As part of our look back at the 2016 season for the Indianapolis Colts, we’re taking a look at each game the team played this season. We know that won’t be the most fun experience for Colts fans, but we’re taking a look back at each game within the context of the entire season. Today we continue the series with the week fourteen loss to the Texans:
The Colts and the Texans faced off in a mid-December matchup in Indianapolis with first place in the AFC South on the line with just three weeks left to go in the season. It was the biggest game of the year for either team up to that point. The Colts got the scoring started early, as Adam Vinatieri hit a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter on a drive that featured a 33-yard run by Andrew Luck on 3rd down. After the field goal, however, the next time the Colts got the ball the drive ended after only one play as Luck was picked off. That led to a Texans field goal, and then in the second quarter they added a touchdown and another field goal to enter halftime up 13-3. The third quarter didn’t start much better for the Colts, as Luck was intercepted on Indy’s first drive, once again setting up a Houston field goal.
The Colts finally got things going on their next drive, however, as Luck hit Frank Gore for an 18-yard score to cut into the Texans’ lead, making it 16-10. Before the end of the quarter the Colts would get down to the Texans’ 3 yard line, when the Colts decided to let Dwayne Allen try to block Jadeveon Clowney one-on-one on third down. Clowney absolutely embarrassed Allen and got to Luck for the strip-sack, ending Indy’s promising drive. The Texans wound up adding another field goal to make it 19-10, but the Colts weren’t done fighting. Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a 35-yard score midway through the fourth quarter to make it a two-point game. The Colts’ defense subsequently allowed a long drive that ran a ton of clock off the board but stiffened in the red zone, allowing a field goal. It was 22-17 with just a few minutes remaining, and the Colts were quickly in Houston territory. They wound up facing a fourth and 1 from the Texans’ 42 with 1:24 left... and it wound up being a screen pass to Robert Turbin that was stuffed. Game over. The Texans had won it 22-17. The Colts? They played a bad all-around football game, without question.
What We Said at the Time:
So this isn’t the time for ‘we’ll look at the tape’ or ‘we’ll get things fixed’ or things like that; this was the Colts’ game seven. This was the game they absolutely had to win if they hoped to make playoffs. This was their chance, against the AFC South-leading Texans, to seize control of the division with three weeks remaining. But instead, the Colts played their ugliest and sloppiest game of the season as they lost 22-17 at home to the Texans.
The Colts fall to 6-7 on the season, while the Texans improve to 7-6. The Colts have now also guaranteed that they won’t have the tiebreaker with Houston (as the Texans swept the season series), meaning that the Colts will have to make up two games in the final three weeks if they hope to win the division. In other words, they’ll very likely be at home in January, and if that happens they can look back to this game in mid-December when they had control of their own destiny. This game likely sealed their fate, and after watching them today there’s no one who can argue they should be a playoff team.
What We’re Saying Now:
This was, indeed, the game the Colts absolutely had to have. After dropping their first game to the Texans in heartbreaking fashion, it was crucial that they win this home December matchup - it would have given the Colts the AFC South lead, and it would have prevented the Texans from clinching the season tiebreaker. But instead, the Colts played a bad football game in the biggest spot, and the loss essentially ended any playoff hopes they had. Sure, there were other scenarios that we spent time talking about out of due diligence, but when the Colts were officially eliminated two weeks later, it was met with the response of “it’s about time.” Everyone knew it: the loss to the Texans in week 14 effectively ended the Colts’ season. It was certainly a winnable game, but the Colts simply didn’t show up and looked like a bad football team throughout the day. And if Chuck Pagano couldn’t get his team up to play even decent football in the most important game of the year, then how great of a motivator was he, actually? Some thought that the loss might spell the end of the Pagano era, but that wasn’t true: he’s returning for a sixth season. But there’s no getting rid of that December football game against Houston, where the Colts played terrible at home against the Texans in a game they absolutely had to win. Because of that, they were sitting at home for the playoffs - and from the second the Colts failed on that late fourth down conversion, everyone knew that would be the case, too. One thing we got right at the time: the Colts certainly didn’t look like a playoff team in 2016, and certainly not in this game against Houston.