It’s an odd feeling, coming away from a shutout win with the feeling that that overall the game was kind of boring. This one had a strange flow. Kenny Moore intercepted Tyrod Taylor’s first pass and put the Colts offense in position to take an early lead. Another turnover, this time a forced fumble and recovery by the Colts defense, gave the offense another short field, but the unit came away empty after Michael Badgely missed a field goal try.
The rest of the first half appeared to be a competition between both teams to do very little with the football. The Colts’ offense did not feature a lot of the RPO game it has used for much of the season, perhaps in part because of some shuffling on the offensive line with Ryan Kelly a late scratch. Jonathan Taylor didn’t really get things going in the first half, and the Texans’ defensive line refused to allow Indianapolis to get much going.
On the final drive of the first half, Indy was able to move the ball, and Carson Wentz capped off the drive with a touchdown pass, featuring a beautiful end zone catch, to Ashton Dulin.
Unlike a week ago, the Colts took the first possession of the second half down the field to break the game completely open, with Jonathan Taylor picking up his second rushing touchdown of the day. From there out, Houston couldn’t get anything going. The Colts’ defense deserves credit for the role they played. An interception, a forced fumble and recovery, and four sacks is strong production for a defense no matter the opponent. But it’s also entirely legitimate to note that Tyrod Taylor wasn’t good, and he was replaced by Davis Mills in the third quarter.
In the end, the Colts get their largest road shutout in over four decades, and they move to 7-6 heading into the bye.
There are two notes for the Colts’ offensive line in this game. The first is that it was apparent in the first half that the group missed Ryan Kelly. Danny Pinter did a reasonably fine job filling in, but he isn’t near the mauler Kelly is, and it definitely showed in the trenches.
The second is that this offensive line finds ways to wear down opponents. Even in the fourth quarter on Indy’s last offensive drive of the game, backup linemen like Will Fries, Matt Pryor, and Chris Reed were having their way against a tired and dejected Texans front seven.
It has become apparent that the Colts’ backfield is owned by Jonathan Taylor. There is a committee approach throughout much of the league, and Nyheim Hines still maintains a change of pace and two-minute role, but Taylor is as much bell-cow as any back in the league not named Henry.
Moreover, Deon Jackson looked good in training camp and preseason. He appears to be the favorite to round out a talented stable for Indianapolis moving forward. When Marlon Mack continues to spend time in street clothes, and Jackson gets onto the field, the writing is on the wall.
This Colts offense is predicated on running the football. Jonathan Taylor is a special athlete and deserves most of the defensive attention while opponents game plan for Indy. Michael Pittman Jr. has taken his place as the top pass-catching option for the Colts, but there is very little established outside of him.
The last few weeks have seen Ashton Dulin beginning to emerge as a legitimate receiving threat. He has deep speed, enough size to block on the ground, and is a front runner for a special teams Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod. Dulin’s emergence is welcome, because, down the stretch, the Colts need to keep opponents honest, and there isn’t anyone other than Pittman who stands out as a threat.
Michael Badgely got an opportunity to kick for the Colts when Rodrigo Blankenship suffered a hip injury. How much the hip played a role in Blankenship’s shaky start to the season is unknown, but Badgely was a consistent weapon and certainly has shown a bigger leg than Blankenship to this point.
With that said, Badgely has put together a couple of somewhat shaky performances. A couple of kicks against the Bucs were shaky, and he missed a field goal and hit an extra point off of the upright in Houston. With the bye week coming, it will be interesting to see if the Colts make Badgely compete with Blankenship for kicking duties during the playoff push.