ReFo: Colts @ Texans, Week 9
It’s funny how easy it is to get used to something sub-standard. Occasionally you need some kind of reset to see how badly things have gotten without you really noticing. That’s what Case Keenum has been for the Houston Texans. Suddenly we’re seeing Gary Kubiak’s Texan offense the way it’s supposed to look – a very QB friendly system – and not the way Matt Schaub was making it look.
Keenum is running the same plays, but instead of making the offense look like an unimaginative chore to run, he’s succeeding and moving the ball down field with ease at times. In truth he deserved to win this game, as did most of the Texans, but Andrew Luck stepping up a gear coupled with kicker Randy Bullock missing three kicks meant they didn’t get what they deserved.
The Colts rattled off a host of unanswered points in the second half and Houston – no doubt affected by the collapse of Kubiak at half time – couldn’t jump back into gear to take the win back.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
One thing is pretty certain when you play the Texans – you will spot the players that got stuck dealing with Antonio Smith and JJ Watt from their grades at the end of the game. In this game, OGs Hugh Thornton (-4.7) and Mike McGlynn (-4.7) were the two that bore the brunt of the assault, and they combined to surrender two sacks, six knockdowns and three more hurries in pass protection. RT Gosder Cherilus also posted his worst day of the season in pass protection as Watt was occasionally kicked out wider to attack the big tackle on the perimeter. The bottom line is that you need to have an excellent pass protection unit to have a hope of containing those Houston defensive ends and the Colts were never likely to match up well there.
The Colts needed more pressure at times in this game and the man they expect to generate it these days is Robert Mathis, but he was pretty effectively shut down, especially when he went up against Duane Brown, who on this evidence is back to his best. Mathis came into the game leading the league in sacks, but on 29 pass rushes was able to generate just three hurries, two of which were unblocked. It’s not often Mathis will be outshone by Erik Walden, but it happened in this game, with Walden both grading better and generating more pressure, earning a sack, knockdown and four hurries as well as a batted pass to put Mathis in the shade. It’s certainly true that Mathis drew a tough assignment against Brown, but it’s equally true to say that this seemed to be a bad day at the office for the 32-year old.
Vontae Back Down To Earth
Just a week removed from setting the best single-game PFF grade we’ve ever given a corner, Vontae Davis was brought back down with a bang against the Texans, and Andre Johnson in particular. He was thrown at eight times and only allowed three catches, but those catches went for 78 yards and featured two Johnson touchdowns — including one of the first plays of the game where he found himself completely suckered on an out-and-up move. Johnson is one of the best receivers in football, and he’ll do this to a lot of corners, but Davis will be disappointed with himself for slipping like this after such a good season to date.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
New Starter in Houston
Case Keenum has earned himself the starting job in Houston for the rest of the season at least, and if he puts in more performances like this he could earn it far beyond that. While Schaub made everything look labored and clunky, Keenum is exploiting what the defense gives him, reminding me a little of Jake Plummer in Denver under Mike Shanahan. The Texans’ offense is still built around the run and play-action game, but while Schaub was content taking intermediate, safe throws off that play action, Keenum is taking aggressive deep shots, and at least in this game, hitting them for big scores. He isn’t the finished article by any means, but his +5.2 grade is better than any mark Matt Schaub posted since opening day 2012.
Batman and Robin
It’s almost redundant to point out that JJ Watt is awesome, but it’s worth noting how much things open up for him when the Texans have Antonio Smith firing on all cylinders. Smith is a potent pass-rusher in his own right, and when he is on form an offensive line has a problem, finding it almost impossible to double team both players, ensuring that on any given play one of them will have a favorable matchup. In this game they took turns abusing the Colts O-line, combining for three sacks, six knockdowns and four hurries. Watt of course added to that with a batted pass, a blocked kick and some impressive run defense. Ah what the hell, it may be redundant but he is awesome!
Yin and Yang on O
Andre Johnson somehow remains a little underrated in my eyes. Much was made about the Dez Bryant/Megatron comparison, but Andre Johnson is still as good as any receiver in the NFL and games like this show why. He caught 9 of 13 targets sent his way, and had another taken off him on review that any random man in the street would tell you he caught on first look. He was also inches away from another deep pass down the left sideline that would have set the Texans up at the goal line. Those passes earned him 229 yards and 3 touchdowns as he went to work on six different Indianapolis defenders. As for the Yang on offense, LG Wade Smith had an ugly day, getting man-handled in the run game on his way to a -6.7 grade, by far the worst performance of the Houston offense.
– On passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air Case Keenum was 14 of 19 for 314 yards and three scores.
– Under pressure Andrew Luck’s passer rating actually went up, from 85.1 to 97.1.
– The Colts running backs gained 69 yards, but 46 of those came after contact as the Indy line continues to struggle blocking.
PFF Game Ball
The combination of Keenum to Andre Johnson really deserved a win, but they can make do with a consolation prize PFF Game Ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam