5 takeaways from Colts’ 31-3 win over the Texans

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The Indianapolis Colts (2-4) responded well following their gut-wrenching collapse with a dominating win over the Houston Texans (1-5).

Once Carson Wentz connected with Parris Campbell on a 51-yard touchdown on the offense’s second drive of the game, they took control of the matchup and never let up. All three phases of the game showed up for the team. The offense was explosive all afternoon, T.Y. Hilton reminded everyone it is spooky season with his 52-yard catch, and Jonathan Taylor dominated the Texans in the second half to close it out.

The defense wasn’t perfect, they still struggled to get consistent pressure and allowed Davis Mills to make easy completions. But, they showed up when they needed to. Darius Leonard forced two turnovers, got his hands on for an interception and peanut punched a ball out of David Johnson’s hands for the fumble recovery by Khari Willis.

Isaiah Rodgers’ pick gave the defense their third turnover of the game. The new kicker, Michael Badgley was perfect, he made all five attempts and his longest was a 41-yard field goal. Rigoberto Sanchez deserves his credit too, he pinned Houston inside the 20-yard line twice, which one was at the five-yard line, and had a long of 50 yards.

The good news is that there is a lot of positive things to take away from the win, here are the top five:

Carson Wentz has opened up the passing attack

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

Wentz has put together back-to-back solid performances for the Colts. He had some missed opportunities, failed to connect on some throws, and a couple drops from Mo-Alie Cox which would have resulted in a touchdown.

He was delivering the ball with zip, hitting his receivers in stride, and showcased his arm strength when he pushed it down the field. He ended his day 11/20 for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 11.2 YPA and had a 127.7 passing rating. Frank Reich has to be happy with the development of his quarterback over the last two weeks.

He showed confidence in Wentz today after they leaned on the passing game in the first half and allowed it to open up rushing lanes for Taylor in the second half.

As the unit gets healthier with the return of their stud lineman, Reich and Marcus Brady have to be happy with how they can get creative with their play calling if Wentz is going to keep getting chunk plays with his arm.

Darius Leonard continues to be a playmaker

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

The leader of the defense showed up for his unit today. He was involved in two of the three turnovers that Indianapolis forced. Sitting in coverage he read the rookie quarterback’s eyes and put himself in a position to get the interception.

Leonard now has the most picks (nine) by a linebacker since he entered the NFL in 2018. In a typical fashion, his forced fumble was a result of him locating the ball with his eyes to deliver the perfect punch.

Leonard reminds me of Charles Tillman in a linebacker’s body. Even though it wouldn’t have counted as a turnover, he almost got involved in a potential third interception by Milles.

He got pressure on the quarterback to force an errant throw and Kwity Paye almost secured the first interception of his career. Leonard ended his day with seven tackles (six solo), one forced fumble, one QB hit, one pass deflection, and one interception. He was one of many big name players that showed up against the Texans.

The Ghost Returns

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

After wondering if he would be able to ever play football again and contemplating retirement, Hilton made his return to the lineup in a big way. Lucas Oil Stadium erupted when he made his entrance for the home crowd for the first time this season. This was emotional for both sides, at one point he thought he could be playing for a different team this past offseason, but Colts fans made it known that they wanted to bring back T.Y., and the organization got it done.

Reich mentioned after the game that Hilton gave one of the best pre-game speeches he has ever heard. The first play by the offense went directly to him for a 12-yard completion. He would go on to remind Houston that they can’t cover him when he brought in the 52-yard reception that was placed perfectly by Wentz. He caught all four targets for 80 yards before he exited the game after leaving with an injury.

He was caught on the sideline smiling and fist-bumping his fellow peers. Reich also mentioned in his post-game press conference that he doesn’t think Hilton’s quad injury is bad. He added that the receiver was ok. Hopefully, it’s minor for the Colts’ offense because he gives Wentz a reliable target when he wants to go deep down the field.

There are still some underlying issues

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

The Colts did what they were supposed to do, they handled their business against a bad team and didn’t let them hang in the game after going up 17-3 to start the second half. There are still chemistry issues at times between the quarterback and his receivers. He got sacked a couple of times from him holding the ball too long.

The offensive line gave up five QB hits to go with the pair of sacks. Eric Fisher has continued to show up, but not in a good way. He had two false starts, one was slightly questionable because he reacted to a moving defensive lineman but he has to play more discipline to the snap. He could’ve had three, he was called for tripping that sent a defender flying towards Wentz’s legs. Houston declined it because the result of the play forced Indianapolis to punt.

Lastly, the inability to get after the quarterback at a consistent rate did show up again. Mills was able to move the ball on a few drives to put the Texans in scoring position because he had time to scan the field. Despite playing backup tackles and a center making his first start, the defense only got involved on five quarterback hits and two sacks.

The turnovers helped masked this issue today but if it continues then there will be longer days ahead for the defensive unit.

Jonathan Taylor is in the zone

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

When Indianapolis entered halftime with a 10-3 lead, there was a feeling that they should’ve been up by more. One of the factors that most pointed to was that Taylor only had three touches in the first half.

He erupted in the second half to help his team improve to a 2-4 record. On the third drive of the third quarter, the offense started with the ball at their own 12-yard line, Taylor took the handoff and breezed by all three levels of the defense for 83 yards to put the offense in the red zone. That run is the longest by any player this season and is the longest by a Colt since 1960.

He finished with 145 rushing yards on 14 attempts and found the endzone twice. He averaged a first down on every touch, Taylor got 10.5 yards every time he got the ball in his hands. He also grabbed a 13-yard reception on a nifty screen-call when he was lined up out wide.

The young back is on fire right now and it’s perfect timing to go with the good play by the franchise quarterback. The pair will look to continue their success against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7.

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