Heading into this game, we talked about how the Colts’ pass-catchers had a distinct advantage over the Texans’ secondary. If Houston couldn’t get pressure on Andrew Luck, he would have the time to exploit them in coverage like he had twice before this season. Unfortunately for Houston, they ran into a brick wall up front on Saturday, and the time Luck had enabled him to put the game out of reach early. He finished the first half 16-22 for 192 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage on the way to a 21-0 lead.
The first touchdown of the game was set up by a 38-yard completion to T.Y. Hilton. The Texans didn’t have an answer for Hilton during the regular season, and they didn’t fare much better on Saturday. On this play, Hilton was aligned in the slot to the left. The defender over him, linebacker Zach Cunningham (#41), tried to re-route Hilton, but barely got his hands on him. This enabled Hilton to build up speed and out-run the linebacker trying to climb with him.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen the Texans let Hilton run free through the second level.
The Texans did play a fair amount of man coverage in this game, but they weren’t all that effective. On the Colts’ third touchdown drive of the game, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman had his way with Texans cornerbacks. Here, he actually made Kareem Jackson fall down.
On this touchdown, he almost did the same thing to cornerback Shareece Wright.
Inman was then mugged by Kareem Jackson twice on the following drive for pass interference and holding penalties.
The Colts could exploit these 1-on-1’s because of the time Luck had to throw. The offensive line handled Houston’s pass rush. Not only did they win their individual matchups, but they were ready for any stunts Romeo Crennel threw their way.
When the Texans did get some pressure or find a way to penetrate the pocket, Andrew Luck was able to move and either buy time or scramble for a positive play. He bought just enough time for Hilton to get downfield on the 38-yard reception we showed earlier.
Here, he avoided an inside rush.
Here, he felt the rush coming high to his blind side, so he stepped up quickly to avoid it.
And here he is turning a broken pocket into a 10-yard run.
Great pocket movement is one of the subtle traits of Luck’s game that makes him a special player.
The Colts not only controlled the Texans’ pass rush, but they also ran for 200 yards against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Again, this was largely done on the strength of Indy’s offensive line. The Colts used pulling guards on powers, and a few Wham-blocks with tight ends to soften up Houston’s front 7. Not only did this help them on the ground, but it also served to slow down the pass rush.
The final score was a lot closer than this game actually was. The Colts controlled play, and now they’re on to Kansas City for what figures to be a great matchup with the Chiefs.
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