INDIANAPOLIS -- Five things I learned from the Colts' 30-17 win over the Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium Monday night:
Next man up just goes and goes and goes: You’re as tired of reading that line as I am of writing it. But on this night the Colts went collectively deeper into their depth than usual. And guess what? The subs produced.
Jacob Tamme is not Dallas Clark, but six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown is a pretty good tight end contribution. (He’s the 27th player to catch his first-career touchdown from Peyton Manning.) Subbing for the injured Joseph Addai as the lead back, Mike Hart looked very good as he took 12 carries 84 yards before suffering an ankle injury late that prevented him from finishing the game. Justin Tryon filled in for Jerraud Powers at right cornerback, often across from Andre Johnson, and the Texans got Johnson the ball just seven times, for nothing longer than 28 yards.
The expectation is you produce when called upon, and if you’re the guy who doesn’t do it after so many have, then how much grief would you be in line for?
“You never want to be that guy, that guy who doesn’t perform, that guy who doesn’t step up when called upon,” Hart said. “I think management does a great job of bringing in players that can come in and do well when guys go down and that’s what I tried to do.”
Said Manning of Tamme: "It was nice to see a guy that had a calm, cool look to him the entire night. That is encouraging to see."
Houston’s play calling will be second-guessed -- a lot: In some ways this was similar to the Week 3 loss to Dallas.
In the first half of that game Arian Foster got only eight carries and Johnson got only two catches, while the Texans had 21 snaps of offense and 11:51 of possession.
In the first half of this game, Foster got only eight carries and Johnson got only two catches while the Texans had 24 snaps of offense and 11:12 of possession.
“Our plan was to be a balanced football team,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We wanted to do some things early. A couple of runs were called early that ended up being passes... I don’t think we’d have had any problem being a balanced football team had we made a third down.”
The Texans were 0-for-6 on third downs in the first half: a third-and-10 sack, a third-and-6 incompletion, a third-and-2 incompletion (followed by a fourth-and-2 incompletion), a third-and-5 sack, a third-and-10 pass to Johnson for 9 yards and a third-and-4 incompletion.
Sure, the Texans would have been able to be balanced had they converted some of those. It's what Kubiak looked to for conversions that was questionable.
Foster finished the game with 15 carries for 102 yards and a score. That was good for a 6.8 average. On four of those third downs, giving it to him would have seemed to have been more prudent than throwing it. At least give him one of two chances when you needed only 2 yards.
“When we dialed up the run, we were good,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “When we dial up the pass, we’ve got to be good enough to hold up.”
Maybe Kelvin Hayden is re-emerging: A healthy Hayden was supposed to provide a big boost to the Colts' pass coverage this season, but through six games he’d not been nearly as good as I expected he’d be.
Hayden stepped in front of an ill-advised Schaub pass intended for Kevin Walter and waltzed to a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Colts what felt like an insurmountable 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“I think that’s what you want to do as a player, continue to make progress week in, week out,” he said. “I want to work on just doing my job, and when you do your job, things happen. As you can see, I didn’t do anything special, I just did my job…
“I think I started slower than I expected, I don’t have an answer for it. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. They say at corner you have to have a bad memory, so I don’t remember it.”
Hayden also had five tackles, including one for a loss.
Houston's Brian Cushing not making the impact we expected: He didn’t really explode until midway through his rookie year, but then he set a standard. It’s one he has not met in the three games he’s played since returning from his season-starting four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s policy against performance enhancers.
This was his first game in the middle, where he’s been shifted to replace DeMeco Ryans, who's out for the season with an Achilles injury. Press box statisticians credited Cushing with just five tackles and he also had a pass defensed. But a team with a struggling secondary and a less-than stellar pass rush needs more from Cushing.
“I think he did a pretty darn good job,” Kubiak said. “And I think we played hard. We’ve got to improve each week and he’s the best guy [in the middle] that gives us a chance to do that.”
The move to the middle took Cushing away from tight end coverage.
“He’s a great player, though, I think he’s just fine inside,” Tamme said.
Strongside linebacker Philip Wheeler will work to get it back: Wheeler was supposed to be the next emerging linebacker for the Colts, but he was replaced in the starting lineup against the Texans by rookie Pat Angerer, who started and played well for an injured Gary Brackett in the Week 6 win at Washington.
Evidently, coaches found that production too good to leave on the sideline.
“They didn’t really explain too much about it, they just made a decision, I guess,” Wheeler said. “I’m not happy with the decision, but I can’t do anything right now about it. I’ve just got to keep my head up and play ball when I get in the game. I’m not sure what’s the case with it. No hard feelings to Pat, when he’s out there I think he’s going to play well.”