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Quick Thoughts: Colts escape Houston with a close win 20-14

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The good news for the Indianapolis Colts is that they picked up a close road win against a divisional opponent. Also, second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. These are equally good things because the win keeps Indianapolis in the hunt for the AFC South and the passing production adds to Brissett’s résumé — which is good if he stays on the Colts to back up Luck and builds his trade value if he does not.

The bad side of the game for Brissett is that he reverted to his old ways of holding on to the football for too long — particularly in pressure situations. Too often he either does not feel pressure developing on a play, does not move in the pocket to avoid pressure, or waits too long to throw the ball away. Don’t get me wrong, the Colts offensive line is a work in progress but few players in the NFL could make their job any harder than Jacoby Brissett. If you take away the ridiculous fumble at the end of the first half that Houston returned for a touchdown, this game wasn’t even close.

Another positive development is that T.Y. Hilton made his presence felt for the first time in three weeks. If Indy traded Hilton prior to the deadline, there is no way the Colts come away with a win in this game. He made tight catches for first downs, beat his man deep for a score, and used his veteran presence of mind to punish a Texans defense who failed to down him for an 80-yard touchdown.

Moving forward, there is no way the Colts will be able to win without Hilton getting involved in the game. No other receiver has developed any rapport with Brissett. Whatever it takes, Rob Chudzinski has to keep him in the game plan and scheme the ball to him every week.

Tight end Jack Doyle also played another big role in the game as Brissett’s safety valve when he needed to negate pressure. His 8 receptions on 9 targets went for 63 yards. The one weakness he showed in the game was situational awareness in the fourth quarter. Playing with a late lead — and playing scared — the Colts offense wanted to chew up clock make first downs. On more than one occasion, Doyle caught passes that he could have kept in bounds to keep the clock moving. This nearly came back to haunt the Colts as it gave Houston extra plays on their final drive.

Defensively, the Colts played a very strong game for a second week in a row — that is until the coaching staff decided to go with a prevent look in the second half. For those who are curious, in the first half of the game, the Colts defense held the Texans running game to 29 yards on 10 carries, a 2.9 yards per carry average.

Also, the defense played a cover one or cover two physical press man coverage concept for much of the first half that knocked the Texans receivers off of their routes and frustrated DeAndre Hopkins. For the first half, the defense held Houston to 7 completion on 19 attempts for a 37% completion percentage. Hopkins caught one pass on five targets for 10 yards.

All three Colts cornerbacks deserve a lot of credit for the job they did in coverage. Pierre Desir, Rashaan Melvin, and Nate Hairston punished receivers with big hits, dislodged the ball in tight coverage, and nearly intercepted the ball on numerous occasions. As odd as it is to say, the secondary looked better to me without Vontae Davis in the game.

In the second half? The Colts gave up 143 passing yards, including 5 receptions to DeAndre Hopkins for 76 second half yards and a touchdown. Tom Savage completed 12/25 passes. Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman were able to combine for 65 rushing yards on 11 carries in the second half — good for 5.9 yards per carry.

Let’s put it this way folks, in the first half the Colts defense was stifling. It was making a bad NFL quarterback look bad. It was keeping the Houston play-makers from getting anything going. It was frustrating the Texans’ top two receivers.

In the second half, the defense played on its heels. Gone were the aggressive bump-n-run and press man coverage schemes. Gone was the aggressive defensive pressure in Savage’s face to make him get the ball out and forcing him to make bad decisions. There were three near interceptions in the first half caused by pressure. There was only one near interception in the second half and that was due to playing seven players in deep coverage on Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.

Make no mistake about it, the Colts escape this game with a win. The coaching staff had packed everything in and looked like deer in the headlights trying to avoid another embarrassing second half loss. Someone better get on the phones and let these guys know, it is your conservative offensive and defensive play-calling that is born out of your fear that you will give the game away that has resulted in devastating second half losses.

Get out of the way of your players. They’re not as bad as you’re making them seem.