HOUSTON — The Indianapolis Colts’ defense has come up big yet again, and Saturday they did it in the most critical of situations. Behind a lockdown effort, the Colts defeated the Houston Texans, 21-7, and now advance to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
Against a star quarterback in Deshaun Watson — a player known for shining brightest on the biggest stages during his time at Clemson — the Colts held his arm in check and slammed the door when the Texans' offense attempted to come back from a three-score deficit.
The Colts held Houston to its lowest point total of the season on Saturday as they constantly harassed Watson and the Texans backfield — sacking him three times and getting hits on him on eight total occasions.
“He's elite. He's an elite quarterback. Anytime he pulls that ball down, you hold your breath,” Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said of Watson after the game. “Just to keep him in the pocket and get some pressure on him today was good for us. He still made some plays — he's a great player — but I think for the most part we were able to get to him.”
As Walker mentioned, despite containing Watson — he had just a 69.7 passer rating — he was still able to make some plays, especially with his legs. He led the Texans with 76 yards on the ground on eight carries, which was his highest total of the season.
The Colts' defense and its ability to swarm to the ball completely shut down Houston’s run game otherwise, as running backs Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman totaled 29 yards on eight carries.
Houston’s All-Pro wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, was held in check as well, catching just five balls for 37 yards. The Colts also held him to just 36 yards when the two teams met in Week 14 of the regular season. Both games were his least productive of the season.
Colts cornerbacks Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore II and Quincy Wilson did a tremendous job on Hopkins and the Texans' receivers. Rookie Texans receiver Keke Coutee was able to get 110 yards on 11 catches, but much of that damage was done on quick shots designed to get him in space and in underneath spots in the Colts’ defensive zones.
The Colts rang the bell on some of their defensive strengths on Saturday, getting pressure on Watson and holding Houston to just 3-of-13 on third down (23.1 percent) and 1-of-2 in the red zone. Overall, they held the Texans to 322 yards of offense and forced a takeaway, even though Houston ranked second in the league in turnover differential (+13).
The Texans tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback after scoring their first points of the day early in the fourth quarter, but it was the Colts' defense coming up big yet again with a stop, forcing the ball over on downs with just over four minutes remaining.
The Colts now turn their attention to the Kansas City Chiefs and the top offense in the National Football League. If you ask Indy's rookie, All-Pro linebacker, Darius Leonard, if that phases them — it doesn’t.
“We're not worried about who's on the other side,” Leonard said. “We always talk about whoever's playing on the opposite side is gray matter. So we always talking about doing what we can do and controlling what we can control, and that is going out, playing each play, play by play and going from there.”