27-24. Indianapolis is now 19-4 all-time against the Houston Texans.
Welcome to one of the weirdest Colts games in recent memory. Strange penalties, strange no-calls, four missed field goals (three by Houston), a scary moment for Texans coach Gary Kubiak, and the Colts themselves, who appeared to wait until the third quarter to return from their bye week.
The first game in the history of this rivalry without Reggie Wayne on the field (though he did fly down with the team) would end in familiarly classic fashion, as Indy stormed back in the second half for a 27-24 victory.
Houston came out of the gate on fire, in front of a roaring home crowd, and wearing their Battle Red (or Beat the Colts Red) uniforms. They converted 4-8 third downs in the first half, outgaining Indianapolis 294 yards to 102 and headed to the locker room with a 21-3 lead.
Andrew Luck, fighting through pressure, sacks, drops, and his first game without Reggie, had only three completions for 56 yards in the first half (44 of those came on an early pass to Coby Fleener), and threw eight consecutive incomplete passes at one point. Meanwhile, Houston QB Case Keenum alternated between making great decisions and just chucking it – both strategies worked very well for him to the tune of 198 yards, a 136.8 QB rating, and three first half touchdowns to Andre Johnson.
After Keenum’s first bomb, a 62-yard TD to Johnson, Adam Vinatieri had an easy-looking 42-yard field goal blocked by J.J. Watt. With nary a Colts player visible on the TV screen and a Texans TD imminent, Pat McAfee charged in to rip Houston’s D.J. Swearinger down from behind.
The Indy defense forced a punt (great tackling by Bethea, Jean Francois, and Redding), but with the offense stymied, the Colts punt team trotted back onto the field. McAfee had a bad snap/catch/fumble/something, recovered the ball, evaded a couple defenders, then made the most impressive running 55-yard punt – in heavy traffic – you will ever see.
Indianapolis had an illegal man downfield (Andy Studebaker, who wouldn’t have been if not for the botched punt), and re-kicked, this time for just 29 yards as a Houston defender got away with a roughing the kicker violation.
Houston scored again to make it 14-0. After a nice 34-yard punt return by T.Y. Hilton in the second quarter, a pass interference penalty on Kareem Jackson, who grabbed a streaking Darrius Heyward Bey inside the 20, set up a field goal to cut the lead to 14-3.
Andy Studebaker and LeVon Brazill teamed up to force a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and, just as things appeared to be falling into place for Indy, the officials reversed the call, saying Brazill’s foot touched the ball as he went out of bounds.
This set up the third Houston TD. To Andre Johnson.
And now the happy part. The Colts’ dramatic comeback came about in fits and starts. The Colts taking possession after the break, David Reed (Remember David Reed?) returned the kick 39 yards to the Indy 42.
The Colts came out in the shotgun, calling nine straight passes and running some no huddle. Luck went just 3-8 on the drive and took a sack, but thanks in part to a 15-yard personal foul penalty on safety Ed Reed, Vinatieri booted in a 35-yard field goal.
The Texans answered back with a field goal of their own, as Darius Butler, not known for his tackling, wrapped up Ben Tate for a 2-yard loss on third and 11.
With the Texans up 24-6 and Luck’s receivers continuing to struggle, it felt in no way as though any type of comeback had commenced. Houston, however, would not score again.
Indianapolis’s next drive started out shaky. Andrew Luck deftly dodged a defender, powered his way out of a would-be sack (a defender was holding onto his leg) and threw…right into the leaping J.J. Watt, who batted it into the air.
Quietly, Luck and the Colts began converting first downs (they were 0-6 in the first half and 1-7 at this point), the first a one-yard pass to Stanley Havili on, you guessed it, third and one. Then on third and 10, Luck hit T.Y. Hilton, who had struggled to that point, for 48-yards over Jonathan Joseph.
A light came on. They were on the same page. The offense began to click, and Luck grew increasingly confident in his receivers, who to that point had given him no reason to trust them. 9-yards to Griff Whalen, who made a nice turnaround after a miserable first half. 18 yards to Fleener, and after another penalty, a roughing the passer on Houston, Luck found T.Y. Hilton in the left corner of the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown. Pagano, knowing a two-point conversion could help, made a gutsy call to go for it early. It failed, but the confidence he showed in his offense had a positive effect. Suddenly, the Texans’ early blowout had become a tenuous 24-12 lead.
Enter the defense. Houston’s next drive would be crucial. The Colts shook off a 31-yard pass by Keenum, bottled up Ben Tate (great tackles by Pat Angerer and Cassius Vaughn, who had surrendered the big pass play), and forced a field goal. Wide Right. Rough night for Randy Bullock.
