Trampled Under Hoof

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Trampled Under Hoof

by Charles Spooner

There has not been a bigger mismatch on paper this season than the undefeated Indianapolis Colts hosting the beleaguered (and 1-7) Houston Texans this Sunday. One team was headed towards a perfect season, the other towards the initial selection in the 2006 NFL draft.

While the visitors made a handful of inspired plays, the result was never in doubt as the Colts handled the Texans, 31-17. The bad news is that the loss to the Colts has eliminated the Texans from the AFC South race (pause for laughter to subside). The worse news is that the Texans still have seven games remaining on their schedule.

The Colts’ initial possession is stifled by a ready and able Texan defense, with linebacker Antwan Peek tripping uber-quarterback Peyton Manning on third down. It was only the sixth time in nine games that Manning had taken a sack.

The Texans opened up their first possession with their fourth offensive line combination of the season. Victor Riley started at right guard after failing miserably at the left tackle spot earlier in the season. With the Texans running the ball on their five plays, the only pass of the drive falls short of the first down. And the Colts are off to the races.

The Texans defense again started out strong, with veteran defensive end Gary Walker exploding into the backfield and dropping Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James for a four-yard loss. But Manning is unfazed, and hits an open Reggie Brown for the Colts’ first third down conversion. James’ power running and Manning’s precision passing would take Indianapolis deep into Houston territory. A little misdirection fake by Manning helps tight end Dallas Clark release uncovered into the Texans secondary. The 14-yard catch-and-run opens the scoring and the Colts are on the run.

The Colts’ safety Bob Sanders is flagged for a taunting penalty opening the ensuing Texans series. But, Texans quarterback David Carr cannot find his favorite receiver, Andre Johnson, through the maze of the Colts cover-2 zone defense and the drive stalls inside midfield.

A massive hit by Dunta Robinson on Colt Pro Bowl wide out Reggie Wayne forces a fourth-and-one at the end of the first quarter. The Colts never run a play, but pick up the first down by drawing nose tackle Seth Payne across the line on an encroachment penalty. James carries for 35 yards on the drive, and walks into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown, putting the Colts up 14-0.

Still struggling against the Colts pass coverage, Carr goes 0-2 on the next series. The Indianapolis offense goes right back to work, methodically marching down the field. Included in the drive was an Edgerrin James homage to Houston Oiler legend Earl Campbell. He gave Marcus Coleman the “Tyler two step”, knocking the Texans’ safety on his back for a first down run. The drive culminated in a touchdown pass to Brandon Stokely, as Manning gave Carr a lesson on how to work the middle of the field.

Aside to the Indy fan with the “Houston, You Have a Problem” sign (or anyone else who once saw Apollo 13): We know we have a problem. We got the clever takeoff the first 100,000 times we saw it. It’s old. It’s tired. Please make it stop.

On the Texans next series, head coach Dom Capers makes a bold decision (for him) and attempts a fourth-down conversion from his own 43-yard line. Unfortunately, center Steve McKinney moves prior to the snap. That’s correct, the center false starts. The Texans, however, unveiled a new weapon: The Chad Stanley stealth punt.

Stanley’s punt was lost in the roof by the Colts returner and finds the back of a Colts’ leg. The Texans recover the muff at the Indianapolis 34-yard line. Three plays later, running back Jonathan Wells (in for the injured Domanick Davis) scoots 14 yards and dives into the end zone for the Texans first score. The Texans go into the locker room down 14, but with momentum.

With Dom Capers pumping up the offensive unit before the second half kickoff, the Texans come out looking strong. Wells and Johnson carry the team down to the Colts’ 13-yard line. On a third and short, Carr executes a rare Texans play action, hitting Jabar Gaffney between the linebackers and safeties for the score. Is the impossible possible? Has Goliath met David? Do you believe in miracles?

The answer is a resounding no, from Manning and the Colts offense. As quick as you can say “Touchdown, Harrison”, the Colts gallop down the field and let the team from Houston see what being the best team in the NFL is all about.

Stanley finds another Colt with his next punt, but the Texans offense can only convert the turnover into a Kris Brown field goal. Indianapolis matches the three points on their next possession, with the games final points. Much of the fourth quarter is turned into garbage time, with neither team showing a lot of interest in playing football.

In their next game, the Texans will try to rebound from their poor national showing in Seattle in a primetime Sunday night showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs. The nation’s football fans must be restless in anticipation for this classic match-up. Thanks to right tackle Todd Wade’s fourth quarter knee injury, the Texans will trot out their fifth offensive line of the season. And the other four were not that great. What Went Right?

Equine-Seeking Missles Punter Chad Stanley unleashed a new weapon from his arsenal on Sunday. Late in the first half, Stanley launched a punt that was virtually undetectable to Colts’ return man Troy Walters. With Walters unable to see the ball, the punt zeroed in on the back of Colts’ special-teamer James Mungro’s leg (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). Ramon Walker pounced on the ball for the Texans, setting up the team’s first score. To prove that his previous effort was no fluke, Stanley gave the Colts another taste of his pinpoint precision in the third quarter. This punt hit square on the crown of Jason David’s helmet and rookie Vernand Morency fell on the muff. Were Chad’s boots the result of fluke luck or top-secret technology? You can be sure Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil, who two years ago accused the Texans of doctoring the footballs designated for kicking, will have all balls checked for gyroscopes and computer chips prior to next Sunday’s game.

