INDIANAPOLIS – Bruce Arians knows it sounds boring but when it works, why change it?
"Respect the process."
Those three words have been repeated in virtually every Arians press conference over the past few months.
The day-to-day grind of the NFL is in Week 15 and while the process for the Colts remains the same, the end result is beginning to reap some potential rewards.
With a win, the Colts are back in the playoffs.
If the Colts finish the regular season with three straight wins, they once again will win the AFC South.
Yes, the Colts are aware of the scenarios, but Arians simply wants to add the numbers up after Week 17.
"It's the next game. The division title won't happen if we don't win this game," Arians said. "If you start going ahead to titles and playoffs, you lose sight of what the real picture is. The real picture is beating the Texans this week."
Another storyline in Sunday's contest is Colts quarterback Andrew Luck heading back to Houston, where he attended Stratford High School.
Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak had the pleasure of watching Luck since his high school days.
"I tell you what, I thought he was as good of a player as I've ever seen come out going back to Peyton (Manning) when I studied Peyton. I said that a couple of times in the draft room," Kubiak said.
"He grew up right here down the road, and I watched him throw some seven-on-seven tournaments and stuff while my kids were growing up, and he's been exceptional at every level he's played. Now, he's at the highest level and he's doing it again. I think he's going to do it a long, long time.
"You can tell he's a student of the game, has a total grasp from that standpoint, and he's a tremendous competitor that seems the tougher the situation, the better he is as a player."
Luck is trying to minimize the distractions of returning home this weekend, as he knows the task of facing the Texans defense is more than enough to handle.
The unit is tied for second in the NFL against the rush, and defensive end J.J. Watt is among consideration for defensive player of the year.
Watt's 16.5 sacks are a franchise record, but he also leads the team with 87 tackles and is the only player in NFL history with at least 15 sacks and 15 pass deflections in a single season.
"He's done some things this year after 12 weeks that's never been done in this league. That's kind of unheard of," Kubiak said. "We knew we had a good player. We knew we had a great kid, but he's gone above and beyond the call of duty. Like I said, he's on to some great things in this league, and, hopefully, we can keep him healthy. Hopefully, he can do it for a long time."
In two games last year against the Colts, Watt had 10 tackles, a sack and three pass deflections.
The ability to be an every-down defensive end is not something that is seen frequently in the NFL today, but the 6-5, 295-pound Watt is a rare breed.
"A lot of people see the sacks, the batted balls, all that. But I take pride in being an all-around player, a guy who can play both the run and the pass and play the run in different ways and the pass in different ways. I try and be that complete player," Watt said.
Last season, Watt helped the Texans record their first trip to the playoffs as they claimed the AFC South.
This season's title could be decided on Sunday and perhaps over the remainder of the season as the Colts have made a nine-game improvement from 2011 through Week 14.
The process is still there, and the end result remains the objective.
"Houston won the division last year. Indianapolis won it seven out of the last 10. It is time to hopefully go back and re-establish ourselves as the dominant team in the division. That's our goal," Arians said.
"There is no doubt that they're the top horse right now. We've got to go in there and knock them off."
Colts 19, Texans 16 – December 22, 2011
After capturing their first win of the season four days earlier, the Colts were hoping for their second triumph. That task was made even more difficult when the division-leading Texans came into Lucas Oil Stadium and created havoc on the first play from scrimmage. Texans linebacker Brian Cushing forced a Dan Orlovsky fumble and Brooks Reed jumped on the loose ball. Two plays later, running back Arian Foster found the end zone from nine yards out to open the scoring. The ensuing four drives were relatively quiet before kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal thanks to a punt return by Pierre Garcon. Houston kicker Neil Rackers answered with a 44-yard field goal to close out the first quarter with the Texans leading, 10-3. The Colts added a 32-yard field goal in the second quarter to cut the halftime lead to 10-6 before the two teams traded field goals in the third quarter. An early fourth quarter drive for the Colts once again ended in a Vinatieri field goal, and the Colts were within in striking distance, 13-12. With 6:48 remaining, the Texans ate 4:52 off the clock before another Rackers field goal made the score 16-12 with 1:56 left. Orlovsky and the offense moved 77 yards over 11 plays. With the Colts on the one-yard line and with no timeouts remaining, a fade pass by Orlovsky found the outstretched hands of Reggie Wayne to give the Colts a 19-16 lead with 19 seconds remaining. The touchdown occurred in the same spot of the north end zone where Wayne, who was a pending free agent, had caught so many memorable touchdowns for the Colts. Wayne finished the game with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Orlovsky won his second consecutive start thanks to a 23-of-41 performance for 244 yards and a touchdown. The Colts defense forced the Texans into a one-for-10 conversion rate on third downs (compared to the Colts converting seven-of-17). Indianapolis held on for the victory and ended its season winning two of the last three games.
