2009 Game Recap – Week 9: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

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 9 – Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Setting The Stage

  • The Colts come into the game 7-0, one of two remaining undefeated teams. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson lead the Texans who enter the game at 5-3 and boast one of the most productive offenses in the league along with a surprisingly stingy defense; one which has forced more three-and-outs than any other team thus far. Schaub leads the league in passing yards and touchdown passes, and Andre Johnson leads the league in receiving yards. Colts injuries include Bob Sanders, Tyjuan Hagler (out for the season), and Kelvin Hayden. Philip Wheeler gets the start for Hagler, and for the first time, Kyle DeVan gets the start at right guard in place of Mike Pollak. To replace Hagler on the roster, Cody Glenn is called up from the practice squad.
  • The Field: The roof is open on a 70 degree day at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis IN. It’s another blindingly sunny day with deep shadows in one corner; moving slowly toward mid-field as the game progresses.
  • The Crowd: The announcers mention crowd noise several times today… both in terms of how loud it gets when the defense is on the field and how quiet it gets when the offense is out there. Savvy crowd… they grow ‘em smart here in Indiana. Oh, wait…

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  • The Network Coverage: Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots of CBS. After several Houston offensive penalties on a single drive, Wilcots points out that the Texans pumped in extra noise during practice this week in prep for their trip to Indy. Hmmmm… They didn’t mention it at the time, but just showed a play where Freeney hurt his quad. He leaves for the locker room early in the second quarter but returns shortly after. While the production crew plays the Powers’ recovery over and over, Harlan and Wilcots completely miss it. Way to maintain focus, guys. Collie just made a great catch in the 4th, and as scripted, they recount his 2 year missions trip to Argentina and how his wife quizzes him on the playbook… again. Guys, really… I know it’s sometimes hard to find interesting tidbits about every single player, but this is Week 9. Don’t you have anything else you can say about this amazing rookie? Then they point out… this is the part I like… that the Texans have played the Colts tough over the years and are often only minutes from victory when the Colts make big plays to steal the game away. Unlike the overused Collie script, I love it when they talk about how the Texans can’t beat the Colts. And then they mention Week 11, 2008… Despite what may be happening in Philly these days… despite what Harrison may actually be guilty of… the man knew how to bring it on Sundays. We miss you, Marv.

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Key Plays

1st Qtr:

  • Colts get the ball first and employ the hurry up. After 4 quick receptions, Austin Collie drops two consecutive passes, and the Colts line up to punt on fourth-and-six. After an off sides call against Houston, the Colts’ offense comes back onto the field to attempt the fourth-and-one. Good protection as Peyton Manning searches for an open receiver. The pass is complete to Addai, but out-of-bounds. Colts fail to score, and the Texans take over at their 32.
  • Sack, Freeney! On their first offensive play, the Houston offensive line provides Schaub a full 4 seconds of protection. For some strange reason and with no penetration to speak of, Schaub vacates the pocket. As soon as he does, Freeney is able to spin away from the left tackle and coral the QB for the game’s first sack (Freeney’s 9th consecutive game with a sack) and a loss of four.
  • Nice reaching tackle by Session on third-and-twelve to force a punt.
  • The Colt offense looks good on their second series; Clark being key. Dallas runs a reverse and is targeted four times; he catches them all. On one reception, he reaches back over his shoulder, securing the ball while he’s twisting, then lunges for the first. The guy is amazing. As poorly as Peyton played in last week’s game against San Francisco, that’s how precise and effective he’s been to start today’s game. Working quickly, passes on-target, finding the open man. Very impressive early on.
  • Touchdown Addai! On third-and-four, from the Texans’ seven, Manning dumps the ball off to Addai in the middle. Saturday provides a HUGE block and Collie obstructs an LB to provide Addai an open lane. Twisting out of the grasp of the final defender, Addai scores. Colts take the early lead, 7-0.

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  • Gotta love Pat McAfee. After a relatively short kickoff to the seven, the Colt kicker shows good athleticism and determination to make the tackle.

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  • Powers INT! On Houston’s first play of their second series, Schaub with a poor decision to throw into triple-coverage. Jerraud with great man-to-man coverage on Andre Johnson, shadowing him until he makes his cut, then sliding inside to take position and the ball. Really nice play by the rookie. Colts take over on the Texans’ 45.

