Re-Focused – Colts @ Texans, Week 1

| September 12, 2011

Well if you didn’t see this one coming you were either blind or you had your eyes closed, praying for some sort of miracle to heal Peyton Manning. As was widely expected the Texans did what was necessary to take a Manning-less Colts to task and put the game away by half time, allowing them to coast through the second half. As much as the score-line may proclaim the death of the Colts as the top dog of the AFC South, this game was no test for the Texans and doesn’t define who they are as a team.
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This game stated more about who the Colts are as a team without Manning, how far they could fall this season, than how good this Texans team is. We may get a better idea of who the Texans are over the next two weeks but it is at least to their credit that under pressure to decisively win this game they did just that.
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It is perhaps not a surprise to see that the Colts were so out of sync, they spent much of the off-season hoping for Manning to return to the field in time to play and as a result Kerry Collins looked as under prepared to run this offense as you would expect from the amount of time he’s been in it. The comparisons to Manning are unfair but they were plain to see. The Colts ran more bad plays, the timing in the offense was completely absent and Collins’ passing was nowhere close to a match of Manning’s. For as good an arm as Collins has, he can “make all the throws”, the consistency wasn’t close to the same and the Colts are in for a long season without Manning.
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Indianapolis – Three Things of Note
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1)   The problem with replacing Manning

It’s much talked about but it will define their season so it’s worth examining the performance of Collins. Of 16 completions, only eight were on passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield.  Add that to a completion percentage only just over 30% on passes under pressure and you’re really starting to worry. Collins attempted to spread the ball around but when throwing away from the Colts “big two” of Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne he was a rather disappointing 5/14 with two of those completions coming to Joseph Addai. Collins should improve as the season progresses and he gets more reps in the offense but the learning curve appeared to be simply too steep for him in Week 1, however his lack of accuracy will be as much of a concern as his familiarity with the offense. The Colts ran the ball fairly well, with new left side of Anthony Costanzo and Joe Reitz looking solid enough in that regard. Collins isn’t Manning, in case you hadn’t noticed, and it may be that the Colts need to go against type and try to get Addai involved in more of a lead role for the offense.
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2)   Right side of the offensive line struggling

The right side of the Colts’ offensive line is all new this year and on week one’s showing the combination of Ryan Diem, now moved inside to guard, and Jeff Linkenbach at RT isn’t going to be a special one. Linkenbach showed well with a solid display against the Jets’ in last year’s wildcard loss but his week one display was poor. On 35 pass plays Diem and Linkenbach combined to surrender two hits and 11 pressures, ensuring that the lion’s share of the pressure Collins saw was right in his face. This may have allowed Collins to adjust on plays and not force bad plays but it also ensured he never settled. Both players struggled in run and pass blocking, the Colts will need much more from both as they try to find a new identity for this offense.
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3)   Familiar front seven struggles

The Colts front seven has always been an Achilles heel and this was no different against the Texans. Indianapolis used eight defensive linemen and six linebackers, of those 14 defenders only two, Adrian Moten (+0.1 on 10 snaps) and Phillip Wheeler (+0.2 on 10 snaps) graded positively overall in this game. As will have become familiar to our subscribers the Colts’ defensive page is a wall of red, negatively graded performances. Particularly in the run game where only eight of the 22 defenders they used graded positively. Matters didn’t improve when the Colts took off after Matt Schaub either, with meager returns of only eight total pressures (one sack and seven pressures) on 116 pass rushes from the team.
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Houston – Three Things of Note
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1)   Center of Attention

Not many times you’ll see a game review start with a center but Chris Myers stepped straight back in to his 2010 form against the Colts, simply dominating the interior defensive line of the Colts and working to the second level to neutralize their linebackers as well. Now whilst this won’t be Myers’ sternest test of the season the level of dominance was extraordinary. Gary Brackett was a complete non-factor and it is no coincidence that the Texans, even without Arian Foster, were able to pick up 89 yards on the 13 carries that went off middle right and middle left.
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2)   Work to do in run defense

The report card for this victory would be largely positive but there were still questions to be asked for the Texans, notably in run defense were certain players struggled. Shaun Cody has never filled us with much confidence as a 4-3 DT and we questioned his projection as a starting NT in a 3-4. He didn’t put in exactly a vintage performance in this encounter to put those doubts to rest. Against a none too potent Colts running game he put up a run defense grade of -1.6 and was rather easily controlled on a few inside runs. With neither of the Houston inside linebackers providing a great deal of beef if Cody continues to be easily controlled by single team blocks the spine of the Texans defense could become a real weakness.
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3)   Watt and Williams bring the heat

J.J. Watt put in a fine NFL debut, most notably as a pass rusher as he teamed with Mario Williams to make life difficult for Collins. Between them they combined for 16 total pressures with Watt supplying five of those. Two missed tackles will be of concern, as will a lack of impact in the running game but as far as debut’s go this was encouraging for the Texans and they will look for more in 2011. Williams looked very comfortable in this new defense, providing consistent pressure against the Colts’ tackles and making a mockery of the Colts’ decision to block him on passing plays with Clark, registering two sacks from these matchups.
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Game Notes

● Pressuring Collins was always going to be crucial for the Texans and they never let him settle. 3 sacks, 5 hits and 21 pressures were pivotal in their victory.

● Matt Schaub faced pressure on 8 snaps in this game; he completed 5 of 7 attempts taking one sack.

● Brett Hartmann was the first kicker to stake a claim as touchback king, the Colts only returned one of his seven kickoffs in this encounter.
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PFF Game Ball:

Chris Myers, C, Houston Texans

Controlled the line and dominated the middle of the Colts D with the sort of performance usually reserved for players called Mangold.

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