The biggest surprise in the Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Houston Texans on Sunday isn’t the fact that they lost. In fact, it was so expected that the shock would have been if they hadn’t lost. No, the biggest surprise has to be how close they were to almost making another miracle comeback in a season that has seen so many already.
Trailing 20-3 after a Pat McAfee’s punt was blocked by Texans linebacker Bryan Braman in the 2nd quarter, things looked pretty much out of reach. The Colts had been outmanned and out willed the entire first half. Andrew Luck, to that point, had completed only 3 of 10 pass attempts, had been sacked 3 times, and running back Mewelde Moore – just recently re-signed to the team after the Donald Brown and Robert Hughes injuries – fumbled on the 1 yard line on a drive that should have ended in a touchdown. Then The Block happened, and Braman rumbled the blocked kick 8 yards for a touchdown with 1:46 left to play in the first half. Things looked grim indeed.
Then, on the ensuing Colts drive, Luck hit fellow rookie tight end Dwayne Allen (who Braman had flown by during the punt block) for a quick 13 yard gain. On the very next play, with the Texans dominating front bringing heat, Luck stepped up in to pocket, giving enough time for T.Y Hilton to break free in the secondary. Luck hit Hilton perfectly in stride for a 61 yard touchdown to bring the Colts back into striking distance with a 20-10 deficit at the end of the first half.
The Texans held the Colts to a three-and-out in the first possession of the third quarter, and on their first drive of the half took the ball 78 yards for a 27-yard field goal to take a 23-10 lead. Indianapolis responded in kind, taking their next possession down the field with a healthy dose of running back Vick Ballard. Ballard carried the ball five times for 60 yards (12.0 average), including a 23-yard run to the Houston 8-yard line. Andrew Luck then found Allen for an 8-yard touchdown pass to bring the game to a 23-17 difference heading into the 4th quarter. At this point, Colts fans had to have felt pretty good, seeing this 6 times already in the season. Texans fans, knowing that the Colts have the most 4th quarter comeback wins in the league, had to have been nervous.
But alas, things were not to be for Indy. The Colts offense didn’t get further than their own 45 yard line the rest of the way. The Texans were able to add two more field goals and run the clock down on Arian Foster’s strong fourth quarter, and the Texans clinched their second consecutive AFC South title with the final score of 29-17.
For both teams, the biggest issues were penalties. In the game, the Colts were flagged 8 times for 79 yards, and the Texans 9 times for 69 yards. The Colts also continue to struggle with offensive line play. The pressure was constant on Luck for the third straight game, and for the third straight game Luck’s completion percentage was under 50% (48% to be exact), and only passed for 186 yards. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt was all over the field, totaling 10 tackles, including 3 Luck sacks.
But there is good to point out from this game as well. Luck scored two touchdowns through the air and did not have a single interception (though there were two or three throws that definitely COULD have been intercepted), his first game without a pick since week 9 against Miami. And despite the completion percentage, Luck’s QB rating was 95.6, his best since Miami as well.
Another strong showing came from Ballard, who logged in his first 100+ yard game against the league’s #2 ranked run defense. Ballard has been playing stronger and better as the season goes, and if he stays on this clip, it would be hard to see Donald Brown still on the team next year unless it was solely in a back-up position.
And finally, the defense should be proud of its outing. It held the vaunted Texans offense to just one touchdown the entire game, and only 9 points in the second half. And, up until the fourth quarter when Houston was trying to run down clock, they had held Foster in check for most of the game (side note: I should mention however, that Foster did finish the game with 165 yards on the ground).
But, as is usually the case, the younger, more inexperienced team made more mistakes and fewer plays. When that happens, it’s near impossible to win the game. Though the Colts have done just that all season, sometimes your Luck runs out (see what I did there?).
Indianapolis next meets the woeful Kansas City Chiefs with a chance to lock up the most unlikely of playoff spots. It’s simple: Win, you’re in, and the magic continues.
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