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Five Things Learned

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5 Colts Things Learned, Week 2: Shane Steichen earns first win, O-line and D-line set tone vs. Texans

The Colts won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in Sunday's 31-20 win over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. 

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1. Shane Steichen managed a difficult situation to earn his first win as head coach.

The Colts spent all week preparing for Anthony Richardson to play against the Texans – so when he had to exit Sunday's game with a concussion, it forced Steichen to tweak some things on the fly. There weren't wholesale changes, but there were likely plays the Colts would've ran with Richardson that they wouldn't with Minshew.

"The game plan is the game plan," Steichen said. "There's certain things that we don't do with Gardner that we do with Anthony."

Minshew deserves plenty of credit for the work he put in prior to Sunday – work that allowed him to seamlessly step in for Richardson and guide the Colts to a 31-20 victory. But Steichen, both as the head coach and playcaller, kept things steady on the sideline and dialed up the right plays for Minshew and the offense to execute.

And those are plays that were executed despite Minshew not getting any practice time with the first-team offense during the week leading up to the game.

"You get zero reps through the week," Minshew said. "So you just got to take mental reps when you can, study when you can, know the film, and just go in and play ball."

Steichen earned his first win as Colts head coach on Sunday, and after the game didn't make it about himself. But his players honored the achievement in the locker room, with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner giving Steichen the game ball and delivering an impassioned message to his head coach:

"He was trying to play it all cool," Minshew said. "But then when we gave him the team ball, his voice was cracking a little bit. I think he liked that.

"We're all just so grateful. We see everything that Shane puts in, man. He works so hard. He wants this worse than anybody. Man, we were really happy to go out and do that for him."

2. Anthony Richardson is in the concussion protocol.

The Colts are in wait-and-see mode with Richardson as he goes through the NFL's methodical, intentional concussion protocol. Steichen on Monday said the Colts are talking through every possibility of what this week could look like, and will devise a plan ahead of practices for Week 3's matchup against the Ravens in Baltimore beginning on Wednesday.

There's not much else here. We'll keep you updated on as news develops throughout the week.

3. Gardner Minshew managed the game and made plays.

Minshew had the fifth-quickest average time to throw (2.34 seconds) and highest completion percentage (82.6 percent) among quarterbacks in Week 2, which allowed him to accomplish three important things: One, he didn't take any sacks; two, he didn't throw an interception; three, he kept the offense on schedule and led scoring drives on his first three possessions after entering the game.

So not only did Minshew help extend the Colts' lead from 14-7 to 31-10 midway through the third quarter, he didn't do anything to give Houston momentum as the Texans tried to mount a comeback. Since 1970, the Colts are now 36-3 when they don't allow a sack and don't turn the ball over.

And Minshew keyed the first scoring drive – which ended with a Zack Moss 11-yard touchdown – by connecting with tight end Will Mallory for a 43-yard gain.

"We all think Gardner is a great quarterback and we know we can win games with him too because of how he prepares and how he plays," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "He makes plays. Super smart. Feisty guy. He just loves ball. Whenever you have a guy like that, you just are confident in him." 

As Richardson progresses through the concussion protocol, and the Colts assess his readiness to play against the Ravens if he's cleared, they'll do so with plenty of confidence in Minshew's ability to do the same things he did in Houston this weekend in Baltimore.

"Gardner's, he's everyone's type of guy," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "He loves the game, he loves people. No moment's too big, nothing's too serious. And he always prepared. He prepares like a 'mug.' That's the type of pro he is. Thankful we have both of them on our team."

4. The Colts set the tone on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

No team's offensive line allowed fewer pressures than the Colts' two in Week 2, and the O-line's pressure rate of 5.6 percent was lowest in the league, per Pro Football Focus.

The flip side: Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud was under pressure on 19 dropbacks, fifth-most in Week 2. Stroud completed four of 12 passes under pressure for 41 yards with a passer rating of 44.1; he was sacked six times (tied with Chicago's Justin Fields for second-most in Week 2) and lost a fumble.

Recording sacks in Week 2: Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Samson Ebukam, Taven Bryan, Jake Martin and EJ Speed. All those players recorded at least one quarterback hit, as did Grover Stewart and Eric Johnson II. All told, nine defensive linemen – Paye, Buckner, Ebukam, Bryan, Martin, Stewart, Johnson, Tyquan Lewis and Dayo Odeyingbo – registered a pressure. Odeyingbo, Paye, Bryan and Ebukam each had a team-high four, per Pro Football Focus.

"The D-line, they were too much to handle," Franklin said. "They got one of the top units in the league with Buck, Grove, Samson, Kwity, Dayo, all those guys — they set that tone." 

The Texans' offensive line was depleted, with three projected starters (guard Kenyon Green, tackle Tytus Howard and center Juice Scruggs) on injured reserve and left tackle Laremy Tunsil inactive due to an injury. But that wasn't a discussion for the Colts' defensive line heading into NRG Stadium.

"At the end of the day, we're like, forget all that," Paye said. "Let's just go out there and play out game. It don't matter who's out there, we're going to go out there and ball."

View highlights from the Colts' matchup versus the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 17.

5. Will Mallory had a huge play on his first career catch.

Mallory, the 2023 fifth-round pick, made quite a first impression. The rookie tight end scythed up the seam and wound up wide open down the near sideline, with Minshew lofting a pass to him. He caught the ball on the Houston 40-yard line and showcased his speed, dashing all the way to the 18-yard line before being tackled.

"It felt like it was in the air forever," Mallory said. "It felt like it was in slow motion. It was awesome. Just fortunate to have the opportunity to get out there and try to help the team. It was a cool moment. I just want to keep building on that." 

Mallory added a key catch on third down, hauling in a six-yard pass from Minshew in between two defenders inside Texans territory. Minshew threw a touchdown to tight end Kylen Granson a few plays later, just before halftime.

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