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  • Great protection on the first play after the INT as Manning waits for Pierre Garçon to uncover. Complete for 25 yards, but the drive stalls after a tackle for a loss on an Addai run, and two incompletions. Colts settle for a Matt Stover FG and increase their lead to 10-0.
  • Jacob Lacey with great containment on the defensive left side on a Texans’ reverse while the rest of the D-line over pursues. If Lacey doesn’t maintain his position, the play goes for a huge gain. As it is, gain of five. Wow, the crowd is LOUD. They just forced a false start to move the Texans back from a third-and-five to a third-and-ten. Good rush by Dwight Freeney and down field coverage, and Schaub is forced to run. Houston can’t convert the first, and they punt.
  • Wow. Texan’s LB Brian Cushing just made an amazing play in coverage of Chad Simpson. Peyton fakes the hand off, Simpson runs to the flat, Peyton floats the pass over Chad’s shoulder. With poor positioning, Cushing leaps up and reaches over Chad to deflect the pass. I can see why this guy is so highly rated.

2nd Qtr:

  • Two really nice receptions by Reggie Wayne and two defensive pass interference penalties in a row move the ball to the Houston 23, but the Colts fail on three straight plays. Another Stover FG gives the Colts a 13-0 lead.
  • Glenn! Huge hit by Cody Glenn on the resulting kickoff. Jamie Silva and Jacob Tamme occupy blockers while Glenn slices through and creams the returner at the 18. The Colts’ D holds the Texans to a three-and-out on the Texans’ first drive of the second. Lacey had good coverage on a long incompletion, Session with good pursuit to the left to corral the runner after a short gain, and a huge play by Freeney and Mathis as they meet at the QB, eight yards deep. Mathis ran wide. Freeney simply bull-rushed the LT back into the QB. Sack goes to Freeney (that’s nine consecutive games with a sack for DFree).
  • Sweet! Nice protection for Manning as he waits patiently for Clark to uncover. Delayed completion over the middle for 13 and a first down. And not so sweet… the O-line can’t block anybody on an Addai run up the middle. The entire Texans’ D-line is in the backfield on a third-and-one at the Texans’ 37. Loss of 2 and out comes McAfee. That was ugly.
  • Fumble! Bethea with a huge hit to dislodge the ball from the RB, but the refs rule that the fumble was out-of-bounds. Replay shows clearly it’s a fumble caused by Bethea on a nice strip/tackle, and that the ball lands on the field and rolls into the end zone. Powers is out-of-bounds when he sees the ball, loose on the field, but has the presence of mind to re-establish his position in the field of play before picking up the ball. But the refs don’t catch it, and the ball is placed at the Colt’s two. The Texans line up for the snap, and I’m screaming at my TV. For some unknown reason, Houston decides not to run a play and instead let the clock wind down to the two minute warning. That’s when the Colts’ have time to review the play and decide to throw the flag. Houston could easily have run a play and scored from so close. Instead, they let the clock run to the break and gave the Colts a chance to look at the play. After the 2:00 break, Caldwell throws the flag, the play is overturned, and Indy gets the ball on their own 20. It’s the fourth red zone take-away for the Colts this season; three of them on goal-to-go situations. Colts’ defense, baby!

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  • Ouch! Texans’ DB with a forearm to the helmet of a defenseless receiver (Clark) on a key third-and-ten on the subsequent series. 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty keeps the ball in Colts’ possession, and the drive continues. Penalties are becoming a theme as the game progresses. And another drop by Garçon (after a couple key drops last week by Collie). The young guys have made some big plays this year, but neither have been consistent.
  • Interception. Well, Houston dodges a bullet. After the Colts had driven to the 21 and with good protection for Manning, Peyton targets Addai over the middle. But a Texans’ DB anticipates the throw, leaves his man (Collie), and cuts between 18 and 29 for the INT (Manning’s first in 128 passes and fifth of the season). The ball is run back to mid-field, and Houston has the ball with 0:56 to go in the half. Peyton looks kinda silly trying to make a tackle.
  • Great defensive pressure keeps Houston from penetrating far, and they settle for a FG attempt. The attempt is blocked! Noooo… Caldwell had called a time out just before the snap, and Houston gets another shot. Second attempt is good. Colts lead cut to 13-3. Half time.

