Texans vs. Colts: the Game Plan

The game plan for the Houston Texans is relatively straightforward: emulate division rival Indianapolis. The Colts like to keep games close for the first two quarters, make adjustments at halftime, blow the holy hell out of the challenger in the third quarter, and chew the clock within the fourth. This strategy has been effective for the Super Bowl champs the past two seasons, it’s been effective for the Pittsburgh Steelers the past 30 years, and it was effective for second-year head coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans in defeating their first two opponents this fall, Kansas City and Carolina.

At approximately 12pm on Sunday, September 23, 2007 Houston starts with a mistake when hosting the Colts, the winner of this game to sit alone at the top of the division. The Texans win the coin toss and elect to receive at the top of the game, giving Peyton Manning the ball starting the third quarter, directly after the 15 minutes adjustment period we like to call halftime, which is so imperative to the tactic both teams wish to operate.

You see, my football friends, the key to this pigskin philosophy is to obtain the ball at the top of third quarter, whilst using a power running game, and the occasional five-yard slant route to not only fatten the scoreboard, but to play “keep away” from the foe's offense. I don’t think it’s confounding Indy won the grand game last winter after the finesse running back Edgerrin James flew the coup for the Cardinals. His replacement, Houston native Joseph Addai, finishes plays by lowering his shoulder, driving into defenders and “keeps” the ball for the cream and blue. That, and Addai is made of iron, he rarely seems to get injured.

The game started hot for the hometown Texans. No. 13 Jerome Mathis takes the opening kickoff for an 84-yard touchdown. This is Mathis’ third kickoff return for a TD, and is the most offense the Texans can generate until the fourth quarter. Now, remember, they want to keep the game close anyways.

The Colts answer with a drive that chomps for 15 plays, 74 yards, and a jaw-dropping 8:33 minutes. Oh, and a touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. What is most impressive about the drive is Addai. He runs, he catches; he blocks, and lowers his shoulder to meet C.C. Brown with a thunderous smack that is heard in the press box. It’s amazing how the Colts receivers use the zebra as blockers, often positioning themselves next to refs when catching the ball.

Approaching the half, the Texans take two injuries, starting running back Ahman Green, and poor Cedric Killings, the fifth-year man from Carson-Newman, who is taken to the hospital on an orange stretcher with a neck injury. But, the Colts lead only by four. The game is close, and Manning gets the ball at the top of third.

And then it all happens. The plan unfolds. For the Colts, that is.

Two minutes forty-one seconds to go in the third. The Colts have scored 13 unanswered points behind the aggressive running of Addai. The score is 27-10. See what I mean. With the lead, Colts safety Bob Sanders starts to freelance and gets to the ball with speed and in a bad mood. The pressure falls on the shoulders of the wounded Texans offense.

Two more starters go down for the Texans: Steve McKinney and the fantastic rookie Jacoby Jones. The Texans just can’t keep up and lose the game. But it didn’t have to be that way. The Texans are good enough to beat the Colts. They did it last year. But, for this game, they let the game plan get away from them.

Next week, watch the Texans in Atlanta. Watch them use the same plan, with a few tweaks, maybe getting the ball at the top of third will help. And watch them beat the Falcons to go 3-1 on the season. It’s a groovy plan. It's won many games. It will work well for the Texans all year. But, today it worked for the Colts who sit alone at the top of the division.

Five Easy Pieces (a quintet of other football matters on my mind).
I have no evidence of this but I think the Gatorade in Philly was replaced with espresso this Sunday.
Is it I, or does San Diego not look good?
Is it I, or does Pittsburgh look very good?
I like Raiders coach Lane Kiffen. I simply think that this world spins better when the Raiders are good. I hate the Raiders, but we all need our Darth Vader’s to be strong, otherwise the story is boorish.
If Ed Johnson, the troubled undrafted rookie from Penn State, can keep his off-field shenanigans to a minimum he could do well for Tony Dungy’s Colts. He is playing the nose, replacing broken veteran Booger MacFarlane, and destroys the line at the snap.

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