5 Things Learned: Colts Stake Early Claim To AFC South In Win Over Texans

5 Things Learned: Colts Stake Early Claim To AFC South In Win Over Texans

Blog > Kevin's Corner > Colts Coverage > 5 Things Learned: Colts Stake Early Claim To AFC South In Win Over Texans

5 Things Learned: Colts Stake Early Claim To AFC South In Win Over Texans

The Colts (4-2) returned from their bye week and staked an early claim to the AFC South, with a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans (4-3). What was learned from the Colts improving to 4-2 on the season?

Joe Robbins | Getty Images


INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts sit alone atop the AFC South.

It’s been quite some time since that sentence could be said, but it’s true again after the Colts (4-2) won in a different way on Sunday afternoon.

Behind a strong passing game, the Colts won an important divisional matchup over the Houston Texans (4-3), 30-23, at Lucas Oil Stadium.

What was learned from the Colts improving to 4-2 on the season?

FIVE THINGS LEARNED

  • Winning In Different Ways: Against the Chiefs, the Colts put a blueprint out there where they played to their biggest offensive strength----running behind a talented offensive line. But with the Texans committing numerous resources in successfully eliminating that strength (the Colts had just 62 rushing yards on 26 carries Sunday, 2.4 yards per carry), the Colts had to win in another way. And that’s where the passing game flourished. Jacoby Brissett had a career afternoon against the high percentage of man coverage from the Texans. His 4 passing touchdowns, along with major contributions in the passing game via Zach Pascal (106 yards and 2 TDs), T.Y. Hilton (74 yards and 1 TD) and Eric Ebron (70 yards and 1 TD) showed that the Colts can win in other ways. It’s outings like Sunday---proving that you can win in multiple ways---that is starting to show the rest of the NFL that the Colts are a team capable of playing into the month of January. To survive a 16-game season, you must win-games ‘left handed.’ The Colts did that on Sunday.
  • Maniac Calls Game: We will touch more on that defense a little bit later, but let’s focus here on the game-sealing interception by Darius Leonard. Earlier in the week, Frank Reich went out of his way to mention how important the return of Leonard was for games like this one, after No. 53 had missed 3 straight contests due to a concussion. The Texans have one of the most unique offenses in the league, and players like Leonard are absolutely needed to slow them down. With the Colts offense unable to sustain 4th quarter drives/eat up much of the clock on Sunday, it was left to the defense to finish this game. Leonard did exactly that on a diving interception that came via a deflection with 26 seconds to go. If Leonard doesn’t make that play at the Houston 32-yard-line, who knows how the final 26 seconds unfolds, with the ever-dangerous Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins having already shown they can move the ball extremely quick. It was an All-Pro play by The Maniac.
  • Brissett Does The Heavy Lifting: Many, including myself, have wondered if Jacoby Brissett could do the heavy lifting in a big-time NFL atmosphere. And while we can nitpick a dropped snap or just 1 first down by the offense in 4 true fourth-quarter drives, Sunday was a different side of Brissett. He knew coming into the meeting with the Texans that they were going to make his right arm beat them. And Brissett did just that, going 26-of-39 (66.7%) for 326 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. There were career-highs everywhere for Brissett, as he was patient enough to find the crosser or shallow routes that the Colts pass catchers won, thanks to enough pass protection. When J.J. Watt is crediting your toughness after a game, you know you’ve done something good. Needing games like this from Brissett will probably be more of the norm against the NFL’s better teams. The QB delivered in a performance to prove that he has some franchise quarterback characteristics.
  • Red Zone Defense Sets Early Tone: Frank Reich called it ‘the difference in the game.’ He’s right. The Texans were 0-for-3 in the red zone during Sunday’s first half, which was a monumental effort by the Colts defense against the league’s best red-zone team entering Week 7 (Houston had been converting 71% of their red-zone opportunities). Sudden change for the Colts defense had them defending short fields twice in Sunday’s first half. Both times they held the Texans to field goal attempts. If any of those drives ended with a touchdown, that totally would have changed the flow of the game. The Colts defense wasn’t perfect on Sunday, but the run defense was much improved. And in the game’s most critical moments, that unit stepped up. Even though DeAndre Hopkins got his (9 catches for 106 yards and a touchdown), Colts cornerback Pierre Desir deserves a major pat on the back for gutting it out and playing a huge shadow role, which allowed the Indy defense to bring a heavy blitz attack at Deshaun Watson and a beat up Houston O-line. Along with the great red zone defense, the Colts also held the best third-down offense to just 33 percent (4-of-12), after the Texans had been converting a league best 51.3 percent on the money down.
  • Early Divisional Lead: It’s pretty amazing. The Colts will enter Week Eight of the 2019 season alone in first place of the AFC South for the first time since November 2015. It’s been nearly 4 years since the Colts were sitting in solo possession of the AFC South. Sunday’s win was massive on so many levels. The divisional ramifications are huge with the Colts moving to 2-0 in the AFC South and getting an early head-to-head tiebreaker lead on Houston. And now the Colts head into the ‘easiest’ part of their schedule (Broncos, at Steelers, Dolphins, Jaguars) with a real chance to enter the final month of the season competing for a chance at a bye, whereas the Texans still have games against the Patriots and Ravens. The Colts are now 13-3 in their last 16 regular season games, tied for the best mark of any team in the NFL during that span.

 

QUICK HITTERS

-Reich Quotable: On Darius Leonard’s game-clinching interception: “That was unbelievable. How did he come up with that catch? Just having him back, you can just feel his presence out there.”

-Player Quotable: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett on becoming the Colts’ new QB1: “It’s been a journey, but it’s been fun, the learning, the constant ways of finding ways to get better. A day like today, doesn’t make me ‘the man.’ It just makes us more balanced. And I think we proved today that we can throw the ball.”

-Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: DE-Tyquan Lewis (ankle), CB-Kenny Moore (knee), S-Malik Hooker (knee), WR-Parris Campbell (abdominal), RB-Jonathan Williams, DT-Trevon Coley and OT-Le’Raven Clark. Defensive tackle Carl Davis (hamstring) left in the 4th quarter and was ruled OUT.

-Key Stat: For the time since Week 17 of the 2005 season did the Colts win a game without having a single first down via a rush. The Colts had 23 first downs on Sunday, but none came via the ground (18 via the pass, 5 via penalty).

-What’s Next: The Colts (4-2) are in the midst of a 4-game stretch at home over the next 5 weeks. Next Sunday afternoon, they will host the Denver Broncos (2-5).



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