What We Learned: Colts at Texans

Greg Talmage was watching closely during Sunday's Colts-Texans game and shares five things we learned in the 31-27 comeback win by the men wearing the Horseshoe.

1. At the moment, this is not a good football team: Let's be honest with ourselves, Colts fans. This team is not very good. It fails at running the ball or stopping the run. The defense gives up way too many third-down conversions. Linebackers cannot get off blocks. The safeties look lost more often than not. Anything over 35 yards is a very questionable distance for the team's field goal kicker. It's a makeshift offensive line every week and every week that makeshift line struggles to both protect its quarterback and open holes for its runners. The timing between the quarterback and his receivers is still a little off.

Now I qualified this statement with one simple phrase — at the moment. The Colts were four minutes and five seconds away from being alone in last place in the AFC South at the quarter mark of the season.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Colts still are very talented team personnel-wise, especially on offense, who we can only hope will take the momentum for this amazing comeback and parlay it into a nice run.

Next week, the Baltimore Ravens and their anemic offense come to town. After that it's road game at Lambeau Field, a place where the Packers have lost two straight weeks (Buccaneers, Falcons).

Neither game is easy by any stretch of the imagination, but both are certainly winnable. Win both and that sets up a very important matchup at Tennessee.

OK, OK. Let's take it one week at a time. That's one thing today's game taught us. I would not be excited about this team's prospects at Tennessee right now, but could be on October 27th, if the next two weeks show improvement.


Mario Williams got up close and personal with Peyton Manning several times Sunday
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

2. Pass offense concerns continue: Seeing Peyton and Marvin having an "animated" gentlemen's discussion about routes or the inability to get a consistent passing game going against a defense missing its best corner and both starting safeties has to make even the most casual Colt fan scratch his head and ask what's going on.

It's twofold. First off, timing issues are still plaguing Manning and his receiver corps. Some of this can be attributed to Manning missing all of training camp and the preseason. Overall, it's getting better, but things are still just a bit off. For Peyton and his receivers, Week 4 was a bad week for a bye.

The other and much bigger factor is pass protection failures. It's tough to get into a rhythm when the quarterback is on his back, under pressure or being forced to attempt plays on the move. Today, it was DE Mario Williams causing all sorts of havoc. Williams was blowing by whoever was across from him. It didn't matter if it was Ryan Diem, Charlie Johnson, Gijon Robinson, Tom Santi, Howard Mudd himself, the kitchen sink or whoever. The Colts hardly had an answer all afternoon.

It doesn't get any easier next week with Terrell Suggs. Indianapolis needs to clean this up quick or it'll be another week of frustrated receivers and quarterback.

3. Dan Federkeil was badly missed today: It's been a cast of revolving characters on the interior line of the Colts each week this season. The lack of continuity is definitely taking a toll. It's good to have Jeff Saturday — he's the line marshal and does a great job getting everyone their assignments — but it's too bad he can't block for some of them. But I'm not sure Saturday was the guy the Colts line misses the most.

Right now, I think that guy is Dan Federkeil. Federkeil was a constant and consistent force before going down against Jacksonville. Something the line needs badly is consistent play and that's what Federkeil was giving Indianapolis.

He holds his ground in the trenches, doesn't make commit dumb penalties and has the speed and versatility to get the edge when pulling. I'm curious to see how Mudd juggles this unit when Ugoh, Lilja and Federkeil all come back halthy. I'm sure that's a day No. 18 is also looking forward to.

4. The defense is playing on its heels and not showing its swarming opportunistic side: The preceding line wasn't true on the final three Texan possessions and hopefully that's a sign that things are changing. But for nearly 55 minutes on Sunday, the Colts defense was again back on its heels most of the afternoon, getting shredded for large chunks of yardage on the ground and giving up too many easy completions. The biggest worry has to be this units' inability to get off the field on third down.

Where are the problems? The linebacking trio is having all sorts of trouble staying clean of blockers. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that the Colts' smallish DTs are being blocked by a single blocker on most downs.

Also, in the secondary, safeties Bethea and Bullitt do not seem to be on the same page all the time. Bullitt in the box is not nearly the presence of Sanders, so the dropoff there is very measurable. This as a result puts more pressure on the Colts corners.

5. Steve Slaton is for real: I'm not looking forward to seeing this kid at Lucas Oil Stadium in a few weeks or in any game against the Colts for the next few years. Slaton is a hard punishing runner with great speed and playmaking ability, who fits the mode of rushers that give the Colts' small but quick defense all kinds of headaches.


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