Intro: Indianapolis gained momentum with a 25-3 win over Houston, the club’s second-largest victory margin of the year. The Colts grabbed the lead from the outset and did not need any comeback in assuring an 18th winning season in Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS – Three of the Colts’ previous eight wins needed fourth-quarter comebacks, and the club had not earned an advantage larger than one score since November 14 at Tennessee.
Indianapolis had been plagued by slow starts in the last six outings but ended all of that by scoring early and building a 17-point halftime margin in a 25-3 win over Houston.
The Colts gained a measure of momentum heading into a week 16 showdown with 11-3 Kansas City, a possible playoff foe.
The Colts were the only AFC division leader to win last weekend, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
RESERVES TRAIN LIKE STARTERS – Chuck Pagano and his staff have said numerous times that reserves train like starters. Trent Richardson yesterday credited the scout team (comprised also of practice squad players) for providing great ‘looks’ in practices that only help hone the starters. Joe Reitz, Fili Moala, Griff Whalen and Darius Butler figured to get heavy work Sunday. Tackle Xavier Nixon did not, but he went in early for Reitz at RG and played the duration of the game after never having played the position before. With Reitz starting at RG, the Colts were using their sixth different opening configuration. His early exit with a concussion almost makes this count as a seventh different opening bunch. Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler have split starting time for Greg Toler, and both had multiple interceptions in the Colts’ last two wins. Credit coaches, credit players, but give credit when looking for one way how the team won Sunday.
EARLY ADVANTAGE, EASIER PLAY CALLS – Andrew Luck said the faster start yesterday made “a world of difference.” Pagano said it opens things up on both sides of the ball and makes calls easier because the outcome is not hanging in the balance with so much time left on the clock. The Colts won late against Oakland, Seattle and Houston, while making plays down the stretch to subdue Denver and Tennessee (twice). San Francisco (27-7) and Jacksonville (37-3) were the only real wide-margin days for a battling Colts club. It’s not that yesterday didn’t have stress, there was just less of it by finding a rhythm, getting an advantage larger than one score and finishing out an opponent.
RICHARDSON UNSELFISH – Trent Richardson lined up in different spots in the offense. He did so at blocking back. He works hard enough during the week when moved elsewhere that he wants to contribute as a receiver. He has caught nine passes in the last two games, and yesterday he produced a season-best 102 scrimmage yards. His adaptation to the offense has had fits and starts. Yesterday was a good day for Richardson, and he needs to remain a building block.
POINTS A PREMIUM – Yesterday’s 25 points could have been more had a handful of chances been cashed in better. A red zone turnover early led to Houston’s lone score. Takeaways that started possessions at Houston’s 17 and 44 produced field goals. Those happened in the first half when Indianapolis still built a 20-3 lead. Later, a long punt return set the Colts up at Houston’s 28, but a field goal was the result. Pagano cited these afterward as points left on the field. It did not bite harshly on Sunday, but there are other Sundays looming.
DEFENSE WAS NEARLY AIRTIGHT – Houston’s only points came off a 32-yard drive that only produced two first downs. The next 11 defensive possessions for the Colts ended with seven punts, two takeaways, a turnover on downs and a sack-strip-safety. Those 11 possessions netted nine downs for the Texans, while the Colts pitched first-down shutouts on five straight possessions just after halftime. Indianapolis held Houston to 16 yards on 10 plays in the third quarter. It was an overall performance that included four sacks, a two-thirds failure on third downs (the best since week five), 12 first downs and 26:49 possession time (the season’s third-lowest mark). Well done.
Tags: Cassius Vaughn, chuck pagano, darius butler, Fili Moala, greg toler, Griff Whalen, indianapolis colts, joe reitz, trent richardson, Xavier Nixon
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