Down by 12 with 10:32 left in the game, the Colts offense faced a crucial drive of their own. Luck hit Trent Richardson for a hard fought 9-yard catch and run, then Hilton blew the top off the defense for a 58-yard touchdown catch over the middle. Hilton, after only a 6-yard catch in the first half, was suddenly playing lights out. 24-19, Texans. A stunned and quiet crowd looked on.
The Colts defense came out looking energized. Redding and Angerer stopped a run for 3 yards. Little used rookie Montori Hughes stopped a run short, and Angerer blew up a short pass play for no gain.
Chuck Pagano challenged what would have been Houston’s first third down completion of the half and won. Shane Lechler’s punt then took a huge bounce in the Colts’ favor – netting just 19 yards despite 4.8 seconds of hang time.
Quietly, gradually, fortunes had reversed. The Texans had led a charmed first half. Now everything was going the Colts’ way.
Luck stood in the shotgun at the Colts’ 48-yard line with 6 minutes left in the game. The offense that had looked so lost without their leader and mentor (Wayne) now had the Texans reeling. Whalen made a difficult 17-yard catch over (or through?) Ed Reed, and Richardson racked up some more yards after the catch with a 24-yarder to the Houston 11.
After a short pass to Fleener, Luck threw to Hilton in the right flat and watched as the speedy receiver juked a defender and rocketed into the endzone for the score. Up by one, Pagano again elected to go for two, and Coby Fleener made an absolutely improbably catch despite very good looking coverage for the deuce. 27-24 Colts.
With 4:00 left, the defense held. Pat Angerer was superman, stopping Keenum cold for a 3-yard loss on a keeper (didn’t count as a sack), and drilling him as he threw for an incompletion on third down. Angerer finished with 12 tackles while LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea had 9 and 8 respectively.
The Colts burned up Houston’s timeouts, and Pat McAfee came through with a 56-yard punt, but Keenum had just a little more left the tank with 1:43 left. He drove the team into range for a 55-yard field goal, but Bullock saw yet another kick sail wide, this time to the left.
The Colts needed to learn how to follow up big wins. They had fallen hard after wins over Green Bay and Houston in 2012 and Seattle in 2013, and it looked like it was happening again. This young team grew up a little tonight.
A few notes, in no particular order:
- Gary Kubiak is conscious and in the hospital with his family. It wasn’t a heart, but they are being cautious. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.
- Houston left nine points on the field with their missed field goals, but the officials may have robbed Indianapolis of a possession on an overturned call (to be fair, it was surely a tough call to make).
- T.Y. Hilton stepped up to the plate in the second half. He finished with 7 catches on 12 targets for 121 yards and all three Colts touchdowns (6 for 115 in the second half)
- Andrew Luck shook off one of his worst halves and a 46.5 rating to finish at 92.8.
- Luck finished 18/40 for 271 yards. He was 15/28 in the second half.
- At one point, Keenum surveyed the defense, saw the safety blitz, found the single coverage, and completed a deep pass over Cassius Vaughn. On another play, he used a weird cadence to get the Colts to show their hand on a blitz, and then still threw to a running back behind the line of scrimmage on that side. He made some plays, but the jury’s still out.
- The Colts without Wayne: Hilton 7 catches on 12 targets for 121 yards and 3 TDs, Fleener 3/5 for 64, Richardson 2/3 for 33, Whalen 3/9 (1/5 in the first half) for 32, DHB 1/6 for 11, Brazill 1/2 for 9. Havili caught one pass for one yard on one target for one very important first down, and Brazill had a 9-yard reception.
- Reggie Wayne flew to the game and was on the field for the coin toss. If he does that in a home game, there will surely be a Reg-gie chant.
- Indy continues to own the fourth quarter. They outscored Houston 15-0 in fourth (and 24-3 in the second half).
- I'll leave you with this awesome shot of Fleener catching the two point conversion:
I take full credit for the win. After putting on my Colts hat and pouring some Johnny Walker, the Colts went on a 21-0 run. You're welcome everyone.
A couple things: Fleen's catch on that 2 pt conversion was amazing. I couldn't even believe it.
The decision to go for two early could have cost us that game. Thankfully, Fleen's aforementioned catch, and Bulluck's ineptitude at kicking from long distance (55 is a long way, but the others were makeable). There's no reason to go for 2 when you're down 12 with a full quarter to play. You can always go for two on the next TD, and there are too many variables where it can come back and bite you in the ass. Thankfully, the conversion on the next attempt canceled out the poor decision and proved why it never should have been attempted in the first place.
