The season of disaster for the Indianapolis Colts has officially come to an end.
In what was a surprisingly high-scoring game, the Houston Texans were able to find a way to win despite giving up their two-score lead in the second half.
The game was littered with turnovers, up-and-down quarterback play, and a relatively quiet home crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium. The Indy offense was led by Zack Moss and Deon Jackson on the ground as they helped get the offense to 196 rushing yards.
The defense had a rough first half but was able to spark the comeback attempt in the second half. In typical fashion for the Colts, they failed to close out the game in the fourth quarter as the Texans overcame two different fourth-and-long situations to get a touchdown to go down one.
Lovie Smith elected to go for two and they were able to convert it to take the lead to get the win. The common theme of not finishing games is how Indianapolis ended its season.
Here are my five takeaways from the season finale:
Zack Moss & Deon Jackson carry the offense
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The Colts’ offense was able to put together one of their better games with the rushing attack against the Texans. The effort was led by Zack Moss who had the best game of his career. He went over 100 rushing yards for the first time since he joined the NFL. He was a bruising force for the offense and he showed it with his angry run to get his touchdown.
Moss finished the game with 121 total yards and a touchdown. Deon Jackson also was a chain mover for Indianapolis on the ground and through the air. He ran the ball eight times for 35 yards and was the team’s leading receiver with 75 yards.
The pair of backs accounted for 58% of the offense’s total yards. This was a good game for Moss to show he should be Jonathan Taylor’s backup in 2023 and Jackson was able to put on some good tape as he heads into free agency.
Zaire Franklin finishes season on a high-note
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There weren’t many positives that went on for the Colts this year but one of the bright spots was how well Zaire Franklin played in place of Shaquille Leonard. Just like how he has performed all season long, Franklin was all over the place making plays for the defense throughout the afternoon.
He finished the game with seven tackles (five solo), two TFLs, one QB hit, and one sack. Franklin also made his mark in the record books. He broke the Indianapolis franchise record for most tackles in a season by breaking the mark that Leonard set during his rookie season.
Assuming that Leonard will be 100% healthy to start the 2023 season, Indy will have a very strong linebacker tandem for their defense next year.
Up-and-down day for Sam Ehlinger
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Quarterback play hasn’t been pretty at all for the Colts this season and it didn’t end with a strong performance out of Sam Ehlinger. It was a rough first half for the second-year quarterback in the third start of his career. After leading a touchdown drive on the first possession by the offense, it was all downhill after that in the first two quarters.
Indianapolis followed up their touchdown by going three-and-out, then it was a pick-six that was thrown by Ehlinger to give the Texans a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.
It looked like Ehlinger was going to shake off his first turnover as the offense was able to get the ball down to the Houston 13-yard line, but on a third-and-nine, Ehlinger looked to force a throw but the ball got deflected on his release and it ended up in a Texans defender’s hands for his second interception of the game.
Ehlinger did play much better in the second half. He was able to guide the offense to two touchdown drives, including the one that gave the Colts their first lead of the game when they went up 28-24. He ended his day going 23/35 for 209 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
This wasn’t an ideal day for the Ehlinger whose future with the team will be up in the air as they are officially on their search for an answer to the quarterback room.
Shutdown rush defense
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One of the things that allowed the Colts to hang in the game was the Texans’ inability to get anything going with their rushing attack. The Indy front four dominated in the trenches and kept the rushing lanes very tight for the Houston running backs. Their leading rusher was Dare Ogunbowale with 33 yards on 11 rushing attempts.
As a team, the Texans averaged 2.6 YPC, and their longest carry of the day was 11 yards. The Indianapolis defense had six TFLs which was led by DeForest Buckner and Zaire Franklin. The pair had two TFLs a piece.
This was a special season for Buckner and Grover Stewart. The interior defensive linemen were vital to the defense and without them, they would’ve been gashed by running backs throughout the year. Now the question is, will we see both in a Colts jersey in 2023?
Inconsistent day for the defense
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The Colts’ defense looked very uninterested on the opening drive of the game as the Texans were able to move the ball against no resistance to get a touchdown to start the first quarter with a quick 7-0 lead. They were able to bounce back after that by forcing two straight three-and-outs. Houston was able to get a field goal on the second drive because of a kick return fumble.
E.J. Speed tried to provide his team with a spark in the second quarter. The Texans were getting inside the redzone but he was able to dislodge the ball to force a fumble and Julian Blackmon was able to scoop the ball up for the defense’s first forced turnover.
Indy was able to force a punt on Houston’s next two drives on offense but gave up a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave them a 24-14 lead. But similar to giving up the first touchdown, the defense was able to make some big plays to get the Colts back in the game.
Rodney McLeod was able to jump on a Davis Mills pass for a pick-six to make it a three-point game in the final minute of the third quarter.
The defense followed that up with another interception before the end of the third quarter. Rodney Thomas II was able to track down a Mills’ deep shot and get the offense the ball to start the fourth quarter.
The Colts would follow up that turnover with the touchdown drive that gave them the 28-24 lead. Then in the final two minutes of the game when the defenses ended the game how it started. They couldn’t get off the field.
It was kept alive on a fourth-and-12 when Mills was able to find a streaking Brandin Cooks on the sideline for a 30-yard gain. The game look like it was going to end Indy’s way after a Zaire Franklin put the Texans in a fourth-and-20 from the Colts’ 28-yard line.
It ended with Mills avoiding the pressure from the defensive front to heave the ball up to the endzone but Thomas II went up for the interception instead of deflecting the ball and it went right through his hands to Jordan Akins for the touchdown.
Houston was able to convert the two-point conversion to take the 32-31 lead. As upsetting as it can be to end that game for the Colts, in the end, it was more beneficial for them to have the Texans find a way to win it. They now will have the number two overall pick and this loss now opens a path for Indianapolis to potentially trade up to the number one pick to get their quarterback of the future.