A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Texans Game
COLTS (5-4) vs. TEXANS (3-6)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (78-27, 85-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (132-69, 141-78 including playoffs).
Texans – Gary Kubiak, third season as Texans and NFL head coach (17-24).
Colts – 5-4, 2nd in AFC South.
Texans – 3-6, 4th in AFC South.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Texans – Never.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, 22nd (310.8 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (69.2 ypg); Passing, 8th (241.6 ypg); Defense – Overall, 15th (324.8 yards per game); Rushing, 24th (133.8 ypg); Passing, 7th (191.0 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 5th (371.7 yards per game); Rushing, 17th (107.3 ypg); Passing, 4th (264.3 ypg); Defense – Overall, 19th (329.3 yards per game); Rushing, 23rd (130.7 ypg); Passing, 14th (198.7 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (204-334 completions, 2,248 yards, 61.1 pct., 15 TD, 9 INT, 84.8 passer rating).
Texans – Matt Schaub (154-227 completions, 1,762 yards, 67.8 pct., 10 TD, 8 INT, 91.0 passer rating); Sage Rosenfels (65-100 completions, 764 yards, 65.0 pct., 4 TD, 6 INT, 76.4 passer rating).
Colts – Dominic Rhodes (80 carries, 290 yards, 4 TD); Joseph Addai (91 carries, 282 yards, 3 TD).
Texans – Steve Slaton (124 carries, 545 yards, 5 TD); Ahman Green (52 carries, 238 yards, 1 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (49 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (38 receptions, 428 yards, 2 TD); Dallas Clark (34 receptions, 415 yards, 3 TD); Marvin Harrison (30 receptions, 357 yards, 3 TD).
Texans – Andre Johnson (67 receptions, 900 yards, 3 TD); Owen Daniels (44 receptions, 541 yards, 2 TD); Kevin Walter (37 receptions, 495 yards, 6 TD); Steve Slaton (32 receptions, 198 yards, 1 TD).
Colts – Dwight Freeney (5), Robert Mathis (5).
Texans – Mario Williams (8).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, after back-to-back double-digit road losses, have won two consecutive games against AFC division leaders to solidify their position in the AFC playoff chase. The Colts lost at Green Bay (34-14) and Tennessee (31-21) beating New England (18-15) at home, then rallying from a 10-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh (24-20) this past Sunday.
Texans – The Texans, after winning three consecutive games to move to within a game of .500, have lost back-to-back games, losing at Minnesota 28-21 last week, then losing to the Ravens at home Sunday. It was their first home loss since they squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against Indianapolis in Week 5.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"We're playing a little bit better. We've played three really good teams in the last three weeks, and had three good performances, which we hadn't really had those good performances back to back. I think we're practicing better. We just have to now make that show up in the game situation."
--- Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
"That game (a 31-27 Colts victory over the Texans in October) is over. It was over a long time ago. I've put that out of my mind. What that game I guess does is give me confidence. I feel like I played for the most part pretty well last time against these guys, and that gives me confidence to go out there and try to do that again, but just finish the game and hopefully the outcome will be reversed of what it was last time."
--- Texans Quarterback Sage Rosenfels
The Texans, one season after finishing .500 or better for the first time in franchise history, this season have faced one of the NFL's most difficult sets of circumstances.
They started the season with three consecutive road games because of Hurricane Ike, and after losses in each of those games, they returned home to Reliant Stadium to play the Colts on October 5. The Texans that day held a 27-10 lead with five minutes remaining, but lost, 31-27, as the Colts became the first team in NFL history to win a game in regulation in which they trailed by 17 or more points with less than five minutes remaining.
Houston then won three consecutive games before losing its last two, but over the last two months, they have developed into one of the NFL's top, young offensive teams.
Andre Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has continued to emerge as one of the NFL's top wide receivers, and the Texans scored 27 or more points in five consecutive games in one stretch this season.
Johnson leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards with 67 and 900, and even with quarterback Matt Schaub out with an injury this past week, he caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Baltimore this past Sunday.
Schaub sustained a knee injury in a 28-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on November 2, and is expected to miss at least another three games.
"They have suffered from bad breaks at the quarterback position," Colts President Bill Polian said. "(Matt) Schaub has been in and out of the lineup. (Sage) Rosenfels has been in and out of the lineup.
"They have not been able to develop any real consistency there and that has hurt them some."
Rosenfels, starting against the Baltimore Ravens this past week, threw four interceptions – two of which led to touchdowns – and the Ravens pulled away from a tight game in the fourth quarter.
The Texans also feature what Polian called one of the top pass-rushing defensive lines in the NFL, a line that includes defensive end Mario Williams and defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.
"They're very capable of winning any game they play," Polian said. "They were in the game (Sunday). They got into trouble with turnovers and some big plays that Baltimore was able to come up with that made that game look as though it was a blowout when in reality it was really close for about three quarters.