3rd Qtr:

  • Dang! With the Texans driving to start the quarter, Schaub with a short pass over the middle, into and out of the hands of… Gary Brackett. Gotta hold onto those, Gary. And another close call; great pressure from all four D-linemen, the pocket collapsing, Schaub escapes the pocket, barely avoiding a tackle by Session, and scrambles for 19 and a first down. Session looks much better on the next play, hitting the RB at the line.
  • The Texans, with a first-and-goal at the Colts’ two, try to run up the middle; stopped cold. This is the seventh goal-to-go situation for the Colts’ D this year. They had given up one TD, two FGs, and caused three turnovers. Today wasn’t quite so impressive; the RB slides right, is left uncovered, and bobbles and then collects the two yard TD pass. Houston goes 2-2 on third down conversions on this drive; they were 0-5 in the first half. Texans cut the Colts’ lead to 13-10.
  • Now here’s something you don’t see every day; on a third-and-three at mid-field, and with the pocket collapsing and good down field coverage taking away his options, Manning scrambles, and we’re reminded why we don’t see this very often; he’s s-l-o-w. With so much space in front of him and no defender in sight, it looks like an easy first down, but Clark can’t block his guy, and Manning goes down one yard short. Colts punt again.

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  • Ugh. Schaub with a beautifully placed, 45 yard completion down the right sideline to Jacoby Jones. Wow, this guy is fast. Jacob Lacey was beaten pretty badly on the play but Jones had to slow down to make the reception, so Jacob was able to catch up and make the tackle. Houston is in Colt’s territory once again.
  • Good pressure by Foster and Freeney forces a throw-away, but Schaub hits Andre Johnson for 16 on a key third-and-seven, and the drive continues. Another clutch completion to Johnson, and the Texans have a first-and-goal at the Colts’ one yard line. A run up-the-middle for no gain. Now another. Antonio Johnson with great penetration to divert the RB, and Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster with the stop. Great goal line play by the Colts’ D to end the quarter.

4th Qtr:

  • The Houston drive concludes on the first play of the fourth quarter with a one yard run up the middle. The Houston O-line pretty much man-handles the Colts’ D; Mathis and Brock get snowplowed and Session and Bethea pick the wrong lane. The only Colts player to even touch the RB is Brackett; far too late. That’s 17 unanswered points by Houston, and they take the lead, 17-13.
  • Sack… an ugly sack, actually. DeVan is basically run over and ends up on his backside. Addai runs past the right DE leaving him to Charlie Johnson who barely gets a hand on him, and Peyton finds two defenders in his face. Loss of six, and Houston has all the momentum. Protection is much better on the next play, and Manning steps up, waits, steps up some more, and then fires to Garçon, over the middle for 15, to set up a third-and-one. Great reaction by 85 to reach behind him on the pass. Colts driving and starting to click.
  • What!? Oh man, who made that call? Just when the Colts’ look like they may be able to put together an extended drive of their own, someone calls a Wayne passing play. You’ve got the best quarterback in the… ever!… and you give the ball to your wide receiver on a trick play?? Really, guys? The pass is a wounded duck, and pass interference can’t even help Garçon break up the INT. Texans’ ball at their own 24. That was just plain ugly and embarrassing.
  • Jennings!! Ugh! One of the few bad passes by Schaub this game hits 23 right in the hands… and he drops it. He had good coverage on the outside, anticipated the throw perfectly, and slid inside at just the right time. You did everything right except the most important part, Tim. Oh good, great penetration and a great open field tackle by Session to force a punt. Colts get the ball back at their own 40, down by four, with plenty of time remaining. Let’s go, offense!
  • Two nice Addai runs in a row take the Colts from their 39 into Texans’ territory. Good patience by Joe, heading outside, then bouncing inside, and following nice blocks by Diem, CJ, and DeVan for seven hard-earned yards. On the second, Diem flicks the left DE aside, and Joe follows him for 12 more. And another big catch by Clark; add 17 to his stats, a great day for Dallas. And Collie gets in the act with a gorgeous, leaping stab while rotating in the air. Colt pick up 15 more. Austin lands awkwardly, and time is called. At least the announcers have a new Collie blurb; he was the leading college receiver in 2008, instead of the ‘he studies with his wife’ we usually hear about. Oh wait… there’s the ‘missions trip’ plug… and yup, there’s the ‘study with his wife’ thing… These guys really need some new material. Anyway, Austin is fine, and gets a nice hand from the crowd. Colts with a first-and-goal from the Texan’s nine.

