With no Andre Johnson, Tim Jamison or Whitney Mercilus available on Sunday, the Texans knew it was going to be an uphill climb to beat the 9-4 Indianapolis Colts in their building. Then, to make it more difficult...
…they lost QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first half.
...CB Johnathan Joseph was in and out of the game, dealing with injuries most of the day.
…at one point in the offensive huddle, there were four rookies, a second year WR and six offensive linemen
...with all of THAT the Texans had the ball with 2:11 left in the game, one time out remaining, down by only seven with one final shot to tie the game and send it to overtime. How? This won't sit well with anyone and I'm more disappointed after this game than any loss this year, but that was one gutsy performance from this Bill O'Brien-led squad.
The Texans squared off against the Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Moral victories stink but I don't know how a Texans fan, albeit horribly disappointed that the streak continues, couldn't be more proud of how this team battled for 60 minutes with all that it had going against it.
Here's what I saw from my view on the sideline...
- I know these two teams don't care much for each other but there was more trash talking and guys in each other's faces than any game I've seen this year. Everybody was involved too. After the extra point on the Texans only touchdown, Ben Jones was hot about something done or said. Texans DB Eddie Pleasant was in a skirmish on nearly every special teams play. Colts WR TY Hilton did a shimmy shake on the Texans sideline after a first down catch. Then, he didn't catch but two passes the rest of the day after that. The whole day was a powder keg waiting to explode and the tension was palpable the entire three and a half hours.
- Broadcast partner Andre Ware made a great observation early in the game. The offense, prior to Ryan Fitzpatrick's injury, seemed to be warming up to a lather as opposed to attacking the Colts defense. Throughout the season, we've seen the offense play more like a counterpunching boxer than knockout artist. Andre nailed it when he said the Texans would regret not getting something out of the first few drives. He was right, although losing Fitzpatrick played right into Andre's thoughts.
Texans fans showed up in full force at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
- Kendrick Lewis had a tremendous pick six on a great read and break on the ball early in the game. After a Randy Bullock 53-yard field goal cut the lead to 14-10, Lewis almost had another game changing play. On a second down, in Colts territory, he read the eyes of Andrew Luck who eyed Donte Moncrief the entire way. Lewis jumped in front of the Ole Miss rookie WR but Moncrief got just enough of a hand on the ball to keep it out of Lewis's grasp. Make that pick, break through Moncrief's tackle and Lewis would've put the Texans in position to score or he may have scored himself, a second time.
- On that note, the secondary was brilliant throughout the second half. Romeo Crennel mixed up the looks for Luck and he could do that because the coverage was outstanding throughout the last 30 minutes. TY Hilton? Nada over the last 30 minutes. Wayne? Not much. Kareem Jackson, J Jo, D Manning and the rest really clamped down, which eliminated much of Hilton's yakking over the final 30 minutes.
- The Hakeem Nicks touchdown was just a case of Luck having too much time to throw. Crennel dialed up a zone blitz with layers. He had two "linebackers" show early and then drop immediately and then he had Jared Crick drop after engaging the OL. Unfortunately, the droppers lost Nicks coming across the middle and Luck just had too much time to make that throw.
- The most impressive coverage play of the game may have been LB Mike Mohamed running down the seam staying in the hip pocket of TE Dwayne Allen. The Colts fans wanted PI but they wanted a flag on every single play. It wasn't PI, at least, not as it was called on Sunday.
- QB Tom Savage will remember this one for the rest of his career and had plenty of bright moments. He was courageous and stood tall in the pocket. He delivered some solid throws including the dime he dropped on DeAndre Hopkins. Brilliant throw. It wasn't always pretty but some of the throws he made down the field were exactly why this organization took a shot on him in the fourth round.
- I knew that Savage was in control in the second half when he checked to a short side/weak side run by Foster where Indianapolis had aligned improperly. The result was a big Foster run for a first down to keep a 3rd quarter driving rolling.
- Texans LT Duane Brown joked a bit afterward saying that Savage was a little meek, nervous when he first came into the huddle but it didn't take long, Brown said, for the rookie QB to be in full command of the huddle, especially in the second half.
- The offensive staff was forced to adjust throughout the game and unearth little nuggets of offensive brilliance just to keep the Colts off track. Foster and Blue on the field together. Gun flip to Arian Foster. Fake gun flip, inside wrap to Alfred Blue. Flip sweep off belly action to Arian on fourth and one for a touchdown (called back for a hold). Crazy as it sounds, in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Colts defense was back on its heels, not knowing exactly what to expect. Give credit to this offensive staff and those offensive players for handling a tough situation and maximizing it to the utmost.
- So, Arian Foster…let me hit on 23 right here. The second half was some of the best running I've seen from him in the six years he's been the bona fide star in the backfield. I thought early on in the game, he really struggled with reads and where he wanted to run. But, in the second half? Whoa. He ran with power. He ran with urgency. He blasted through holes that were closed. His touchdown-that-wasn't run was quintessential Arian. I don't even have the right adjectives for that performance. I was just glad I was there to see it and wish it would've had a different result.
