In what proved to be a tight matchup between to teams desperate to make a playoff statement, the Houston Texans found a way to take advantage of an Indianapolis Colts team that had several key players on the injury list. This win also snaps a 3 game losing streak for the Texans, and puts them in a position to become the sole leader in the division.
We will today review the Texans performance vs. the Colts; studying each position to find out what they did well and what they need to improve on.
Running Backs: after a terrible outing vs. the Green Bay Packers, Lamar Miller showed the Texans and the NFL just how tough he is. Battling ankle and rib injuries, Lamar Miller was the bell cow for the Texans running attack, and he provided 107 yards and 1 touchdown. 5.1 rushing average also included several run of over 10 yards or more; proving that Miller can be a back that can be counted on for the last 2 games of the season. Alfred Blue also took some of the load in the backfield, racking up 55 yards vs. a defense that seemed to be prepared to defend him. Akeem Hunt also came off the bench and provided a 16 yard scamper that sparked a field goal drive.
Final Take: While Lamar Miller had an excellent outing, Alfred Blue finished the game with a 3.4 yard rushing average after carrying the ball 17 times. Blue also fumbled in the 4th quarter and nearly gave the football to the Colts. While the entire backfield provided the much needed spark to win the game, I’m looking forward to a much more balanced attack between Miller and Blue.
Final Grade: A-
Receivers: Deandre Hopkins found himself doubled covered the entire day and he was not able to provide much support in the passing game. While he only amassed 2 catches, the positive is that they both went for 1st downs. He finished the day with 33 yards. Will Fuller was also a surprising non-factor in the matchup vs. the Colts as he was only able get 2 catches for 22 yards. Tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J Fiedorowicz combined for 5 catches and 57 yards.
Final Take: This unite faced a defense that was coming off an excellent game vs. the New York Jets and had a Quarterback who was under constant pressure and not able to get comfortable in the pocket. However, even when facing these problems there is no excuse why both Hopkins AND Fuller were not able to provide more help in the passing game. For the last 2 games, it is going to be very important that if one receiver is having a bad day, the other must do well.
Final Grade: D+
Offensive Line: While news reports from the Texans practice claimed that the offensive line would have a poor day due to injuries; those claims proved to be inaccurate. This unit took advantage of a smaller Colts offensive line and paved the way for the running game and provided a cleaner pocket for quarterback Brock Osweiler in the passing game.
Final Take: While the offensive line did relatively well, there primary success was in the run game. When the Texans attempted to pass, whether it was on 3rd down or a play action pass, the protection scheme was not able to hold the Colt’s pass rushers. If Houston wants to make a playoff run, they will have to find a way to get their lineman healthy and effective vs. push rushing defenders.
Final Grade: C
Defensive Line: With defensive end Jadaveon Clowney healthy again, he was able to do what he does best, rush the passer. The former 1st round pick was able to get multiple hurries on Texans quarterback Andrew Luck and also cause a strip sack in the 4th quarter that helped the Texans finish off their division opponent. Vince Wilfork provided another game where he was able to clog the middle and allow the linebackers to make plays.
Final Take: With Clowney back in the line-up this unit looks a lot different. Being able to add an additional pass rusher to a defensive unit that already has multiple ways to attack the QB. The most important aspect for this unit to improve on is to find a way to get off the field quicker; because their effectiveness decreases greatly the longer they are out there.
Final Grade: B
Linebackers: While it was not pretty, it was a historic day for linebacker Brian Cushing. With his 6 tackles, he became the all-time leading tackler in Houston Texans history. His partner in crime Benardrick Mckinney provided 8 tackles, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercileus was able to provide 3 stops.
Final Take: this unit was found themselves a little more reactive than proactive, not making a single tackle for loss for causing a sack. It is going to be important moving forward for this group to use their talent to help the team stop opposing offense.
Final Grade: C-
Defensive Back: This unit was able to bounce back with a strong outing after a hit and miss performance vs. the Green Bay Packers. They were able to start off the 1st quarter of the game with an interception by safety Quentin Demps; then get another interception by safety Andre Hal. Robert Nelson filled in as the new nickel-back for the back-end and provided 5 stops and an interception that was unfortunately called back.
Final Take: While the secondary was able to come to life and become a group of All-Pro ball hawks, there are still some concerns. Robert Nelson looked out of place at times and had 2 pass interference penalties that led to 2 touchdowns by the Colts. If the team wants to be able to travel deep into the playoffs, Nelson needs to play better, a lot better.
Final Grade: B+
Special Teams: After the snow slip in Green Bay which caused him to miss a PAT, kicker Nick Novak provided 4 field goals that ultimately put the team ahead of the Colts in the final stretch of the game. Shane Lechler provided several strong punts that put the Colts offense in poor field position.
Final Take: No problems here, an excellent job by two of the best specialist in the league.
Final Grade: A
Coaching: Greg Godsey and Bill O’Brien were able to keep the running game going hard until the end of the game, which has been a problem for this offense for the past month. Romeo Crennel probably called one of his best games this season by dialing up constant pressure on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and double covering Wide Receiver T.Y Hilton.
Final Take: While the game ended in their favor, there are some issues that need to be addressed. Coaches O’Brien and Godsey must both find a way to get the passing game going and find a way to improve their pass protection scheme vs. blitzing defenders. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel must solve the final piece to his defensive puzzle by having getting a nickel back who can play in his aggressive style.
Final Grade: B-
It’s time for the Texans to put everything together and finish the season strong. While sweeping the Colts this season was important the Texans still face there other two division opponents in the last two weeks. In order to ensure their spot in the playoffs, Houston must beat both of them, and they can complete this task by fixing their mistakes on defense and improving their passing attack