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5 takeaways from Colts 37-34 loss to the Texans

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts faced off against the Houston Texans in their first divisional game of the season. The defense struggled all day to contain Deshaun Watson and mistakes early in the game cost the Colts the victory.

This time it was the offense carrying the defense as the Colts were able to put up 34 points behind a strong showing from Andrew Luck. After the first half, the passing game was really clicking on all cylinders besides a few costly drops.

The defense struggled to contain Deshaun Watson and the passing game as Watson passed for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. The lack of talent at cornerback really showed as the team was just unable to stick to the Texans receivers.

Zach Pascal, Nyheim Hines step up

To start with some positives, running back Nyheim Hines and wide receiver Zach Pascal really showed their true value today. With the Colts running game a non-factor and star wide receiver TY Hilton injured, these two really carried the load in a big way.

Hines was dominant out of the backfield and was a matchup that the Colts exploited all over the field. For the day, Hines finished with 4 rushes for 10 yards along with 9 catches for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not too bad for the rookie running back who many were clamoring for to be cut in the preseason.

For Pascal, this breakout is exactly what the Colts needed. He was a reliable target all day and showed consistent strong hands down the field. Pascal finished the day with 6 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Hopefully the surprising young receiver can continue to build on this breakout game.

Colts need Anthony Castonzo back sooner rather than later

The Texans stout pass rush had their way with the Colts today as Jadeveon Clowney had two sacks and a fumble recovery touchdown while JJ Watt had two sacks and two forced fumbles on the day. The starting offensive tackles struggled to contain those two and begs the question of when Anthony Castonzo will return to protect Andrew Luck’s blindside.

Castonzo logged two days of practice this week for the first time in months. Although this is a promising sign, I doubt the Colts rush him back due to the chance of reinjury. With that being said, it could be another game or two before we see Castonzo back at LT.

Hopefully there are no more setbacks as performances like this from the offensive line in pass protection cannot be the norm going forward.

Head Coach Frank Reich has guts

Tied at 34 in overtime facing a fourth down and four with 27 seconds left on your own 43 yard line, you’d have to be crazy to elect to go for it. Well that is exactly what the Colts decided to do. Now it didn’t work out for the Colts this time but you have to feel happy about having a coach with that mentality.

Now the play itself was not a great call. If there is anything to harshly criticize on this decision, its electing to throw the hook route in coverage. Still this represents a major change of the guard from the last coaching staff as Pagano was one of the more conservative coaches in football.

Again it didn’t work out for the Colts this time but Reich’s mentality to make that decision needs to be applauded.

The defense is far from perfect

Through the first three games of the season, the Colts defense had been quietly good. They shut down the Redskins to only 9 points and held the defending champion Eagles to just 20 last week. This week though was a completely different story as Deshaun Watson had his way though the air.

The defensive backs struggled in particular as Watson was able to find targets downfield all day. Rookie Keke Coutee had a huge day and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was able to find seams anywhere on the field. The cornerbacks struggled to make plays on the ball and stick to their receivers. The safeties really need to improve against the Patriots as there were way too many open plays over the middle of the field.

Overall, we learned that this defense is a young group that is still growing each game. They will have their hiccups like today but overall the key is improving as a group. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard again had another huge day too as he continues his dominant play.

Andrew Luck is still Andrew Luck

Coming off of a week where some were doubting whether Andrew Luck could be his old self again, Luck exploded for a monster game that led to an 18 point second half comeback that nearly resulted in a win. With Jack Doyle out for the game and TY Hilton out for most of the game, Luck still managed to throw 40 completions on 62 attempts for 464 yards and 4 touchdowns. The 464 yards passing and 62 attempts are both career highs.

Luck was surgical in the second half, throwing with confidence like we haven’t seen since his injury two years ago. He even threw some effective deep balls, which should but probably won’t, silence the doubters that say his arm isn’t what it used to be. With the game on the line with just over two minutes on the clock, Luck led the Colts on an 85 yard drive which forced overtime.

On a day where his top targets were injured, his offensive tackles were injured, his defense struggled, AND he had no running game Luck still managed to keep the Colts in the game. This type of performance gives you hope that regardless of anything else, as long as number 12 is under center the Colts have a shot.