Houston Spoilers

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December 24, 2003
Houston Spoilers
by Warren DeLuca

The Indianapolis Colts come into Reliant Stadium having clinched a postseason berth but needing a win in order to assure themselves of the AFC South Division title and home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Indianapolis can also win the division if the Buccaneers defeat the Titans in Tennessee, but that game kicks off at the same time as the Texans-Colts. Considering the Colts’ lack recent postseason failures, they will take any edge that they can get. The Texans, with their own playoff aspirations having long since died, hope to play the spoiler role.

The Texans and Colts squared off the first time this season about two months ago in Indianapolis, with the home team winning 30-21. Houston led for a good portion of the first half until Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James took control. David Carr sprained his ankle late in the first quarter, returned a couple series later, and then left for good later in the half after aggravating the injury.

A couple Houston players will have their eyes on the number 1,000 this Sunday: Domanick Davis is 68 rushing yards short of the mark and Andre Jones needs another 75 receiving yards. No NFL team has ever featured a pair of rookies who have earned 1,000 yards in the air and on the ground in the same season.

If the Texans fail to pull off the upset, the last four games of the 2003 season will be the first quarter of a season in which the Texans did not win at least one contest. They would love to end the season on a positive note and notch another win against a playoff team. Making postseason life more difficult for the division-rival Colts would be icing on the cake. What to Expect When the Texans have the ball…
The strength of Tony Dungy’s defense is the front four, which is one of the quickest lines in the NFL. The Texans will try to counter that speed with the quick-hitting, sharp-cutting Davis. Carr will take some pressure off blockers by dumping the ball off on short, possession-type passes. The Indy defenders are not great tacklers as a unit, so some of these plays could turn into bigger gains. The Colt secondary is nothing special. Walt Harris, their best corner, has been playing with a gimpy knee, so Palmer should also have Carr take some shots deep.

When the Colts have the ball…
The Colts usually run the ball with James to open up the field for Manning’s passing, but in their last game against the Texans, they did just the opposite. Indianapolis went against their tendencies by coming out throwing, then working in James on the ground. Manning will challenge a Texan secondary missing two of its top three corners early and often. The Colts have made a concerted effort this year to spread the ball among its receivers rather than relying too heavily on Martin Harrison. However, Harrison is eight catches away from his fifth straight season of 100 or more receptions, so Manning may look to his favorite target a bit more often in order to help Harrison reach that milestone. James is one of several runners to have rushed for over 100 yards against the Texans this year.

Match-Ups to Watch Reggie Wayne vs. DeMarcus Faggins
Faggins, who started the season on the practice squad, steps in for the injured Kenny Wright, who had stepped in for the injured Aaron Glenn. Wayne scored twice on the Texans in October, and that was with Glenn in the game (although Glenn spent part of that afternoon woozy from a blow to the head). Marcus Coleman will have his hands full with the superstar Harrison, so the Texans may not be able to give Faggins as much help with Wayne as they would like.

Chester Pitts vs. Dwight Freeney
As is the case almost every week, Pitts draws the assignment of stopping the opponent’s best pass rusher. Freeney enters the game with 11 sacks on the season, and one in each of his three previous games against Pitts and the Texans. Pitts has a weight advantage of about 50 lbs. on Freeney but must counter the speedy defensive end’s great quickness off the snap if he is to stop Freeney’s Texan sack streak.

Antwan Peek and Steve Foley vs. Tarik Glenn
If the Texans are not able to put pressure on Manning, he will pick their depleted secondary apart. While sacks and forced fumbles would be nice, the weakside outside linebackers at least need to harass Manning enough to throw him out of his rhythm. Left tackle Glenn struggled against Denver defensive end Bert Berry last Sunday evening, and while neither Peek nor Foley is the accomplished edge rusher that Berry is, they are in the same “tweener” mold.

Three Keys to Victory 1. Run the Ball Down Their Throats
Last Sunday, the Broncos ripped the Colts for 227 yards on the ground without Clinton Portis and controlled the clock for nearly three quarters of the game. Davis rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns the last time he faced the Colts. The Colt defensive front is fast but not especially big, so the Texan O-line could open some big holes if they are able to get a bead on their targets. The bruised and battered Texan defense does not match up well against the explosive Colt offense, so keeping Manning & Company on the sidelines for as long as possible would definitely help.

2. Exploit the Underneath Zones
One weakness of the Cover 2 scheme that Tony Dungy has installed in Indianapolis is that with the cornerbacks up tight and the safeties back deep, the offense can have success passing to the middle of the field. Slot receiver Jabar Gaffney led the Texans in receiving yards in their last game against the Colts, Davis had seven catches out of the backfield, and tight end Billy Miller also did some damage. If the Colt safeties react by cheating up closer to the line of scrimmage, Carr may have some prime opportunities to hit deep threats Johnson and Corey Bradford with the long ball.

3. Exceptional Effort on Defense
The Texans’ injured reserve list got even longer this week as starting cornerback Kenny Wright and rookie outside linebacker Shantee Orr, who had provided a spark as a pass rusher, joined the seven other defensive players (including four starters) in the ranks of the “out for the season.” The Texan defense cannot hang with the Colt offense if they just line up and play. It’s going to take some players (and coaches) submitting exceptional performances – and probably a little luck – to slow down the Colts enough for the offense to keep pace.

Views on the Game Saints   Bob says: Unless we’re borrowing Quentin Griffin, it’s… Colts 33, Texan 20 Saints   Dave says: Dungy spoils my fantasy playoff run by being able to rest my starting QB early. Colts 31, Texans 10 Saints   Keith says: Dungy will have the Colts focused on the Texans, not the scoreboard. Colts 27, Texans 17 Saints   Ric says: Wasn’t Domanick Davis picked ahead of Quentin Griffin…? Texans 21, Colts 17 Saints   Warren says: The Texans give them a scare, but the Colts have too much firepower. Colts 31, Texans 24 2003 Regular Season Records
Bob 12-3; Dave 9-6; Keith 8-7;
Ric 8-7; Warren 10-5
Week 16 Preview Indianapolis Colts
2003 Record: (11-4)
12.28.03 | 12pm
Houston, TX Texan Leaders David Carr
154/272, 1,908 yds, 9/12 Domanick Davis
218/932, 4.3 YPC, 6 TD Andre Johnson
61/925, 15.2 YPC, 4 TD Colt Leaders

Peyton Manning 353/528, 4,047 yds, 28/9

Edgerrin James
283/1,088, 3.8 YPC, 10 TD

Marvin Harrison
92 /1,238, 13.5 YPC, 10 TD

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