I’ve had this hypothesis for a while now. If the Texans play a team that can’t throw the football, they’ll win. If the Texans play team that can throw the football, they’ll lose. The Texans turned from 0-3 to 10-3 for a CVS sized list of reasons: Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt finally started getting pressure on the quarterback, Juli’en Davenport was moved back to his rightful home at left tackle, Bill O’Brien at times used Deshaun Watson as a runner and play action to set up deep throws and ran the super cool offense from last year, he started chipping the edges to help his tackles, the offensive line has come together and started blocking the second level well, better younger players picked up playing time, and, most of all, the schedule broke perfectly.
The best passing offense they played during this time was Indy. The Colts are 8th in points scored with 325, and are 15th in pass offense DVOA after getting shut out by the Jaguars. Their opponents during this run have averaged 24.7 points a game, which would rank them 25th, and have an average passing offense DVOA of -9.9%. Instead of getting Shareece Wright to bite on double moves, they’re instead stuck running the ball against the best run defense around. Opposing offenses are pushing a mud stuck car uphill.
I couldn’t imagine how exhilarating it must be have a hypothesis with some merit that actual matters. Does turmeric decrease cancer cells in mice? Does the lunar cycle effect a kit fox’s ovulation? How long will the arctic ice shelf last? Because I’m ecstatic to finally watch Houston play against a decent passing offense again. I’m foaming and shaking. Baby, I should have been a scientist not a an artist. Come January, they’ll have to beat either Kansas City, Los Angeles (C), New England, or Pittsburgh, four of the best passing offenses in football, and now is finally an opportunity to see what they’re up against. Winning games, strangling running backs, and scraping to 23 points is cool and all, but I want to see this team up against a Metal Gear, instead of just choking out camouflaged grunts and tossing them in lockers, I want to see them actually have to stop a competent passing offense. Well here it is.
1.) Finally, A Competent Passing Offense
Andrew Luck is back. Sort of. He’s come a long ways from being benched for Jacoby Brissett becuse he couldn’t reach the endzone on a Hail Mary attempt. His passes aren’t floppy, but they aren’t what they were back before he couldn’t even hold a football. No longer is he struggling to throw seam routes and allow burnt defenders to chase and almost make a play on the ball.
There’s some mustard on this hot dog now.
That being said, it isn’t slathered in it anymore. Luck is 29th in yards per attempt at 6.9, but has thrown 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Brett Farve is the only quarterback since the merger to have 6.9 yards an attempt or less and throw for more than 30 touchdowns. Yet, he has thrown the tenth most deep passes. He’s attempted 75, completed 44% of them, gained 896 yards, and thrown 7 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. The stickler is that he’s only getting 11.9 yards an attempt on these throws. Luck has had an eerie year.
This is still the best Houston has seen since they saw Luck all the way back in week four. Aside from throwing the football hard, and throwing the football far, Luck has been spectacular at everything else. He climbs the pocket, makes quick reads, is accurate, and runs when he needs to. All the other quarterback stuff he’s excellent at.
That doesn’t mean he can’t make some BIG downfield throws. T.Y. Hilton is still here. Ay girl you look good tonight.
2.) YO T.Y, AY Ebron
Luck has two great pass catchers this season. Eric Ebron and his best pal T.Y. Hilton. Ebron has been one of the best pass catching tight ends this year. He’s enormous, especially when the Colts wear all-white. He has 54 catches on 88 targets, 589 yards, and 11 touchdowns. This is a problem for Houston. They made Jeff Heuerman look like the greatest tight end of all-time, and were chewed up by Jordan Reed earlier this year. Houston is 29th in defensive DVOA against tight ends at 27.7% and are allowing 61.6 yards a game to these type of catchers, and Tyrann Mathieu is good for one holding penalty a game when covering them. Sorry I had to.
Hilton has nearly identical target and reception numbers as Ebron. Except he has 787 receiving yards and is averaging 14.8 yards a catch. It’s been fun watching him turn from a straight line deep threat to an elite route runner with the ability to stick every route. After getting dragged out by his hair and left out in the Mojave desert by Jalen Ramsey, he’s dying to play the Texans.
In his career he has 67 catches for 1,246 yards against Houston. This will be game number fourteen for him. In this season’s earlier matchup against the Texans he had 4 catches on 6 targets for 115 yards and a long of 42. He was pulled midway through the third quarter and may have had 200 receiving yards that game. Hilton torched everyone in that game.
Houston will either live with Johnathan Joseph playing off man and giving up open 12 yard receptions, or let him play him tight and run the risk of him catching 30 yard throws. At least this time Andre Hal and Justin Reid are here to patrol the middle of the field. But for a pure one v. one defensive back v. wide receiver matchup Houston doesn’t have a player who can cover him.
3.) Gruesome Twosome
The Texans one hope is their pass rush. Watt and Clowney were a wrecking ball in their first matchup. It was red carpet roll out for these two after their combined efforts were limited in the first three games of the season. Together they had 7 quarterback hits, 4 sacks, 6 tackles for a loss, and 1 touchdown. Clowney was diabolical as an inside blitzer, and as an edge rusher.
Watt was long arming and ripping and forcing fumbles.
The only thing that stopped them was exhaustion. This season they’ve combined for 61 pressures, 35 quarterback hits, 18.5 sacks, and 78 tackles. It won’t be the same Colts offensive line though. Anthony Castonzo is as mediocre as it gets, but he’s healthy. Braden Smith has been moved to right tackle. With Matt Slauson out they have Mark Glowiniski at right guard, Quenton Nelson at left guard, and Ryan Kelly at center. This is the best offensive line Andrew Luck has had. He’s been sacked 14 times, which is the 32nd most, and Indy is 4th in offensive pressure rate at 25.1%. If Clowney and Watt can look like 2015 Demarcus Ware and Von Miller, the cornerback play doesn’t matter. If they don’t Luck, and future quarterbacks, will have enough time to take advantage of open receivers.
4.) Indy’s Defense, Pretty Good
One of the most surprising things this year was my week four realization that the Colts defense is pretty good. Darius Leonard is a star inside linebacker. Anthony Walker and him are going to be one of the best inside linebacker combos for a long time. Jabaal Sheard is great, and one of the most under rated players around. Margus Hunt has played better than he ever should have. Somehow Denico Autry has become a competent player now that he’s under Chris Ballard’s spell. Al Woods can devour double teams. Malik Hooker is Earl Thomasish without the tackling. And Kenny Moore will be around here for a wild.
This season the Colts are 11th in defensive DVOA. They have a pass defense DVOA of 10.6% (21st), a run defense DVOA of -20.7% (4th), and are allowing 23.3 points a game (15th). The last time they played, Watson was sacked 7 times, but was able to throw the ball against them when he had time. This also isn’t the same offensive line. With the chipping, and Davenport settled in at left tackle, things won’t be as hectic as their first matchup.
If there ever was a game for DeAndre Hopkins to have a classic game this would be it. As pretty good as Kenny Moore is, the Colts don’t have pedigree at cornerback. It’s all a bunch of undrafted practice squad mongrels. They don’t have a cornerback with a success rate better than 60th. They are 28th in defensive DVOA against deep passes at 45.9%. Throw it downfield to Hopkins. It works! He’s really good! Watson is really good at throwing sideline fades!
Most of Hopkins routes are the part in the action movie where the sycophants have been dismantled and are wheezing with broken tracheas. The protagonist and antagonist throwaway their knives and guns meet. It’s brutal close combat. Punches, eye gouges, throat rips, gut punches, and smashed fingers. Things probably won’t have to be this brutal against Indy.
6.) It’s That Time of Year Again
Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.