I wish I had a nice, neat way to encapsulate what we just saw at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. This one was just so all over the place, but in the end, it was joyous. I did my best to keep my cool throughout the game, but man, oh man, like many wearing the bull head on our chest, it wasn't easy. As we drove away from Lucas Oil, though, the Texans had two wins over the Colts in a season for the first time ever. The 22-17 win over the Colts was definitely not for the faint of heart. Here are my observations from the exhilarating win over the Colts.
- A congratulatory hat tip for inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who became the Texans all-time leading tackler on Sunday, finishing with six stops for the Texans defense. Considering he lost nearly two full years with injuries, this is an outstanding accomplishment for the eighth-year inside linebacker.
- After the game, Drew Dougherty asked me whether defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's sack and strip fumble in the third quarter was the defensive play of the year. I couldn't think of another one that important, even though the defense has been stellar throughout the season. I was watching Clowney the entire way, hoping for one of those dynamic goal-line plays he's made throughout his career. When he whipped Dwayne Allen, I could see it coming and just hoped Andrew Luck wouldn't get rid of the ball quickly. Luck held it just long enough for No. 90 to knock it loose and Whitney Mercilus to recover it. Just an outstanding play at the most opportune time.
- Clowney said after the game that the sack fumble was his best and most valuable play as a Texan. He's just been fantastic this season and it was clear at the time, and even more so on Sunday, that he was sorely missed in Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers. I mentioned to him during our postgame interview that he beat a Clemson guy for his sack. I think he appreciated that. I don't think Colts fans did.
- The Texans answered that stop with a drive for another field goal to make it 19-10 to start the fourth quarter. Nick Novak had five of them on the day. Glad for Novak that he "had a day", but the Texans offense had multiple opportunities to put the Colts away, way earlier than they did. But, on this day, the Colts did just enough to keep the Texans out of the end zone, even from down inside the ten-yard line.
- When the news of Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson's suspension was announced on Tuesday afternoon, I went down to Drew Dougherty's office and I told him "40 carries, maybe 50, on the ground" on Sunday. The actual number was 41 carries for the Texans offense. The offensive line took control of the game early on and it paid off to the tune of 185 yards. Oday Aboushi started at left guard and played well, especially in the run game.
- During my keys to the game segments on Friday night on radio, I said the Texans needed to spread out the carries in the first half of the game, such that all four running backs could be fresh in the second half. The Texans did that, keeping running back Lamar Miller's touches under control in the first 30 minutes. In the second half, he responded with ten carries for 71 yards and a reception for 15 yards for a key first down.
- He ran with more juice and through the hole in the second half. Alfred Blue did the same, piling up 55 yards on 16 carries.
- With the injuries in the secondary, it could've been a tough day, and there were some difficult moments, but safety Quintin Demps has been playing outstanding football. I told him after the game that I thought he was playing the best ball of his career and that he was a major reason why this secondary didn't implode against Luck and company. His pick in the first half set up the Texans first score of the day. He followed that up with a couple of pass breakups in addition to that interception, his team-leading third of the year.
- Another secondary member who stepped up with a solid performance was versatile defensive back Kareem Jackson, who led the team with eight tackles. When T.Y. Hilton aligned in the slot, Jackson typically had the coverage on him. Hilton had a solid day, but Jackson was able to keep the catch and run big plays to a minimum.
- Cornerback Robert Nelson had a couple of pass interference calls on him, but the first one on a deep route down the middle was so far from being interference. Andre Ware noted it on the broadcast that Nelson saw the ball in the air and was running for it. As he ran for the ball, he ran into Hilton who sold the heck out of it to draw the pass interference. That was a huge play for the Colts and it was really the only way they were able to get back into the game. But, Nelson should've never gotten flagged for that one, not even close. The interception should've stood and with the game 16-3 at that point, a Texans score would've made it quite dicey for the Colts. But, he got flagged for it and Frank Gore took a screen pass into the end zone on the very next play to make it 16-10. Game. Was. On…at that point. Unfortunately.