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  • Addai runs for two. Nothing noteworthy really until you realize that the DB covering Clark reads the play very well and closes the hole, so Joe hops, changes lanes, and runs inside. Joe turns a two yard loss into a two yard gain. Second-and-goal brings trips right, Addai in the backfield. A quick screen to Wayne, and he runs right behind a good block by Garçon and a great block by Clark. Gain of five to the two yard line.
  • TD, Colts! Third-and-goal has Federkiel in (tackle eligible) with Gijon Robinson along side, Foster in at FB, and Joe in the I formation. Manning asks for quiet, turns and hands to Addai who is hit immediately by the right defensive end (CJ couldn’t pull fast enough to block him). Saturday pushes his guy backward to open a hole, and Joe twists free, breaking a second tackle and lunging in for the go ahead score. Awesome! There was some nice blocking, and Joe finds a way. Haha… In celebration, Foster tries to high five Peyton. He’s jumping around and is all ‘Yea, Baby!’, but 18 ignores him and calmly indicates ’We’re going for one’. Priceless, and it makes me laugh. Colts up 20-17 with 7:11 remaining, and like previous Colts/Texans games, this one is close down to the end.

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  • And the D steps it up! Freeney stuffs the LT, waits for the RB, sheds his blocker and shares the tackle of the RB for a loss of four. Awesome play by Foster to pursue down the line, split defenders, and hit the RB from the side.
  • INT! With Houston driving, on second-and-ten at the Colts’ 42, Brackett stunts on a blitz and hits Schaub just as he throws. The ball floats right into the hands of Session. Colts’ ball at their 40, up 20-17, with 2:14 to go. Nice play, Gary! This should wrap up the game.

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  • So, why is the offense going backward? After a three yard run by Addai, there’s a five yard false start on Diem, and a fumble. CJ can’t handle a spin move, and the right DE hits Manning who loses the ball. Thankfully, it’s recovered by Diem, but the Colts face a third-and-nineteen at their 31, with 2:00 remaining. Addai up the middle, leaping and twisting behind great blocking by Diem, gains 13. That’s not quite enough, and the Colts fail to control the ball and end the game. They punt; a fair catch at the Texans’ 15, and it’s up to the defense.
  • Sheesh… three straight receptions, and the Texans are at mid-field with 48 seconds left. With Kris Brown kicking field goals, their target is the 39, which they attain with 17 seconds remaining. One final completion plus a hurried spike puts Houston at the Colts’ 25 with one second remaining. It’s FG time for the tie.
  • Wide left! He missed it! Brown misses, the Colts win, and the Texans feint! Ok, he was probably just disappointed.

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Overall Impressions

  • The Offense: They start fast with 4 consecutive completions to move into Texans’ territory; working quickly, and scoring the games’ first TD. After the first series, they’re able to move the ball fairly consistently but can’t seem to finish drives. The next 2 drives end with Stover FGs. The Colts have scored 6 times (4 TD, 2 FG) in the final 2 minutes of the first half this season; not today. They did run a bit better today, though, and against a good run defense. Joe Addai looked very good, in all phases of his game, with 113 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
  • The Defense: An amazing first-half. One sack, several knock-downs, and they controlled the line of scrimmage. They allow four yards, total, on the Texans’ first four drives. I checked it twice. Early in the second quarter, the Colts have accumulated 196 total yards, the Texans have 12. Yeah, the defense started well. Texans’ don’t earn a first down until 7:45 remaining in the second quarter. They hold Houston to 99 total yards in the first half while forcing two turnovers (punt, INT, punt, punt, fumble, FG). The second half is quite different with Houston scoring 17 unanswered points. But when the game was on the line, the defense came up huge.
  • Special Teams: This was a pretty good day for this group. To start the second-half, Aaron Francisco with a huge hit, circling in from the side and flattening the runner. Good day for Pat McAfee with several punts forcing the fair catch. He also had a tackle. Jacob Tamme, Cody Glenn, and Ramon Humber all with nice plays.

