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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Colts overpower Houston to clinch playoff berth

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They fell behind early, regrouped at intermission and played like a different team in the second half.

Is this the mark of a consistent championship contender or are they playing with fire by taking half the game off and living on the edge with all these close victories? Ladies and gentleman, once again, your unpredictable Indianapolis Colts.

Arriving in Houston without Dwight Freeney to play an opponent that has beaten itself the last few times out against Indianapolis, many so called experts saw the Colts undefeated record absorbing a loss against the Texans and by the end of the first quarter, all those predictions were starting to look accurate.

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub made the Texan’s first possession a productive one, leading them down the field 79 yards in 11 plays to put the host team up 7-0 by virtue of a short touchdown pass to fullback Vonta Leach.

The Colts attempt to counter would be dismal, ending with Peyton Manning being sacked by Houston’s Connor Barwin on just the fifth play of the drive for the Indianapolis offensive unit.

The Texans would waste no time adding to their lead as they took their second possession and promptly marched 66 yards in seven plays which concluded with running back Chris Brown running off guard for a five yard touchdown and suddenly the undefeated Colts were down 14-0 on the road. The Colts offense would yield an equally anemic effort on their next possession, and the Texans would reclaim the football and tack a field goal onto their lead and it seemed as if the rout was indeed on.

With the scoreboard at Reliant Stadium providing both a reality check and a sense of urgency, the Colts would finally awaken on offense with Manning engineering an eight play 74 yard drive, which resulted in their first points of the day, via a nine yard pass from Manning to Pierre Garcon to trim the Houston lead to 17-7. Houston would manage yet another field goal and the two teams headed for the locker room at halftime with the Texans in control, 20-7.

Indianapolis would the take the second half kickoff and march 80 yards down the field in just 3:40 for the only score of the third quarter with Manning finding Reggie Wayne from four yards out to make it a game again by a count of 20-14.

The Colts benefited on the drive from what was clearly a terrible pass interference call that gave them 43 yards.

Numerous replays showed there was clearly no foul on the play, much to the disappointment of Texans head coach, Gary Kubiak.

The final stanza would be all Colts beginning with Manning connecting with Dallas Clark from six yards out and in the process give Indianapolis it’s first lead of the game at 21-20.

Just two plays later, Colts linebacker Clint Session would intercept a Schaub pass and return it 27 yards for a touchdown and the tide had turned for Indianapolis.

On the next Houston possession, Robert Mathis would sack Schaub and force a fumble, and the Colts were in position to put the game on ice, which they promptly did courtesy of a 23 yard touchdown scamper by running back Chad Simpson. The Colts now led 35-20 with just 2:52 seconds left between them and remaining perfect with their 11th straight victory of the season. Houston would drive 75 yards to score and make it interesting at 35-27 with just 18 seconds left in regulation.

The Texans would attempt an onside kick in an effort to reclaim the ball, but Kris Brown’s kick sailed out of bounds after traveling 12 yards and the Colts were able to run out the clock and leave Houston with a victory that was both impressive and hard to fathom, considering the distinctive contrast in their performance in this game of two dramatically different halves.

Notes: By virtue of their win over Houston and Jacksonville’s loss to the 49ers, the Colts clinched the AFC South Division, and a playoff berth with five regular season games remaining.

While sacked twice, and intercepted twice as well, Peyton Manning still managed to throw for 244 yards and complete touchdown passes to three different receivers.

While he nailed all five point after touchdown attempts, Matt Stover finally missed a field goal for the Colts. Stover missed from 32 yards out after hitting his first seven of the year.

With his 11th win, Jim Caldwell tied Steve Mariucci for most consecutive wins by a rookie coach. The Colts have now won 11 games for the seventh year in a row, which is an NFL record.

As previously mentioned, Dwight Freeney did not travel to the Houston game. Freeney has an injured abdomen, and his return is uncertain at this point. Cross your fingers on this one Colts fans.

The next Colts game is Sunday, Dec. 6 against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. The kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and the game can be seen on CBS locally.

Danny Bridges, who ate like an NFL lineman on Thanksgiving Day and still feels the Colts defense is indeed suspect, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or Bridgeshd@aol.com.

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