- The Texans hit Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck 13 times. The pass rush that was virtually non-existent in Green Bay flourished on Sunday against the Colts offensive line. Keep this in mind, against the Jets on Monday night, the Colts gave up one sack and Luck was 22 of 28 for 278 yards and four touchdowns. The Colts piled up 421 yards against the Jets but only registered 348 against the Texans. Against the Jets, the Colts had 38 plus minutes of time of possession. Against the Texans, they only had 24 minutes. The Texans defense, without J.J. Watt, Kevin Johnson, John Simon and Johnathan Joseph, held the Colts to one of their lowest scoring outputs of the season. Romeo Crennel and his defensive staff…bravo, my men.
- Quarterback Brock Osweiler wasn't asked to do a ton on Sunday, especially so with the way the running game took over, but, similar to the trip to Jacksonville, he made a clutch throw at a much needed "gotta have it" moment. On third and two, just after the long review on Alfred Blue's fumble and non-recovery, Osweiler threw a dart to Will Fuller on a back-shoulder throw for the first down that kept the Texans final scoring drive alive.
- At the end of that drive, running back Alfred Blue came up about four inches short on a third down run and I was convinced that he didn't get a great spot and after seeing it on TV on the way home. I was right. But, instead of choosing to go for it, Bill O'Brien asked Novak to kick the field goal. The offensive line wanted to go for it, but the difference in the Colts having to score a touchdown as opposed to being able to kick a field goal was massive. Novak knocked it through and forced the Colts into a journey for a touchdown, instead of a game-winning Adam Vinateri field goal opportunity. That changed the entire game plan for the Colts on that final drive.
- On the Colts final play, I was focused on Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, so I didn't even see what play the Colts wanted to run. It wasn't really until I got on the bus to the airport when I realized that Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski chose to call a screen to Robert Turbin. Now, there wasn't a ton that worked throughout the day, but the Texans had it sniffed out from jump. Benardrick McKinney sprinted right to Turbin and was waiting for Turbin to catch it so he could make the tackle for a loss. The play never had a chance.
- Bill O'Brien took a time out on that final fourth down play to make sure he got his big fellas - Vince Wilfork and D.J. Reader - back into the game just in case the Colts decided to run inside. They didn't. After seeing Wilfork and Reader come into the game, Chudzinski chose not to run right at the middle of that defense after coming up short down on the goal line in the third quarter just prior to Clowney's sack-fumble. Wilfork was able to get the hit on Luck as he threw incomplete to Turbin on the screen pass, while Reader was on his way just a step behind.
- Safety Andre Hal didn't start the game, due in large part to the defense matching the Colts personnel, but he played the majority of the game. He made a great read early in the second half and had a huge pick that nearly turned into a pick-six in the second half. Luck held the ball way too long, 7.81 seconds to be exact (I saw that on TV after the game). Clowney kept relentlessly rushing after Luck and hit him as he threw the ball. Hal jumped in front of Colts tight end Jack Doyle for his second pick of the season.
- Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz catch on third down in the red zone that set up the Texans only touchdown of the game was not a catch he would've made last year. He's come so far, but that was a much tougher catch than it appeared.
- What have I missed…Whitney Mercilus' four quarterback hits…D.J. Reader's continued progress…Cushing's BIG block on Dwayne Allen on Hal's interception…the Texans defense giving up no more than 17 points in the last three trips to Lucas Oil Stadium…the entire NFL Network crew picking the Colts (sorry, guys…well, not really)…Dwayne Allen trying to pick up the fumble after Clowney instead of falling on it, that was a bad move…Blue, the Colts mascot, uh, pelvic thrusting his displeasure with Lamar Miller's touchdown run (that was pretty funny, honestly)…Lucas Oil Stadium was one quiet building throughout the day, the Texans sapped that entire building of any and all of its juice.
That's about all for Sunday, it's time for next week's playoff-like game against the Jaguars. BATTLE RED TIME! See ya then, everyone.
The Texans and Colts squared off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 14.