"They're more than capable. They'll be coming in here figuring this is a way to make a statement in the AFC South and they would be right to think that."
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis versus Texans offensive tackles Duane Brown and Eric Winston. Brown was the Texans' first-round selection in this past April's NFL Draft, and as a duo, Brown and Winston have helped the offensive line allow just 22 sacks. That's down from past seasons, when the Texans historically have allowed some of the NFL's highest sacks totals. The Colts' pass rush went three games without a sack, but Freeney – a three-time Pro Bowl selection – had two in the Colts' victory over the Steelers Sunday and the duo has combined for 10 sacks this season.
• Colts running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes versus Texans middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Not a true one-on-one matchup, but the Colts – as they have in recent weeks – likely will focus on trying to improve their run offense Sunday. Having played some of the NFL's toughest run defenses – Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Tennessee – they are averaging 69.2 yards a game rushing, which is 32nd in the NFL. They are on pace to rush for the fewest yards per game by an NFL team since 2000. No team has made the playoffs finishing last in the NFL in rushing since the New England Patriots in 1986. The Texans have allowed 130.7 yards rushing per game this season and the Colts have yet to have a 100-yard rusher in nine games.
• Colts cornerbacks versus Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. The Colts have sustained a series of injuries in the secondary, with starter Marlin Jackson on injured reserve and starter Kelvin Hayden missing the last five games with a knee injury. Keiwan Ratliff, signed as a free agent 10 days ago, has started the last two games, and Tim Jennings – who started the season at nickelback – has started the last five games. Each player had a key interception in the Colts' victory over Pittsburgh. Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, leads the NFL in receptions and yards receiving. He caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown in the first Colts-Texans meeting this season.
TEXANS IN REVIEW
The Texans have had a season of ups and downs, with the last two weeks a down cycle.
They opened the season with three consecutive road games, losing the first two by wide margins before an overtime loss in Jacksonville in Week 3. They then returned home to play the Colts in the first of four consecutive home games.
They lost 31-27 to Indianapolis, but a three-game winning streak over Miami, Detroit and Cincinnati pulled the Texans back into the back end of the playoff chase. They then traveled to Minnesota, where they lost, 28-21, for their fourth loss in as many road games, before playing the Ravens tough for three quarters of a 41-13 loss this past Sunday.
Houston entered the fourth quarter trailing, 19-13, before the Ravens pulled away. Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels, playing in place of injured starting quarterback Matt Schaub, threw two of his four interceptions on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives. Both interceptions led directly to touchdowns.
The Texas are one of the NFL's most-improved running teams this season. Historically, that should come as little surprise. Houston this past offseason hired longtime NFL offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, one of the NFL's top line coaches and coach known for running offense. The last time Gibbs took a new job – in Atlanta in 2004 – the Falcons' running offense improved by 72 yards a game. The time before that – in Denver in 1995 – the Broncos' running offense improved by 32.8 yards a game. He also was the offensive line coach in Denver when Broncos running back Terrell Davis rushed for more than 2,000 yards in 1998. The Texans rushed for 91.3 yards a game last season. This season, they are averaging 107.3 yards a game rushing.
The Colts and Texans have met 13 times since the Texans' 2002 inception, meeting twice a season as members of the AFC South. The Colts, who lead the series, 12-1, won the first nine meetings between the teams, a streak that was snapped in December 2006 when the Texans beat the Colts, 27-24, at Reliant Stadium in the second-to-last game of the season. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown 31 touchdown passes and five interceptions against Houston and has a passer rating of 118.4 in the series. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison has six 100-yard games against the Texans and wide receiver Reggie Wayne has caught 17 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns in the teams' last two meetings. The Colts beat the Texans, 20-17, in the 2003 regular-season finale to clinch the first of their five consecutive AFC South titles.
On October 5, 2008, the Colts scored 21 points in a late fourth-quarter span of 2:10 for a 31-27 victory over the Texans in front of 70,118 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Colts forced three turnovers in the game's final four minutes Sunday, scoring on a defensive touchdown and two touchdown passes by eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for a 101.0 passer rating. The Colts trailed, 27-10, after Texans rookie running back Steve Slaton's 1-yard run with 8:18 remaining. Indianapolis still trailed, 27-17, after Manning passed six yards to rookie tight end Tom Santi with 4:04 remaining. Following an unsuccessful onside kick, Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett returned a fumble by Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels 68 yards for a touchdown with 3:36 remaining. On the Texans' next series, Rosenfels scrambled to his left and Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sacked him from behind, stripping the ball away and recovering the fumble. Two plays later, Manning threw a fade pass to two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne (seven receptions, 97 yards), who touched his shin down just in bounds for a 31-27 Colts lead. One minute, 54 seconds remained, and on the sixth play of the ensuing drive, Colts second-year safety Melvin Bullitt intercepted Rosenfels to preserve the victory.