Early into Sunday afternoon, a Houston Texans player came at Colts linebacker Darius Leonard with some specific, targeted trash talk.
"Somebody said 'stop being a bleep and you gonna earn that 19-5 today,'" Leonard said. "And I told them, you're going to regret saying that.
"And I'm a man of my word."
Being a man of his word meant an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hit. Those were the kind of plays the Colts needed to not just win on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but to comprehensively dismantle the Texans, 31-3.
Not only did the Colts' offense take a flamethrower to Houston's defense with plays of 51, 52 and 83 yards, but the defense stamped out any chance a Texans comeback thanks to those big plays by guys like Leonard, Kwity Paye, Khari Willis, Isaiah Rodgers, Bobby Okereke, Julian Blackmon, DeForest Buckner — actually, the whole defense.
The Colts held a 10-3 advantage at halftime and went three-and-out on their first possession of the third quarter. Things kicked into gear, though, when Leonard stepped in front of a Davis Mills pass for an interception on Houston's first play of the second half. Two snaps later, Carson Wentz found Mo Alie-Cox for a 28-yard touchdown.
"When we take the ball away and (the offense) scores," safety Blackmon said, "it takes the life out of a team."
Jonathan Taylor ripped off an 83-yard run — the longest run in Colts history — and scored a touchdown a few plays later, giving the Colts a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. But this was a team that squandered a 19-point second half advantage six days ago against the Baltimore Ravens and was driven to make sure that didn't happen again.
Leonard's fourth quarter forced fumble — another perfectly-executed "Peanut Punch," this time on Texans running back David Johnson — turned into a Taylor touchdown. Instead of letting the Texans back into the game, the Colts made sure there was no spark to be found on the opposing sideline.
"We needed it bad, especially coming off that tough loss in Baltimore and everybody still counting us out," Leonard told the Colts' Larra Overton. "We wanted to come out and prove that we are a dominant defense and we can be a dominant defense when we play great all four quarters. And that's what we had to. That was a good relief because we finally played four great quarters of good defense. Hopefully we can just keep building off it and keep continuing to get better."
Paye described the mentality, too, as the Colts not wanting to let off the gas at all.
"Even though we're in the fourth quarter, we're up big, we still don't want to give them easy touchdowns and whatnot," defensive end Paye said. "We still want to play our defense."
The Colts played the kind of complementary football for all four quarters that allows teams to win by four touchdowns. Getting turnovers on defense and explosive plays on offense is a winning formula every time.
"We just have to keep building," coach Frank Reich said. "This is why it's so important to win like this. We have to feel what that feels like. To continue to grow defensively, coming up with big plays and turnovers when we need to, coming up with the key stops. Offensively, getting those chunk plays and then special teams, playing really sound football. Making all of our scoring opportunities. I thought (Michael) Badgley did a great job stepping in there today.
"It was a good step, but we know we have to get a lot better."
For now, though, the Colts will get to enjoy a comprehensive, decisive victory. The only getting better Sunday will be Leonard trying to get his voice, hoarse from responding to all that trash talk with celebration after celebration, back to normal.
"Once you get the Maniac going," Leonard said, "it's hard to get the Maniac to stop."
See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Houston Texans in Week e6 of the regular season.