Even Chris Collinsworth could spot the terrible calls and two replay overturns that should not have been. That's how you know it's bad. It's obvious that we got screwed on the fumble recovery, and I know you have to complete the catch to the ground, but that overturn on the Andre catch was ridiculous as well.
I'm just glad we found a way to win this after an abysmal first half/three quarters. Luck setting a record for most GW fourth quarter drives in the first two seasons. I swear he's some sort of 4th quarter superhero.
The bottom line is that Andrew the Great is not about stats, he is about victories. He has a lot of Roesthisburger in him, and I hope he wins two super bowls just as Ben did. Credit the coaches for making the right adjustments in the second half. The secondary was awful, and Bethea might be washed up.Pep has to get Trent more touches going to the sidelines and East West to get his motor going, along with third down conversions. Brown should keep up what he is doing. Get well wishes to coack Kubiak for a speedy recovery.
Based on what I saw and some other feedback on here, I really think Collinsworth doesn't like the Colts. Not that I care much. But he's so quick to point out other teams and QB's. He always mentions Brady when rattling off QB's. And yes, he does give the obligatory partial nod to Luck. But man he goes on and on about opposing teams. And his love for Casey Keenum was ridiculous. When you start to like Gruden better than Collinsworth, things are bad. But no, he still hasn't fallen below Phil Simms yet.
I'm so lost on trying to understand this Colts team... I just shake my head. For almost three quarters, the offense can't do anything. The play calling seems terrible, but no wrose than the blocking or the recievers ability to get open. They not only seem outwitted, but just physically outmatched.
And then poof... they morph into an unstoppable force.
(I do wonder how much Kubiack's absence the second half affected Houston's offense.)
The Colts stunk up the place in the first half, in all phases: offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. But take away the officiating (missed roughing the kicker PF led to Houston TD; inexcusable fumble-recovery overturn leads to Houston TD and takes away at least a Colts FG opportunity). The game felt more like a 7-6 game at that point - which is what it should have been.
The Colts were never out of it, because aside from launching jump balls to Johnson, Houston really didn't have much of a working offensive gameplan.
I predicted 27-16 Colts. Well... the Colts scored 27 points (and would have had at least 3 more, if not more, with two possessions stolen by the officials). Take away the two officiating-gifted possessions, and give Houston its 2 shanked FGs, and they end up with... 16 points. So, the game ended up being just about what I thought it would be. Of course, it also exemplified how just a few things can influence the outcome (final score/differential) of the game.
Things I didn't like:
- The complete lack of a gameplan or any sign that the coaches prepared the team for this game
- More WR dropsies
- FG attempt on 4th and 4 getting blocked
- Not even trying to challenge the heinous no-call on the roughing the kicker
- The Power Run formation, *especially* when getting the ball back with less than two minutes in the game - leading to a punt from our own end zone, and 200-yard WR Andre Johnson waiting to move the Texans into tying-FG range.
- The Colts offensive line
Things that need to die in a fire:
- The Power Run formation, anywhere on the field at any point in the game
- Crissy Collinsworthless calling Colts games
- Fullbacks screens on 3rd and 1
- Pretending that "indisputable visual evidence" means anything at all
- Roughing the kicker: cost the Colts a continued drive, and resulted in a Houston TD
- Kick return fumble-recovery overturn: minimum 10-point swing in Houston's favor
- No-call on the helmet-to-helmet hit on DHB that put him out of the game
- The blatant holding of Robert Mathis on several of Keenum's long-bomb pass completions
- Overturning the third-down completion was the right call. The rule is unambiguous: if the receiver is going to the ground during the catch, he must maintain possession all the way through the motion to ground. The ball came out of Johnson's hands while he was still sliding. No-brainer.
- I think both of the somewhat ticky-tack PF calls (roughing the passer, defenseless receiver?) were correct calls, but what strikes me is how such relatively marginal calls get made, and the utterly egregious crap goes unflagged
Ha! Gotta love Pat McAfee's sense of humor:
"The Colts punter picked the ball up and eluded the defender to get off a 55-yard punt... “I was going to run for it but I saw too many humans that are way more athletic than me,” McAfee said."
And bigger. And probably crazier (yeah, hard to believe, right?). But still.... LOL!
Even from an opposing view, Keenum was "fun" to watch. Although I thought he was getting way too much credit for the work of Andre Johnson, who made our DBs (primarily Davis) look foolish. Keenum lobbed up at least 3-4 passes that I nearly intercepted from my couch... meanwhile, Davis and/or Bethea were falling down or looking at their laces.
Had no idea that Toler was really that impactful....?
In other news, Fleener's jazzhands celebration was top notch.
