INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s our latest ‘hits and misses’ piece on 1075TheFan.com highlighting the good and bad from the previous game.
Again in wild fashion, the Colts earned a season sweep of the Texans, beating Houston 27-20 on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What was the good and bad from the Colts (10-4) winning their third straight game?
-Zach Pascal: Fittingly, the game-day captain for the Colts on Sunday and the guy who spoke to the team on Saturday night, was one of the stars of the game. Zach Pascal entered Sunday having caught 1 ball in each of the past three games, despite playing 129 total offensive snaps. Against the Texans, Pascal’s consistent play time turned into box score results. He had 5 catches (6 targets) for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns, showing off 50/50 snag ability and toughness after the catch. At times, we often forget just how this staff values Pascal for his dependability. On Sunday, it was Pascal having his best game of the season, benefitting from the growing attention around T.Y. Hilton and Jonathan Taylor (who continues to look like a different runner).
-Reliability of DeForest Buckner: When DeForest Buckner injured his ankle during Thursday’s practice, his status for Sunday was very much in jeopardy. But the Colts and Buckner immediately went to work on that ankle to try and get him into some Sunday role. That was Buckner played 51 percent of the snaps (35 total), his low for the season, mainly being used on third down and in some key situations. When on the field, Buckner was his All-Pro self, racking up 4 quarterback hits and a career-high 3.0 sacks. The trade for Buckner was made for many reasons, and his durability was one of those (he’s missed 1 career game due to injury in 5 years). Some guys might have missed this contest after suffering a late-week practice injury. But not Buckner.
-Hot Rod’s Big Make: If you listened to last week’s Kevin’s Corner or read Seven Things, you would have seen this very note mentioned. The Colts needed to see rookie Rodrigo Blankenship make/attempt a field goal from longer than 44 yards. Well, Hot Rod banged home a critically important 53-yarder early in the 4th quarter, a down the middle kick that had plenty of room to spare. Again, this was an odd storyline through the first 13 games that Hot Rod had kicked just one field goal from further than 44 yards (a 50-yarder that he chunked short against the Packers). This should give the rookie some confidence and Frank Reich some belief if/when these kicks are needed in January.
-Frank Reich’s Challenge: Many will overlook this decision by Frank Reich, but it very well could have saved the Colts 4 points. With 2:39 to go in the third quarter, Texans running back Scottie Phillips caught a ball and ran 9 yards out of bounds for a first down on 2nd-and-8. But thanks to some encouragement from a handful of Colts players on the sideline, Reich decided to throw a challenge flag on the spot, something that is difficult to overturn. Reich won the challenge though, turning a 1st-and-Goal at the 5-yard line into a 3rd-and-1 at the Indy 7-yard line. The Texans then had a false start penalty, pushing it back to a 3rd-and-6. And the Colts got a stop on that 3rd and medium, forcing a field goal. We haven’t seen a ton of challenges from Reich this season. This was a big one though, helping his defense get yet another red-zone stop, which was huge in a one-score game.
-Yardage Allowed: This is really my only miss, particularly with the offense still scoring on 5 of their 7 real drives against the Texans. The Colts gave up 425 yards on Sunday, getting outgained by 75 yards. This came against a Houston offense extremely depleted at wide receiver and having minimal running back depth. What we’ve seen from the Colts lately is a defense that is really bending, but not breaking. Again, credit to the defense for what its done in the red zone as of late. Still, if that part of the unit starts to not be as stout, these massive yardage numbers could lead to opponents scoring around 30 points. On Sunday, 7 of the 8 Houston drives reached Indy territory, including the final 4 series reaching the red zone.