HOUSTON – A historic start for the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night started to melt away in the second half.
However, what the offense and special teams started was capped off by the defense in the Colts earning their fourth straight victory, thanks to a 33-28 win in Houston on Thursday Night Football.
Here's a notebook run down of the Colts holding on to beat the Texans, 33-28:
More Special Teams Tricks
A few weeks back, Pat McAfee made it clear that the special teams bag of tricks wasn't empty even after two successful onside kicks had been used.
McAfee, of course, was right.
On Thursday night, it was a check from McAfee that allowed the Colts to seize early momentum and score 24 first quarter points, the most in 60 years for the franchise.
It was McAfee with the dribble that bounced the perfect yardage for the kicker to pounce on it after rolling the necessary 10 yards.* *
"Obviously Pat (McAfee) is playing at a very high, high level. I have all the faith and trust in the world with him," Chuck Pagano said after the win.
"They adjusted the way we thought they would adjust. They left a huge opening in the middle of the field and Pat did a great job in the middle dribble kicking it to himself. We practice that stuff all the time and we got the look and again from a coaching standpoint when you see it executed over and over again you are not afraid to call it."
McAfee said the hardest part was making sure the ball trickled past the 10-yard mark and resisting the urge to touch the ball too early, and probably ending up on SportsCenter's "Not Top Ten."
"We kind of thought the middle might open up because we hit a surprise onside to the right so teams are kind of fearing that," McAfee said. "We spread out our kickoff team to see what they would give us. As soon as we saw it was open after the first one, we knew we had it. It was just my job not to mess it up.
"It's a lot of fun whenever you have coaches that are willing to call it and make it happen and let us do stuff like that because we are having a lot of fun on special teams."
The Colts are now the only team in the league with a successful onside kick in 2014 and they have three.
On the season, 11 onside kicks have been attempted around the NFL and the Colts are the only team that has recovered one.
Just like against the Titans, the onside kick was a jolt of energy that led to a massive first quarter lead.
"I was surprised," running back Ahmad Bradshaw said of the onside kick. "Next thing I know I looked up and it was our ball."
"It changed the momentum. It gave us some mojo."
Pass Rush, Turnovers Prove To Be Timely**
The floodgates are wide open on the Colts pass rush.
A handful of sacks were piled up by the defense on Thursday night with more creative looks and pressures coming from all over the front seven.
"The confidence level right now is extremely high," Chuck Pagano said of his defensive unit after the 33-28 win.
"They are playing extremely aggressive. The guys are doing a great job of not only putting together a great plan for defense but executing it. They are coming together and you can really see what we envisioned a long time ago--the type of defense that we wanted to have out there week in and week out. As good as they played last week, we knew we had to come in here and kind of validate where we are at."
Along with the five sacks, the Colts held Houston to just 1-of-8 on third-down, the third straight week the unit has kept an opponent to a single third-down conversion (opponents are 3-of-28 during that stretch).
The defense was called upon to finish the job on Thursday after J.J. Watt's fumble recovery touchdown cut the lead to 33-28 with 10:36 left in the fourth quarter.
Greg Manusky's unit answered with two timely turnovers.
First it was Vontae Davis forcing an Andre Johnson fumble and veteran safety Mike Adams falling on the loose ball.
Then with the Texans trying for a last gasp effort, Bjoern Werner got to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and his fumble was recovered by D'Qwell Jackson to seal the victory.
"We love the face time," Werner said of the defense playing the role of closer.
"We stepped up in the right moment and got the W."
Colts All Alone Atop The AFC South**
All week long, the focus was on how the Colts would handle a Thursday night environment that hadn't been too kind to road teams in 2014.
Perhaps lost in that hype was the importance of the game itself.
Two 3-2 teams, sitting atop the AFC South, with the winner seizing early control over a division the two foes had split each of the last two years.
Business needed to be handled and the Colts did that on Thursday night, moving their AFC South record to 3-0 on the year.
The win is the 10th straight victory over an AFC South opponent dating back to 2012."It's real big," Ahmad Bradshaw said of the Colts 10th straight AFC South win.
"We are No. 1 right now in the AFC South and that was the plan coming into this game, just take advantage of this opportunity and we ran with it."
The Colts will now have a break from the AFC South with just one divisional matchup (vs. Jacksonville on 11/23) until the Texans head back to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 15 of the regular season.
They will now head into their mini-bye week with a one-game division lead and the early control over each AFC South opponent.
"We could have made all the excuses in the world on a short week, playing on Thursday night but we didn't," Dwayne Allen said after the 33-28 victory.
"Coach told us we were all going to be sore, but on game night we aren't going to be thinking about it afterwards. And you know what I'm not thinking about the practice, or how sore I am, I'm just glad to be ahead in the division."
A Look At The Colts Snap Counts Against Houston
-At running back, Ahmad Bradshaw played 44 snaps and Trent Richardson logged 43.
-Reggie Wayne paced the receivers with 79 snaps (91 percent of the offensive total). T.Y. Hilton had 59, Hakeem Nicks played 35, rookie Donte Moncrief played 12 snaps and Griff Whalen got in for one offensive snap.
-The tight end snaps were divided up with Dwayne Allen playing 72 snaps, Coby Fleener 51 and Jack Doyle 37.
-Defensively, Greg Toler, Vontae Davis, Mike Adams and Jerrell Freeman played all 54 snaps.
-Nickel back Josh Gordy filled in for Darius Butler and played 47 snaps (87 percent).
-With Art Jones once again not playing on Thursday, the defensive line snaps were as followed: Cory Redding (44), Ricky Jean Francois (43), Zach Kerr (18), Josh Chapman (13) and Montori Hughes (3).
Photos from the Thursday Night Football game against the Houston Texans