Texans-Colts: Observations from a Thumping

After watching the media coverage of last week's game against the Colts, you would have thought that Peyton Manning invented the game of football, and his teammates wouldn't be able to find the field without him. Sure, he's their best player and one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but this is a team that has won eight division championships in the nine years of it's existence. Not to be too snide, but something tells me they have a few other players that may have had something to do with it. To make it seem as though the Texans just beat a UFL team is unfair coverage to say the least.


After watching the game again, I can honestly tell you that the Texans would have soundly beaten the Colts even with number 18. He would have had nothing to do with a defense that gave up 257 yards and 27 points in the first half. Nor would he have had anything to do with a punt coverage unit that resembled a gaggle of blind cockroaches trying to find the nearest shade when the lights come on while surrendering a 79 yard punt return for a touchdown. I'm not sure, but I don't think he would have helped Dwight Freeney from being a complete non-factor for four quarters either. All things considered, the zone blocking scheme and the development of the offense has put the Texans on equal footing in matchups against Indianapolis.


Anyway, here are some of the things that jumped out at me:


1.     People not praising Mario Williams for his performance don't really know football.

Everybody’s talking about how his two sacks came against Dallas Clark. First of all, not every sack for DeMarcus Ware or Julius Peppers come against All-Pro tackles. In many cases, because of a miscommunication by the line, they’re not even touched. On both sacks, Williams didn’t even have to use his size advantage, because the smaller, quicker Clark was severely beaten by Mario’s speed. He barely got a hand on him. The, in the third quarter, he forced Kerry Collins into an intentional grounding penalty by simply overpowering right tackle, Jeff Linkenbach. Overall, and after only one game, Wade Phillips looks like he was right on target with Williams' ability to excel as a 3-4 under outside linebacker.


2.      Duane Brown was had his best game as a Texan.

On running plays, he did a great job moving Dwight Freeney completely out of the play. In his pass blocking, he still gets off balance at times, but on several occasions, I was impressed with how he re-anchored and withstood the bull rush from Freeney and recovered when he tried to use his quickness against him. This time, there was very little reaching, simply readjusting mid-play. In addition, he showed great quickness in moving to the second level to take on linebackers as well. Overall, the line played very well, but Brown should be highlighted because of the fact that Freeney has owned him in the past. As I stated earlier, the Colts’ defensive end didn’t even appear on the stat sheet.


3.      Both sides were sloppy in the second half, especially the offense.

The defense’s miscues were less pronounced, but their focus certainly took a hit as there were a few breakdowns in coverage. Offensively, they were nowhere near as dominating in the trenches, and you could tell that the intensity was lacking. Also, Ben Tate fumbled in the fourth quarter while carrying the ball well away from his body (something he did not do earlier in the game), which led to the Colts’ only score of the game. Consequently, they gained only 127 yards in the second half, which was less than half of what they produced in the first. All in all, it seemed as though the Texans were just going through the motions after halftime.


4.      Matt Schaub was slightly above average.

His first interception was really Andre Johnson’s fault. Sure, it was high, but AJ got both hands on it and should have brought it in. The second one was simply a bad, lazy throw over the middle that would have had to magically flow through the arms of Indianapolis’ Gary Brackett in order to be completed. Many of his passes were high and he just seemed to be off his game.


5.      The defensive line was fantastic.

I cannot say this enough: J.J. Watt is going to be a serious player. He was a constant nuisance to any Colts’ offensive lineman he faced. Whether rushing the passer or chasing a back down the line of scrimmage, his violent hands and motor are going to make him a Pro Bowl player. Antonio Smith has really taken to his role in Wade Phillips’ system. The scuttlebutt when he left Arizona was that he didn’t like the 3-4 and how he was being used. However, the little time he’s been in this system, he has been an absolute beast for teams to try and handle. His extremely quick inside move on the sack-strip in the first quarter displayed why he is the prototypical one gap, 5-technique. Not surprisingly, Shaun Cody is not a true fit at nose tackle, but he makes up for some of his deficiencies with hustle. Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday found it difficult to keep him from knifing into the backfield on either side.


6.      The special teams were...well, special. 

Like the defense, it was totally different than last year. Danieal Manning and Jacoby Jones both had great returns and the latter made good decisions when it came to fielding punts (something that was lacking in previous years). Brett Hartmann, a rookie punter, had only one kickoff returned against him, while the rest of them were booted well into, or through, the end zone. Lastly, and it almost goes without saying, Neil Rackers was perfect.


7.      Ben Tate will be the second string back by the fifth game.

Granted, he doesn’t have the breakaway speed of Arian Foster, but he runs hard. His ability to beat up defenses and provide a viable alternative will keep Foster from wearing down as the season progresses. Moreover, his vision was better than expected, as he "created" several yards by redirecting when the hole wasn’t there. Towards the and, it looked as though Indianapolis defenders were actually shying away from contact when Tate broke through the line.


8.     You may have issues with him as a head coach, but Gary Kubiak is a class act.

How many times have Texans fans seen Peyton Manning still in a game with six minutes left, up 21 points, and the Colts still throwing the ball? Way too many if you’re a Texans’ fan, or any other team for that matter. Manning and the Colts have survived the criticism in the past because of Peyton's "aw shucks" demeanor and Tony Dungy's deserved reputation as a good man. As they get older and fall from their dominant perch, I think many teams will run up the score on the Colts as much as they can. However, when Kubiak had the chance to hang 50 on the Colts and really embarrass them, he chose to call off the dogs. He only called nine passing plays in the second half and two in the fourth quarter.

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