The Houston Texans are saying all the right things after their Monday Night Meltdown.
They are admitting they got their rear ends kicked. They realize the true test is in their response. They all have to practice harder this week and fix very fixable mistakes. They deserve what is being said about them, have to go prove otherwise on the field, and that the expectation is there to do just that. They are focused on moving on and getting this bitter taste out of their mouths.
It is, in fact, time to move on. For the Texans, that means moving back to Reliant Stadium, a place they have not played at since November 18th, and meeting the Indianapolis Colts in a showdown where both teams can clinch something with a win - a playoff berth for Indianapolis and an AFC South Division championship for Houston.
If the Texans need to get right, and they do, then the Colts provide an opportunity to do just that. Despite being 9-4, Indianapolis rates very low with Football Outsiders, only ahead of Tennessee, Oakland, Jacksonville, and Kansas City, and has a minus-37 point differential. Statistically, they move the ball well, albeit not efficiently, but struggle all-around defensively. I guess this is what happens when you face nine opponents who had records at or under .500 at the time of their meeting and win seven of nine games by four points or less.
Houston, back in its hey day of dominating victories, did two things really well: Harass the quarterback and run the ball, which set up a knockout play-action bootleg pass or two, but the running was key. Indianapolis has struggled at two things all season: protecting Andrew Luck and stopping running backs. It is a match made in the dreams of many in the Energy Capital of the World.
As much as we have seen Luck's escapability praised in highlights, he is still the third-most sacked quarterback in the NFL. Yes, part of this is due to insane amount of attempts (537), but the Colts' offensive line is still shaky. They are not giving Luck time to throw and he often has to move out of the pocket. Wade Phillips must be licking his chops. His blitzes should work here to create opportunities for J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, and Whitney Mercilus especially if Luck's favorite target, Reggie Wayne, sees a healthy diet of Johnathan Joseph and safety help. Locking down Wayne, and keeping an eye on the emerging T.Y. Hilton, should help the front seven generate more sacks and bad throws (Luck leads the NFL with 18 interceptions).
As for the Colts' run defense, there is a lot for Houston to consider. Indianapolis struggles stuffing runs, stopping backs in short-yardage situations, has a high open-field rating (a sign of bad pursuit and/or tackling by linebackers and defensive backs, a prime opportunity for a zone-stretch team), and struggles stopping runs up the middle and/or on the left side of their defense. They allow nearly five yards per carry and are among the league's worst at preventing rushing touchdowns. Gary Kubiak would prefer to leave the game, as with past games against the Colts, to the legs of Arian Foster and a healthy Ben Tate. Indianapolis' defense has quite a bit of trouble stopping the run, so the opportunity is there for another big game for Houston's backs.
At home against a shaky offensive line and defense who still cannot stop the run, this is what the doctor ordered for Houston. This is exactly the kind of opponent that Houston can and should take their anger out on. The Colts are a great story and have a lot of nice, young pieces, but they still lack the talent to hang with Houston in Houston. Anything less than a strong showing should merit a less-than-pleased response from the Reliant Rowdies.
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