Still Perfect

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October 25, 2005
Still Perfect

by Charles Spooner

The Indianapolis Colts brought a 6-0 record into Reliant Stadium on Sunday, as well as an unblemished 6-0 all-time mark against the Houston Texans. The Texans had been “perfect” against the league themselves, going winless in five contests. Would this be the week where these streaks came to stunning end? Not a chance, as the Colts shook off a Texan second quarter run and trounced the red-clad and redder-faced home team 38-20.

The Texans came out looking to establish the run against the Colts. Either that, or someone left the play sheet containing the forward passes in the locker room. The Texans did not release a pass until the eighth play of the drive, resulting in a David Carr to Jabar Gaffney third down completion that was nine yards short of a first down.

The ensuing Indianapolis possession defined the term offensive balance. Six rushing plays to go with five passes (all completions). Never did the Colts run or pass more than twice consecutively. Edgerrin James took his sixth carry of the drive across the goal line to give Indy the early lead.

Rookie speedster Jerome Mathis set up Houston with good field position near mid-field, after a 48-yard kickoff return. The Texans’ offense wasted the effort, with a quick three-and-out, as Carr missed badly on a 5-yard out pattern to Gaffney.

Chad Stanley’s 43-yard punt pinned Indianapolis inside the Colt’s 5-yard line. Indianapolis was able to move the ball near midfield, thanks in part to a couple of nice catch-and-run efforts by tight end Dallas Clark.

However, Texan outside linebacker Shantee Orr made a great effort to strip the ball from Colts quarterback (and NFL MVP) Peyton Manning. Morlon Greenwood recovered at the 50-yard line, giving the Texans offense good field position, once again.

As good hosts will do, the Texans gave the ball right back to Indianapolis. Carr’s interception to cornerback Nick Harper, who had blanketed Corey Bradford in coverage, puts the Colts in Texans territory. The 17-yard toss was to be Carr’s longest pass attempt of the day. Three plays later, Manning beat a blitz and hit a wide-open Clark on a 31-yard touchdown pass. Was the rout on?

Not so fast, said the Texans. Houston began an improbable 79-yard drive, which included only one attempted pass. Texans tight end Marcellus Rivers made a shoestring catch for a 16-yard third-down conversion. Carr ran for two first downs, including a key fourth-down conversion. The rest was all running back Domanick Davis, carrying 11 times for 40 yards. Davis’ 8-yard scamper to the left pylon followed by Kris Brown’s extra point cut the Colts’ lead in half, 14-7.

Will miracles never cease? Following the kickoff, Manning found Texans’ star cornerback Dunta Robinson on a 15-yard out pattern, intended for Brandon Stokley. Robinson’s interception led to another Texan scoring drive keyed by another Carr run for a third down conversion. Gaffney caught an 8-yard touchdown strike on a Carr rollout to the left, and the Texans entered halftime not trailing for the first time in the 2005 season. The Texans finished the half with 119 rushing yards from Davis and Carr, but only 24 yards of total passing.

Whatever momentum the Texans had going into the second half was lost in the locker room at halftime. The Colts came out of the gate and executed on their opening possession. All of the Colts’ Pro Bowlers made plays. Harrison with an 18-yard reception. Ditto, Reggie Wayne. James carried four times for 24 yards. And even Manning rumbled 12 yards for a first-down. Just four minutes into the second half, and the Texans again trailed by a touchdown. It would get worse.

Predictable play calling and a dropped pass stunted the Texans’ next possession. When the Colts went back on offense, the Reggie Wayne Show began. Wayne gave a textbook example of how to shield off a defender (someone called Phillip Buchanon a defender?) and came up with four receptions on the drive. The possession stalled after a Seth Payne sack of Manning, and Mike Vanderjagt’s 36-yard field goal increased Indianapolis’ lead to ten.

The next two possessions by Houston were vintage 2005 Texans. Four sacks, three fumbles, and a 37-yard defensive touchdown by Colts’ defensive tackle Montae Reagor. Now the NFL world was in perfect harmony.
One last kickoff by the Colts would leave something good for what was left of the Texan faithful. Mathis took his seventh and final return and accomplished what no other Texan returner had ever done. Taking a short kick by Colt kickoff specialist Dave Raynor, Jerome went straight up field, breaking the first line of containment. In just a few strides, the former track star would hit full speed and went untouched for an 89-yard touchdown. The kickoff return for touchdown was the first in Texans history. David Carr’s overthrow on the two-point conversion (to be fair, the beer guy in the fifth row was open) left the final margin at 18 points. Not as close as the score would indicate.

The Nightmare on Kirby Drive continues next Sunday, as the Cleveland Browns come to town on Halloween eve. Plenty of fans are sure to come disguised as empty seats. The rest will be hoping for their first treat of the year, after seven tricks beginning with a January thumping by these same Browns. Don’t be frightened, as fans will likely hear “Boo” loudly and often. What Went Right?