Random Thoughts:

  • This was a game of two halves. The Colts totally controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half; the Texans in the second half. The Colts offense runs three… that’s three… plays in the third quarter. It’s also a game of penalties and milestones; penalties for Houston, milestones for Indy. Peyton Manning became the first ever to throw for 40,000 yards in one decade. Jim Caldwell became the first NFL rookie coach since 1930 to win his first eight games. Dallas Clark caught 14 passes, the third highest for a single game by a tight end in NFL history. Dwight Freeney recorded his ninth straight game with a sack, breaking Robert Mathis’ record. And Reggie Wayne moved past Raymond Berry on the Colts’ career reception list.
  • Once again, the Colts find a way to beat Houston… or is it Houston finds a way to lose to the Colts? A bit of both? Statistically, the two teams are very similar; potent passing attack, an offensive line that does a nice job of protecting the quarterback, disruptive pressure by the defensive line (Peyton was sacked twice today)… they have more similarities than differences. But one difference makes all the difference; the Colts know they can win, and they make it happen. Houston is now 1-14 all-time versus Indy. Hmmm… It occurs to me that this is a record we don’t share with Baltimore. Anyway, reverse a couple plays, and this game results in a Texans’ win; just like many previous meetings between these two teams… can you say Rosencopter? Sure, I knew you could.
  • Halftime adjustments; the Colts do it very well. But Houston is pretty good at it too. After going Punt, INT, Punt, Punt, Fumble, FG in the first half, the Texans drive for a touchdown on the opening series of the second half. For that matter and with the exception of three offensive plays for Indy, Houston has the ball the entire third quarter.
  • As poorly as Manning started last week’s game against San Francisco, that’s how good he started today. First quarter stats earn him a passer rating of 107.8 (19 of 25 to five different receivers, 174 yards, 1 TD). His passes were on target and crisp. Nice to see him come back strong after a poor start last week.
  • Huge day for Dallas Clark. No one on Houston’s D can cover him. 14 receptions for 119 yards. By comparison, Tony Gonzalez had five receptions for 41 yards and a TD for Atlanta today. Yeah, 44 is the best TE in the league.
  • Penalties played a huge role today; Houston 13 for 103 yards, Indy 3 for 35.
  • As much as I respect Jeff Fisher of the Titans, that’s how much I dislike Houston’s coach, Gary Kubiak. I really don’t set out to dislike anybody, honestly… but this guy has no class. He’s the opposite of Dungy & Caldwell; he’s whiny when his team is flagged and I often see him swearing and screaming at the refs. This guy could be the best father on the planet, for all I know, but from a distance and when he’s in game-mode, he strikes me as less-than-stellar in the leadership area. It looks like even his own coaches and players avoid him.
  • Oh look, Baltimore lost.
  • Andre Johnson is a beast. There’s just no other way to say it. He doesn’t whine, he doesn’t complain, he doesn’t demand attention; he just plays hard and makes big plays. Huge 23 yard completion with the game on the line, and he just hands the ball to the ref and hustles to get ready for the next play. Also, Schaub is good; really good. Give him protection, and his reads and ball placement are excellent. When the Houston offense gets hot, they’re just about unstoppable. Hmmm… that sounds familiar.

Colts win 20-17 to go 8-0.

Total Running yards
Colts: 72
Texans: 81

Total Passing yards
Colts: 378
Texans: 382

Manning: 34-50, 318, 1 TD, 1 INT
Clark: 14 receptions, 119 yds
Wayne: 8 receptions, 64 yds
Garçon: 5 receptions, 60 yds
Addai (receiving): 5 receptions, 49 yds, 1 TD
Addai (running): 14 carries, 63 yds, 1 TD

Other games in the series: