**STEPPING UP ON THIRD DOWN
No statistic may be more telling about a defense than its opponent's third-down conversion percentage. And the Colts came up big in that department in their 30-17 victory over AFC South rival Houston on Monday night.
Indianapolis' opponents have converted just eight of their last 34 third-down attempts, and they held Houston to 3-of-11 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down.
On third downs requiring more than 10 yards, the Colts defense ranked first in the NFL entering Monday night's game, allowing opposing teams to convert just one of 20 attempts this season.
"That is big," Colts linebacker Clint Session said of the conversion rate. "We fight hard on third downs to get a break and get on the bench."
Indianapolis held Houston to zero conversions on six first-half attempts. With the Texans driving early in the second quarter and with a third-and-5 on the Colts 28-yard line, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was sacked by Session, his first of the season, for a seven-yard loss.
The Colts defense also allowed the Texans offense into the red zone only twice, yielding only seven points. Houston entered the game with 17 scores on 17 red zone attempts, including an NFL-best 70.6 touchdown percentage.
It was Dwight Freeney's strip-sack of Schaub with 57 seconds remaining at the Colts' 14-yard line that snapped the Texans' red zone streak and clinched the game.
"Whenever you can stop a team from getting in the end zone, it is huge," Colts defensive tackle Dan Muir said. "That's being able to go out there and stop them. That's a great job, a great call by the defensive coordinator, by the coaching staff and a great job by the players executing."
'IT WAS A FUN NIGHT'
When Colts players are called upon to be the 'Next Man Up,' they usually respond accordingly.
And that was the case Monday night with tight end Jacob Tamme and running back Mike Hart.
"Jacob Tamme did a nice job out there," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "Obviously, he got a few more reps and certainly did deliver. Mike Hart did a tremendous job. I think we were efficient in terms of running the ball."
Tamme wasted no time in setting career bests. Entering the game with six catches for 47 yards, Tamme finished with six catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
On Indianapolis' second drive of the game, quarterback Peyton Manning hit Tamme for a 26-yard gain, and after eluding Texans defenders, side-stepping the boundary and fighting for extra yards, the third-year tight end eclipsed his previous long of 21.
Three plays later, Manning found Tamme over the middle for a 2-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
"It was a fun night," Tamme said. "We take the ('Next Man Up' mantra) very seriously. We all prepare hard every week. It's great when you can move the ball and score with the 'Next Man Up' motto. It's the neat part about being part of this team."
On that same drive, Colts running back Mike Hart bested his career-long run of 15 yards with a 35-yard dash over the right side of the offensive line, setting up Tamme's career-long catch two plays later.
Hart rushed 12 times for 84 yards, besting his previous mark of 50 yards in the Colts' 19-9 victory over Kansas City in October.
"We always as a team say 'Next Man Up,' and it was no different today," Hart said. "Jacob (Tamme) did a great job of going out there today and playing great. We can never replace guys like Joe (Addai) and Dallas (Clark), but we just do our best to go out there and perform."
SURPASSING LEGENDS OF THE GAME
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne crested the 10,000-yard mark for his career late in the second quarter with an 11-yard catch from Peyton Manning, making him the 34th NFL player to reach the plateau.
Wayne eclipsed another milestone in the third quarter with a 15-yard scoring catch from Manning that gave the pair 64 touchdowns as a duo, moving them to fifth all-time in the NFL.
The touchdown catch passed the Colts tandem of John Unitas to Raymond Berry (63) to move Manning and Wayne into second all-time in Colts history.
Manning and Marvin Harrison hold the NFL record with 112 touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combination.
RING OF HONOR
The Colts added their seventh member into the Ring of Honor at halftime with the induction of former Head Coach Tony Dungy.
Dungy, who was the Colts head coach from 2002-08, led Indianapolis to five AFC South division titles and a Super Bowl title in 2006 over the Chicago Bears.
Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay commenced the halftime ceremony and addressed the 66,363 fans in attendance with heartfelt commentary about the former coach.
"This is truly a special night to be here in Lucas Oil Stadium to honor Tony and have (wife) Lauren down here," Irsay said. "We were just talking about how time has passed by so fast; the era we had with Tony, his uncompromising integrity and his commitment to greatness. When we all put our heads on our pillows at night, we all want to believe there is something bigger than us, greater than us. Tony always helped us to remember that. I always talked about when you had a chance to be blessed with greatness on the field, you would also have a stage to express more than just winning football games, and Tony never ever forgot about that.
"He gave us an era that will be remembered for many years. Tonight is special night, but I know there is going to be another afternoon in Canton, Ohio, someday very soon as well."
With Irsay and Colts President Bill Polian beside him, and after a touching look back on his career on Lucas Oil Stadium's two big screens, Dungy gave a thoughtful, sincere response to the Colts fans in attendance.
"I feel like a very, very blessed person," Dungy said. "I thank the Lord all the time and sometimes he gives you that perfect timing, that perfect storm. That's what it was here in Indianapolis. Everybody that was involved is here; a wife that loves you and stands by you for 28 years, the best owner in football who set the tempo (and) a great general manager who listened and understood what we were trying to do. And for all of us to have the same vision, [it was the] greatest group of guys and staff you could have in that locker room, and the best fans in the National Football League who came together at the right time. I say my prayers every night and thank God that he brought me to Indianapolis. Thank you so much, this a tremendous honor."
-With its 30-17 victory over the Texans, Indianapolis added to its NFL-best November winning percentage since 2000, going 32-12 during that span.
-Indianapolis increased its series record with Houston to 16-2 overall, dating back to September 22, 2002.
-Kelvin Hayden returned his eighth career interception (in the regular season) 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Colts up 14-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.
-Kicker Adam Vinatieri (1,589) surpassed Al Del Greco (1,584) for 13th-most kicking points in NFL history.
-With 6,830 passing attempts, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning passed Warren Moon (6,823) for the fourth-most passing attempts in NFL history.
-Jacob Tamme became the 34th Colts player to catch a Peyton Manning touchdown pass.
-Indianapolis has won 11 consecutive regular-season prime-time games.
-Dwight Freeney had two sacks—coming on the Colts' first and last defensive series of the game—bringing his total to five on the season.