Harris Hits: Week 7 at Indianapolis

The Texans took one on the chin at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, falling 30-23. Here are my Harris hits from the afternoon.

It was a rough one, especially from a missed opportunities standpoint. The Deshaun Watson-to-DeAndre Hopkins touchdown that was taken away by an in-the-grasp sack. Having to kick a field goal after the J.J. Watt forced fumble. The fourth-quarter drive that ended with Watson’s first interception of the day.

The first drive of the game saw the Texans convert first downs twice, but both were negated for penalties. Right tackle Dan Skipper was called for not reporting as an eligible receiver. Yet, he did, but the officials didn’t see him do it. Then on a 4th-and-1, the Texans didn’t line up properly, leaving right tackle Rod Johnson as the end man on the line of scrimmage, which can’t happen.

It was like that all day long, really. Two steps forward, three steps back. The Texans left a ton of yards and points on the board. Just ask each Texan in the locker room. They’ll tell you that all day, every day.

Defensively, they’ll say much of the same. It was off the field a few times and then a defensive penalty gave Indianapolis new life. The toughest one was down deep in the red zone in the third quarter when on third down, the defense committed a penalty on Colts tight end Eric Ebron. The defense would have been off the field for a field goal attempt, but the penalty gave the Colts new life. They scored a touchdown a few plays later. That penalty turned out to be a four-point penalty, not just a half-the-distance-to-the-goal yardage flag.

The Texans offense showed what it could do when they fell behind 21-9 in the third quarter and went down the field like a hot knife through butter. How quick and fast? How about five plays, 75 yards in 1:46 fast? Yeah, they blazed up the field when it was absolutely necessary to score. Watson picked apart the Colts secondary with throws to Kenny Stills and Hopkins prior to a Keke Coutee rushing touchdown that made it 21-16.

The Colts offense, though, was a tough cover all day long. The Texans spent much of the day without three of four starters in the secondary. Safety Tashuan Gipson Sr. and cornerback Johnathan Joseph both went out injured in the first half, in addition to starting cornerback Bradley Roby, who didn’t make the trip to Indianapolis. Let’s put it this way, rookie Lonnie Johnson Jr. was the second-longest tenured Texan in the defensive backfield from 8:55 in the second quarter through the rest of the game.

Colts receiver Zach Pascal finished with two touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton had a touchdown. Tight end Eric Ebron made a sensational one-handed catch in the end zone. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett took a pounding, thanks mainly to J.J. Watt and some fierce pressure in the pocket, yet the Colts signal caller was dealing all day long.

One of my favorite plays of the day was a tackle for a loss on a Marlon Mack run. Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham got credit for the tackle for a loss on Mack but the play was made by Texans defensive lineman D.J. Reader. The Texans stout run stuffer was blocked by Colts All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson. As Nelson blocked down on Reader, the Texan defender shot his hands right through the V in Nelson’s neck and nearly bent Nelson in half and back in to his running back. Mack saw this happening and cut outside Nelson... right into the waiting arms of Cunningham.

The thing with the defense was that there were some excellent moments but it also had moments of inconsistency that plagued this group throughout the day. That’s to be expected, in some sense, given the changes in the back end. However, in the fourth quarter the Colts had four possessions that ended the same way: punt, punt, punt, punt. The defense kept it close in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough throughout the full 60 minutes.

The Colts run game was fourth in the league heading into this matchup, but the Texans really eliminated any Colts run game impact. It held the Colts to 62 yards on 26 carries, a 2.4 yards per carry clip.

The final margin of victory over the last eleven regular season matchups (2014 - today) between these two teams: seven, three, three, nine, four, six, three, six, three, seven and five. The thing about a game of that magnitude is one mistake can change everything. On Sunday, the Texans made a handful of them and still had a chance to go down and tie it late in the game.

And, that’s been the story of this year’s losses. Two-point loss at New Orleans. Six-point loss against Carolina. Seven-point loss to the Colts.

One of my favorite plays in this game was the option inside the five-yard line that went for a touchdown. Listen, I’ve always been an option guy so that’s not all that surprising, really. Watson pulled the ball on a zone read to his left and as the Colts approached him, he flipped out to Coutee for the touchdown. Watson went left but flipped it with his right hand and Coutee snatched it with his right hand, scooting into the end zone to cut it to a five-point lead.

Hopkins had another outstanding day, getting back in the end zone for a touchdown for the first time since the opening game against the Saints. Hopkins was tough as nails throughout the day, even when he took a huge shot on a crossing route in the first half. He made the catch, beating noted Hopkins stopper (as he’s apparently known) across the middle, then a Colts safety hit Hopkins at the knee and flipped him completely over. Hopkins finished with nine catches for 106 yards and a touchdown (should’ve been 10 catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns).

Stills was just as outstanding. Down 28-16 and needing a touchdown immediately, Watson saw rookie Rock Ya-Sin in man coverage with Khari Willis, the middle of the field safety, all the way over near the numbers to help on Hopkins. Watson immediately dialed up a deep shot to Stills, who made the catch to get that drive rolling. Stills finished with four receptions for 105 yards, his first 100-yard game as a Texan.

In a weird twist, the Texans have played four games on the road this year. They’ve won the two played outside (Chargers/Chiefs) and lost the two played inside (Saints/Colts). For being an indoor team, it would seem to make sense the other way, but the good news is that the final four road games are all outside: Jaguars (London), Ravens, Titans and Buccaneers. If the trend holds… well, that would be a great thing.

Well, there’s not too much more to really discuss from this one. Got to pick things back up and get ready for the Raiders next Sunday. Remember, kickoff is at 3:25 p.m. CT! See ya then, everyone.

Houston Texans take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium for the seventh game of the 2019 NFL season.

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