What We Learned: Colts and Texans

Another week, another come-from-behind victory. What did we learn from the breathtaking 35-27 win at Houston? Brad Keller breaks it down.

This may be a great defense: Indianapolis has stayed in a number of games with timely defense and clutch turnovers.  To this point, that has been mostly attributed to lucky bounces or great individual efforts.


But Colts fans may need to brace themselves and try to embrace the fact that the 2009 version of this defense may be great and not simply good enough to get the ball back to the offense.

Halftime adjustments are overrated because the coaches and players have very little time for the coaches to make "adjustments".  The in-game adjustments that coaches and players make are the key to the success or failure of a unit and Larry Coyer and his charges made some fantastic adjustments.

In the second half, the Colts defenders got after the ball, they attacked the line of scrimmage, they took everything that they had witnessed from Matt Schaub and the Houston offense in the first half and the Week 9 matchup, and they made the Texans look foolish.

As soon as they closed the gap, Indianapolis began to pressure Schaub — often using an extra defender — as they hurried him, sacked him, and forced him to make throws into coverage, resulting in the penultimate interception for a touchdown to Clint Session.

It was a courageous effort by a much-maligned unit.  When the Colts defense needed to make a play, they made a play.  And, looking back, it's been that way all season.  These are reasons Indianapolis is currently 11-0.

But, the Texans let them off the hook: Houston had 19 rushes for 90 yards in the first half.  They had some success with their five rushes in the second half.

Overall, they had 24 rushes for 122 yards and a touchdown for the game, but they must have felt the noose tightening when Indianapolis closed the gap to 20-14 in the third quarter.  If the Texans were a team like the Titans, Ravens, or Steelers, they would have stayed with a rushing attack that had been successful instead of focusing on Schaub and the passing game.

The final stats showed that Houston outrushed, outpassed, and outgained the Colts.  Turnovers played a factor, but the fact that Houston largely choked the game away takes some of the credit from Indianapolis.

Houston doesn't seem to know how to close out a game and they particularly don't seem to know how to beat the Colts, even with a 17-point lead.  Chances are that teams like San Diego and Pittsburgh won't do the same favors to Indianapolis down the road.

The calls for Chad Simpson need to start now and stop now: Simpson did score the only rushing touchdown for the Colts on an excellent 20-yard effort towards the end of regulation, but he is nothing more than a garbage time back.

It's true that he has had some impressive numbers when given the chance, but those numbers were posted against tired defenses towards the tail end of runaway victories.  He makes too many negative plays, looks too uncomfortable with the ball in his hands, and Donald Brown and Joseph Addai are too talented to take a back seat to Simpson.

He needs to focus more effort into making himself a more effective kick returner.  That's what will help his team win more games.  As a matter of fact ...

Special teams needs to be a greater emphasis for this team: Indianapolis officials gave a great deal of lip service to the kicking game in the offseason, but that has proved to be little more than lip service so far.

The coverage teams have been solid.  Pat McAfee has been a tremendous find so far in 2009 and had another stellar game on Sunday with a 48.5 yard net average.

But the return game, simply put, has been abysmal.  Simpson averaged 17 yards per return on kickoffs and TJ Rushing averaged had only seven yards on one return. 

This is a squad that has its flaws in all phases of the game, but they have significant strengths that have masked or made up for these weaknesses.  In the playoffs, everything is magnified. They need to spend some quality time with their weaknesses — the lack of a return game being principal among them — in the five weeks between now and the end of the regular season.

Balance is key: The running game came through early — and especially late, to eat up clock — with 23 rushes for 114 yards.  Peyton Manning targeted four receivers five times or more and completed passes to seven different receivers.  After they fell behind, the Colts didn't panic and kept pushing with an even keel and a balanced attack.

Manning spread the ball around to all of his weapons to move the ball, but looked for his stars in the red zone.  Houston was unable to take away all of them and the result was three touchdown passes to Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Pierre Garcon.  It was another fantastic, resilient effort by Manning and the Indianapolis offense.

The Texans can't beat the Colts: But, they're still alive in the playoff race if they get some help.  Here's to hoping they make the playoffs, sneak past a higher seed, and come to Indianapolis looking for revenge.  Chances are that they won't find it.

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