Hours after Nick Novak's field-goal attempt went through the uprights for the improbable 26-23 win over the Indianapolis Colts, it's still surreal to think the Texans won that game. How? Beats me, but this squad kept fighting and competed until the zeroes... uh, I mean, the overtime kick went through the uprights. Through the fog of the night, here are my observations.
- At some point in the fourth quarter, Marc Vandermeer threw it down to me for a quick sideline hit. I believe the Texans were down 20-9 at that point and I mentioned that this was an opportunity to see into this team's soul. What was this 2016 team really going to be all about? What would define this team? To this point, many pointed to the two blowout losses to New England and Minnesota as the defining instances for this 2016 Texans squad. But, as noted, this win will tell us more about this squad than any other moment to this point in the season. To come back from down two scores, midway through the fourth quarter, says a ton about the soul of this team.
- I'll get to Lamar Miller in an instant, but there has been a ton of backlash on quarterback Brock Osweiler for his rough performance against the Minnesota Vikings' stout defense. For much of the game, it appeared that the noise would only get louder after a sure defeat to the Colts. But, if there's something to take out of the win, it's that this team never panicked, in large part because its signal caller never panicked and he never quit chopping wood. It was not pretty through three quarters, but he kept slinging the rock and eventually good things started to happen. The interception was a lousy throw and he'll say the same, but he made up for it with two GEMS - the touchdown to C.J. Fiedorowicz and the go route to Jaelen Strong to set up Nick Novak's game winner. It's now time for No. 17 to take the next step and if/when he does... look out.
- Lamar Miller was a football playing dude on Sunday night. A straight-out, football-running dude. He didn't single-handedly keep the Texans in the game, but pretty darn close. He ran with juice. He ran explosively. He ran through tackles. He made people miss. He shook the entire Colts defense on his winding touchdown catch and run. He was brilliant. Pure and simple.
- Miller didn't do it alone, as he had a ton of help. The offensive line struggled a little bit early on, but once the run game got going, that quintet was excellent the rest of the game. On the goal line, Xavier Su-a-Filo put D'Qwell Jackon on his wallet on Miller's rushing touchdown. Guard Oday Aboushi and tackle Chris Clark played well on the right side having never played next to one another. Miller ran for 149 yards behind this group, 158 yards overall, 5.6 yards per carry and the first rushing touchdown on the season.
- Kevin Johnson made a number of tackles at the line of scrimmage and one tackle for a loss. He was so quick to react and make the tackle out on the edge. He had nine solos, ten on the night and one tackle for a loss. He had a pass breakup as well. With the injuries to Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, Johnson has more than ably filled those shoes the past few weeks.
- Benardrick McKinney continues to thrive at inside linebacker in his second season and Brian Cushing played well alongside. The two combined for 20 tackles on the night and came up with stops when needed. Unfortunately, the Colts ran for 161 yards with Frank Gore picking up a C note on the ground, so work is still needed on run defense, no question.
- McKinney's sack on Andrew Luck in overtime lit NRG Stadium on fire. I was still convinced up until that play that Luck would find a rabbit in the hat as he seems to always do. But, on that third down, McKinney delay blitzed and took off like a shot toward Luck when the hole opened up. It was the perfect call by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel because it got pressure up in Luck's face and he couldn't escape.
- Colts star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had three catches for 49 yards. Now, that's impressive, for the Texans, that is. Now, keep in mind, the secondary had A.J. Bouye, Andre Hal, Corey Moore and Kevin Johnson for long stretches at a time in the base unit because of injuries to Joseph, Jackson and Quintin Demps. Moore and Johnson had never faced Luck and Hal had only briefly in 2014 when he was a backup cornerback. Now, how much more impressive is that three-for-49-yard performance for Hilton? Very.
- C.J. Fiedorowicz has become one of the most vital assets for this Texans offense. He finished with six catches on the night and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Once he got his confidence in the win over Tennessee, it was clear that he was going to be hard to stop. What's happened is that Brock Osweiler is now looking for him in key situations. And, finding him, too. C.J. has 16 catches in six games. He had 17... for the entire 2015 season! He had 21 career catches heading into 2016. Twenty one. Suffice to say, he's taken massive strides as a go-to pass catcher for this offense.
- However, when the Texans trailed 23-9, Brock Osweiler went to Ryan Griffin on the first two plays of that next scoring series. Then, it was…
- ...Hopkins' time. Four receptions, three of them for first downs, but the one on third and nine was one of the most important plays of the entire night. Hopkins had nine receptions for 71 hard-earned yards, but he was a true baller at the biggest time of this comeback win.
- Three holding penalties were killers last night, two of them by receivers. Each negated significant runs by Lamar Miller. It happens, I know, but there were a handful of holding penalties the stripes missed on the Colts. A couple of blatant ones too. But, I digress.
- Robert Nelson was brought up to the 53-man roster this week and provided a massive boost for the defense and special teams. His pick late in the first half saved, at a minimum, three points. He also had a tackle on T.Y. Hilton on the kickoff after the Texans cut the lead to 23-16. Man, I'm telling you, he was FLYING down the field and made the best open field tackle of the night.
- The overtime was as stressful a period of football time since... man, I don't even know. But, in hindsight, it was the best this team played all night. The Texans got the stop after an initial Colts first down and the offense moved quickly and efficiently. I purposely didn't mention Tyler Ervin's punt return because I wanted to highlight what a big moment that was on its own. He made the first guy miss and then turned in a 17-yard return that set up the offense in perfect position at the Texans 33-yard line. That return was as important in overtime as McKinney's sack, Strong's catch and Novak's field goal.
- The special teams cover units had a solid night. The Colts averaged only 18 yards per kickoff return and 6.5 yards per punt return. Both of those numbers were significant in this win, no question.
- To that point, due to a difficult start in the first half, the Texans average drive start was the Houston 22-yard line, while Indianapolis started at its own 32-=yard line. It's huge to overcome a ten-yard drive start advantage and the Texans did. Somehow.
- Due to Brock's interception to Vontae Davis two plays later, Whitney Mercilus' sack on Andrew Luck on fourth down will get lost a bit in the mix. But, man, what a play that was and what a head-scratching call that was by Chuck Pagano.
Man, what a night, but what a WINNING night. That's the best news of the day. Have a good one and we'll see you next week in Denver for Monday Night Football.
Check out the best photos of the best fans as the Texans took on the Colts for Sunday Night Football.