Colts Roll Past Texans; Seize AFC South Lead

TY Hilton Texans Colts_00001
The 2014 Colts seem to be of the mindset of not being boring when it comes to play on the field.  Coming on the heels of a hard fought battle against the Ravens just four days prior, the Colts took control of the AFC South on the national stage on Thursday Night Football with a 33-28 victory over the Houston Texans.

The Colts, lead by Andrew Luck, took it to the Texans early in first quarter by zipping out to 24 point lead.  T.Y. Hilton torched the Houston secondary and Luck surgically picked apart the defense. The scores came via an Adam Vinatieri FG (27 yards), a T-Rich TD run (5 yards), and TD passes from Luck to Bradshaw (5 yards) and Fleener (4 yards).

The Texans cut into the once insurmountable lead by scoring 14 points by the way of their best two offensive weapons: Andre Johnson and Arian Foster.  The Colts added another Vinatieri field goal (34 yards) to seize a 27-14 halftime lead.

The momentum shifted in the third quarter when Arian Foster suddenly began clicking and breaking off huge chunks of yards against the Colts defense.  Ultimately, Foster scored his second TD of the evening, but it was soon countered by a Luck-to-Hilton 33-yard TD followed by a failed 2-point conversion.  The Colts were now up 33-21 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, JJ Watt happened.  He picked up a fumbled exchange between Luck & Harrison and took it to the house.  The Texans inched closer and now trailed 33-28.   After what appeared to be destined for a blowout was now anybody’s ball game, but for the second straight week the defense stepped up courtesy of Bjoern Werner with a strip-sack and the eventual recovery by D’Qwell Jackson, which clinched the 33-28 victory for True Blue.

Game Notes:

1.  T.Y. Hilton: 223 yards; 1 short of breaking Raymond Berry’s franchise record.  Hilton was unstoppable and finally hauled in his first touchdown for the season.

2.  Pat McAfee – what more can be said about him?  He has been nailing punts all season and had a game-changing onside kick recovery that caught the Texans team and coaching staff completely off guard.  At this point in the season McAfee is clearly the front-runner to make the Pro Bowl.

3.  Andrew Luck had another phenomenal game.  He finished 25-44 for 370 yards and 3 TDs.   His lone interception was the result of a tipped pass and the aforementioned fumble due to a botched center-QB exchange.  Luck is clearly the front-runner in the MVP race at this point.  Yes, Luck is better than Wilson – I said it!

4.  The defense smothered the Texans in the first quarter, but slowly Bill O’Brien’s team found their groove and the Colts had no answers for their top playmakers.   Andre Johnson showed he still has elite skills with some ridiculous catches that had no chance of being defended.   Foster found success running against the Colts – as he always seems to, but overall, the defense held when it counted and even generated a legitimate pass rush.  Werner shined late with the game-ending strip-sack of Fitzpatrick.

5.  Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw again were very effective against a legit defense.   They combined for 75 yards;  although they didn’t break 100 yards for the first time since the opener at Denver, they were hard-fought yards they gained behind a banged up offensive line that struggled at times but played well considering they were missing Mewhort and Thorton.

6.  Kudos to Coach Pagano and his staff for catching the Texans off-guard with the opening quarter on-side kick recovery which resulted in the Richardson touchdown.  Suddenly, teams will have to start prepping against the Colts because of the success they’ve had doing this so far.

7.  The Colts tight ends of Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and Jack Doyle are some of the best in the league.  Allen again is showing how much he was missed last season as a safety-valve for Luck when things break down.  Fleener is becoming exactly what most thought he’d become – a redzone threat for Luck.  That leaves Doyle, a player that is really growing on me in terms of his skill set.  He’s become the team’s Jack-of-all trades (no pun intended) by filling in whatever role the team needs.

8.  Vontae Davis had an up and down game, but he faced far superior competition last night compared to the past few games.  Andre Johnson still has it, and sometimes it just comes down to special players making plays.  Johnson was able to make a spectacular catch against Davis in the 2nd quarter, but Davis was able to strip the ball for a forced fumble against Johnson in the fourth quarter ending one of the Texans’ drives that could have produced points.  Davis has really had a good season up to this point, and so far is proving to be  worth every penny of his monster contract.

9.  Greg Manusky and the pass-rush.  The Colts sacked Fitzpatrick 5 times with sacks coming from the following players: D’Qwell Jackson, Ricky Jean Francois, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, and rookie Jonathon Newsome.  Many of us at the beginning of the season were concerned about the pass-rush, or lack thereof, but they are improving each week with different players contributing.

10.  Adam Vinatieri has been rock solid for the second year in a row.  He may be the oldest member of the Colts, but he is not showing any sign of slowing down.  A few years ago he seemed a bit off, but the last few years he’s seemed to regain his reputation for precision.

All in all, the team must be happy and now has a mini-bye before facing the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, October 19th in what should be a good measuring stick game.  The Bengals have a roster that many feel is one of the best in the league, and they are coming off a butt-kicking by the hand of our hated arch-enemy, the New England Patriots (Sorry, I know we all hate seeing that name).  Sitting at 4-2  and in first-place in the AFC South sure seems a long way off from the 0-2 start.  Go Colts!

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