Apparently Pagano could have challenged the punt, that the defender didn't touch the ball. I don't know if McAfee didn't tell him or if he didn't know he could challenge. Could have been a very costly coaching mistake. Then again, the way the officials were calling things, we probably would have ended up being penalized.
It sure looked like without Reggie there, Luck was lost. His reads seemed off (Fleener wide open, TRich standing uncovered [Manning would have quick snapped it]). But then he got more comfortable reading across all of his receivers and found people. Could be a blessing in disguise to lose Reggie now rather than just before the playoffs.
The run up the middle x 3, then punt is maddening. Sure, run it to burn the clock but you can't run around, or do a stretch play or? I mean I think we all agree that lining up in the I-formation and running it forward for -1 yards is ridiculous.
While it's great watching them bring this game back (a much needed skill), it's taking years off my life. I already have aged prematurely from Manning bringing us back, but add to it the game ending at like 12:10am and you've shaved my lifespan by 6 months.
Good write up, and thanks for having someone post the article, ready for the morning. I had the Colts down for losing this game (and winning the home Texans game), so good turn of events. Need to keep distance between us and the Titans - plus a first round by is a good thing maybe?
Unrelated comment: I sure hope this site doesn't condone the sort of posting that was going on yesterday. I can't recall the poster but it went on and on, and was insulting to Nate. No, it was not, as the poster suggested, simply debating items. It was personal and nasty. I'm not suggesting a ban-fest, but I personally like this site because people are cordial and professional in their posting. We have a enough places where idiots just rant and bash each other. ~ concerned reader.
Man, what a good game.
Kinda interesting that after DHB went out was when Hilton went off. Makes you wonder just how beneficial DHB is to the team (that long PI call certainly helped, even if they couldn't punch it in for six). Whalen seemed a little nervous, but settled in later in the game. The receiving corps in general is still really young, but it's all about Luck. Houston had four sacks in the first half, then zero in the second half. That's what allowed Luck the opportunities to make plays down the field.
Also, from an efficiency standpoint, the Colts had zero turnovers (along with zero takeaways, minus the refs botching the fumble call). I'm really impressed with Luck's overall decision-making this year compared to last. So far he has 13 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs, and 3 INTs. Play mistake-free football, and you keep your team in the game. Really excited to see how Hilton continues to improve as the #1 WR (I know he's #2 on the chart, but come on).
It was a bit late when I did this thing, so I apologize for any uncharacteristic typos (drifts off to sleep)
@buymymonkey Agree that he's biased. But I think he does the best immediate analysis of what happened on a play, like calling out that defensive call to crash Mathis down on the RB with Angerer spying in on Keenum. Compared to the typical "Well, they really got to him on that play!" bullshit, I'll take CC any day.
@DougEngland I think they are un-understandable.
@DougEngland Well, Kub' (pronounced Koob) is the guy who calls the offensive plays, or so I heard. That, coupled with the whole playing without their leader thing surely had an effect on them. They were doing everything they could to let the Colts back in the game before that, though. It just took Indy a long time to take advantage. Also, it helped that Johnson was no longer invisible to our secondary ;)
@chip_bennett I'd add that Vontae Davis was an inch away from a pick-six in the first half, and a millisecond from breaking up one of those lobs to Andre Johnson in the end zone. The "game of inches" stuff cuts both ways, of course, but this game could have just as easily have been 10-14 at the half.
@chip_bennett They look ill prepared on a regular basis. It's so strange that this team can play so horribly and then so dramatically well in the same game.
I don't mind Collinsworth. I don't agree with everything he says, but I think he does a decent job. I sat in on a media conference call with him (and Dungy and Rodney Harrison) before the big Colts - Broncos game, and he had a polite, knowledgeable answer for every media member, including several who annoyingly asked him about things that had nothing to do with the game they were there to talk about (I never got to ask my question. Too many real media guys ahead of me).
@AJ_ He makes those Notebook articles more fun to write on the rare occasions he provides a quote. He's more entertaining, goes off the script. It's not all that 'one day at a time,' 'they're a talented team' cliche stuff.
@matt_has Keenum looks like he has great potential, but last night, he mostly just chucked the up for Andre Johnson (who, apparently in the first half, the Colts forgot is a pretty good player) - often aided by time to scramble due to Mathis getting Freeney-held and facemasked. When not throwing jump balls to Johnson (and that one to Hopkins, who made a great catch), Keenum wasn't making great throws or decisions for most of the night.
I agree on Keenum. What a blast watching that guy. I'm not even a little bit of a Texans fan, but I can't imagine two losses giving more confidence to a fan base.
