Colts to Play Host to Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium Monday
INDIANAPOLIS – Antoine Bethea sees it rather simply.
While the two-time Pro Bowl safety said the Colts' match-up Monday against the Houston Texans isn't a must-win situation, exactly, considering the circumstances surrounding the game it definitely has a special feel.
It is, after all, a division game.
It's at home.
And it's against a team that beat the Colts earlier this season.
Depending on the outcome of the Tennessee Titans' game in San Diego Sunday afternoon, it also could be for a share of the lead in the AFC South, a division the Colts have won six of the past seven seasons.
So, just how big is Monday's big game?
"It's huge," Bethea said as the Colts (4-2) prepared to play the Texans (4-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday at 8:30 p.m.
"Once again, it's a division opponent. They beat us last time. We're back in our place, Monday night. It's going to be a huge game. We're both 4-2, tied in the conference.
"We just have to be focused, be prepared and play way better than we did the first time."
Said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, "It's big because it's the next one. It's a home game, it's a division team, it's a team that beat us last time, certainly lots of reasons, but I feel like we treat them all with the same respect. Houston is a good team. They are playing really well.
"They are coming off a bye week. They should be fresh. I think it will be a challenge."
The game won't necessarily be a match-up of AFC South leaders. The Texans and Colts each entered their 2010 bye week last week in a three-way tie with the Titans atop the AFC South, but the Titans rallied last week for a 37-19 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
That moved the Titans into first place by a half game entering this weekend's games. The Titans play at San Diego on Sunday.
The Colts have won six of the last seven AFC South titles, and after entering the season 38-10 in the division all-time, they lost their first two division games of the season.
"That's always goal one, to win your division," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "We have our work cut out for us, obviously, with us losing some division games already. It's a home division game, though – those are the ones you have to win and you have to secure to keep on track."
Said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, "Every year is different. We certainly don't hang our hat on the past. What we have to deal with is the here and now, and right now, we have a fight on our hands."
The Texans, who never made the post-season in eight previous NFL seasons, won their last four games of last season to secure the first winning record in franchise history. They not only have continued winning early this season, they beat the Colts, 34-24, in the regular-season opener.
That was the Texans' first victory over the Colts since December 2006, and the second in 17 meetings between the teams since 2002.
Houston in that game took an early 13-0 lead, with the Colts rallying to within three at halftime, 13-10. But Texans running back Arian Foster rushed for 191 of his franchise-record 231 yards rushing in the second half to help the Texans pull away.
"I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck to the script of what got them the win the first time," Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "We have to play better than we did last time."
Saturday said that's equally true of the Colts' offense. While Manning passed for 433 yards and three touchdowns, he also was sacked twice and Texans defensive end Mario Williams was credited with 10 quarterback pressures.
"Obviously, they beat us up pretty good when we went down there," Saturday said. "Obviously, we need to go back and see what changes we need to make and what changes are going to help us. We need to play better. We can't make mistakes that I remember we made down there.
"We just need to play better and hope for a different outcome."
The Colts have been swept since just once since the 2002 inception of the AFC South, and have lost their first game to a team within the division just three times. Once was in 2002, when Tennessee beat the Colts twice en route to the first AFC South title, and the other two times came in 2008.
The Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars that season in September and rallied for a come-from-behind victory in Jacksonville in December. They also lost to Tennessee in late October before beating the Titans in Lucas Oil Stadium in the regular-season finale.
"I don't think it's necessarily payback," Brackett said of Monday's game. "Obviously, it's a division rival and they beat us (earlier in the season). It was fair and square. The guys did a great job executing their game plan. It's more getting back on the right track. "It's a game with AFC South ramifications.
"Whoever wins that game, definitely has a good handle on our division."
Said Bethea, "It's prime time, and they beat us the first time around. We definitely want to get back, so we're excited about it. We need this win."