ReFo: Colts @ Texans, Week 15
The Houston Texans wrapped up the AFC South, while further ensuring their bye week status come playoff time, with a 29-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. They played a complete game as the running game complemented quarterback Matt Schaub’s efficient play, while the defense put the heat on QB Andrew Luck from start to finish. Luck was unable to pull off his late-game magic that has been prevalent in so many of the Colts’ wins this season.
With both teams likely headed to the playoffs, this game seems very much indicative of things to come. Houston has the ability to play a well-rounded game, and, despite their poor showing against the New England Patriots last week, they look to be a very difficult matchup for any playoff team. The Colts, while a good story, are lacking the talent on the roster to make a postseason splash and they’ll likely be ousted in the first round.
Let’s take a look at the key performances from this AFC South battle.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Coming into the game, right guard Mike McGlynn was one of our worst rated guards, so the matchup against Texans’ defensive ends J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith looked like it’d be a one-sided affair. That was the case Sunday, particularly in the passing game. McGlynn graded at -7.0 in pass protection as he surrendered nine total pressures on his 38 pass-block attempts. Even the quick passing game was unable to help McGlynn as he allowed Smith a clean hit on Luck in less than two seconds, late in the second quarter. Ironically, despite giving up consistent pressure for much of the season, he hadn’t given up a sack all year before surrendering two to Watt and one to Smith.
Rookie Tight Ends Open Holes in the Running Game
It was a nice all-around game for Indianapolis’ rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, particularly in the running game. This is not uncharted territory for Allen, who is now grading at +4.7 as a run blocker after grading at +3.1 on Sunday. Much of Allen’s work came at fullback where he picked up seven of his eight positive blocks. He was a big factor in running back Vick Ballard averaging 5.8 yards per carry on his 18 rushing attempts. For Fleener, it was the best run-blocking effort of his young career (+2.1) as he was able to seal linebackers at the second level and even got the best of Watt on one play.
Gashed on the Ground
It’s no secret that the Indianapolis run defense has been porous all season, and Sunday was no different. The Texans ran for 178 on 32 carries, good for 5.8 yards per carry. While the defensive line made its fair share of plays, inside linebackers Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman found themselves melted to blockers throughout the afternoon. Angerer had trouble with the Texans’ pulling guards, while Freeman just couldn’t seem to avoid blocks from center Chris Myers at the second level.
Once Arian Foster got through the second level, he had success running through the Colts’ secondary, particularly safety Antoine Bethea. Foster threw him to the ground on his 31-yard run with 13:53 to go in the third quarter and, while it won’t go down as a missed tackle, Foster’s stiff arm and quick burst picked up extra yardage on his run at the 2:20 mark of the fourth. The Colts will have to find a way to slow down the Texans’ running game when they meet again in two weeks.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
Not Just Watt
While Watt may be the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, Antonio Smith is right behind him as the No. 2 pass rusher among 3-4 defensive ends. They were both on full display Sunday. Watt’s +7.7 for the game is a career day for most, but it represents just his fourth-best grade of the season. He picked up three sacks to bring his season total to 20, while also adding a hit and two hurries on his 35 pass rushes. To further prove that he’s an all-around player, Watt added seven stops in the running game to make it a career-high 10 for the day (including sacks). Just another day at the office for Watt.
Smith deserves fair mention as well, as he picked up a sack, two hits, and five hurries on his 34 rushes. He managed to pick up pressures against four different linemen, with LG Joe Reitz taking the brunt of it. Smith beat Reitz for four pressures and also induced a holding call. It was a dominant performance by the Texans’ defensive line, with Watt and Smith leading the way.
Weak in the Middle
While the Texans haven’t been completely overmatched in the middle since losing ILB Brian Cushing, this was the type of game that exploited their inability to replace his playmaking ability. ILBs Tim Dobbins and Bradie James both graded at -2.2, while backup Daryl Sharpton pulled a -1.6 for the game. The trio was especially poor against the run as they combined to grade at -5.3 without registering a stop. Ballard’s 19-yard run at the 8:17 mark of the second quarter exposed Houston’s weakness, as James was easily moved off the point of attack by Allen, while Dobbins got caught up in the wash and was slowed by Fleener just enough to get Ballard to the edge of the defense untouched.
Andre Stays on Top
With our top two wide receivers on the field Sunday, it was Andre Johnson who had the bigger day between he and Reggie Wayne. Johnson caught 11 of his 13 targets for 151 yards and a touchdown, while Wayne was able to manage only 14 yards on his three receptions. Johnson got started right off the bat with a 9-yard catch on the first play from scrimmage, followed by a 52 yarder that saw him make a nice adjustment on an underthrown ball from Schaub. He picked up his touchdown at the 4:55 mark of the first quarter as he caught a quick slant, sidestepped Bethea, and took it into the end zone. For the day, eight of his 11 receptions went for first downs, and he even had a hand in running back Arian Foster’s 165 yards on the ground, as he graded at +0.9 as a run blocker.
– The Texans zone blocking scheme was in full force, paving the way for 178 rushing yards on the day. RG Ben Jones, RT Derek Newton and TE Garrett Graham all led the way with identical +1.6 run block grades.
– QB Andrew Luck was only 4 of 13 when pressured, but he did throw his two touchdown passes while under heat.
– Colts CB Vontae Davis gave up 119 yards on eight receptions, on his 10 targets.
PFF Game Ball
At the risk of sounding redundant, J.J. Watt is this week’s player of the game. He continues to amaze and he’s now tied for the league lead with 20 sacks as he closes in on the Defensive Player of the Year award.
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