The Colts at Texans game is something of an odd one to write up with one franchise having shifting uncertainty at quarterback through coaching decisions, and the other through injury and illness. I don’t remember seeing a Coach get called for unsportsmanlike conduct as happened to Coach Pagano as he stepped off the Colts sideline having already been warned. The Colts also looked very old on offence as they managed to get the win so let’s look at how the game was played,
The Colts were suddenly old, but efficient on offence. Veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had been fighting some kind of bacterial infection all week, but was able to gut out a competent performance at forty years old. His figures of eighteen completions from twenty-nine attempts to gain two hundred and thirteen yards with two touchdowns are not spectacular, but several of these completions were on third and fourth down plus he didn’t turn the ball over, which is something Andrew Luck has been struggling with all season. Whilst TY Hilton led the team in targets and yards for receivers, we saw Andre Johnson, who had done very little so far this season, pick up two touchdown receptions as Hasselbeck consistently was able to find him. The final Colts offensive player over thirty who played well this game was Frank Gore who came up just short of one hundred yards with ninety, but looked effective all game and ran in a touchdown of his own. The line which I haven’t liked for most of the season, seems to be solidifying after the changes last week and gave up no sacks in this game despite the presence of JJ Watt and was able to block for over one hundred yards of rushing across the game.
So if the Colts offence was looking steady if not spectacular, what was happening to the Texans defence, as it is hard to understand why they didn’t cause more problems. On paper with JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork, Brian Cushing, and Jadeveon Clowney in the front seven, and Johnathan Joseph in the secondary, it is not like the Texans defence is without names we recognise even before their appearance on Hard Knocks in the pre-season. However, they are not playing well. There was very little pass rush, and whilst at one point Frank Gore got called for chop blocking JJ Watt in trying to stop him, which wiped out a nice pass to Donte Moncrief, Watt was then called for roughing the passer three snaps later. This defence in fact only hit the quarterback three times this game with no sacks and Hasselbeck was able to make the throws he needed to win. They also did not look that good against the run, and if they weren’t giving up pass plays, they were committing various interference penalties. We expected the Texans to have questions on offence, but this defence was what they were meant to be able to hang their hat on this season and it simply has not been the case.
If the Texans struggles on defence are unexpected, their offensive woes are actually somewhat predictable. The offensive line has not been that great, and the return of Arian Foster has not sparked them in the running game. You could tell that Foster was coming back from injury, he flashed a couple of times but was unable to get enough done on nineteen carries that yielded only forty-one yards. The passing game has been an interesting mess thanks to the changing quarterbacks. In Ryan Mallett they have a petulant talent with an incredible arm that doesn’t seem to posses any touch so there are moments where he pulls off things that very few quarterbacks in the league could manage, but balls are also fired in unnecessarily and he makes bad decisions. In this game he took a heavy late hit, came out of the game to get checked out, and never made it back in despite trying to take the field and spent the rest of the game sulking, frequently on camera. In came Brian Hoyer, who I think is more solid than people given him credit for, and in this game he was able to move the ball well and it looked like there was some hope for my Texans underdog pick. He was repeatedly able to find DeAndre Hopkins, who was the Texans stand out player and finished the game with one hundred and sixty-nice yards from sixteen receptions. Hoyer was also able to give rookie Jaelen Strong his first two NFL receptions, both touchdowns, including one of the worst defended Hail Mary plays at the end of the first half that I have seen. However, under pressure with a minute to go, for some reason he heaved the ball up in the in air and straight to the Colts Mike Adams, giving them the game and almost wiping out all the good things he had done. It has already been announced that Hoyer has the start in week six, but he could have very easily cost himself that with this play, but the Texans did outgain the Colts by one hundred and twenty-four yards in this game and Hoyer did record over three hundred yards in less than three quarters.
The Colts defence has been a question mark, and whilst Vontae Davis has been playing well, they gave up a lot of yards in this game. In fairness they did slow the Texans’ rushing game, frequently standing up their blockers and giving Foster very little room to work with. However, they gave up a lot yards in the passing game, and both of Mike Adams’s interceptions were somewhat fortuitous given that one came from the awful ball thrown by Hoyer at the end of the game that I’ve already mentioned, and the other was a pass that bounced off Arian Foster’s hands and up into the air. They didn’t get a consistent pass rush, although they got pressure when it mattered at the end of the game, but I still don’t think this is a good unit, that may well cost them games later in the season.
The Colts got their wind, moving to 3-2 for the season, but all these wins have been against divisional opponents and I suspect it is the games against the likes of the Patriots, Panthers, Broncos, and Falcons in the next five that will give us a true indication of how this team stands.
Meanwhile, the Texans are a hot mess, and whilst a lot of blame for the quarterback rotation lies with Bill O’Brien, the defence also should be playing better and this looks to be a very tough season for the fans in Houston, although at least the have the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Titans coming up in the next few weeks.