I think with Toler, he may not be a world beater, but he can play more without safety help, while Vaughn needs someone over the top (our best cover safety had a rough night, too, which didn't help).
Also Fleener's jazz hands, as well as Angerer's "dance," are going to make their way into a GIF or two, thanks to good ol' Kyle Rodriguez.
@smonroe I heard them saying that too but I'm not really sure why it should work. The punt was recovered by the Texans, not the Colts, so it wouldn't make a difference to the outcome of the play if it had been blocked or not. Challenging the "block" would have been only a technicality to go on a fishing expedition for the penalty. Which with these officials might have turned out even worse somehow.
@buymymonkey I wouldn't make too much of that. He and Nate, despite their love for being right, get along fine. I do a lot of what he was describing in that post, and it didn't offend me any.
Also, thank you. I posted it at like 2:00 a.m. I was running way over on time (and word count), but I edit my own stuff...and that late at night, I'm sssslllloooowwwwww.
On the Reggie thing, just imagine if they had drafted DeAndre Hopkins or Keenan Allen. They passed on Nuke Hopkins, and Houston immediately snatched him up. The guy's a 6'2" Reggie.
@TheGreatMisdirect No idea how the DB was not called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the DHB play either.
@MarcusDugan Understood, and thanks for the wrap-up. If you are going back to fix on Monday, I have two for you: Imminent (not eminent) in paragraph 6, and 24-12 (not 27-12) about 6-7 grafs later. (Then you can delete this anal proofreading comment)
I'll stand by what I said Friday (I think in the Eyes in the Backfield comments): Keenum is the right call for the Texans. He gives them more than Schaub right now and if either of them is the future of the team, it's Keenum. And if he's not, they at least know that now and can maybe draft their future in 2014.
I liked going for two both times, even if one failed, and not so sure I liked the clock killing, run into a stone wall three times near the end before punting away. It worked this time, but....
Division game on the road vs a desperate opponent... good to get a win. Eager to see a more decisive victory at home.
@speedblue47 Thank You. It was a fun one to do.
@pierrezombie @buymymonkey I think Collinsworth does a good job. I don't agree with him on everything (forgive me if you've already seen this comment from me elsewhere). I sat in on a media conference call with him, Dungy, and Rodney Harrison before the big Peyton Game (didn't get to ask a question), and people kept asking questions for their specific markets that had nothing to do with the game. I found it annoying, since my question they never got to was relevant, but Collinsworth was not only gracious and polite, but he knew a little something about everything they sprung on him. I came away impressed.
“That’s a work of art, what he does,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said of Luck. “He does it some kind of way. We don’t have a normal quarterback. We have a winner.”
Attn: Mr. Irsay: That's how it's done. Just like that; nothing more.
@chip_bennett @matt_has Oh yeah, he was definitely playing streetball, or even "500" out there last night - just heaving it up and letting AJ make the catches. Part of what made him fun to watch. Plus, he resembles Andy from "The Office", so I kept waiting for him to do something really awkward.
Re: Mathis getting held. No way. Didn't you hear Collinsworth talking about how amazing of an athlete Duane Brown was? No way he would have *gasp* held him! My general disdain for most color guys peaks on SNF when Collinsworth goes ape over any of the athletes on his "hyperbole highlight" list.
If they challenged the block and won, then it's roughing the kicker and an automatic first down. The guy never touched the ball, only McAfee, which made it a bad blown call. I think the refs would've seen it on the replay.
Lol. Eminent. Wow. I guess I thought the touchdown would be...distinguished.
I agree on Keenum.
Also, thank you.
And now, I'm gonna sleep ;)
@squirrel I think some people are viewing it as a rare loophole on a no call. The only reason it wasn't a penalty was they believed the player made some contact with the ball, otherwise, it's a flag. So, overturn the partial block, and the infraction is enforced....theoretically.
It's hard to say what the refs will do in the game (especially that crew last night), so I see why you didn't mind them not burning a challenge on the play.
@MarcusDugan Probably, yes. But you can't challenge the call or non-call of a penalty. They would have been challenging the "block" (wink-wink) and I'm not sure why they would be able to since the "block" wouldn't have changed the outcome of the play, only the penalty.
It would have been straight-up gaming the challenge rules to fish for a penalty. I'm often in favor of this because the challenge rules suck and deserve to be abused but it was still early in the game and arguably not the best time to pull out that stunt.
I do hope Pagano brought it up when he was chewing out the refs for stealing the fumble recovery. "Hey, I played nice and didn't complain when you missed that penalty, now you're taking this away from me too??" We got some make-up calls in the second half so maybe he did.