ReFo: Texans @ Colts, Week 17
They were, for some time, the darling of many an analyst. A team built on a strong running game, a solid passing attack, and a defense with some dominant playmakers.
Only it’s gone wrong for the Houston Texans recently, and it continued here as the Indianapolis Colts demonstrated an ability to make the big play at the right time, ensuring the Texans remain winless in Indiana.
Credit to the Colts, who got their Head Coach back and with him an atmosphere that powered their team into the playoffs with the almighty momentum. Let’s check out some of the best performances.
Houston – Three Performances of Note
In Schaub do you Trust?
We all know what the Texans can do: they run the ball well and they use that to set up play action. But teams seemed to have figured it out a bit more, and it’s leading to some mistakes from Matt Schaub (-0.2) who was guilty of forcing the ball on more than one occasion.
His second interception was a throw that was never really on, and what is telling is he was guilty on the prior play of targeting Andre Johnson who was blanketed in coverage. Schaub could have paid dearly then, and moments later would as he turned it over with the Texans in scoring range. His other interception came on a deep ball that left Schaub with stats of four deep balls attempted with zero completions and two picks.
He’ll need to pick it up in the playoffs.
There is something wrong with the world when people can say that J.J. Watt (+8.9) is slowing down. Looking past his four tackles for a loss for a moment, he created havoc once again with his pass rushing even if it didn’t result in a sack.
Watch what he does with 14:18 to go in the second quarter, dipping his shoulder on left tackle Anthony Castonzo and turning the corner, forcing a throwaway. That was indicative of the kind of game he had, and when you factor in that three of his tackles for a loss were at least 3 yards in the backfield, you should understand he’s only strengthened his case for Defensive Player of the Year after this one.
It’s the big elephant in the room regarding the Texans. None of their outside linebackers are getting much pressure. Whitney Mercilus (-5.3) got nothing, and Connor Barwin was able to pick up only two hits (one was called back on a flag he drew for being held). This was despite them combining for 62 pass rushes.
Mercilus was particularly quiet, and early hopes that he might prove an upgrade on Brooks Reed have quickly been dismissed. His partner in crime, Barwin, was more active, but a couple of silly penalties added to a grade that already wasn’t looking too pretty.
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
I haven’t been completely convinced by Andrew Luck (+3.6) this year. I don’t think his, at times, erratic play has compared well to the more consistent work I’ve seen from other guys competing for rookie of the year.
But be that as it may, you’d be a fool to watch him against Houston and not come away impressed. There were some forced throws, but by and large he took what the defense gave him, and made the crucial play of the game when the opportunity presented itself. His inch perfect throw to T.Y. Hilton was the kind of pass that you really don’t see very often. Placed between three defenders, but in such a way it was never in danger of any of them touching it, it hit his receiver nearly 40 yards down the field in stride, leaving Hilton to streak into the end zone.
Special kudos as well to Luck who looks primed to challenge Tom Brady for sneakiest quarterback sneaker in the NFL. His two first-down conversion showed a real patience where others would have just buried down into a pile that wasn’t going to budge.
Pro Bowl Joke
I can’t be alone in wondering how Robert Mathis (-4.1) made it to the Pro Bowl, can I? Well, fresh off his selection he put forth a horrible performance, generating no pressure whatsoever, missing a tackle, and looking anything but a linebacker when dropping into coverage.
Amid the incredible transformation this franchise has undergone, it shouldn’t be forgotten that they’re going to get a lot better when they’re not fitting square pegs in round holes.
One to watch
With a third start in a row, we’re getting an extended look at Colts center A.Q. Shipley (+3.2), and this was a game where you couldn’t help but want to see more.
Facing a tough task of the powerful Shaun Cody and penetrating Earl Mitchell, Shipley for the most part won his encounters. It was particularly impressive to see him line up head-to-head with Cody and have little problem overpowering the Texan on more than one occasion. It presents Indy with a nice problem if, and when, Samson Satele is good to go.
– In the battle of two top receivers, Andre Johnson walked away with 141 yards on 40 routes (3.53 yards per route run), while Reggie Wayne was held to 40 on 28 routes (1.43 Yards Per route Run).
– Matt Schaub was pressured on seven drop-backs and took four sacks. Andrew Luck was pressured on nine and took just the one sack, but completed only 25% of his pressured passes.
– J.J. Watt picked up a tackle for a loss on 14.8% of all the running plays he was involved in.
In a game that was always going to be decided by a couple of plays here or there, two of them were made by Vontae Davis, and they were crucial in the Colts winning.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled