December 1, 2002
Colts Out-Bore Texans
by Ric Sweeney
The Texans’ defense played well Sunday, but the offense sputtered, making things easy for Peyton Manning and the Colts, who beat Houston, 19-3, to drop the Texans to 3-9 on the season.
RB Jonathan Wells fumbled on just the Texans’ fourth play from scrimmage, which the Colts recovered at the Houston 17. The miscue proved costly to Wells, who spent the rest of the day on the bench, finishing with 3 carries and no yards. In Wells’ defense, it could have been worse, but Houston’s defense stiffened and Indianapolis had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Mike Vanderjagt, putting them in front early, 3-0.
On the ensuing kick, newly-signed Frank Murphy muffed the return and the Colts’ offense was back on the field at the Houston 16. This time, Peyton Manning wasted no time, going to the air and hitting TE Marcus Pollard for the 16-yard score, and in the span of just 11 seconds, Indy had grabbed the lead for good, 10-0, with 8:52 left in the first quarter.
Early fireworks aside, the two teams spent most of the game punting; together, Chad Stanley and Hunter Smith took the field 10 times in the first 30 minutes, and 20 times overall as both offenses were just that — offenses. The Texans’ unit crossed into Colt territory twice in the first half; the second time, late in the second quarter, they were undone by back-to-back false starts on Cameron Spikes and Corey Bradford as Houston was eventually forced to punt. Otherwise, David Carr and company struggled to move the football against an aggressive Tony Dungy defense, which harassed him all day and recorded six sacks.
Meanwhile, the Colts and their high-powered offense found Houston’s defense just as difficult to crack, as Manning’s high-school hijinks at the line of scrimmage failed to fool the hungry Texans, who held Indianapolis’ terrific trio of Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison in check. Manning completed 15 of 28 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown, but looked flustered most of the afternoon. Harrison caught 9 of Manning’s passes for 101 yards, including an early 33-yard reception on the Colts’ first drive, which eventually ended with a punt, and James rushed 20 times for 65 yards, but his haul included a 20-yard run.
Houston’s lone score followed a 1-yard touchdown run by James Mungro. Jermaine Lewis returned the ensuing kick 34 yards, and Carr and the offense went to work. He hit Billy Miller three times on the drive and James Allen rushed for 26 yards before the team had to settle for a 34-yard field goal by Kris Brown. WR JuJaun Dawson dropped a touchdown and Bradford failed to get his second foot down on a pretty fade in the back corner of the end zone.
James Allen Not sure Wells deserved to be benched after his early fumble, but Allen certainly took advantage of it, rushing 16 times for 64 yards and catching 10 passes for 49 more yards. On the day, Allen accounted for 113 of the Texans’ 165 net yards. He also proved to be an invaluable safety valve for Carr, who was unable to find open receivers for most of the day.
Defensive Gameplan Peyton Manning, who works almost too hard trying to fluster the opposition, looked like he was on the wrong end of the flustering Sunday as the Texans held him and his high-powered offense in check for most of the day. Had Houston not turned the ball over twice inside its own 20… well, the defense played well enough to win.
Special Teams Don’t know how much, if any, Chad Stanley and the Texans’ punt coverage deserves for Walters’ three fumbles, but they certainly took advantage, holding him to -.2 yard average on the day. On Houston’s side, Jermaine Lewis racked up 124 return yards; Kris Brown banged his only field goal and Stanley killed three of his team-record 11 punts inside the 20.
Offensive Line Houston rushed for 65 yards on the day, roughly 70 fewer than what the Colt defense was giving up coming into the game. Specifically, Chester Pitts, Fred Weary and Cameron Spikes combined to commit six of Houston’s 11 penalties, while Weary and Ryan Young had no answer on the right side for Brian Scioli, who recorded three sacks.
Missed Opportunities Houston’s special teams watched Troy Walters bobble and/or fumble four punts on the day, but could only manage one recovery. Offensively, Bradford made a great catch in the end zone late in the game, but couldn’t get both feet in bounds and Dawson couldn’t wrap up a touchdown pass earlier in the drive, which was kind of representative of how things went on offense. On a day when the Colts’ offense was stymied, Houston could’ve used some breaks.
Third Down Conversion Houston was 2-of-15 on the day (good for 13%), awful even by their league-low standards. An ineffective offense led to eight long yardage situations on third down (7 or more yards), including four 3rd-and-18 or longer.
After Wells’ early fumble had gift-wrapped three points, Frank Murphy, who signed with the team last week, botched the ensuing kickoff and then he and fellow return man, Jermaine Lewis, failed to cover up the football not once, not twice, but three times.
The Colts eventually pounced on it, leading to a 16-yard touchdown pass from Manning, all but icing the game with 8:52 left in the first quarter.
James Allen accounted for nearly 70% of the Texans’ offensive output Sunday, making this a near no-brainer. Perhaps most encouraging, Allen emerged as a legitimate safety valve for the always-pressured Carr, who’s lacked one for most of the year.
Defense No one player stood out because the unit as a whole played exceptionally well, but Aaron Glenn gets special mention for holding Marvin Harrison to rather pedestrian numbers. The league’s leading pass catcher, who averaged 11 catches for 120 yards and a TD in four November games, was held to 9 catches for 101 yards and no TDs on Sunday, and one of those catches went for 33 yards (Indy eventually punted) and another came after Harrison lined up in the backfield, meaning Glenn more than kept Harrison in check.
Special Teams Just because we’re tired of naming Chad Stanley, Jason Bell was signed because of his special teams work in Dallas last year, and he has not disappointed. Bell is usually the first one downfield on punts, fighting through blocks and disrupting the return. Sunday was no exception as Bell was in the thick of Walter’s four bobbles and was credited with a forced fumble.
Final 1 2 3 4 F Texans 0 0 0 3 3 Colts 10 3 0 6 19 PASS ATT CMP YDS TD/IN Carr 35 20 137 0/0 Manning 28 15 190 1/0 RUSH ATT YDS AVG TD Allen 16 64 4 0 James 20 65 3.3 0 REC NO YDS AVG TD Allen 10 49 4.9 0 Harrison 9 101 11.2 0
2002 Record: (7-4-1) 12.08.02 | 12pm
3-23 9.29 @ Eagles 17-35 10.06 OPEN 10.13 BILLS 24-31 10.20 @ Browns 17-34 10.27 @ Jaguars 21-19 11.03 BENGALS 3-38 11.10 @ Titans 10-17 11.17 JAGUARS 21-24 11.24 GIANTS 16-14 12.01 @ Colts 3-19 12.08 @ Steelers 24-6 12.15 RAVENS 19-23 12.22 @ Redskins 10-26 12.29 TITANS 3-13 OVERALL 4-12 click on a team to read the GameDay Preview; click on the score to read the GameDay Review