The "Hoosiers" Drive As the Texans offense lined the sideline prior to the second half kickoff, Texans head coach Dom Capers could be seen exhorting the players with a passionate address. It must have been reminiscent of Norman Dale’s speech to his Hickory Huskers, “Eleven players on the field, functioning as one single unit. Team! Team! Team! No one more important that the other.” And Jimmy Chitwood, er…David Carr led his upstart teammates down the field on a 60-yard scoring drive, capped by an excellent play action pass to Jabar Gaffney. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the “reel” world, and the Colts made certain that this story in Indiana didn’t have a feel good ending for the underdogs.

Shareholder Concerns Are Voiced The Houston Chronicle reported this past week that Texan owner Bob McNair was called on the carpet by his minority investors at a board meeting. The shareholders were concerned with the direction of the team and reportedly asked many of the same questions fans are raising? Will Dom Capers be fired? What about general manager Charley Casserly’s culpability in this mess? Is David Carr still being considered for an extension? Who’s being considered to lead this team in the future? McNair probably did not have all of the answers, but at least he knows where the people who care about this organization are coming from.

What Went Wrong?

Can’t Crack the Cover-2 For the Texans offense to ever become “super”, they first must come to terms with their version of kryptonite, Tony Dungy’s cover-2 defense. In the franchise’s eight games against the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans have averaged less than 14 points per game. The 209 yards of total offense is typical of the production of the Texans versus their nemesis. David Carr cannot find an open receiver, the wide receivers cannot find the open spots in the zone, and the linemen often cannot find the pass rusher they are assigned to block. The Colts defense has a better concept of the Texans offense than the Texans have themselves. It all leads to chaos on the field of play. And to make matters worse, the rest of the NFL has picked up on the Colts’ strategy and just give the Texans more of the same medicine. When Dom Capers and his staff are fired after this season, he can tip his cap to Dungy as the man most responsible.

Secondary Can’t Cover, Too Dunta Robinson may one day become the premier cornerback in the NFL. But on Sunday, he got a textbook lesson from a certain first ballot Hall of Famer in the art of the pass route. Veteran wide receiver Marvin Harrison showed young Dunta how the slant, out, and fade patterns are run to perfection. And the rest of the Texans secondary were out-classed by Colts receivers who know how to uncover in a zone, how to put themselves between the defender and the ball, and how get separation from man coverage by using head and body fakes. The numbers (297 yards passing, 3 touchdowns, 75% completions) do not really tell how badly the Colts receivers can dominate the Texans secondary. When the Colts need a big catch, they get it unmolested. The good news is that the Texans will not face another group this good for the rest of the season.

What Time Does the Bus Leave? Did anyone want to play this game? Sure there was some emotion displayed on the field on occasion. Robinson decleating Wayne on the crossing route. James tattooing Coleman on a first-down rush. But for most of the game, both teams seemed to be waiting for the post game handshake. Dom Capers called it quits early by punting down 14 points with over 4 minutes left. David Carr went down on a phantom sack a play earlier. And I am pretty sure I saw Tony Dungy check the game clock…just prior to the opening kickoff. Maybe both teams were drained following emotional games the previous week. Maybe both teams knew what the outcome would be. Maybe next time, fans will tune into a Tony Little infomercial if they are looking for intensity.

Key Play Of The Game

The Texans offense came out of the box on fire in the third quarter, slicing the Colts lead to seven. A big stop by the Texans defense could give the 17½-point underdogs the spark needed for the biggest upset of the NFL season. Peyton Manning and the Colts offense had other ideas.

In four plays, Manning moved his team 45 yards to the Texans 30-yard line. On a second-and-6, Peyton walked the offense to the line without a huddle. There, he spent all but two seconds of the play clock barking signals and flashing hand signs. “Brown mustard. With relish. Hold the onions, I have a date with a cheerleader. Don’t tell my wife. Hut.” Somehow, Marvin Harrison stays awake and releases down the right sideline at three quarters speed. Texans’ star corner Dunta Robinson has the coverage, but sneaks a peek back to the backfield, where Manning gives him one of the best pump fakes the league has to offer.

A quick burst of speed by Harrison and the quarterback lays the ball into the end zone for 90th time in their All Pro careers. The Texans deficit was only two touchdowns with a third of the game remaining, but the Colts had sent a message that they could take what they wanted, whenever they wanted it.

Week 9 Recap Marcus Coleman fails to bring down Edgerrin James before he scores. Final Score Houston Texans 17 Indianapolis Colts 31 Lookin’ Good

Jonathan Wells
Has found his niche in the NFL as a solid backup running back and special-teamer.

Oh, my eyes!

Domanick Davis
The “Dom of the Desert” look isn’t working. Neither is watching from the sidelines.

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