Texans running back Arian Foster versus the Colts defense: One of four Pro Bowl running backs to close out the season, Arian Foster awaits the Colts. Foster's 298 carries lead the NFL and is a big reason why the Texans find themselves atop the league in time of possession. In three career games against the Colts, Foster is averaging 163.7 yards rushing and has five touchdowns in those contests. The Colts were able to slow down Chris Johnson in both of the meetings with the Titans this season, but now will face the vaunted Houston zone-blocking scheme.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Texans defense: Luck will return to his hometown this weekend looking for a consistent effort spanning all four quarters. Yes, Luck's winning percentage has been tremendous in his rookie season, but he admits that his play away from home needs to be better for the Colts to play deep into January. Luck will be facing a top 10 defense and the AFC's leading sacker in Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
-The Colts are looking for their fourth straight win against the AFC South.
-Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and Texans general manager Rick Smith were teammates at Purdue University from 1991-92.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's has six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime, which is the most by a rookie since the 1970 merger.
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne needs six receptions to reach 100 for the fourth time in his career, and it would tie the club record of Marvin Harrison.
-Colts outside linebacker Dwight Freeney has 15.5 career sacks versus the Texans, which is the most for him against any team.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, defensive end Cory Redding and wide receiver Donnie Avery are all Houston natives. Avery played at the University of Houston.
-The Texans have won nine of their past 11 games against the AFC South.
-Texans running back Arian Foster needs 52 rushing yards to reach 1,200 for the third consecutive season.
-Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is averaging 153 receiving yards per game over his past four outings.
-Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has 16.5 sacks, which is a Houston seasonal-record.
-Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus is tied for first among all AFC rookies with six sacks.
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on games coming down to four or five key plays):
"It's four or five plays. You never know which four or five it's going to be, but you'd like to make some more plays in the game. Like the first third down that when they do run together, you would like to hit that touchdown. But you don't have to do it to win the ballgame. You just have to keep plugging along and keep it close and make a play at the end."
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on importance of internal leadership has been):
"Without it, we'd have no chance. We have great leadership on this team. The veterans have helped these rookies. Some take their jobs. Others, whether it's on the field, in the classroom, or in the community, these guys have all joined hands with these young guys because they know those young guys are their chance to get to the playoffs. That kind of all spells, 'Team.' "
Colts Offensive Coordinator/Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians(on the role Chuck Pagano has played in the last few months):
"More than anything is individual communication with the players. It's been very hard for him to do anything collectively. He and I would jockey with ideas back and forth offensively, defensively, special teams-wise. More than anything, it's his individual contact with the players and picking them up or telling them to pick it up. I think that's helped as much as anything. His presence is in the locker room in a lot of different ways."
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck(on if when in high school ever went to Texans games):
"We tried to go a couple of times a year. I know they tried to reach out to the former Oilers who lived in the area, so my dad would go a couple of times a year and bring me along. You grow up a fan. Not a fervent fan I'd say. I was an Oilers guy, and I guess it's hard when they moved to Tennessee. Loved the stadium. I was very impressed by the organization."
Colts defensive end Cory Redding(on if winning division always remains goal No. 1):
"Establishing yourself in your division is always a priority. You have to set the standards, set the tone with everybody that you face but amongst the guys that you have to see twice a year, to solidify yourself into a playoff spot. The Texans are a great opponent. These guys have great weapons on both sides of the ball. They've been doing some unbelievable things this year and we got our hands full. The Colts used to own this division for many years so it's time to go ahead and get that thing back."
Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on what has seen from the Colts this season):
"I've seen consistency. To me, they look the same every week. They've got a lot of young speed on their football team. Defensively those two guys (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis) holding down the edges have been there, it seems like they're on my NFL lifetime. This team's been in every football game. They seem to make their biggest plays when it really counts the most. The quarterback has been exceptional in leading the football and the job that Bruce (Arians) has done. They've been very, very consistent, and that's what I think everybody in this league is looking for."
Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on J.J. Watt's year):
"He's been very consistent. He's been exceptional. He started playing on a really big-time level last year in our playoff games. I think he reached a new level as a player and then he comes back and that's continued this season. He's just one of those guys that you're going to get the same thing every week. He's a player that tends to make big plays when you need them, whether it's knocking a ball down, getting a sack, causing a turnover. He has a knack for doing those things. He's not only a hell of a player but a great young man. Hopefully we've got him here in Houston for a long, long time and he's on his way to a great career."
Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on if were motivated by Colts control of AFC South):
"Hopefully, you motivated yourself each and every day. Yeah, they had a stranglehold, I guess that's a good word. If there's anything stronger, you could use that, too. They took care of this division for a long, long time. They've been exceptional and they've regrouped and done a hell of a job putting a team together right now that's playing exceptional right now. Last year's gone. We've got to worry about this year. We've got some big, big games coming up and none bigger than this week."
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt(on mood this week after New England loss):
"Very focused. We're very focused on getting back out there and playing the game and winning the division. We have everything we want in front of us. We're sitting here at 11-2. We can still take care of everything that we want to take care of this season if we just take care of our business. We control our own destiny, and we know that."
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt(on impressions of Andrew Luck):
"He's a very good football player. He's a guy that doesn't play like a rookie by any means. He's very smart. He has a good arm. He's also elusive. He can scramble, he can run, and he doesn't get flustered. I think that's one of the best things about him is he doesn't get flustered. He plays very well late in the games. You can tell he's a competitor. He's a kid that is very good at what he does, and he's going to be good for a long time."