INDIANAPOLIS – When the Colts meet the Texans twice a year one thing is a given – it will be a chore facing a potent offensive opponent.
Only twice in the six meetings since 2008 have the Texans failed to score 27 points in a game against Indianapolis. Three of those games were decided by six points or less. One of those games decided by a larger margin was Houston's 2010 season-opening home victory over the Colts in Reliant Stadium, 34-24.
When the Colts return to the venue to open a second consecutive season, they will face an offense ready for action. Houston averaged just below 25 points a game last year (9th in the NFL), while averaging 386.6 yards (3rd in the league). The Texans rushed for an average of 127.6 yards and passed for an average of 259.0 yards per game a year ago, ranking 7th and 4th respectively in those categories.
Three main reasons for the club's accomplishments last year were quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Schaub has completed 121 of 173 passes for 1,139 yards and seven touchdowns in four career outings against Indianapolis. Foster amassed 333 yards and four scores on 48 carries in two games last year, including 33 rushes for 231 yards and three touchdowns in the opener. Johnson has 14 career games against the Colts, and he has 75 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson already has the fourth-most receptions against the Colts in history (128, Andre Reed; 79, Stanley Morgan; 79, Al Toon), and in 2011 he could become the seventh player ever to record 1,000 career reception yards against the Colts.
In 2011, Schaub threw for 4,370 yards and 24 touchdowns, while hitting 63.6 percent of his passes (365-574). Foster rushed for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns to win the NFL rushing crown, along with totaling 2,220 scrimmage yards. Johnson had 86 receptions for 1,216 yards and eight scores to tie for sixth in NFL receptions. The five-time Pro Bowler led the NFL in reception yards in 2008 (1,575) and 2009 (1,569). Only wide receivers Jerry Rice (4) and Marvin Harrison (3) have more career 1,500 -yard seasons than Johnson.
Among other things, Indianapolis could have to defend against the trio. Foster is battling a hamstring injury and did not practice during the week. He is listed as questionable for the game.* *Schaub and Johnson are ready to go. Cornerback Jerraud Powers is aware of his challenge on Sunday.
"Each year it changes a little bit," said Powers of the Houston offense. "Each team and each coordinator, no matter who it is, they sort of stick to their basics. Houston does a great job with the zone running. They are a zone-run offensive team, and they do a great job with that. They do a great job with the play-action and boots. Obviously, they have Andre Johnson and a good group of receivers who can get the job done. It will be a good test."
Powers commented specifically about facing Schaub and Johnson.
"I think (Matt) Schaub does not get as much credit as he deserves," said Powers. "He's an elite quarterback. He had a tremendous year last year, and he's been building on that each year. He does a great job, and he's definitely a quarterback who can throw it in tight spots and get the ball to the play-makers he has out there.
"The thing about Andre is that he is such a big-play guy that any time he touches the ball, he has a chance of going the distance. He doesn't take plays off, that's the other thing. If the ball is near him, he's probably going to come down with it. His hands and Reggie's (Wayne) are sort of like identical when it comes to stuff like that. He has a great quarterback to get him the ball. He has a great system he's in, and he does a tremendous job of making big plays in that system. No matter how you look at it, he's going to be out there. He is obviously the best receiver in the league. (I have) a ton of respect for him and that whole Houston offense. It's going to be definitely a difficult challenge, but it's going to be a fun one. He's a great player, and I always look forward to going against the best players in the game because it gives me an opportunity to make a case for myself. It's definitely a tough task for us, but a fun one."
When asked if Johnson were vocal on the field, Powers compared him to Wayne again.
"(Andre) Johnson's not a guy who goes out there yapping. He's more like Reggie (Wayne), a guy who goes out there and just gets the job done," said Powers. "If he's yapping, he's usually talking to his teammates. From my experience going against him, he's never gotten in a verbal match with me. He's a guy you see week in and week out getting the job done. He's, if not the (best), he's one of the best receivers in the game. He has all the tools."
Colts head coach Jim Caldwell appreciates Johnson's ability as well.
"Andre's one of those guys that is so big, strong and fast that when you get that kind of a combination it makes it difficult to defend him," said Caldwell. "If you walk up and try to press him in a man-to-man situation, and he's strong enough to make you get off of him with power. He can rip right through you, but he's also fast enough to run away from you as well. That's the one thing. Oftentimes, you may find some guys that are big and have really good hands, but they may be possession-type receivers. He's not that. He's big, (has) great hands, and he's fast. The other thing is he's a very, very physical guy. So not only in the pass game is he tough to handle, but he also blocks extremely well down the field. He creates some opportunities for the backs coming out of the backfield, which is a very efficient block. You know he's going to make his plays. He's going to do some things that are unusual. He'll be able to go up and get the ball, and he makes one-handed catches. He's quite a player. The thing that we have to do is be able to minimize that, and just anticipate that, obviously, we've got to be able to keep him corralled and not let him get in behind us."
Whether Foster is able to play or not remains uncertain. Caldwell is certain, however, of the back's talents.
"He's a guy that has good speed, power, balance and great vision," said Caldwell. "The scheme in which they run, it gives him the opportunity to pick and choose where he wants to go, and it's typically where he finds any open lane. He's a very, very good cutback runner. He can outrun you around the corner, and he can make you miss in space. He really has the complete package, and he's also a very good receiver as well."
Defensive end Dwight Freeney summed up the Texans and the importance of Sunday.
"They have a really tough offense," said Freeney. "They do a lot of great things. They are probably the best full zone team. I think they had the number one rushing offense last year, so it's going to be a challenge for us, like every year. Especially being a divisional opponent, they know us, we know them. It's a very important game, obviously, because it's the first game."