It feels likes eons ago, really. The Texans were 0-3 and traveled up to their historical house of horrors for a matchup with the 1-2 Indianapolis Colts. After jumping out front 28-10, the Texans saw their lead dissipate in a dizzying Andrew Luck-led comeback. Y'all probably know the rest: Colts tied the game late, took the lead in OT, Texans tied it, Texans stopped Colts, Watson hit Hopkins, Fairbairn buried the field goal to win the game. Yeah, if it were all that simple. What's amazing about that game is that the two teams are a combined 13-3 since. Those three losses are the Colts losses and all three happened on the road: Patriots, Jets and Jaguars last week. The Colts are 6-6, yet they've only won twice on the road: Washington and Oakland. Here's to keeping that trend going for another week.
That said, this Colts squad ran into a defensive buzz saw last week. The Jacksonville Jaguars did what the Bills, Raiders, Titans and Dolphins couldn't, heck, what the Jaguars couldn't do earlier in the year, shut down the Colts offense. Including that loss to the Texans, the Colts averaged 34 points per game until their trip to Duval County last weekend.
The Colts did put points on the board at Jacksonville, but took them off the board to go for a touchdown early in that game. Then, on a fourth down, they got stuffed at the goal line. After that 17-play, 56-yard drive that died at the Jaguars one-yard line, the Colts generated only 128 yards of total offense for most of the next three quarters of the game. The last seven drives went punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, stopped on downs and end of game (eight total first downs on seven drives). Again, I'm all for that trend continuing on Sunday.
The Colts are fighting for their playoff lives while the Texans are looking to lock up another home win... and that's all I'm talking about right now. #NoCheese. Without further ado, let's get to know Sunday's foe, the 2018 Indianapolis Colts.
Schedule - Record (6-6)
L, 34-23 v. Cincinnati Bengals
W, 21-9 @ Washington Redskins
L, 20-16 @ Philadelphia Eagles
L, 37-34 v. Houston Texans
L, 38-24 @ New England Patriots
L, 42-34 @ New York Jets
W, 37-5 v. Buffalo Bills
W, 42-28 @ Oakland Raiders
W, 29-26 v. Jacksonville Jaguars
W, 38-10 v. Tennessee Titans
W, 27-24 v. Miami Dolphins
L, 6-0 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Rushing Yards per game - 106.9 ypg (20th in the NFL)
Passing Yards per game - 271.0 ypg (10th)
Total offense per game - 377.9 ypg (9th)
Turnovers lost - 19 (12 INT, 7 fumbles lost) - Colts are +2 (T-14th in the NFL)
Colts starting offense last Sunday vs. Jacksonville:
QB - Andrew Luck
RB - Marlon Mack
WR - T.Y. Hilton
WR - RYAN GRANT
H-Back - Ryan Hewitt
LT - Anthony Castonzo
LG - QUENTON NELSON (rookie)
C - EVAN BOEHM (starting C Ryan Kelly missed last two weeks)
RG - Mark Glowinski
RT - BRADEN SMITH (rookie)
Extra OT - Joe Haeg
Other key offensive pieces:
TE - ERIC EBRON
RB - JORDAN WILKINS (rookie)
RB - NYHEIM HINES (rookie)
WR - ZACH PASCAL
WR - Chester Rogers
WR - DONTRELLE INMAN
TE - Erick Swoope
**All caps indicates a 2018 addition
Keys to stopping the Colts offense:
1. T.Y. MUST STAY IN FRONT! (i.e no deep shots to T.Y. Hilton). He has destroyed the Texans at NRG Stadium over the years with big plays down the field.
2. Give Andrew Luck different pictures as much as possible. Change fronts, change rushers, disguise coverages. That won't just impact Luck, but the offensive line, backs and receivers will have to adjust as well. Keep in mind that there are still two rookies starting on the OL; furthermore, Hines and Wilkins are rookies at running back too.
3. Eliminate ANY running game with sure tackling on Marlon Mack. Colts ran for just 41 yards against Jacksonville and scored 0 points. That's not a coincidence.
4. How many defenders will it take to take away Hilton and Eric Ebron? Force one of the other perimeter players to beat the defense. Dare Luck to throw into double/rolled coverage to one or both of those receiving threats. Since Jack Doyle's been injured, Luck misses him, which was clear in the Jaguars game (29 targets to Hilton and Ebron).
5. Follow 56 to the ball. Rookie guard Quenton Nelson pulls in front of runs to the right side or they'll run right behind him on the left side.
6. TACKLE. And by TACKLE, I mean, wrap up ball carriers and reduce/eliminate yards after contact. Marlon Mack will run his you know what off and that can produce plenty of yards after contact.
Rushing yards allowed per game - 104.1 ypg (12th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 243.8 ypg (15th)
Total offense allowed per game - 347.8 ypg (11th)
Turnovers generated - 21 (11 INT, 10 fumbles recovered)
Colts starting defense last Sunday vs. Jacksonville:
DE - TYQUAN LEWIS (rookie)
NT - Margus Hunt
DT - DENICO AUTRY
DE - Jabaal Sheard
WLB - DARIUS LEONARD (rookie)
MLB - Anthony Walker
CB - Pierre Desir
Nickel - Kenny Moore
S - Malik Hooker
S - Clayton Geathers
CB - Quincy Wilson
Other key defensive pieces:
LB - STEVEN ADAMS (rookie)
DE - KEMOKO TURAY (rookie)
DT - Al Woods
DT - Grover Stewart
**All caps indicates a 2018 addition
Keys to winning vs. the Colts defense:
1. Find a way to control Denico Autry. He had a BRILLIANT game against the Jaguars (three sacks and two forced fumbles). Must occupy him all the way through the whistle. He never stops coming.
2. Know where Malik Hooker is lurking in the middle of the field at all times.
3. Must get a hat on Darius Leonard, like every single play. He must not be given free rein to run to the football unabated.
4. If Colts defensive line penetration becomes problematic, find multiple ways to counter that aggression (screens, counters, quick throws to inside players).
5. Please block Jabaal Sheard and do not let him wreck the game (he has done that in NRG Stadium a few times before, whether with the Patriots or Colts). It might have to be a team effort with tight ends and backs and such, but slowing him down is paramount to having adequate time to throw the rock.
6. Establish the line of scrimmage again early and keep pounding them at the point of attack.