INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since 2016, the Indianapolis Colts have a player with double-digit sacks in a season.
By taking down Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Will Grier on a fourth-down attempt late in the first quarter of the Colts' final home matchup of the 2019 season today at Lucas Oil Stadium, defensive end Justin Houston recorded his 10th sack of the season. He is the first Colts player to reach that mark since Erik Walden had 11 three years ago.
It's also the most sacks in a single season for Houston since his incredible 22-sack campaign in 2014 when he led the NFL, and it's the fourth time he's reached 10 sacks in a season.
Sunday's achievement was a nice extra bonus to what has been a solid season for the Colts' 2019 free-agent signee. Between Weeks 5-11, Houston had at least one sack in each game, tying for the second longest of his nine-year career (six games). He now has a sack in nine different games this season.
Head coach Frank Reich said he's felt Houston has been in a groove for quite a while, which has only added to his status as a total team leader.
"You could always feel it," Reich said recently. "But I just think now – we all know the production and the stats that he brought here, (but) I don't care what you brought here, when you go to a new team as great as he has played in his past and in his career, once you start doing what he's been doing on the field and getting production I think it even takes you to the next step as far as leadership and confidence. I think we are experiencing that with Justin."
Houston reaching this milestone on Sunday seemed very attainable as the Panthers entered the game tied for 30th in the league in sacks allowed (51), and injuries have forced them to start a rookie at left tackle. They have allowed a sack in every game and have 11 games with at least three sacks yielded.
The Colts' veteran pass rusher, a Pro Bowl alternate this year, also has 42 tackles (a team-high 13 for loss), one forced fumble, three fumbles recovered, 17 quarterback hits and one forced safety on the season.
"I think he has done a really good job of just his habits since he's been here," Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of Houston. "When he first came in the recruitment phase of it we talked to him – Chris (Ballard) talked to him, I talked to him – about what we're all about and the standards we're all about. Then we kind of just laid it all on the table and from that point on he's bought into that standard and the style in which we want to play. He's played extremely hard. He's played really well against the run.
"He's being a complete all-around defensive end – not only his special talents to rush the passer but also every facet of his game."