Did you change the channel after the Colts went up 24-0 in the first quarter last night, assuming another Thursday night blowout was underway? That would have been a mistake, as the Texans cut the deficit to five early in the fourth quarter and had a late drive with a chance to win. The Colts hung on, 33-28, but the streak of lopsided results was snapped.
Houston, we have a problem
Confusion about the game and play clock differential gave the Colts (4-2) one final snap in the first quarter, and Andrew Luck found his former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener wide open for a four-yard score and a 24-0 lead. T.Y. Hilton got free in the Houston secondary at will, snagging five passes for 147 yards in the first quarter (he finished with a career-high 223 yards and a touchdown). Houston, meanwhile, went three-and-out on its three first quarter possessions and totaled just two yards.
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After their first score, the Colts recovered an onside kick. It was their third such recovery of the season (no other NFL team has recovered one). There was a gaping hole in the middle of Houston’s return set-up, and kicker Pat McAfee took advantage, pushing the ball the required 10 yards before falling on it. Overall onside kick stats are misleading, as most are attempted in desperation when the receiving team is expecting it. Data on “surprise” onside kicks reveals that it can be a 50/50 proposition, so I’m surprised more teams don’t try them. Indianapolis exploited a Houston weakness and added to its lead, but it can be useful for a team struggling on defense that feels it has little to lose.
Houston (3-3) bounced back from its dreadful start by putting together a long touchdown drive to open the second quarter, capped by an impressive grab by Andre Johnson near the sideline. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass seemed to travel directly through a defender’s arms before Johnson snagged it and got two feet inbounds. The Texans picked off Luck on the next play and needed just three plays to go the 26 yards for another touchdown. Within 90 seconds, Houston had scored 14 unanswered points to get back in the game.
Watt for MVP?
J.J. Watt has a Defensive Player of the Year trophy on his shelf, but perhaps he should be considered for a bigger award this season: MVP. Watt is the rare defensive player who can dominate a game. He sacked Luck twice on Thursday and batted down three of his passes, including Luck’s final attempt of the game to keep Houston alive. Oh, and he scored his third touchdown of the season, sprinting 45 yards after scooping a fumble. He commands double teams on nearly every snap, and yet his effort is unmatched. If he doesn’t get to the quarterback, he often forces an altered pass trajectory with his long arms. Quarterbacks like Luck will always get the MVP votes, but Watt has shown he’s a deserving candidate.
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The above subhead is sarcastic. On what turned out to be Houston’s final snap of the game, Fitzpatrick fumbled as he moved in the pocket. As the ball skipped across the field, several Colts players pursued it with vigor. Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. The speedy receiver had the best shot among his teammates at recovering it, but after an initial burst, he slowed considerably and didn’t dive to the ground. After the game, he told the Houston Chronicle, “I kind of judged it wrong. I couldn’t really see the way it was bouncing. After looking at it, I definitely think I could of dove and got it. Out there on the field, I thought too much.” He finished with just one catch on the day. The first round pick out of Clemson last year has shown some promise in his young career, but this was a lowlight.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.
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