(2-12) Texans 3 – Colts 25 (9-5)
The Colts rebounded from a tough road loss last week at Cincinnati by easily defeating the league-worst Houston Texans, 25-3, Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Behind a faster offensive start, a better defensive finish, and contributions from some “new” receivers, the Colts took command of the game early and never looked back. In the process, quarterback Andrew Luck became just the sixth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win at least 20 games in his first two seasons.
In their past six games, the Colts hadn’t scored a touchdown during the first half. They were outscored 114-24 during that period. Things quickly turned the opposite way in the first half against Houston. On their first drive, the Colts ran the no-huddle to a tee and culminated an 11-play, five-plus minute possession with an Andrew Luck touchdown pass to WR Griff Whalen, who was named to the active roster just yesterday after spending several weeks on the practice squad. Whalen replaced the injured LaVon Brazil, who had two touchdowns last week against the Bengals. Whalen was the second-leading receiver in both receptions and receiving yards and even had an eye-opening 51-yard punt return. The leading wideout was T.Y. Hilton, who reappeared after being noticeably absent last week (8 receptions for 78 yards today vs. 2 catches for 7 yards at CIN).
Running back Trent Richardson was another surprisingly successful receiver Sunday. Richardson, who has been heavily criticized for his play as of late, recorded his first receiving touchdown of the season and first score of any kind since Week 4 when he secured a shovel pass from Luck at the nine-yard line and ran the ball into the end zone virtually untouched. Richardson had four catches for 38 yards. He also rushed for 64 yards on 19 carries, his best output in a Colts uniform. Richardson capitalized on the extra playing time when starting back Donald Brown injured himself in the first quarter. Brown did not return to the game.
Luck himself was quite efficient despite throwing one very bad-looking interception that could be more attributed to a poorly run route by Da’Rick Rogers. The QB was 19-of-32 for 180 yards on the day. A patchwork offensive line that was missing starters Samson Satele and Jeff Linkenbach performed quite well despite the many position adjustments and allowed just one sack of Luck.
On defense, Robert Mathis’s strip sack in the third quarter allowed him to surpass former teammate Dwight Freeney as the franchise’s all-time sack leader (108). He also set a new record for sacks in a single season (16.5). Jerrell Freeman also forced two fumbles on the day, and Darius Butler twice intercepted Texans QB Case Keenum. To top things off, Cory Redding tackled Texan Duane Brown in Houston’s own end zone to earn the Colts two points for a safety. On special teams, kicker Adam Vinatieri capped a very good day for the Colts with two 40+ yard field goals (and a 37-yarder).
Adding to the celebration was the induction of former Colts greats Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk into the Colts’ Ring of Honor. Two two participated in a nice ceremony and received a very warm reception from Indy fans during halftime. They were well represented.
The Colts have already secured a playoff spot and are virtually locked into the fourth seed in the AFC. As of now, they are likely to face Kanasas City — the team they will play next week at Arrowhead Stadium — in the wild card round. With just two weeks left in the regular season, Sunday’s win over Houston will be a good confidence booster for them going forward.