December 28, 2003
"Idiot" Kicker Boots Texans
by Keith Weiland
Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy twice took the game out of the hands, er… the foot of kicker Mike Vanderjagt. But with the game – and the division title – on the line, Dungy promptly turned to his "liquored up" kicker to seal the last second victory and cap off a 20-17 comeback win over the Texans.
The Texans built a commanding 17-3 lead through three quarters against a Colt team that may have been more interested in watching the scoreboard rather than the game. After trading punts in the first quarter, the Texans went to their rookie combo of Domanick Davis and Andre Johnson to set up their first points. Johnson caught two passes for 16 yards and Davis added another 60 yards of offense, including a nifty 11-yard run into the endzone for the 7-3 lead.
Cornerback Marcus Coleman then intercepted a Peyton Manning pass at the 25-yard line and returned it 41 yards into Colts’ territory. From there, the Texans scored an apparent touchdown on an 18-yard pass from David Carr to Johnson, though instant replay overturned the score when it showed Johnson’s toe was out of bounds. Kris Brown instead kicked a field goal to increase widen the lead, 10-3.
The Texan offense didn’t let up in third quarter, taking their first possession 63 yards downfield for another score. The rookie pair again proved critical to the success of the drive, as Johnson caught two passes for 29 yards, and Davis added 30 yards rushing, including 13 on his touchdown run up the middle to give the Texans a 17-3 advantage.
The Colts weren’t ready to give up that easily. Edgerrin James iced an 11-play drive at the top of the fourth quarter with a 6-yard touchdown run. It was a drive in which he and his backup, Dominic Rhodes, amassed 72 yards of offense and drew the Colts to within seven points at 17-10.
After James’ score, the Texans made a couple clutch plays on defense to keep the Colts from tying the game. Safety Eric Brown used his helmet to punch the ball free from James with the Colts’ next possession. Then later in the fourth quarter, reserve defensive back Darrick Vaughn batted away a third down pass to Marvin Harrison, forcing the Colts to pooch punt with just over five minutes to play.
On the ensuing drive, however, David Carr’s tipped pass on third down from his own 10-yard line was intercepted by Colts safety Donald Strickland. The play set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Brandon Stokely, as the Colts knotted the score at 17.
The Texans then went three-and-out, setting up Manning to run a two-minute drill into Texan territory. Manning found Harrison for 16 yards on third down, then later ran it himself for 9 more yards. A couple more runs by the Colts set up Vanderjagt for his game-winning 43-yard field goal.
The loss prevented the Texans from playing the role of spoiler, as the Colts secured the AFC South Division crown. The Texans dropped to a 5-11 record on the 2003 season, but they did have one more win than they posted as an expansion team in 2002.
Domanick Davis The Colts aren’t known for having a strong run defense, but Davis still took advantage of a playoff team for 99 yards on the ground and 35 more through the air. The rushing yardage put him over 1,000 yards for the season, a franchise first. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start until Week Six. Davis’ ability to rush the ball to the outside kept sack artists like Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney off of Carr.
Pass Defense With both Aaron Glenn and Kenny Wright on the injured list and unavailable to play, the Colts’ passing game could have eaten up huge chunks of yards all day against the Texans. Not so. Marcus Coleman snagged his seventh interception of the season and nearly pulled down an eighth. Demarcus Faggins shut down Marvin Harrison until he went down with an injury late in the first quarter. Darrick Vaughn stepped in and kept the pressure on, including two key pass deflections while covering Harrison, the second of which forced fourth down at 5:36 to play in the fourth quarter. With some safety help, Faggins, Vaughn, and Coleman held the Colts’ duo of Harrison and Reggie Wayne to only a combined five catches for 66 yards. Bravo, gentlemen.
Speaking of safety help, Brown forced two fumbles in the game, the second of which was recovered by Corey Sears. Brown, with the other safety Marlon McCree, first knocked the ball from James’ hands in the first quarter. The Colts recovered, but Brown would later nail James again, this time with the Colts in field goal range, dislodging the ball with 11 minutes to play in the game. Brown was also the one who stuffed James on the Colts’ fourth-and-one attempt in the first quarter.
The Fourth Quarter The Colts began the final quarter by capping off an 11-play 67-yard drive with a touchdown by James, cutting the deficit to seven. The Texan offense then failed on three third down conversions, plus an fourth when including Carr’s interception on a deflected pass. Meanwhile, the Texan defense, which had been keeping the Colts off-balance for most of the game with two down linemen and an array of corner, nickel and dime blitzes, fatigued in losing the battle for time of possession and let Colt rushers blow through the middle of line at will. Egads, the defense even allowed a statuesque Manning scramble for nine yards to put the Colts in field goal range for the game-deciding kick.
Downfield Passing Attack The Texans only attempted one pass of more than twenty yards the entire game. This comes against a Colts secondary that was banged up and had been beaten deep several times in recent weeks. Whereas in the past, when the Texans’ failure to throw deep has been tagged on poor pass protection and a weak running game, both were in good form on Sunday as no sacks were allowed and Texan rushers averaged 4.5 yards per carry. So why the Texans didn’t gameplan more deep passes against this Colt defense is something of a mystery.
In close games like this, the team that wins either has a little bit of luck or knows how to make a bit of their own. The Texans could muster neither. Whether it was the instant replay of Johnson’s big toe tickling the sideline in the endzone, an apparent intentional grounding call on Manning wiped from the record, or the interception Jason Simmons dropped on the next play, the Texans had a tough time catching a break on Sunday. Let’s hope they’re saving up the luck for when they really need it.
Following Dungy’s decision to forgo a 51-yard field goal attempt for a pooch punt, the Texans began a drive with a seven-point lead and 5:22 to play needing first downs to eat up the clock and keep the ball away from the Colts offense. The team started off okay, running Davis twice for a total of six yards on first and second downs, counting down over a minute off the clock.
So with thrid and four from their own 10-yard line, the Texans choose to finally air it out. Colts safety Donald Strickland, a backup subbing for the injured Mike Doss, was caught out of position catching up to Andre Johnson in his cover-2 zone. Carr, seeing Johnson streaking down the right sideline wide open, threw a low bullet. Colts LDE Robert Mathis spun to his right across the passing lane and jumped high enough to deflect Carr’s pass.
WR Jabar Gaffney leapt and appeared to be able to get another hand on the pass, but chose to let it go. Strickland broke on the ball and grabbed it for the interception. The Colts scored on the next play from scrimmage to tie the game at 17, justifying Dungy’s decision to pooch punt.
Week 16 Review Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt kicks the first of his two field goals. Final Score Houston Texans 17 Indianapolis Colts 20 Lookin’ Good
Coleman tried to make amends for giving up last week’s game-clinching TD to the Titans. His franchise-record seventh interception and 41-yard return (stopped only by a 15-yard facemask penalty on Peyton Manning) set up a Kris Brown field goal, increasing the Texan lead to 10-3 late in the first half.
Oh, my eyes!
Sharper lost containment on Manning during the Colts winning drive, allowing him to scamper nine yards to the Texan 36-yard line and into field goal range. It’s one thing to let a QB like Steve McNair or Michael Vick run past you, but Manning is stiff as a scrambler, entering Sunday’s game with only 21 rushing yards on the season up until that point.
2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye — 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20 Overall Record 5-11