What We Learned: Texans at Colts

Eric Hartz shares what we learned from watching the Indianapolis Colts steamroll the Houston Texans, 38-15, at the RCA Dome Sunday.

1. Re-signing Dallas Clark needs to be a priority in the offseason:

In order to keep the Peyton Manning-Marvin Harrison-Reggie Wayne passing trio intact, the Colts have had to let some of their other secondary playmakers, like Marcus Pollard, Brandon Stokley and Edgerrin James go to free agency. The Colts could face a similar dilemma this season, with both Clark and Bob Sanders coming up for free agency.

Everyone knows how valuable Sanders is to the defense, and it would hard to imagine the team not getting a deal done to keep the hard-hitting safety. But that shouldn't come at the expense of Clark, who showed once again on Sunday that when he's at his best, so are the Colts.

His two touchdowns helped break open a game that looked to be a dogfight early, and he set new Colts tight end records for receptions and touchdowns in a season, breaking Hall of Famer John Mackey's records that have stood for 40 years.

Bill Polian is a great executive in part because he has known when to hold and known when to fold when it comes to keeping players in free agency. But this year, he's got to show Clark the money.

2. The Colts are the deepest team in football:

With five starters out against a Texans team that was playing its best football in, well, ever, the Colts didn't miss a beat once again, scoring 38 straight points at one point in a game that meant nothing to them.

If you told a Colts fan on Sept. 1 that the team would lose its Hall of Fame receiver and its All-Pro defensive end for most of the season, start 10 different defensive linemen, and rely on players like Jeff Charleston, Kenton Keith and Devin Aromashodu and still win at least 13 games, they would have laughed at you. Yet that's exactly what the Colts have done in this most remarkable season.


Joseph Addai needs some rest.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

3.It might be time to stable some of these Colts:

With the Colts locked into their playoff seeding, the million-dollar question is how much to rest the starters. While the regulars did their part Sunday against Houston and put the game out of reach by the fourth quarter, it might be wise to err on the side of caution in Week 17 against Tennessee.

As we know, five starters missed the Houston game, and Joseph Addai, Anthony Gonzalez and Tim Jennings all suffered injuries. It's probably time for Tony Dungy to rein in the horses and get rested up for the playoffs. Let Manning and the healthy starters get some early work in against Tennessee, and let the injured guys heal — especially Addai, who's carried a heavy load this season. Plus, Kenton Keith and Clifton Dawson have showed they're capable of spelling Addai.

4. Sunday's game does mean something — for the Titans:

Last week, we told you that the Colts wouldn't play another meaningful game until the second week of January, but that turned out to not be the case.

Tennessee needs a win to clinch the AFC's last wild-card berth. If the Titans win, they're in. If they lose, Cleveland goes to the playoffs.

That storyline caused NBC to exercise its flex scheduling for this game, moving the 1 p.m. kickoff time back to 8:15 for "Sunday Night Football." It will be the sixth prime-time appearance by the Colts this season.

5. Manning is getting into a groove:

In his last five games, Manning has completed 105-of-152 passes for 1,396 yards with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. That's a quarterback rating of 122.6, which is right around the pace of his record-setting 2004 campaign.

Give Manning his favorite target back and a healthier offensive line, and he might just continue that pace through the playoffs — a scary thought for every other team.


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