Eagle is in his 10th year as a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS.
Play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle of the NFL on CBS will be covering this Sunday's telecast of the Texans-Colts matchup. He weighed in on the key facets of the game and the Texans' increasingly favorable national perception in this interview with Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com.
What are your thoughts on this matchup?
"Well, first and foremost, the fact that it's an important game in Week 3 is a clear sign that the Texans are turning the corner as an organization. I can't tell you how happy I am for the team as a whole. First-rate, first-class franchise, and the only thing that everybody's been waiting for is the results to change. So, the Texans and Colts, which used to be a matchup that people would not even pay attention to, shows you how far the team has come in two short weeks that it's now considered one of the hot matchups in the NFL."
Where do the Colts present the biggest problems for the Texans?
"Well, Indianapolis, their passing game is still number one in the NFL. And a Texans weakness right now, if there is one defensively, is in that secondary. They've shored up the defensive line. Linebackers, I think this is a strong group. If anything, they could be exposed in the secondary. Dunta Robinson, if the Texans continue to win, Robinson will finally start getting some national attention. He's that good. But the rest of the secondary is serviceable right now and I think that's where Peyton Manning and the Colts are going to do most of their damage."
Where do the Texans present the biggest problems for the Colts?
"Well, last year, they were able to dominate the ground game in that meeting just before Christmas. They can't expect to do that again because Bob Sanders is back and the impact that he has defensively is far-reaching for the Colts. It's almost like a domino effect. His presence seems to spark life into this defense. So the challenge this week is going to be keeping that Indianapolis offense off the field, and clearly the pressure's going to fall on the shoulders of Ahman Green and Ron Dayne to see if they can get it done on the ground. If they can't, it could be a long afternoon for Houston."
What are your keys to the game?
"Matt Schaub's poise. He's looked very cool and calm the first two weeks. Now he's going against a divisional rival with all eyes on him. He's gotten people's attention and the rest of the NFL has taken notice. This is the first real spotlight game the Texans have played in since their first game in franchise history.
"Secondly, who steps forward among the wide receivers and tight ends? Does Kevin Walter have his coming-out party? Does Jacoby Jones make a name for himself on a national scale with a big effort? How much of a factor does Owen Daniels play in the passing game? Without Andre Johnson, someone else has to play beyond expectations."
"And then, lastly, Peyton Manning doesn't forget. He is fully aware of exactly what went wrong last year. And that loss came at a time where people around the league really questioned the Colts, so I think that loss lingers with them. Obviously they went and won the Super Bowl, so they moved on from it, but now there's a little bit of history here. The Texans have finally struck, the Texans have finally been heard from in this matchup. So defensively, how do they handle Peyton Manning? Because he could be primed for a huge statistical day."
After having covered the Texans last year, where do you think the team has made the biggest strides?
"For me, I did the game last year and I did Week 1 this year, the Kansas City-Houston telecast, and just being out at their facility, there's a new attitude. There's an optimism that is sincere as opposed to hopeful a year ago. Gary Kubiak has been a winner his entire life and when they made that hire, there was no doubt in my mind that he would be a winner here. I just didn't know how long it would take. The fact that he's been able to change a culture- he hand-picked the quarterback, and I feel like they're headed in the right direction.
"I think they've already gotten people's attention around the NFL in two weeks and you're already hearing stories similar to that of New Orleans a year ago where they can be the surprise team of the NFL this season. I'm not ready to take that plunge just yet, we need to see a little bit more, but to go on the road the way they did and climb out of a 14-point hole shows you that there's a resiliency.
"And lastly, these aren't your older cousin's Houston Texans. Nobody is focused on what's happened in the past. Kubiak's not focused on that. Matt Schaub isn't focused on that. There are enough new faces now on this team that don't care about what happened two years ago, three years ago, four years ago. That's irrelevant, and to me that's the biggest sign of all."
With this game getting more national attention than most Texans games, what will people watching this team for the first time be surprised to see?
"First, the curiosity factor with Matt Schaub. For three years you heard the name, you heard how high the Falcons were on him, how other GMs thought he could be a starting quarterback. For a lot of people, it'll be their first chance to see him go out and perform.
"Secondly, DeMeco Ryans. This kid last year proved himself and got the recognition he deserved as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He stands out. When you watch the film, he stands out. He makes plays sideline to sideline, he's a tackling machine and his leadership as a second-year pro is evident. So fans that have not had a chance to see him will get an opportunity to see one of the best young defensive players in the league."
Can the Texans make the playoffs this year?
"Too early to tell. I certainly feel like they can be in the conversation. They improved in all the right areas and the quarterback position, which, let's face it, was a risky proposition. The body of work was limited. Yet they felt that Schaub was the perfect guy for their system, and I think Schaub believes that the system was perfect for him. This is a mutually advantageous situation for both parties.
"I'd like to see where they're at following the midway point (of the season), and then we can get a better feel for what this team could eventually be. But certainly improvement from last year to this year, that's obvious. Are they able to take that next step to be considered a playoff contender? That remains to be seen."
"The last thing I would say is, I've been doing the NFL on CBS now for 10 years. Every week when I'm going about my business running errands, people will ask me, 'What game you got?' And you can judge off their facial expression what they think of your matchup for that week.
"Well, this week, going to the drycleaners, stopping in for a sandwich, talking to the mailman, they ask me what game do I have. I mention the Indianapolis Colts-Houston Texans matchup and the reaction has been unanimous: people are excited for the game. And it just shows you how far the Texans have come in just two weeks. Their reputation right now is strong and they're a feel-good story around the NFL. So we'll see if that continues."