ColtPower Playbook: Three Big Plays

In today's ColtPower Playbook, Jess Huffman breaks down his picks of the three big plays from Sunday's matchup.

Let's be honest. The Colts have not been the most entertaining team to watch this season. Yes, they are 7-0. And yes, they do have a much improved defense, featuring an exciting defensive line. But come on, when you know your team is going to win, watching them is just not as fun anymore. I miss the thrill of suspense, the pleasuring pain of uncertainty -- most of all, I miss the game.

Playing the Texans, the Titans, the 49ers and the Browns is like playing Danny Devito in a dunk contest on a seven-foot goal. It's like schooling Jessica Simpson in trivial pursuit. Winning almost makes you feel bad, but losing is much, much worse.

It's a tough predicament.

However, in the weeks ahead we will truly find out how good the Colts are. After a bye week the Colts play their nemesis New England on Nov. 7th at New England. The Colts also play Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Seattle in the coming weeks. One thing is for sure – the Colts will be tested.

In Sunday's game against Texas, it was tough to find a challenge throughout the game. Although the game was tied at halftime, the Colts were never seriously threatened, and looked comfortable throughout.

Once again, the Colts were not the prettiest team in pads Sunday, but they got the job done. While it didn't take near the effort it will take to beat New England Nov. 7th, there were shades of brilliance in the game. With a more focused effort throughout, the Colts should be able to consistently execute to set up big plays on both offense and defense. They just need to be tested. And don't worry; they definitely will be very soon.

Here were my favorite big plays from Sunday's game. It wasn't the greatest game to watch, but these plays roused some excitement.

Playing action

The return of Edgerrin James is something special to watch. He's been back a couple of years from his knee surgery, but even last year, I didn't feel like he was at full force. However, this year, he is truly making defenses look bad. Peyton Manning is exuberating full confidence in him, exploiting the Colts running attack. With the safeties sitting back, James is getting more touches this season, and making the most of them. Personally, I just hope they can afford him long-term next season. He's going to want big dollars. In the first drive of the game Sunday, the Colts utilized James to set up a big pass play to Brandon Stokley.

The Colts started the drive on their own 12-yard line, marching down the field to the 50-yard line. James sets up in the single back and runs for 13 yards. The next play – James gains another 11 yards. It was looking easy. James was making the Houston defense look foolish, seemingly not even breaking a bead of sweat. That's when the Colts threw out the bait.

It was first-and-10 on the Houston 26-yard line. The Colts got in shotgun formation. Just when James had frustrated the Texans' defense with his ease of execution, Houston decided to adjust – and the Colts knew it.

Out of the shotgun, with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison along the left and right sideline, respectively, the Colts had Stokley in the slot, while James was back with Manning.

Jeff Saturday hikes the ball, Manning reaches out to James for the handoff – psyche. The defense bites.

Linebackers DaShon Polk and Morlon Greenwood freeze in their tracks, staring at James and then back at Manning – James, then Manning. In the meantime, Stokley, Harrison and Wayne are all starting their routes, drawing single coverage. Stokley shakes up Phillip Buchanon, cuts to the inside, landing Buchanon on his bum. Manning connects for 23 yards under the safeties. The Colts scored two downs later.

It was a flawless drive, capped by flawless execution. It's the type of drive the Colts need to have more consistently to beat better teams. For a moment, I was thinking blowout.

Getting Clark going

Once again, I'm going to take a moment to praise the work of Dallas Clark. Everyone knows what Marvin does. Everyone knows the force that is becoming Reggie Wayne. Everyone knows Edge is a premier back. And Peyton – well, do I even need to say anything?

But Clark is becoming a major weapon. Not to mention, he's a hustler, always looking for the key block, or running flawless routes to divert attention from other receivers. At the start of the second quarter, Clark and Manning connected for the biggest offensive play of the game.

After a Nick Harper interception, Indianapolis had good field position, leading 7-0. On the second play of the drive, from the Texans 31-yard line on second-and-six, the Colts struck again.

In the single back formation, James was back to block, Stokley was in the slot, while Harrison and Wayne were lined up on the sidelines. Even though James was blocking, there were a total of four offensive weapons for the defense to worry about. However, Houston decides to bring the heat, with two defenders rushing Manning.

The snap -- both Polk and cornerback DeMarcus Faggins rush from the right side of the ball. This left only two defenders in Harrison and Clark's area code. Clark ran right past, beat a hesitating Shantee Orr off the line. Middle linebacker Troy Evans was late in picking up Polks'slack, while Harrison drew in the safety on the sideline. Manning recognizes the hole in the defense, pitches it to Clark – boom – Clark runs right over Orr, past Evans and in between the two safeties. Seven points Colts, 14-0.

The play was a result of Manning's recognition, Harrison drawing in the safety and Clark running a pretty route. It was definitely one of the crowd pleasers, and reiterated what I've been preaching all year – Clark is good -- he's darn good.

Credit where credit is due

OK. It's about that time. I haven't given a big play to the defense yet this season, but I have to admit they deserve it.

The defense is much improved, the defensive line is striking fear in quarterbacks all across the league and the Colts are hitting hard, playing physical and looking tough. That "soft" reputation, which has haunted them the past couple of years, may be finally far removed, and hopefully gone forever.

In particular, the Colts' defense was rough in the second half Sunday. Just when the Colts seemingly were losing momentum, just when they had lost some steam, the defense came through for their team. It took a while, against the worst offensive line in the league, but once they got fired up, they didn't cool down.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Colts defensive line got nasty. The Colts had to settle for a field goal – sigh—the previous drive, and were struggling to put the Texans under. But then the Colts brought the heat.

On the last play of the third quarter linebacker David Thornton got to Carr for a sack. That was impressive. But the following play, the Colts displayed what truly impresses me this season – heart.

Rudy Rudiger would have been proud. On the first play of the fourth quarter, with Indianapolis up 24-14, the Colts put the game away.

Carr was in the shotgun, snapped the ball, while the force of Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock surged through the Texans' offensive line. Mathis faked outside and went inside, while Brock faked inside and went outside, burning fatboy Milford Brown. Brown was left to block Mathis with two other offensive linemen. Mathis was occupying three linemen.

No wonder the Texans lead the league in sacks allowed.

Anyway, Brock gets through the line with ease. Mike Doss is following, rushing from the defensive backfield, while Brock knocks the ball out of Carr's hands. Linebacker Gary Brackett recognizes the situation, pursues the ball, followed by Dwight Freeney, Cato June, and Marlin Jackson. There were five colts' defensive players fighting for the ball. Houston only had two – Dominack Davis and offensive lineman Todd Wade. Although Wade ultimately recovered the ball, the Texans lost 13 yards on the play, putting the Texans back at third-and-23 in their own territory.

The Colts forced another sack on the following play, forcing the Texans to punt deep in their own territory. Indianapolis responded by scoring a touchdown on their next drive, defeating any shred of hope in Texan fans everywhere.

Sorry fellas, not this year. At least, not on the Colts' clock.


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