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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts’ defense leads the way in 31-20 victory over Texans

The Colts got their first win of the 2023 season on Sunday

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Indianapolis Colts got their first win of the season on Sunday, defeating the Houston Texans 31-20. Overall, Indianapolis looked much better in all three phases, which played a big role in their victory. Indianapolis moves to 1-1 on the 2023 season and now turns their attention to the 2-0 Baltimore Ravens next Sunday.


Going into Sunday’s matchup against Houston, Indianapolis looked to have a real advantage against a depleted Texans’ offensive line that was missing multiple starters, including All-Pro left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The Colts took full advantage of Houston’s situation along the offensive line, pressuring rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud throughout much of the game Sunday. In total, Indianapolis’ defensive line recorded six sacks and a forced fumble of Stroud while holding Houston’s rushing attack to just 52 total yards on 26 attempts, allowing just 2.0 yards per rush on average between five different ball carriers.

The Colts’ front seven also recorded ten tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits, which certainly affected Stroud early on in Sunday’s game. Linebackers Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed made their presence known often. Speed recorded six solo tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Franklin, meanwhile, had 13 total tackles (8 solo) and one tackle for loss.

While Stroud did find somewhat of a rhythm later in the game and have a fairly productive day through the air (30-of-47 for 384 yards and two touchdowns), it was ultimately the performance of the Colts’ defensive front that helped lead the team to a victory over their divisional rival. If Indianapolis’ defense can play like the way it did Sunday, it’s hard to imagine the team not being able to keep themselves in games going forward, even with a rookie signal-caller at the helm.


Offensively, you couldn’t really ask for much of a better performance from what the Colts did Sunday. Head coach Shane Steichen got very creative early on with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson having two designed rushing touchdowns to put the Colts up 14-0 in the early going. Richardson was also effective and efficient through the drives he was in, completing 6-of-10 passes for 56 yards to go along with his 35 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The biggest storyline to watch going forward is that of Richardson’s health, who exited Sunday’s game in the second quarter with a concussion after his second touchdown run of the game. There are multiple boxes Richardson will have to check before being eligible to return to action. From what we did see, there’s a lot you’ve got to like if you’re the Colts. Richardson looked poised and was hitting on early throws from short and intermediate distances, which is an area of his game that needed some slight improvement. The sample size may not have been the biggest Sunday, but there’s a lot to continue to work with from Richardson’s performance.

Indianapolis’ rushing attack looked completely different with running back Zack Moss returning to the starting lineup. In his debut, Moss rushed for 88 yards on 18 attempts and one touchdown. In total, the Colts rushed for 126 yards between Richardson’s and Moss’ performances. Veteran Gardner Minshew, who stepped in to replace Richardson, had three rushing yards as well. Speaking of, let’s be sure to credit Minshew for his performance, too. The veteran stepped in, and Indy’s offense didn’t miss a beat with back-to-back touchdown drives. Minshew was 19-of-23 on the day for 171 yards and a touchdown.

The Colts’ offensive line also deserves a massive amount of credit. The unit played very well against a talented Houston front, which includes No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr. On the afternoon, Indy’s offensive line gave up zero sacks and played a major role in their offense being far more efficient in the areas the mattered most. Indianapolis went 6-of-12 on third downs and was 4-for-4 in the red zone, too, which is vastly improved compared to the week prior against the Jaguars. A far more efficient day in its entirety leads to an impressive 31-point day from Indianapolis’ offense.