the Colts’ defense that there’s a game going on”. By the time the Colts start their second drive, Houston has 10 first-downs, 14 points, and 150 total yards. Indy has one first down and 15 yards. Yeah, Houston looks that good, and they lead 14-0.

2nd Qtr:

  • Interception. The second quarter doesn’t start any better for the Colts. On their first offensive play of the quarter, CJ and Clark team up to contain the defensive RE, but neither of them follows through and a good second effort allows the defender to hit Peyton’s arm as he’s releasing the ball. INT puts Houston at the Colt’s 40. “He was yours!” “No, I thought he was yours!”. Nice, guys.
  • Powers with a great play to recover quickly and strip the ball from a previously wide open Andre Johnson in the end zone. Johnson intially has the reception for a TD, but Powers digs in and rips the ball free as Johnson is going to the ground. Incomplete pass (Schaub’s first) on what could have given the Texans a 21-0 lead. They challenge, but the play stands.

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  • The defense starts to tighten. Tim Jennings with tight coverage on Johnson, forcing a Shaub overthrow on third down. A Texan FG makes it 17-0. The ensuing KO is a bit weird; it bounces twice near the Colts 18 and is collected by Simpson at the 15. Should be a decent return, right? Nope. After running in circles, trying to find some sort of lane, Chad goes down at the 26 for a gain of just 11. Nice to see a huge hit by Cody Glenn to send his guy flying. An attempted hit by Richard, on the other hand, has little effect, and his defender makes the tackle.
  • Nice stretching reception by Collie over the middle, a nine yard run by Donald Brown over left end, and a key roughing the passer penalty gives the Colts a first-and-ten at the Houston 27. Then Lilja with a key pull and chip to allow Addai time to turn upfield, after a delayed dump-off, for 10. It could easily have been a loss and is only the Colts’ third play in Houston territory thus far. Don’t see this play often, but it worked well.
  • TD Garçon! On third-and-four from the Houston nine, Manning calls an audible after pointing out the LB blitz. With the LBs vacating the middle, Garçon is wide open and makes an impressive one-handed, bat-it-to-yourself TD reception. This seems to reinforce Clark’s assertion that the Houston defense is pretty easy to read. Colts trim the Texans lead to 17-7.

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  • Another long Houston drive which includes five first downs, several effective runs, and a really pretty sideline completion to Johnson. Things get tougher for them once they reach the Colts’ 24. Finally, Lacey with tight man-to-man on Johnson on a critical third-and-one. Pass is incomplete, and Houston settles for another FG. Texans increase their lead to 20-7.
  • Nooo! Another Manning interception. With time running out in the second, Peyton targets Wayne to the left. Seems to be a timing route, and Wayne wasn’t where 18 thought he should be. An easy pick to end the Colts drive, and the third straight week of multiple INTs (first time since 2001).

3rd Qtr:

  • Wayne TD! Colts drive 80 yards on runs by Addai and Brown, passes to Wayne and Addai, and two key pass interference penalties against Houston. With a first-and-goal at the Houston one, it takes the Colts three attempts to score. Addai for no gain on a shovel pass and a loss of three on a sweep to the right sets up a third-and-goal from the four. Manning hits Wayne on the corner fade; it’s perfectly placed and is the pair’s 60th TD pass. Peyton takes over third place on the career completions list, passing John Elway, and the Texans’ lead is cut to 20-14.
  • Chad Simpson with a great tackle on the kickoff. Chad slices through the defense and wraps up the returner at the 20. A holding penalty moves Houston back to their seven. Nice hustle, Chad.
  • Bethea INT! It hasn’t happened much today, but Schaub and Johnson are on different pages. With Johnson taking an outside position on Powers, Schaub leads him inside where Bethea makes a great rotating, leaping interception; his fourth of the year. Awesome read and adjustment by Antoine. Colts ball at their 17, down six.

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  • Man, Manning goes down again. He’s been on the ground a lot today. CJ pushes Mario Williams wide, but when Brown steps up to asist, he actually impedes CJ, and gives Williams a clear path to 18. Bad, bad play by Brown, and the Texans’ defense has really stepped it up. Colts punt again.
  • On the resulting punt, McAfee with a booming, 59 yard punt which forces the returner to back-pedal all the way to his four. Cody Glenn comes THIS close to taking him down immediately, but does manage to slow the returner and give Jamie Silva and Tim Jennings time to make the tackle. This Glenn kid looks really good, and the kickoff coverage unit pins Houston on their ten with a big play. If you, like me, have been waiting for a chance to celebrate our special teams, this is it!
  • Session! Finally, a Colts defender figures out that Schaub has fooled them on the bootleg all day (there were several of these in the first half). While everybody else is falling for the play fake, Clint recognizes the bootleg and gives good pressure to force a throw away. Schaub has had success with that stupid bootleg all game, and this is one of the few times Schaub has hit the ground today. A couple short gains later, the Texans punt.

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  • Interesting coaching decision on fourth-and-inches from the Colts’ 45; Caldwell says ‘go for it’; no hesitation. Who here thinks Dungy would have? Addai sweeps right and is hit in the backfield. But he manages to get his hand on the ground, keep his knee up, and lunge for the first. The successful attempt makes Indy 4-for-8 on fourth down for the season. Good effort, Joe!
  • Yes! Garçon with a great catch on second-and-twenty! Pierre gets walloped by the safety after making the reception but holds on. Colts driving, down six, as the quarter ends. The rookie has had some trouble making catches, but you sure can’t complain about his toughness.

