The Indianapolis Colts pushed their series record against the Houston Texans to 14-1 on Sunday. As that record indicates, the Colts have regularly dismembered the eight year old franchise en route to multiple AFC South championships. Even though the result was the same, this didn't feel like the normal Colts vs. Texans matchup. This may still be a little raw for many Texans fans who saw Kris Brown's 42 yard field goal sail just wide left, but here is what I saw of note from Sunday.
I was worried that we would lose this game, but if you told me Saturday that the defense would outplay Gary Kubiak's offense, "disbelief" is an understatement of what I would have felt. To say that a game in which the opposing quarterback threw 50 times for 38 completions and 318 yards is successful is bold, especially since the tight end set a franchise record for 14 catches and 119 yards, but I believe that was the case. In a pre-game post, I wrote that the defense would have to adopt a "bend don't break" philosophy against the Colts, and that's exactly what they did. It was FAR from a perfect effort, but they gave the offense a few chances to win that game.
Antonio Smith - I feel that everyone maligning Smith as an overpaid free agent are watching different Texans games than I am. Smith added one sack to his tally, but his regular pressure forced many early throws from Peyton Manning and set up Mario Williams for a sack of his own. He seems to be getting better as the season progresses.
Connor Barwin - I've been huge on this guy since he was drafted, and I still feel that he will be a valuable contributor once he learns more than a speed rush, but those two penalties were unacceptable. Barwin is a smart guy, so for him to put the team in those situations, especially the infraction that gave the Colts field position at around the 50 in the fourth quarter, is frustrating.
Brian Cushing - For the first time since the beginning of the season, Cushing looked like a rookie. Frank Bush kept Cushing on the field for all downs, despite Dallas Clark shattering his career record for receptions in a single game. It seemed that Bush was willing to concede the soft underneath throws to ensure the defense continued to stymie the run by selling out against it. The Texans played the run well again, holding Joseph Addai to only 63 rushing yards, although he did get a touchdown and 49 receiving yards that were part of the previously mentioned underneath routes.
DeMeco Ryans - I guess Rick Smith will not negotiate with Ryans for a new contract until after the season, even though Ryans increases his value every game.
Bernard Pollard - By far the best game he's played in a Texans uniform, and he was the most valuable player on defense. The dig on Pollard coming out of Kansas City was that he was a liability in coverage, but he helped disspell that notion with two interceptions, three pass deflections and nine tackles. Granted, one of the interceptions came off a terrible playcall involving a lame duck pass from Reggie Wayne. All the same, how silly do the Chiefs look for cutting this guy?
Glover Quin - Quin is playing extremely well, especially for a rookie. He is physical, which can get him into trouble sometimes, but I love the reckless abandon he plays with. Several of his 4 pass breakups were on pivotal plays which allowed the Texans defense to get off the field. Call me crazy, but I think that he's the best cornerback we have on the roster right now, followed by Jacques Reeves and then Dunta Robinson. Whether you agree with my order or not, I think it's hard to argue that Dunta deserves to make $10 million dollars this season.
Matt Schaub - Schaub seems to be developing a tendency to start games slowly. Not many people would have thought he was in for a 75% completion, 311 yard day after the first quarter. The second interception was caused by a hit, but the first was because Matt locked onto his receiver and then threw into triple coverage. The Texans have now been outscored 47 to 31 in the first quarter, which is partially because of Schaub's performance.
Andre Johnson - 10 catches for 103 yards on paper won't blow anyone's skirt up, but those catches were amazingly clutch. Johnson gets better when more is on the line. 4 of his 6 receptions in the second half were on third down and all of those produced first downs. Also, it speaks volumes that Schaub and Kubiak had the confidence in Johnson to throw to him on fourth and 1.
Jacoby Jones - Don't look now, but someone is becoming a wide receiver. I probably just jinxed him.
Ryan Moats/Steve Slaton - Many of the offense's inabilities to sustain drives were due to lack of production in the running game. This wasn't completely Moats or Slaton's fault, although seeing both on the field in the same game made Moats appear as more of the one-cut back at this point. Slaton is more explosive in the open field and probably a better receiver, but the fumbles need to stop for more than one game where Slaton's splitting time before his starting role is given back.
Lastly, I have a huge bone to pick with the coaching staff. Without even seeing the replay, I was scared that Moats fumbled the ball before being down/going out of bounds and was screaming for Schaub to snap the ball. Watching him run out the clock until the two minute warning was like watching a scene in a bad horror movie when you know exactly what is coming and are powerless to stop it. I just don't understand how if a majority of fans watching in their living rooms can tell it might be a fumble, no one on the entire Texans coaching staff couldn't determine the same thing and made sure the next play was executed with haste. Although there are employees of the team charged with watching for the booth for challangeable plays, this ultimately falls on Kubiak's shoulders.