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Upon Further Review: Colts vs. Texans

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NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts lost 22-17 to the Houston Texans on Sunday, and it was even uglier than the final score indicates.

The Colts struggled in every area, from offense to defense to special teams to coaching. No phase of the game was exempt from mishaps, nor is any phase exempt from blame. It was arguably the worst loss under the current regime, considering the fact that a win would have put them in first place of the division and a loss puts them with incredibly long odds to make the playoffs. That, plus the fact that the Colts just played a really bad game too.

The loss essentially ends any real hopes the Colts have of making the postseason, so like we do every week we took a look back at the tape. Here are some notes from a further study of the debacle:

  • Wide receivers struggled. Andrew Luck struggled some on Sunday, but his supporting cast did as well as the offensive line had a hard time protecting him and the receivers had a hard time getting open (or catching the ball). Speaking of the receivers, Donte Moncrief was held without a catch on six targets and left early with a hamstring injury, while Phillip Dorsett had a downright disastrous day. The Colts really couldn’t create separation and Luck didn’t get any help from his receivers, outside of T.Y. Hilton. Hilton, however, continued to prove how valuable he is to the offense, as with nothing else going right offensively he was still able to make plays. He took the game into his own hands late when he caught a pass after it was tipped by the defender and then on the next play scored a long touchdown. It wound up not being enough, but he caught nine passes for 115 yards and a touchdown - and he was the guy the Texans seemed to be keying in on trying to stop. The other receivers, though? A MASSIVE letdown, leaving Luck nowhere to throw the football.
  • Let’s talk about Phillip Dorsett... There were a lot of bad performances by the Colts on Sunday, but there was arguably none worse than that of Phillip Dorsett. He caught three passes for 19 yards on eight targets, and he had a number of drops. That number will vary depending on what you consider a “drop,” but PFF had him for three. With Moncrief dealing with a hamstring injury and nothing else going right for the offense, Dorsett was unable to make a play. His biggest contribution of the day was drawing a big pass interference penalty, and it seems drawing interference penalties has been his biggest contribution since joining the Colts. For a former first round pick, there’s no other way to say it: he’s been a huge bust. There’s still time for him to turn things around, but Sunday was a terrible performance - even worse than the number of games he’s been pretty much invisible.
  • About Dwayne Allen’s block... Another player who had a really rough game was Dwayne Allen. He didn’t catch a pass (though he was only thrown to twice) and struggled blocking - and one play in particular stands out, which I’m sure most people reading this remember. So let’s talk about that play. Was it Allen’s fault, or was it the coaching staff’s fault? The short answer is yes. Here’s the deal: Dwayne Allen has to make that play, and there’s no excuse. He’s a highly-paid tight end who built up a reputation as a reliable blocker, and he needs to live up to it. So yes, of course it was his fault because he was the guy who was embarrassed on the play - and he made things worse by trying to scoop up the football rather than fall on it. But at the same time, the coaching staff shouldn’t have put him in that situation. Rob Chudzinski and the coaches have to know that in that scenario, putting Allen on Jadeveon Clowney one-on-one is a no-no, and so it’s also the coaching staff’s fault. I tend to place the blame more on the coaches for that one (though it was indeed a bad game from Allen), but if you want a differing opinion I’d suggest listening to Rick Venturi’s interview with JMV on Monday when he explained why he puts the blame on Allen.
  • Frank Gore deserves some credit. If we’re going to point out a guy who had a nice game, it was Frank Gore (with others like T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle deserving some recognition too). Gore’s a guy who’s always going to give you full effort and make plays, and he did that on Sunday. He averaged 4.1 yards per carry as he rushed for 41 yards on ten carries, and he also caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was a very impressive individual effort as he was able to turn a screen into an 18-yard score as he evaded defenders. He played less than half of the snaps and appeared to be getting tended to by trainers at least once, but it’s unclear if a possible injury was the reason for his relative lack of workload - either way, he impressed when given the chance.
  • The Texans ran all over the Colts. This was the most striking part of the game defensively for the Colts: they couldn’t stop the run. The Texans rushed for 185 yards on 41 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Lamar Miller went for 107 yards and a touchdown, Alfred Blue gained 55 yards, and even Akeem Hunt had a carry for 19 yards. Houston had three runs of 19+ yards on the Colts, and they were able to gash the Colts on the ground. That’s why I found it so crazy that both Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson maintained that the team’s young inside linebackers - Antonio Morrison and Edwin Jackson - played well on Sunday. They didn’t, but neither did the rest of the run defense either. The defensive line and linebackers both lost in the run game on a consistent basis, and the only thing that truly stopped Houston’s run game was Houston’s play-calling early on, as for some reason they seemed determined to let Brock Osweiler keep the Colts in the game. One more statistic related to the run game that speaks volumes: the Texans held the ball for 36:05. I’m not normally one to over-emphasize time of possession, but in this game it helps tell the story. The Colts defense simply couldn’t get off the field and that was in large part due to their inability to stop the run.
  • The Colts lost twice to Brock Osweiler. Seriously. Regarding Brock Osweiler... the Colts lost to him. Twice. I mean, just think about that for a moment. Osweiler on Sunday completed 14 of 24 passes for 147 yards and an interception, and he had some bad moments: like overthrowing DeAndre Hopkins downfield early or his horrible interception off of a play-action pass in a short-yardage situation (he threw it right to Akeem Ayers). The Texans aren’t going to beat you throwing the ball, and that showed once again on Sunday. But that’s a part of what made it so huge that the team couldn’t stop the run, as it meant that the Texans could take some pressure off of Osweiler and let the run game do it’s job. Against the Texans you have to stop the run to make Osweiler beat you, and the Colts didn’t do either.
  • Can no one down a punt? At this point, it’s just ridiculous: can the Colts not find anyone that’s able to simply down a punt? Pat McAfee once again had an absolutely perfect punt on Sunday that bounced inside the ten yard line and should have been downed deep in Houston territory. Yet somehow, despite several Colts around it, they weren’t able to keep it from going into the end zone. If it was one time it would be bad enough, but this is something that’s happened at least three times this year (that I can remember), and it’s an inexcusable miscue to have happen repeatedly.
  • Colts had plenty of chances. Here’s the bottom line from the game: The Colts had plenty of chances. Right before the half, Adam Vinatieri missed a long 55-yard field goal attempt, and the Texans then turned around and converted it into three points for themselves on a long field goal. That’s a six-point swing. Then later in the game, with the Colts down one score and facing a third-and-goal scenario, Jadeveon Clowney blew by Dwayne Allen for a strip-sack of Andrew Luck. That play seemed to be the biggest turning point, as the Colts had the momentum and were trying to take the lead, only to turn it over. But they weren’t done yet, and they wound up getting down to the Texans 42 yard late in the game with just over a minute left. And that’s when facing a fourth and one, they dialed up that bizarre screen-or-maybe-not play that went nowhere. The Colts had chances in this one, but they blew almost all of them. They got dominated thoroughly by the Texans in this one yet found a way to be in it until the end, but they just couldn’t make the plays needed to pull it out.