The offense also came out with its share of problems. Manning threw two early interceptions and looked like he would continue his struggle to find consistency.
With the Colts down 17-0 in the second quarter and 20-7 at halftime, the game looked like it could get out of hand.
Then, everything changed.
The Colts defense came onto the field with a different attitude, with resolve, and started to execute an effective game plan against a Texans team that had started the game on fire. The Houston running game started to sputter out and their play action started to fail.
Offensively, things started to fall into place for Indianapolis, with Manning abusing the Texans defense in all areas of the field to multiple receivers. Even the ground game fueled by Joseph Addai, who continues to run with passion, took a drastic swing in the Colts favor.
For the fifth week in a row, the Colts defeated an opponent after trailing in the fourth quarter, extending their NFL record. The win also maintains Indianapolis' streak of consecutive regular season victories, now just one behind the all-time NFL record of 21 (held by the New England Patriots).
Who Looked Good On Offense?
Joseph Addai continues to run as fast and hard as he did when he went to the Pro Bowl in his sophomore NFL season. He has finished tough runs up the middle of the field (think of his touchdown run on Ray Lewis), picked his way through defenders by utilizing his blockers brilliantly on runs to the outside, and managed to catch nearly everything Peyton Manning has thrown his way.
Addai has also shown physical toughness, taking shots from defenders and not only holding onto the ball, but quickly getting set in the offense, allowing Manning to work his magic against over boisterous opponents.
Joining Addai has been Pierre Garçon. Just a few weeks ago, Garçon was highly criticized by fans for not being sure-handed and for making mental errors that lead to penalties, often for offensive holding.
Over the last few games, Garçon has vacuumed up nearly every ball that has come his way and has played mistake-free football. He has also become one of Manning's biggest targets in the passing game, clearly beginning to earn his trust.
Austin Collie also gained 70 yards on four receptions. Most of those yards were at the heart of the Colts strongest offensive drives, keeping the Texans defense on its heels.
Dallas Clark continues to be one of Manning's biggest targets, leading the team with nine receptions for 63 yards, and a touchdown.
More importantly, for the first time in weeks, the Colts offense looked to hit on all cylinders in the second half, having its way through the air and on the ground, no matter which player was called upon.
The Colts offensive line has yet to completely come together as a unit. Since the San Francisco 49ers game earlier in week eight, the line has failed to consistently keep opponents out of Manning's face.
For the third time in three weeks, pressure has led to a partially deflected pass, or has impeded the forward progress of Manning's throwing motion, and resulted in turnovers.
The offensive line will need to find its rhythm as a unit if the Colts hope to continue their winning ways in the playoffs.
Who Looked Good On Defense?
Weak-side linebacker Clint Session continued to play impressive football in Houston. The team leader in tackles stayed true to form, leading the team with nine tackles, including four solos, a quarterback hurry, two passes defensed, and an interception.
Session's interception with 8:17 to play in the fourth quarter broke Houston's spirit and changed the entire complexion of the game.
Just 11 seconds earlier, Manning had thrown a touchdown pass to Dallas Clark that gave the Colts a one-point lead, its first lead of the game. Session's touchdown meant that in just 11 seconds the Texans went from leading, to needing a field goal to regain the lead, to needing a touchdown and two-point conversion just to pull even.
Antoine Bethea also continued his dominant season by intercepting a Matt Schaub pass on the Texans first possession of the second half. Like the Session interception, Bethea's came right after the Colts took the opening drive of the third quarter 80 yards for a four-yard Reggie Wayne touchdown reception, cutting the deficit to six.
Needless to say, Bethea's acrobatic pick took the wind out of a Texans team that dominated much of the first half, and put the Texans defense back on its heels. The momentum would never swing back to the Texans.
After Clint Session's pick six, with the Texans desperately needing to put together a strong offensive drive to get back into the game, Mathis managed a strip-sack, recovered by Raheem Brock, whic put the Colts offense back on the field with the opportunity to eat up precious time on the clock and potentially make it a three possession game.
Speaking of Brock, he also managed to sack Schaub in the second half.
Defensive tackle Daniel Muir put together another strong performance with eight tackles, including seven solos. Seven of his eight tackles came in the first half when much of the Colts defense looked lost and incapable of getting the job done.
It is scary to think how the game could have turned out if Muir had not done so much individually to help slow a hot Texans offense in the first half.
Philip Wheeler played a big part in the Colts run defensive woes in the first half. Many of the runs were directly to his side of the field, and during the first half those runs yielded 90 rushing yards.
While any young player who is getting his first opportunities to start because of a season-ending injury to a former starter will struggle as he develops into his position, Wheeler's struggles will need to come to an end if the Colts hope to continue winning football games. Otherwise, the Colts will need to find another player who can contribute as effectively as Session and Brackett have for much of the season.
Nose tackle Antonio Johnson is also absent, regularly, from regular statistical contributions. He may often be effective holding the line and funneling the running backs to gaps assigned to other Colts defenders but one must wonder how Daniel Muir's contributions have been so obvious and Johnson's have not.
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