This week, the defense won the turnover battle by intercepting two passes and creating, then recovering, a fumble. One of the stops kept the Texans from having an opportunity to score a touchdown from the one yard-line.
Another stop allowed the offense to run some time from the final quarter of play and push the Houston offense far enough back (without any timeouts) that they could only attempt a last-second field goal.
If the Colts hope to continue their winning streak against New England, they will have to play a full game on both sides of the ball.
Who Looked Good On Offense?
Dallas Clark continues to be one of Peyton Manning's most reliable targets. In fact, with his 14 receptions against Houston he passed Reggie Wayne as the team's receptions leader (60). His 119 receiving yards pull him within 50 yards of Reggie Wayne's mark this year, despite the fact that this is also one of the best statistical seasons in Wayne's his career.
Any defense that is not prepared to double-cover Dallas Clark, or is not stocked with freakishly athletic linebackers or safeties, is vulnerable to a steady dose of Clark. Houston is a team without the personnel to match up one-on-one and chose to focus their attention on limiting Wayne.
With Collie developing into a solid option, and the future return of wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, Clark should be able to set career marks in receptions and receiving yards and will even have a shot at all-time records in both categories for a tight end in a single season.
Joseph Addai had his best game of the year, averaging 4.5 yards on 16 carries, for a total of 68 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. He also added five receptions for 49 yards, and a receiving touchdown.
Addai ran with purpose against Houston, looking faster, cutting sharper, and running harder than he had previously this year. If he continues to run as well as he did against Houston as the season moves forward, and Donald Brown returns from injury, the Colts could very well establish a respectable running game.
For a second straight week, Peyton Manning did not look as awesome as he has for much of the season. He continues to generate a lot of yards, racking up 318 yards, throwing to six different targets, but has been unable to continue his red zone effectiveness in the air to wide receivers.
Whether the issue is with Manning's timing, the wide receivers running wrong routes, poor timing, or bad play-calling is uncertain, but something is keeping the offense from finishing out drives and scoring touchdowns.
Chad Simpson was also unable to take advantage of time on the field last in the first half, taking two carries for only three yards and making one reception for no gain. One has to wonder why, with Mike Hart standing on the sideline, Simpson would be taking carries.
If Hart is not given opportunities while Donald Brown is out, and only Simpson remains as his competition for backup carries, he may not get another chance to prove himself in the NFL — on this team, anyway.
Who Looked Good On Defense?
Clint Session played exceptionally well, seemingly making up for the loss of Tyjuan Hagler, by making 14 total tackles, with 13 solos, an interception, and a pass defensed. He was all over the field, made open-field tackles, plugged running lanes, and made an impact in coverage as well.
This game could have been Session's breakout in the NFL, or it could be an anomaly. What we know already is that he is one of the hardest hitters on the team, and the most physically imposing linebacker on our roster. It will be worth watching Session to see if he builds on his dominant performance against Houston.
Rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers also had an outstanding game. His primary coverage assignment was Andre Johnson, who got his share of receptions and yards by the time the game was over. Still, Powers intercepted a Matt Schaub pass in the first quarter by jumping one of Johnson's routes.
Later in the game, Powers made a critically important heads-up play near the goal line by picking up a loose ball that was close to the sideline and end zone. The result of the play was not only a change of possession, with Houston threatening to score, it was ruled a touchback and brought the Colts offense out with 20 yards of cushion behind them. It can be argued that this play, as much as any, is responsible for the Colts' victory.
Powers added 10 tackles, with seven solos, and a pass defensed to his overall performance. This game should make him a solid rookie of the week contender and help his name pop up in defensive rookie of the year conversations.
Dwight Freeney also had his best game of the year, with four tackles (three solo), 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, and an amazing run stopping tackle for a four-yard loss in the fourth quarter. The run stop may have been his biggest impact play because it helped throw the Houston offense off of their rhythm on their second-to-last possession of the game, ultimately leading to the Session interception.
Also contributing to the interception was Gary Brackett, who got pressure up the middle of the field on Matt Schaub, forcing him to get rid of the ball quickly.
Although finding specific players who had disappointing games is difficult, there were some defensive concerns and some players who may have had a bigger role in the development of those concerns than others.
Jacob Lacey allowed Jacoby Jones to get past him on a deep route down the right sideline, leading to a 45-yard gain, the Texans' biggest offensive play of the game. That said, Lacey did not appear to be a consistent weak-spot in the secondary and held his own for much of the game.
Philip Wheeler saw significant playing time on defense for the first time this season, and although he did not stand out as a problem, he also did not make much of an impact. Watching from the sidelines, it appeared as though Wheeler was always the second or third player to arrive at the ball and rarely or never the first to get in on a tackle.
It could be that the Texans never ran or through to his gap or assignment, but if they did do so, he did not do a lot to stand out to stop those plays.
Finally, Tim Jennings spent much of the game as the nickel corner and also did not stand out as a big-time contributor. What is unclear, however, is how the Texans were able to move the ball so efficiently through the air down the middle of the field in the fourth quarter.
One would think that Jennings and the safeties would be assigned to that area of the field and it seemed like Houston had all the room in the world to complete 15-yard passes downfield as they tried to mount a comeback.
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