The 25-3 win was not exactly a dominating performance by Indianapolis, but nonetheless one that was never really in doubt with how little Houston got out of its offense. The two teams combined for 14 punts, as the Colts jumped out to an early lead and the Texans never mustered more than a late first quarter field goal, despite only turning the ball over twice. While the Colts go into the last two weeks contending for the third spot in the AFC standings, the Texans remain in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 overall draft pick on the heels of their 12th consecutive loss.
Let’s take a look at some of the notable performances from this AFC South matchup.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
Bounce Back Effort
After poor displays in his last two games, including a dismal showing in Houston’s Thursday night loss in Jacksonville a week ago, D.J. Swearinger bounced back nicely. The safety was targeted twice in coverage, allowing a single catch for five yards on one of the two with close coverage on the second, which fell incomplete. In run support – Swearinger’s strong suit this season – he made a pair of tackles for short gain, highlighted by his play at 4:27 of the third quarter when he knifed into the backfield to limit the run to one yard. He did falter some later however, missing a tackle and then over pursuing on a pair of Trent Richardson runs in the fourth. A hurry and his first career sack, though both unblocked, rounded out a positive afternoon for the rookie.
On the other side of the coin from Swearinger is Case Keenum, who had perhaps the worst game of his career thus far, the polar opposite of the Week 9 meeting between these two teams. In that one, he threw for 350 yards and three TDs, grading at +5.2. In this game, however, Keenum completed just 18-of-32 aimed passes, and 18-of-34 overall, for a paltry 4.9 YPA. He was intercepted for the fifth straight game, twice in fact with a third just off the hands of a Colt defender. The pick at 3:07 in the second quarter was about as bad as it gets, as he forced a throw to Andre Johnson on a deep out with two DB’s in the immediate area. The pass protection deserves some blame in the offensive struggles as well, Keenum was pressured on 18 of his 38 dropbacks. Still, the QB has to be better when he does face pressure; on those plays he was 5-of-14 for 28 yards with an INT and taking four sacks.
Keenum will have two more weeks as the surefire starter to show he can be the quarterback of the future in Houston, but games like these certainly won’t help his already long odds.
One player not responsible for the poor offensive display is Brandon Brooks (+5.4). While he was solid in pass protection, surrendering a single hurry in 38 snaps, it was his work in the run game that stood out. The Houston right guard was on the move early and often, wreaking havoc on pulls and moving to the second level, giving particular trouble to LB’s Jerrell Freeman and Kelvin Sheppard. The latter got past Brooks once on a pull to stop a run for a short gain (3:43, 2Q) for his lone negative play of the day, but the Texan returned the favor by sealing Sheppard on four different occasions.
Also solid was LG Wade Smith who, splitting time with Ben Jones, amassed his highest grade of the season (+3.2) in 39 total snaps.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Another outstanding day from tackles Gosder Cherilus (+3.7) and Anthony Castonzo (+2.2) as they led the way for the Colt offense. Aside from a moment when he lost his cool and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, Cherilus did little wrong, with a clean sheet in pass protection and some strong work in the run game. He was particularly good in the fourth quarter as Indy attempted to run out the clock. While Castonzo wasn’t quite as good, beaten twice by Ricky Sapp for hurries and once by J.J. Watt for a tackle for short gain, he had a solid day himself.
Inside, the play of the Indianapolis guards wasn’t quite as encouraging. Rookie RG Xavier Nixon, in just his second game, had a particularly rough go of things, allowing three pressures and a tackle for loss, given trouble by Antonio Smith. On the other side, Hugh Thornton was up and down much of the day, getting the better of Watt on two occasions, but losing his fair share of battles with the defender and other Texans.
You won’t often see a better performance out of a pair of CBs than what we saw from Darius Butler and Vontae Davis on Sunday. The two locked down the talented Texan receiving group and made Keenum pay when he was off target or forced a throw. Butler moved all over the Colt defense, receiving snaps in coverage against Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Keyshawn Martin. He saw six passes thrown his way in coverage, but allowed just two to be completed for 20 yards. Of the other four targets, Butler got his hands on three, making spectacular breaks on the ball for interceptions at 13:38 and 3:07 of the second quarter, and nearly came away with a third at 14:28 in the third. Even though most of his work came across from Johnson, Davis was equally, if not more impressive; Keenum attempted six passes with Davis in primary coverage, completing two for nine yards. Though he failed to come away with any picks like Butler, he did get his hands on two.
Although the rushing numbers aren’t great – 64 yards on 19 carries – and he was lucky his fumble went out of bounds, Trent Richardson’s play was encouraging. On those 19 carries, he forced six missed tackles, with the majority coming (along the bulk of his yardage) when he ripped of impressive runs of 14, 22, and 9 over two drives in the fourth quarter. Richardson also added 38 yards and a TD through the air, and kept a clean sheet in nine snaps in pass protection.
If Richardson can replicate that fourth quarter going forward, and limit the slow reading, plodding runner we’ve seen most of the year, he may yet justify receiving triple the carries of Donald Brown (+3.2).
– Not the typical J.J. Watt outing; he graded at ‘only’ +1.2, the fourth time he’s graded below +2.0 since the start of the 2012 season.
– This was the third straight pedestrian outing for Andrew Luck, where he really did as much with his legs as with his arm. In the last three games he has combined to grade +2.0 overall, but -1.2 passing. Fortunately for the Colts, his brutal first quarter INT to Jonathan Joseph (4:25) didn’t ultimately hurt the team.
– Andy Studebaker picked up a QB hit in his three snaps on defense to go along with three tackles on special teams
PFF Game Ball
Split this one between Darius Butler and Vontae Davis, who helped the Colts shut down the Texan passing offense.
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