Second Quarter Effort It offered a little flashback to the expansion season when the Texans would at times play over their head and defeat a good team… or at least keep the game close. Blockers blocking. Defenders tackling. The occasional turnover or two. A touchdown or two. Makes a fan just a little misty for the Texans “glory years”. It was the only quarter of the 2005 season where both the offense and the defense played respectable NFL football. Can they bottle it and make it last for the rest of the season? Don’t make me laugh.

Kickoff Returns There was optimism during the preseason that the Texans would have a top notch return game. Those expectations are beginning to be realized as the kickoff return team had a big game against the Colts, led by the burner Jerome Mathis. Mathis had 266 yards on 7 kickoff returns, including a shocking 89-yard touchdown. Jerome looked much more comfortable than in previous games, as his sore hamstring has healed. There is no doubting that Mathis is one of the fastest men in the NFL, and he is now learning to use that speed to burst through the gaps. Just as significant was that the Texans return team avoided the penalty flag. A rare occurrence for an NFL team.

Plenty of Good Seats Available One benefit to the hardcore Texan fan during these tough days is the plethora of empty seats on the lower levels. Want to get a midfield view of some very poor blocking and tackling? Come on down, as many fans will have left by the third quarter. If they came at all. Want to catalog the cheerleaders’ belly button types (24 “innies”, 11 “outies” by my count)? This is as close as that court order will allow you to get. Losing has its privileges.

What Went Wrong?

Second Half Effort Coming out of halftime tied with the team owning the best record in the NFL? You would think the Texans would bust out in the second half full of adrenaline, salivating over an upset as well as their first victory, right? Wrong, the team collectively curled up in the fetal position and allowed the Colts to abuse them in any way they saw fit. Timid tackling. Shoddy pass blocking. Colt receivers releasing downfield unabated. Texan wide receivers dropping first-down receptions (at least once, anyway). How about a quarterback who intentionally throws the ball away on a two-point conversion? Typical Texan football, circa 2005. Are we keeping you guys from something important on a Sunday afternoon? Get your head in the game. Come out and hit the opposition in the mouth for a change.

What’s Next? The Triple Option? Dom Capers will tell you that the key to defeating the Indianapolis Colts is by keeping the football away from Peyton Manning. Who told Dom this is uncertain, since he’s never beaten the Colts himself. But offensive coordinator Joe Pendry came up with a plan. Run Domanick Davis on nearly every offensive play. If you must pass, give David Carr one read, and if it is covered, send him up the field as an additional runner. Brilliant! Pendry called 22 rushing plays to 10 passing plays in the first half. And Carr pulled the ball down and ran on 4 of those pass calls. What if the Texans had not gotten down so quickly in the second half? Would Davis have ended up with 44 carries for the game? Would Carr have more rushes than completed passes? Wait a minute, he almost did. Memo to Capers and Pendry: 6 yards passing could win a Big-8 game in 1975, but it’s a certain recipe for a loss in the 21st century NFL.

Running Back’s Best Friend Edgerrin James’ 129 yards on 21 carries marked the fifth instance the Texans defense has allowed a running back to gain over 100 yards in a game this season. They’ve given up nine touchdowns on the ground over the past three games. James had no fear of the defense as he pranced and jived on the Reliant field. Until this team decides to play run defense, they have no shot at winning a game this season.

Key Play Of The Game

In the fourth quarter down 31-14, Houston faced a third-and five inside Indianapolis territory. From the shotgun formation, Carr took the snap and glanced downfield. That glance was all he got, as defensive end Robert Mathis (chosen with a draft pick traded by the Texans) sped past right tackle Todd Wade in a race with Colts’ All-Pro Dwight Freeney to the quarterback. Robert won by a hair, as the Mathis-Freeney sandwich forced the ball from Carr’s grasp. Montae Reagor was the opportunistic Colt defender who scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 37-yards to pay dirt. Colts celebrating in the end zone, Texans strewn across the field. Common sights during the 2005 NFL season.

Week 6 Recap David Carr watches the football bounce away after his fumble. Final Score Houston Texans 20 Indianapolis Colts 38 Lookin’ Good

Moran Norris
Blocked well during the few times he was in at FB. Destroyed defenders some Mathis kickoff returns.

Oh, my eyes!

Marcus Coleman… Again
More recognition for the player who seems intent on becoming the worst tackling safety in the NFL.

2005 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.13 Denver 14-20 08.20 Oakland 19-17 08.26 at Dallas 9-21 09.01 at Tampa Bay 14-38 Regular Season 09.11 at Buffalo 7-22 09.18 Pittsburgh 7-27 09.25 Bye   10.02 at Cincinnati 10-16 10.09 Tennessee 20-34 10.16 at Seattle 10-42 10.23 Indianapolis 20-38 10.30 Cleveland 19-16 11.06 at Jacksonville 14-21 11.13 at Indianapolis 17-31 11.20 Kansas City 17-45 11.27 St. Louis 27-33 12.04 at Baltimore 15-16 12.11 at Tennessee 10-13 12.18 Arizona 30-19 12.24 Jacksonville 20-38 01.01 at San Francisco 17-20   Overall Record 2-14