If the first loss to the Colts was a gut punch, then what was this second loss to the Colts? I ask that because when the Colts landed on the fumble in the end zone to seal the 27-20 win, I fell to my knees in my broadcast moat and then to my backside as if I'd been punched in the gut...again...harder. I mean, 2020 has been nothing but a gut punch for the Texans and their fans and Sunday was just another sluggo to the stomach. That said, man, I was really proud of the way this team fought all the way throughout. Here are my Harris Hits from Indianapolis on Sunday.
After the "embarrassing" loss to the Bears the Sunday prior, I had NO CLUE as to which Texans team would show up. Now, all year long the Texans have showed up to compete, but in Chicago, after the first Colts loss, it didn't seem like the same team that we had watched all year. Then, in the seemingly blink of an eye, the Colts were up 14-0 after two first quarter touchdown drives. But, the whole thing turned on the next drive and the Texans turned on the competition button. That about turned this into a white knuckler for each team and its fanbase.
I thought about this before, during and after the game. The Texans played that game on Sunday without the following:
Will Fuller V
...and played most of the game without right tackle Tytus Howard.
Now, there's an argument to be made that the above list of players accounts for nearly 40% of the projected starters heading into the 2020 season (that doesn't even include defensive tackle P.J. Hall who was brilliant before getting hurt against Cleveland). Yet, YET, the Texans were on the doorstep of knocking off the potential, eventual AFC South division champion this season. It was also a division leading team that featured a full squad, minus just running back (who they don't miss at all) Marlon Mack and receiver Parris Campbell.
Being undermanned is something quarterback Deshaun Watson has dealt with in his Texans career and he's always proven he can overcome anything as the leader of this team As long as #4 has time on the clock and someone in the same colored jersey to catch his passes, no opponent is safe and Indianapolis knows this as well as any team in the league. The Colts defense hit the absolute snot out of him in the first half, sacking him four times in the first thirty minutes. Yet, Watson was a red zone play away from leading the Texans to a 14-14 tie at the half. He didn't pout or get down on himself and he made an adjustment in the second half, taking the profit on first down throwing checkdowns or outlet throws, in particular to running back David Johnson. The 6-2, 225 lb. back had just two catches in the first half, but finished with 11 on the day. He was the trusted outlet for Watson when the heat started arriving at the quarterback's doorstep.
In the end, without Fuller V, Cobb, Stills or Duke, Watson threw for 373 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Now, I want you to take away the firepower for any other quarterback in the league - Davante Adams from Aaron Rodgers or Tyreek Hill/Travis Kelce from Patrick Mahomes, for example - see if he throws for 373 yards and two tuddys in a key divisional matchup. Now, Rodgers and Mahomes probably could, but I KNOW that Watson can do it because he did.
It was such a thrill to watch Deshaun work the two minute drill at the end of each half. Unfortunately, the first half ended with a field goal and the second half ended with a fumble...say it with me, from the dadgum two yard line.
That dadgum two yard line. Here's a recap from 2020
- Missed two point conversion from the two yard line at Tennessee that would've salted the game away for a divisional win on the road.
- In Cleveland, the Texans dropped a touchdown pass, followed by a failed fourth and goal from the Browns two yard line that would've helped them take the lead in a game they lost 10-7
- Botched snap at the Colts two yard line in a 26-20 with just over a minute left in the game
- Fumble at the Colts two yard line in a 27-20 loss to the Colts with just under :25 seconds left in the game.
Now, it's no guarantee that the Browns don't score more in that game or the Colts drive down at NRG Stadium for a game winning field goal or that the Texans actually score from the two yard line on Sunday, considering the issues, but the season plays out WAY different with a positive result or three from the opponents' two yard line, especially Indianapolis' two yard line.
The inability to score touchdowns from inside the ten yard line stood out to me more than anything else in this game (and this year, actually). Since the fourth quarter of the first Colts game, the Texans moved inside the Indianapolis six yard line, FOUR times. Not just the 20 yard line, the Colts SIX yard line. Four times. The Texans came away with...two field goals and two fumbles. In two games decided by a score each time and nearly an identical score 26-20/27-20, a couple of touchdowns would've changed everything. Furthermore, the two fumbles came at the TWO yard line. One field goal attempt occurred after Deshaun had to throw away THREE passes before the half and the other field goal attempt occurred after the Texans false started on 3rd and inches from the six yard line.
I loved seeing second year tight end Kahale Warring come up with a couple of big catches for the Texans on Sunday. It's clear to a LOT of people that he has the talent, but he just has to get out on the field consistently. He can be a matchup nightmare and he showed that to the Colts. His second catch on the deep crosser was an excellent catch at that time of the game. That helped set up Watson's second touchdown pass of the day, the one to Keke Coutee that tied the game at 20. Warring and Jordan Akins can be a tough combination to stop if both are healthy on into the future.
Earlier, I mentioned how the Texans gave up four sacks in the first half, but in the second half, the Texans gave up just one sack (the shoestring DeForest Buckner sack on the final drive). That happened without Tytus Howard on the field too and Rod Johnson at right tackle. When it's said that sacks are a team issue, not an offensive line issue, that second half proves it. David Johnson did a wonderful job getting open or finding open spaces for checkdowns. Watson took the checkdowns when the pocket collapsed on him. Receivers and tight ends did a better job getting open quicker. The offensive line held up longer. Team effort.
There's little debate that the only person happier than Chad Hansen that he scored a touchdown is his biggest fan - the one in my house, my daughter. When he scored, my phone blew up with a couple of texts with all caps, very excited. I know for a fact it has nothing to do with Chad's movie star looks and solely the fact that he's busted his a-- for an opportunity, nothing more, nothing less, and he's making it pay off. He was wide open, so it wasn't this grand individual play, but that score kick started the whole day for the Texans offense. Hansen finished with two catches - one a touchdown and one a key first down. He continues to flash every time he's on the field.
David Johnson would be the first one to tell you he expected to have a better overall season, but Sunday was clearly his best performance in a while. Those eleven catches I mentioned were a career high and every single one of them was hugely important. There wasn't much in the run game, but at the end of the day, Johnson had 19 touches for 133 yards and that's what can help this Texans offense produce at such a high rate.
The defense struggled early, but after giving up touchdowns on consecutive drives, the Texans gave up just two field goals over the majority of the rest of the game. At one point after the Texans tied the score, the Lucas Oil Stadium video board flashed the offensive stats in the game and I was shocked that the Texans had 365 yards or so to the Colts 266. I mean, that was with seven or eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. The defense just couldn't make the big play on that final drive to keep the Colts out of the end zone.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Keke Coutee. No one felt worse about how this one ended and I hated it for him because he was a huge reason why the Texans had a shot at the end of the game. He was nearly inconsolable coming off the field and heading into the locker room. The first person to get to him was Brandin Cooks, who just as he did with Deshaun Watson two weeks prior, picked Coutee off the turf. The second person? Nick Martin. The Texans center took full responsibility for the botched play in the first Colts game and he threw a huge right arm around Coutee as they walked off the field. I think I'll remember that more than anything else - that was the Brotherhood this team has talked about and exhibited in this COVID-adled season. It stung for Coutee but he'll make even more plays in the future for this team.
Well, I don't want to look back any further, so I'll end it there and move on to Cincinnati. See ya next week, everyone.
Check out some photos from the Texans, Colts matchup in Week 15.