Oh, lest I forget...Foster completely pie faced CB Greg Toler on a run down the Texans sideline. Ohhhhhh, that was pretty. Last week, Jaguars S Josh Evans, this week Toler.
- On Friday, would anyone have suspected a Savage to DeVier Posey pass play would've been a key play on a big drive in the second half? Those two have been inactive for much of the year, in fact, Savage has only been active for three games and Posey for just this one. But, Savage dropped a beautiful touch throw on Posey on the Colts sideline on the team's field goal drive.
Unfortunately, the holding call on Posey stung and we all noted during the broadcast, it was unnecessary. But, then again, that's easy for us to say from the sideline as opposed to being in that moment on the field.
- The Colts found success early in the game staying ahead of the chain by running v. dime personnel, throwing v. nickel (base). When the Texans went dime personnel on first down, Luck audibled to a run and had success. But, in the second half, the Texans dime did a better job against the run and that made the Colts a little bit more predictable, the Texans defense less, for most of the second half. The Colts field goal to make it 17-10 came on a short field and nothing but runs.
- On that Colts' field goal drive, OLB John Simon made the play of all plays on third down to slow down QB Andrew Luck on a naked bootleg. That brought the field goal team on for the only Colts' points of the second half.
- The Texans defense was seemingly gassed on that final drive and it made some significant mistakes, perhaps due to fatigue. Contain players jumped inside blocks while no one filled in that contain spot. DL ran upfield to make plays in the backfield and were a bit out of position. However, when it came time to make a play, Simon made it and helped saved four crucial points.
- During our weekly Telestrator segment, I always pick the plays for Coach O'Brien and I to break down. So, I picked a few from the Jaguars win and then we always preview the next opponent. As such, I picked a couple of plays from the Browns-Colts game to telestrate…is that an actual verb? Well, it is now. Either way, we finished the Jaguars plays and we started on the Browns-Colts plays.
As we got a minute or so into it, OB stopped and said "Johnny, can we just do Jaguars plays?" Of course, I said, but he continued "I like what they did and we might do that". Say no more, Coach, so I didn't and told no one throughout the week. Early in the game, I realized that OB wasn't kidding as I saw the Texans utilizing a few of those schemes. Glad I gave OB the idea (and just in case you don't know my humor I'm kidding).
- Overall, the defense played as well as could be expected. It held the best offense in the league to 17 points, the least amount of points the Colts scored all season long, and well under 300 yards. DE JJ Watt was again the best football player on the planet. He had two sacks, drew a key holding penalty (one of what should've been about three or four holding calls), knocked down a pass and was a menace in the run game as well. Furthermore, as I noted earlier, the secondary was outstanding for much of the game.
- Even after the Colts stopped a Texans fake punt on fourth and one, in the second quarter, the defense slowed Luck and the Colts offense, forcing them off the field with no damage done.
- I was upset in the first half because it seemed like there were veterans that needed to step up and that wasn't happening. Busts in assignments, mistakes, unnecessary flags, etc…I was frustrated that, with a rookie at QB, the veterans weren't putting the game on their shoulders. That changed in the second half and changed in a big way.
- Pleasant completely decapitated poor Josh Cribbs on a punt return. Wow, that was one of the biggest hits all year long. That's probably why the Colts went after him for much of the rest of the game on special teams.
Check out these snapshots of the Texans getting ready for their Week 15 contest at Indianapolis.
- The Colts ran a handful of screens against the Texans in the first meeting and a number of them worked handsomely. But, on Sunday, they got away from the screens, especially so after Texans DT Jerell Powe made a tremendous play, pouncing on Trent Richardson after one screen deep in Colts territory. Immediately, he made the Land shark sign, an homage to his Ole Miss Rebel defense, known as the Land Sharks.
- On my Friday Texans Live radio show, Patti Smith did an interview with Ryan Fitzpatrick and asked him directly why he always dove head first and didn't slide feet first. I typically listen to every single second of a Fitzpatrick interview because he's so honest and has a humorous dry wit. After the interview concluded, I remarked that I finally understood his dilemma, so to speak. He said that he always went head first when he played baseball so that's what's most comfortable for him.
I was the same way, always sliding head first when I played baseball. So, I understood and hoped nothing would ever happen. Unfortunately, it did. Little did any of us know that his answer would end up playing a factor in Sunday's matchup.
- And, this last thing I thought about as I did a final edit on these observations. From 2009 through 2013, Bill O'Brien started three quarterbacks - Tom Brady, Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg. On Sunday v. the Ravens, he'll start his third different quarterback THIS SEASON, whether it's Tom Savage, Thaddeus Lewis or a QB to be named later.
- I'm sure that I saw way more than I have here, but I threw away my notebook in a momentary fit of anger leaving the field. As such, I'll end it here and hope no one got hurt on the plane ride home.