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Colts vs Texans Wild Card: Winners and Losers

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Colts won in convincing fashion in the first round of the playoffs to send the Houston Texans on their way. The game was the perfect example of what this team is capable of when they are really firing, as they got out to two consecutive long touchdown drives to start the game with a defensive three and out in between. By the time the second quarter arrived, the game felt well in the Colts’ control, and only a badly called touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Texans saved it from being a shutout. There were plenty of winners to go around in this one, so let’s get started with them.


Braden Smith

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

While Smith might not be the name that makes the most sense to lead off our winners as he is not the flashy big play guy, he once again handled J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney like a seasoned veteran. While Quenton Nelson makes the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro, Smith is also doing incredible things, and eliminating J.J. Watt is a big one.

There were very few things that the Monday Night Football broadcast crew got right in their call of the game, but one of them from Booger was that J.J. Watt knocking down the ball was great, but ultimately, he had to start getting to Andrew Luck. He isn’t wrong. While batting the ball obviously can pay off as it resulted in an interception, he was unable to get to pressure on Luck, and as a result, Luck diced up their defense. Braden Smith deserves major credit for the year he has had.

T.Y. Hilton

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

From the moment that he showed up to the airport with his Joker backpack we should have known. T.Y. Hilton doesn’t do much talking off the field. He is one of the “let my play do my talking” kind of guys. When he arrived at NRG Stadium in a Pennywise the Clown mask, it was a clear sign of how he felt about being disrespected by a player he has routinely dominated. The whole first drive of the game was the Luck and Hilton show. He had 85 yards on the day, but most of those came in the first quarter. He made big plays early that required the defense to pay attention to him, and the running game took over from there.

Marlon Mack

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Let me say this loud one more time for the people in the back—the Colts are not signing Le’Veon Bell in the offseason. Why would they? Marlon Mack has been great as the lead back in a versatile running back room that has a solid coach in Tom Rathman. This is a group that will continue to get even better, and Mack looks like a completely different guy than last season. Despite only playing in 12 games this season, Mack is 16th in total rushing yards and 6th in yards per game for backs with at least 50 attempts.

His 148 rushing yards set a new franchise record for the most rushing yards in a playoff game. That would be impressive in its own right, but that performance came against a team that Football Outsiders had as the top run defense in the league in 2018. What is even more encouraging than that? The team he’ll face next, the Kansas City Chiefs, ranks dead last in stopping the run.

Andrew Luck

Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Luck did not have a remarkable day in terms of his statistical output. You’d have had to watch the film to see his brilliance. He didn’t rush throws, put good touch on the ball when it was needed, and threw darts into close windows when the coverage called for it. In short, he played efficient football and didn’t make mistakes. That was all that was needed given the success of the running game. He continues to make plays with his feet, both extending plays and hitting guys downfield, and scrambling for first downs when the opportunity presents itself. His lone interception was more about J.J. Watt’s good play than a bad throw or decision. It might not stand out as an iconic playoff performance, but it was a solid one that got the job done.

Kenny Moore

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

How have we made it this far into this story without talking about Kenny Moore? It has been the Kenny Moore show on defense the past two weeks as the Colts corner has really turned it on. His performance against the Texans was crucial, getting a sack as well as another QB hit and breaking up a couple passes in addition to snagging another interception.

This is perfect timing for Moore, who has had a solid season, but over the past two games has kicked his play up a notch. If the Colts are going to continue winning, it will take more on defense than just Darius Leonard making plays, and while the defensive line has shown all year the ability to impact the game, having the secondary coming alive as the playoffs get under way is a huge boost to this defense.

Clayton Geathers

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Ryan Kelly does for the offense, Clayton Geathers is a big impact player for the defense. His 9 tackles and pass defended don’t tell the whole story of what he brings in terms of defending the run, but his attitude and leadership on the field alone are notable. He is a more disciplined player than George Odum, who is best as a special teamer, and so having him their to defend the run and help keep contain was a big deal.

The Colts often opened up the middle a bit too much and let Watson run there and pick up first downs. However, that was only taking place once the game was well in hand and if your defense is forcing the opposing quarterback to run the ball in order to win, they’re doing something right. Geathers being back gave some more heart to the defense and the Colts need him healthy throughout the rest of the playoffs to make a run.

Frank Reich

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Indy Star-USA TODAY NETWORK

This game was about as expertly called as any we have seen all year. It was the picture of excellent preparation, flawless execution, and wrong-footing your opponent. Frank Reich has largely done an amazing job this season, which can make you forget at times that this is his first year as a head coach. Like the rest of the team and staff, he is still improving as a coach and growing. This was his best game yet, and he is raising his own game at the perfect time.

Honorable Mentions: Dontrelle Inman, Darius Leonard, Al Quadin Muhammad, Quenton Nelson


Kansas City Chiefs

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Edit: So I see that I completely messed this one up, as many of you have pointed out correctly that the Chiefs would have played the Chargers in the divisional round with a Colts loss. I do still hold that the Chiefs lose here, because the Chargers are the team they know. While they have been playing well, we saw in our game how familiarity impacts the planning, and it showed in the Ravens vs Chargers game as well.

Instead of a familiar face, the Chiefs will host an arguably hotter Colts team, and the Patriots get to be losers too because they have to deal with a Chargers team that is playing really well. They’re also losers because they’re just the worst.

If you are the Chiefs, you should definitely have to be disappointed that the Texans didn’t get a win here. The Texans were one of the weaker teams in the playoffs and the Chiefs match up well against them in every way.

Instead, the Colts are the ones they will host in Arrowhead. Chiefs fans are haunted by gutting playoff losses to the Colts, one of which provided a staple performance from Andrew Luck that most of us will never forget. While ultimately the past doesn’t matter, that doesn’t stop it from unnerving fans, as Colts fans know well.

Instead of the Texans, the Chiefs will face a Colts team that is red hot, has no fear, and just seems to be getting better.