The Colts had an easy time of it against the Houston Texans during their home opener. While those who simply see a final tally of 43-24 in the Colts favor may be led to believe that Gary Kubiak's team gave the Colts a decent game, nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of three quarters, the Colts led 30-3. The Texans put up some artificially inflated stats and scoring in the fourth quarter as the Colts gradually whittled down their number of starters on the field defensively. But more on that later, let's get to the important points from this game ... at first glance.
-- Rookie strong safety Antoine Bethea started once again over Mike Doss and provided very reliable coverage out there. While he only had one tackle on the day, it appears the job is his to lose. Doss got some playing time in the fourth quarter and was involved in a couple of plays that showed that he's still getting in the flow of things after missing substantial time due to a calf injury.
-- Undoubtedly the chatter in the media this week will be the debate over whether or not Edgerrin James' torch as the former starting running of the Colts has officially been passed to rookie Joseph Addai. While they had roughly the same amount of carries, Addai's rushing production was more than double that of Rhodes. The Colts' top draft pick finished the day with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries for a strong 5.1 yards per carry average. How impressive is that? Well, consider the fact that James only finished two games in 2005 with a higher average than that mark. Addai also grabbed two Peyton Manning passes for 22 yards, including a 21-yard scamper that resulted in a touchdown. Addai could have tacked on a rushing touchdown to his day's total had he not been stripped of the ball at the goal line while three Texans mauled him, forcing a turnover. Rhodes rushed 14 times for 37 yards for a 2.6 yard average. That at least bested his previous week against the Giants when he finished with a 1.8-yard average. The veteran scored a touchdown, posted a longest run of nine yards and also caught two passes for 22 yards, including a nice 16-yard catch-and-run.
-- The injury news was a bit scary as the game progressed. We'll be sure to keep our eyes and ears open for developments on four key players. Tight end Ben Utecht went out with a head injury and wide receiver Brandon Stokley -- playing for the first time since his mid-August high ankle sprain -- apparently re-injured the ankle after making a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone on the Colts' first possession. Dwight Freeney headed to the locker room during the fourth quarter, and Adam Vinatieri reportedly strained his groin and didn't finish the game. Punter Hunter Smith finished the game handling kickoffs and an extra point attempt that was blocked. He probably welcomed the opportunity as his number got called just once all day to punt.
-- In my pre-game scouting report on Texans RB Wali Lundy, I projected that he shouldn't be much of a factor in this game if the Colts defense rebounded to their usual level of play. He was barely noticeable out there, and the Texans actually gave more attempts to former Bronco Ron Dayne during the contest. The Texans' mediocre blocking was further crippled by injuries during the game, so they got some needed relief when the Colts started working their reserves into the lineup on defense for the fourth quarter. If any casual fan makes a comment to you that the Colts rushing defense still looked awful, citing that they again surrendered over 100 yards rushing to a team like the Texans, tell them that Houston got 53 of their 108 yards rushing in the fourth quarter with the subs in. The Texans also posted 146 passing yards in the fourth quarter, but while the first-team defense was in there solidly for the first three periods, they allowed Houston just 73 yards passing. That's a pretty fine effort.
-- Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison were back at it. Harrison led the receivers with 7 catches (127 yards), but Wayne had more yardage (6-135). Ironically, neither one got the glory of catching a touchdown pass. Manning's three touchdowns were caught by Addai, Stokely and tight end Bryan Fletcher.
-- Manning broke yet another Colts record previously held by Johnny Unitas. About halfway through the first period, when he threw the touchdown pass to Joseph Addai, he notched his 2,797th completion. The amazing part of that statistic is that Manning reached the mark in 130 games versus 206 by the legendary Unitas. Manning still trails him in career attempts, yardage, touchdowns and games played. While he will likely challenge those marks, the one that isn't a sure thing is Unitas' streak of 47 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass.
-- Manning finished the day with exactly 400 yards passing, completing 68.4 percent of his passes (26 out of 38) for three touchdowns and no interceptions. And while I had no problem with him being out there until the end of the game, I'm not sure what he was thinking when he tucked the ball and ran for the sidelines to get a first down that wasn't going to have an impact on the game at that late stage.
-- Terrence Wilkins averaged just 21.0 yards per return on four kickoffs, so the Colts gave RB Ran Carthon a try late in the game. He returned his only opportunity for ... 21 yards. Wilkins won the job for kickoff return duty after an impressive 30+ yard average during the third game of the preseason against New Orleans. But if he lingers around the 20-yard mark, the Colts would be wise to take another look at practice squad cornerback T.J. Rushing. I like Wilkins' vision and acceleration, so I'll be anxious to take a look at the tape and see if he simply didn't get the blocks this week or what stifled his productivity a bit.
-- Anybody else relieved to see that the Colts got nine first downs on the ground? I sure was. And how about their scoring four out of six times in the red zone? Sure, I know it was the Texans, but there would be some of you that would be setting your hair on fire if the Colts had performed poorly in the zone against that team, so enjoy it.
-- Until the fourth quarter started, the Texans had seven possessions with only one resulting in any points -- and a field goal at that. Four possessions were ended by punts and two by turnovers (fumbles). Excluding their final one-play kneel-down possession to kill the last few seconds of the game, the Colts scored on eight of their ten possessions.
-- The Colts' average start after kickoffs was worse than the Texans by six yards (22-yard line versus the 28-yard line) but Houston would have needed a lot more than that to pull this one out.
-- Poor David Carr. In addition to being sacked four times, he also took four quarterback hits. Robert Mathis had 2 sacks and a hit, Raheem Brock 1. 5 sacks and a hit, and reserve DE Bo Schobel got credit for half a sack, but two hits. Unfortunately, on one of those hits he corralled Carr with a headlock-style grab that drew a flag for roughing the passer.
We'll be breaking down the game tape this week, so check back for more analysis of this game at ColtPower. We're the source for Colts fans who understand that taking their passion for the Colts to the next level -- and being able to talk about the games with broader knowledge and vision -- is in the details.