When Andrew Luck suffered a shoulder injury that called his status into question for the next game, there was a lot of concern. The Colts were 1-2 and now facing the possibility of playing without their franchise quarterback. There were questions about whether this team would be able to win any game that Luck didn't play in - but now, they've answered those questions by winning two games in five days without Luck.
The Colts defeated the Houston Texans on the road tonight on Thursday Night Football 27-20, marking their 16th straight victory over an AFC South opponent - setting an NFL record for most consecutive wins against division opponents. And, if I might add, if the Jaguars and the Texans can't beat this Colts team without Andrew Luck, it's abundantly clear why Indy has dominated the division in recent years.
Tonight belonged to the old guys for Indianapolis. There's 40-year old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who earlier this week was in the hospital with an illness that he was still recovering from tonight and who played a very good football game tonight. There's 32-year old Frank Gore, who rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown. There's 34-year old Andre Johnson, who in his return to Houston scored twice. There's 42-year old Adam Vinatieri, who hit field goals of 48 and 42 yards along with all three extra point attempts. And there's 34-year old Mike Adams, who intercepted two passes. Those are the players who, in the absence of their franchise quarterback and on the road against a division rival on a short week, stepped up and did enough to lead the Colts to a victory and a winning record overall on the season. Let's also give some credit to Pep Hamilton, who called a great game tonight. He's been criticized a lot this season (and rightfully so), but he had a very good night calling this offense, so let's give credit where it's due.
There were negatives, however: namely, the play of the secondary. At the end of the first half, they gave up a Hail Mary touchdown on which several Colts defensive backs were guarding each other. Then in the third quarter, they let Jaelen Strong run right past them for a wide open touchdown. And that's not including letting DeAndre Hopkins have his way all over the field against Greg Toler and the other defensive backs. This was the first game of the season that the Colts' starting three all played in (Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Darius Butler), and while Davis is hurt and Toler was in his first game back, it was still a bad performance all around.
Ultimately, here's what we can take away from tonight's game: the Texans are a bad football team. There were no excuses for the Jaguars losing to the Colts last Sunday. There were even less excuses for the Texans losing to the Colts tonight. At the same time, however, let's give credit to this Colts team: without their best player and the one who has covered over so many flaws in the past several years, the Colts have found a way to get two division wins in five days with Matt Hasselbeck. The backup quarterback has done a very good job at running this offense, and while the rest of the team has been spotty and shaky at times, a win is a win - especially without Luck. Give Chuck Pagano and his team credit for that - I didn't give them much of a chance the past two weeks without Andrew Luck, but they've now won two games in a row without him. Even though it's been ugly, they deserve a lot of credit nonetheless. The Colts are now 3-2 with three victories over the AFC South and heading into a ten-day break before hosting the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.