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4th Qtr:

  • Ugh… a missed FG. Well, as key as that Garçon catch was in keeping this drive alive, the Colts reach the red zone, but they can’t get any closer than the ten (two incompletions and a run for a loss). Matt Stover comes on for the FG attempt and misses wide right. The score remains Texans 20, Colts 14.
  • The defense holds! Good pressure by Mathis to force an errant throw, and a nice play by Foster to sniff out the screen, and Houston is forced to punt. Good punt, though. Wow. Colts start at their own ten.
  • POW! WHAM! BOF! Batman would be proud of the Colts’ hurry-up. Collie open over the middle for 31 (perfect throw by 18), Collie for eight on the slant, Addai with an awesome juke for 11, a PI call (Wayne had his man beaten really bad), a Brown power run for six, and another Brown run for six more puts the Colts at the Houston six. It’s first-and-goal with 8:30 remaining.
  • Touchdown, Dallas Clark! The protection is perfect as Peyton steps up and hits 44 over the middle for the TD. This caps a seven play, 89 yard drive that consumed 2:50 off the clock. Perfection; and quite different from what we saw in the first half. Colts have their first lead, 21-20.

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  • PICK-SIX, Session! As impressive as Schaub looked in the first half, that’s how terrible the Colt’s D makes him look on this play. Session drops back into coverage, and Schaub never sees him. Clint steps in front of the intended receiver, catches the ball in-stride, and sprints the 27 yards into the end zone; his second of the year. Colts increase their lead to 28-20.

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  • Mathis strip-sack! With Houston driving, Mathis embarrasses the left tackle with his speed and reaches in to bat the ball from Schaub. Brock with the recovery. Colts’ ball, up eight, with 4:36 remaining.

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  • TD, Simpson! On second-and-thirteen from the Houston 24, Simpson breaks four tackles and sprints in for the score. Colts 35-20 with 2:52 remaining. That’s 28 unanswered points; 14 in under five minutes off two Houston turnovers. Seems to me, when the Colts D figures things out, they string together a run of incredible plays. It’s gotta be frustrating to opposing players, and the Houston offense looks dejected. That makes me smile. Is that wrong?

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  • Houston gets the ball with 2:52 remaining in the game. They drive the field and add a consolation score. Colts lead 35-27.
  • Both teams line up for the on-side kick. It’s well placed, but Tamme with a heads up play to knock the ball out of bounds. Where was he in the Super Bowl? Manning kneels to run out the clock, and the Colts win.

Overall Impressions

  • The Offense: This offense is spectacurily good. They’re also indescribably frustrating for fans. Their first drive? Not good; one first down and a punt. Their second drive started off better but ended in another Manning interception; the sixth in the past three games. Ryan Diem lined up against one of the best DEs in the league, Mario Williams, and did a pretty good job all game. After being held to one reception last week, Dallas Clark had a big game with nine receptions and a touchdown. This team seems to be one of the best at making halftime adjustments, and they did so today. They looked like a totally different squad in the second half. It’s good to see them run for more than 100 yards.
  • The Defense: Terrible first quarter for Indy; their worst of the season, giving up two TDs on the Texans’ first two drives and allowing Houston to move the ball at will. Way too many bootlegs by Schaub where the defense over pursued and gave him time to find the open receiver. Still, the Colts have not allowed a single TD after a turnover (8 FG on 14 turnovers). After being dominated in the first half (20 pts, 152 yds), they hold Houston to zero points and a meager 19 yards in the third. I think we can safely say they adjusted at halftime.
  • Special Teams: One of the better ST games in quite awhile. While the return team only gains 21 and 17 yards on their first two kickoff returns, their coverage team made some big plays today. Another good game for Patty Mac with deep kickoffs and high punts. Cody Glenn, Jacob Tamme, Tim Jennings, and Ramon Humber really active on coverage. Stover misses his only FG attempt of the day.

Random Thoughts:

  • Houston offensive play calling is very, very good. They know the Colts well and call plays that have the defense on their heels most of the first half; bootlegs, play fakes, big runs on second and third downs. Who’s the offensive coordinator? Kyle Shanahan.
  • With Freeney out, it was interesting to see Mathis play some right end. Het forced a false start on one play and it was from this position he got his strip-sack.
  • The Colts seem to like the number 17. Down by that amount to NE earlier this year, the same against Houston in 2008, and again today at halftime, Indy came back to win all three games. They become the only franchise to win five straight games after trailing in the fourth quarter. Hmmm. I’m all about winning, but could we maybe take the lead and keep it sometime soon? My heart can’t take this.
  • Dan Muir was slow to get up late in the second quarter, and I found myself almost distraught over the prospect of him being injured. This is silly since I know the Colts win the game and Muir goes on to perform quite well the rest of the season. Still, for a moment there… This makes me realize how quickly this guy has become a fixture on the D-line and how much we need him.
  • Oh look, the Patriots lost.
  • This is the Colts’ fifth come from behind victory in a row. With Jacksonville’s loss, later in the day, the Colts wrap up their division.

Colts win 35-27 to stay undefeated at 11-0.

Total Run Yards
Colts: 114
Texans: 122

Total Passing Yards
Colts: 228
Texans: 274

Manning: 27 of 35, 244 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Collie: 4 receptions, 70 yards
Clark: 9 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD
Garçon: 5 receptions, 63, 1 TD
Wayne: 3 receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD
Addai (receiving): 3 receptions, 13 yards
Addai (rushing): 15 carries, 69 yards
Brown: 5 carries, 27 yards
Simpson: 2 carries, 20 yards, 1 TD

Other games in the series: