HOUSTON — There was a lot of pride on the line when the Indianapolis Colts traveled south to take on the AFC South Division-leading Houston Texans on Sunday.
The Texans — 0-3 at the time — came into Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 4 earlier this season and defeated the Colts in overtime, 37-34. The Colts never forgot about it, and that chip on their shoulder helped carry them to a 24-21 victory in Houston on Sunday.
“It started with us, and it ended with us!” you could hear being shouted by one Colts player in the locker room after the game. The Texans’ victory back in Week 4 propelled them to a nine-game win streak, which now comes to an end at the hands of the Colts.
"It just tells what kind of character we have,” said rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, who led all players with 12 tackles. “Just because we lost to a team at home — it was a tough game — but we knew that we should've come out of that game with a victory. So, we had a little chip on our shoulder coming in and we just wanted to compete and get a win."
The Colts held the Texans to 21 points and 315 yards of offense on Sunday, a far cry from the 37 points and 466 yards they surrendered to them earlier in the season.
The Colts' defense was also able to continue harassing Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, sacking him five times. Two of those sacks came from defensive lineman Denico Autry, who had a career-high three sacks last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Autry is now the first Colts player since Robert Mathis in 2013 to have multiple sacks in consecutive games.
"It's everybody. It's the coverage guys doing their job in coverage, and then the D-line rushing hard, Darius Leonard coming off the edge,” Colts linebacker Anthony Walker said about the Colts effective pass rush. “Whatever it is — the blitzers coming, Kenny (Moore II) was able to get one today — so I think we're all playing together. The blitzers are getting home on time and then the coverages are making sure that the guys aren't open early, so you have to hold the ball a little bit."
Coming into the game, the Texans were third in the NFL in rushing, averaging 140 yards per game on the ground. The Colts held them to just 89 yards on Sunday, knowing it was the backbone of Houston’s offensive attack.
"We just wanted to make them one-dimensional, so we wanted to stop the run,” Leonard said. “We know that if they run the ball well — that's what carried them on their nine-game win streak — so we wanted to take the ball out of (Lamar) Miller's hands and make Deshaun beat us."
The Colts were unable to force a turnover for the first time this season, but the defense still held up its end of the bargain without one. Rather than capitalizing with takeaways to kill an effective offense, the Colts just did their best to smother them in general, registering nine tackles for loss and holding the Texans to 5-of-15 (33 percent) on third down.
"It was huge,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said after the game. “The defense played phenomenally well against that offense, against that quarterback, against those weapons that they have. To have five sacks, to hold down the rush, to prevent big plays — they're gonna get a couple — but the defense kept us in the game for sure and then made the stops at the end when we needed it.
“The defense played great. When we struggled early on offense, the defense kept us in the game, doing exactly what we said we needed to do — stop the run, contain Watson. We had four or five sacks, keeping the pressure on him until we got it going.”