INDIANAPOLIS — As the Indianapolis Colts' offense watched film from the Houston Texans' road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the unit couldn't help but notice how much the Texans' defense was utilizing man-to-man coverage.
So during the Colts' final team meeting Saturday before taking on the Texans in Sunday's pivotal AFC South Divisional showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium, head coach Frank Reich laid out the plan for his offense.
The Colts came into Sunday's game with a top-five rushing attack, and the Texans would undoubtedly be going to the man-to-man well again to make sure the Indy offense couldn't get much going on the ground. So Reich entrusted quarterback Jacoby Brissett to execute a pass-heavy approach from the start, confident that his playmakers would be able to win their one-on-one matchups out in the secondary.
Brissett would respond by completing nine passes on the Colts' opening drive alone, which ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zach Pascal to put Indy up 7-0.
Brissett was only getting started, however.
By game's end, he had set single-game career-highs with 326 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and a 126.7 passer rating — and, most importantly, he had led the Colts to a 30-23 victory that propelled them into first place in the AFC South Division standings.
"Jacoby played lights out," Reich said after the game. "We said if we're gonna win this game, we're gonna have to come up big in the pass game. We talked about that last night as an offense that we needed to make plays in the pass game to win this game, and we did that. And Jacoby led the way."
With the Texans (4-3) selling out against the run — the Colts (4-2) had just 62 rushing yards on 26 carries on the day — Brissett had no trouble spreading the ball around to a slew of playmakers. As long as the offensive line did its job, Indy was confident that a heavy dose of shallow and crossing routes would be enough to get yards in big chunks.
The result on Sunday was six passing plays of 20 or more yards, while two others went for 19 yards.
Brissett, in all, completed 26-of-39 passing attempts (67 percent) to eight different receivers, and he was sacked just once.
"It's up to the quarterback when they stack the box against our run game to make the right decisions and make plays in the passing game. Today we did a great job of that," Brissett said. "I think our O-line, like I said, only gave up one sack — or it was a coverage sack — but did a great job of protection against a really great front. That's probably one of the better fronts in the NFL, and I think we did a great job, and it created opportunities down the field."
Brissett and the Colts' offense were also money in key situations. The team converted half of its attempts on third down (8-of-16), and scored touchdowns on all four trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Brissett leads the entire NFL with 13 red zone passing touchdowns on the year.
"It says he's legit. He's the man," Reich said when asked what Sunday's performance says about Brissett. "We've believed that from Day 1, and we've never wavered on our conviction and our belief in Jacoby. But we all know — he knew it too — you still gotta prove it; you still gotta come in here and put the offense on your back, literally, for this game, and make the plays that he made to win this game. And he did that today. I mean, he did it as well as you could do it."
Brissett, of course, deflected his head coach's praise when talking to reporters after the game. But he's happy about the fact his team can continue proving doubters wrong who counted the Colts out heading into the season after the sudden retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck.
"It's been a journey, but it's been fun. You know, the learning and the constant ways to find a way to get better," Brissett said. "And on a day like today, it (doesn't) make me 'the man,' it just makes us more balanced. And I think that's what we proved today, that we can throw the ball.
"It was just a great day for us as a whole."