The Indianapolis Colts absolutely needed a win in Houston this past Sunday to stay in the tight AFC playoff race. While it wasn’t a pretty win by any means, the Colts’ star players were able to step up in a big way. We already talked yesterday about how big the return of DeForest Buckner was to the team so today I wanted to highlight two other star players before shifting our focus to the Raiders.
Cornerback Kenny Moore II has been an underrated star for the Colts for years and made his impact felt on Sunday. He finished the game with 8 tackles, 4 stops, 2 pass deflections, and an interception. Offensive Tackle Braden Smith on the other hand has been an ascending talent in the NFL this season and this Sunday was another great example as he allowed 0 pressures on the game and locked down JJ Watt and company on his side of the line.
Today we are going to look at the play of these two from this past weekend and see how these two stars were able to impact the game.
Kenny Moore II
One reason why I fell in love with Moore II’s game even before he became the stud that he is now is his physicality. Despite being roughly 5’9” 180 pounds, he plays like a true nickel corner should in both the pass game and run game. He is a physical tackler who isn’t afraid to step up and deliver hits to players twice his size. Here he takes on the tight end after the catch and is able to upend the much larger player on the play.
I love how Kenny Moore II brings physicality despite his size. Fearless player pic.twitter.com/3RF3gabCzQ— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
On top of being a physical player and great in coverage, he just does so many of the little things right on defense. This play right here is the perfect example of that. The Texans are driving at the end of the half but don’t have anymore timeouts left. They dump it down to the flats in hope of getting the first down quickly and getting out of bounds to stop the clock. However, Moore II is able to get to the flat receiver quickly and not only stop them short of the first but also use their momentum against them to keep them in bounds to keep the clock rolling. Just a wonderfully heads up play by a top player.
This play by Moore II was so great. Time winding down and the Texans having no timeouts left, he is able to bring down the running back in the flat short of the sticks and in bounds to keep the clock runnning pic.twitter.com/JRVRFFh7RD— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
Now we are going to look at two clips back to back simply because the Texans inexplicably tried to attack Moore II with the exact same route combination before halftime on Sunday. The play call is essentially trips to the right with vertical routes meant to isolate Moore II with the slot receiver/tight end on a deep post. However, Moore II is just much too talented and has too good of closing speed to get beat by play like this.
In both plays, he is able to close the distance between himself and the pass catcher as soon as the ball is thrown and get the pass breakup. Again, I have no clue why they attacked him out of this set with this play call but it had no chance at working for the Texans.
Don't test Kenny pic.twitter.com/UQxX5CcsYq— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
Don't test Kenny (2x) pic.twitter.com/zIPVenMpXo— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
The final clip to show is his incredible interception in the third quarter that stopped all the momentum that the Texans were building at the time. Regardless of what this call could have been (I still think INT was the correct call), it is still remarkable to see the effort by Moore II on this play. He initially allows a little separation on the in route but shows excellent closing speed to hit the receiver as the ball arrives. In doing that, he also attacks the hands of the receiver and is able to rip the ball away for the interception.
Regardless as to what this call should have been (I still think INT is the correct call), this is excellent closing speed by Kenny Moore II to attack the hands of the receiver and take the ball away on the short pass pic.twitter.com/G2aP76fU3u— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
On the other side of the ball, Braden Smith played some outstanding football on Sunday. He was lined up quite a bit with superstar pass rusher JJ Watt and was able to hold his own for the entire game. I cut up roughly 10 of his pass rush snaps where he was one on one with Watt to showcase how well he played in this matchup. On the year, Smith is currently one of three offensive tackles to have over 700 snaps and allow 0 sacks. He has also allowed just one QB hit on the year and that happened all the way back in week one.
Braden Smith had an outstanding game in pass protection on Sunday, especially against the great JJ Watt. I cut up some of his clips in pass pro where Smith was mostly by himself vs Watt. I counted 0 pressures allowed on the day.— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
Braden Smith is a top RT in the NFL pic.twitter.com/QSOFDJ9skt
Smith’s power and strength have always been positives in his game but they really showed when he had to line up against Texans defensive lineman Charles Omenihu. Omenihu actually had a really solid game for the Texans but he just couldn’t hold up at the point of attack against a player like Smith. Smith was just simply dominant all game long as he locked up Watt in the passing game and paved the way on the ground with his power.
Texans DL Charles Omenihu had a pretty good game on Sunday but he was overpowered many times by Braden Smith. Smith was just straight up dominant in this game pic.twitter.com/8L2Us0dvm0— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) December 8, 2020
While these players had vastly different beginnings in the NFL, both have emerged as stars for this young Colts’ team. While Moore II broke out a few years ago and was rewarded with a giant contract after 2018, he started as a UDFA and has been able to quickly turn into one of the leagues best slot corners. Smith was a high second round pick as a guard but has been able to transition over to tackle easily and is line to be the highest paid RT in the NFL come this offseason.
Overall these two players are extremely vital to the Colts’ team success and they came to play in a huge game this past Sunday. With the game upcoming this weekend essentially being a playoff game in Vegas, both of these stars are going to need to put up similar performances for the Colts to pull off another win.