Colts 30, Texans 17: Indianapolis Still Has No Answer for Arian Foster. Enter Gary Kubiak
And it didn't matter, because Texans coach Gary Kubiak stopped Foster for them in a crushing Monday Night Football loss.
Foster rushed for 6.8 yards per carry on Monday -- nearly level with the 7 yards per rush he had in the 34-24 opening week win.
The difference? In week one, Foster ran 33 times, compared with only 17 throws for quarterback Matt Schaub. On Monday night, he carried just 15 times [for 102 yards and a touchdown], compared with 38 throws for Schaub.
Kubiak sympathizers might argue that Schaub had to throw because the team played from behind, but that case doesn't hold up.
In the first half, when the game was within two possessions throughout, Foster rushed for 65 yards on eight carries -- a staggering eight-plus yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Schaub was 5-for-15 for 37 yards and an interception, resulting in a QB rating of barely above zero. Yet he still had almost double the amount of passes to Foster runs. Incredible.
When the Colts defend the Texans, they think pass first. This is not rocket science. Schaub threw an interception and had a QB rating of 67.5 in the season opener against them. Last season, Schaub tossed four picks in his two games against Indianapolis and averaged only seven yards per attempt.
Of course, when you can gash them the way Foster did in the season opener, none of that matters. At least until Kubiak forgets that aspect of the game plan exists.
The script was identical in the first quarter on Monday night. Schaub was only 2-for-8 for 17 yards, with the Colts routinely dropping linebackers into passing lanes and coming close on at least one instance to an interception. Meanwhile, Foster gained 32 yards on six carries -- more than five yards per attempt.
So, with the score at a relatively innocuous 7-0 to open the second quarter, what does Kubiak do on first-and-10 from his own 20? Come out throwing, of course!
Kelvin Hayden saw it from a mile away, sat on the route, intercepted it and ran it back for a touchdown. The Colts were up 14-0, and the game would never come within a possession from that point forward.
That by itself would have been enough of an indictment on Kubiak. But it didn't stop there.
On the prior possession to the interception, the Texans went for a fourth-and-two on the Indianapolis 47-yard line and missed. In a vacuum, that was the right decision against a Peyton Manning-led offense. The problem was in the context. The previous play was a third-and-two at the same yard mark. If you consider that four-down territory, it makes no sense not to run on third down, especially with a running game as potent as Houston's.
Even if you don't get all of it, the odds are you make part of it -- and you still have fourth down to come back with the pass, if it's not successful. Instead, Kubiak passed twice, both times in a short-yardage situation with arguably the league's best rushing offense. Both failed. The lack of logic was dumbfounding.
Finally, fast forward to the fourth quarter. With the Texans' offense finally showing signs of life and clawing to within 30-17, Houston faced fourth-and-nine at its own 30-yard line. And needing two touchdowns in six minutes -- all against a team led by probably the greatest quarterback ever -- Kubiak opted to punt. Why not just wave a white flag?
Blunders aside, the Texans are still a good and very talented team. They outscored the Colts in the second half, and one interception aside, played them relatively close throughout. In Indianapolis.
But as explained this past week, the Texans simply aren't good enough to be a playoff team by default. There is no Peyton Manning on the roster, and the schedule is far too difficult in 2010 to limp in.
To make the playoffs, the Texans have to win at least a couple of games that they perhaps shouldn't -- at least on paper. They have to show the internal fortitude and smarts to pull out victories, even when the execution isn't ideal.
As they approach the halfway point of 2010, the Texans are still relying on talent. From an intelligence standpoint, they're lagging far behind the elite ranks of teams like Indianapolis, with Monday's nationally-televised embarrassment as the latest evidence. Considering its year five of the Kubiak regime, it's hard to see the script changing anytime soon. Especially now that the Colts have re-established their typical spot in first place in the AFC South, with the Texans falling to third.
Here we go again.