Texans 29, Colts 17: Back-to-Basics Approach Nets AFC South Title, Renews Playoff Hopes
Check out our slideshow from the Texans/Colts game.
Photo by Groovehouse Arian Foster dominated in the second half.
It seems evident that Matt Schaub isn't going to win a shootout with the likes of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps not with Andrew Luck. But if the team's other components execute the way they're designed to, he shouldn't have to.
On Sunday, the Texans (12-2) finally returned to their core principles of a punishing rushing attack and a diversified pass rush. Their reward was a division-clinching win that puts them on the verge of the AFC's number one seed and home-field advantage for the playoffs.
"We got back to what we kind of are as a football team today," said head coach Gary Kubiak, celebrating at Reliant Stadium after a second straight division crown.
Arian Foster rushed for a season-best 165 yards, including 131 in the second half as the Texans' offensive line wore down the Indianapolis front.
"I train myself to be at my best when everybody else is tired and I'm tired," said Foster.
On the other side, J.J. Watt had his usual spectacular game with three sacks, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. But for the first time in a while, he consistently had help, with a relentless pass rush limiting Andrew Luck to a mere 48 percent completion rate. Antonio Smith and Connor Barwin each had sacks.
"They were locked in all week, very quiet, very businesslike," Kubiak said of his team. "They got back to themselves this week."
Offensive line keys turnaround
If the Texans are to beat the likes of Brady or Peyton Manning come January, it likely won't be with the formula they used to rally against Jacksonville and Detroit. Andre Johnson is great, but those other elite teams simply have too many weapons.
Instead, the Texans must control the clock, keep opposing offenses off the field and physically wear the opposing defense down in the second half.
For one week, mission accomplished.
"I think that's what defines you as an offensive line," said center Chris Myers. "We've struggled with that in the past couple of weeks at being establish the run to finish the game. But we were able to do it today in a huge setting."
Indeed. The Texans dominated the clock (33:06-26:54 advantage), had a close-to-even split of passing and rushing yards (239 to 178), and seemed at their best as the game went on. Most impressive was Houston's final eight-play, 78-yard drive, on which seven carries went to Foster. The Colts (9-5) knew exactly what was coming but could do nothing to stop it, with Foster darting through gaping holes for 25 and 26-yard pickups.
"That's the way our scheme works sometimes," said Myers. "You get four yards here, three yards here, but as long as you keep staying true to it, those bust-out runs are going to come. They came in the last drive and it sealed the game for us.
"You can get a feel for how the game is going and when the defense is on their heels a little bit. They were on that last drive, and we took advantage."
Newton makes triumphant return
A big difference came in the Texans' ability to successfully run through the right side. With Derek Newton out since Thanksgiving with a knee injury, replacement tackle Ryan Harris and right guard Ben Jones were consistently unable to create room against New England.
On Sunday, Newton returned and delivered one of the best performances of his young career, consistently sealing holes and giving the Texans balance on both sides of the line.
"Nothing was going to keep me off the field today," said Newton. "I had to be out there. This team likes to run the ball, get down and dirty. It's about picking up first downs and having long drives. We did that today."