A look inside Houston's rout of the Colts
September, 11, 2011
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Dave EinselMatt Schaub, left, Andre Johnson and the Texans believe they're a playoff contender this season.HOUSTON -- They don’t want to act like they’ve been here before.
Because when the Houston Texans were here before, it proved pretty meaningless. Last year’s opening-day win against the Colts at Reliant Stadium didn’t translate to a playoff berth. It turned out to do little for the team in a lost season that finished 6-10.
This time around, they have reason to believe a 34-7 pounding of the Colts and a 1-0 start will be more relevant in the big picture.
Before they were finished talking about it, the team’s reminders about its center of attention has been altered.
Signs at both ends of the locker room and outside the team auditorium that said “One Focus” and featured a Colts’ helmet and the date and time of the opening game were taken down. In their places: New versions with details about the Dolphins.
Some players cautioned fans about running out to buy Super Bowl tickets, but defensive end Antonio Smith said he didn’t want to be an obstacle to anyone’s conviction.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “Everybody knows the best way to get to the playoffs is through your division. If we don’t play good in our division games, we can’t have dreams of the playoffs…
“We need as much belief as we can get. Faith and belief is the only way you’re going to get anywhere. So if our fans believe in us, if they have faith in us, then I think it can’t do anything but help us when you’ve got that much positive vibe. If you believe in us, buy away.”
More good perspective came from Andre Johnson, who let an early pass slip through his hands and turn into an interception, but still caught seven balls for 95 yards and a touchdown.
“No, I’m not afraid about being happy,” he said. “A win is a win. We were in this same situation last year… Our motto now is just trying to go 1-0 every week. That’s the way we approach it. We’re going to enjoy the win tonight, fix the mistakes we made tomorrow, and try to go 1-0 again next week.”
Before we move on to Texans-Dolphins, five observations out of the win against Indianapolis.
1) The defensive front will face better offensive lines and have tougher times. But the group, newly shaped into a 3-4, was dominant. It hit Kerry Collins seven times, sacked him three times, forced three fumbles (one was a dropped snap), recovered two and generally allowed Collins very few comfortable snaps.
“They are as good a front seven as we’ll play this whole year,” Collins said. “We have to do better at diagnosing it, picking it up and getting rid of the ball.”
Smith and Mario Williams were especially active and drew praise from the defense’s architect, coordinator Wade Phillips.
“Obviously it was a good start for us,” an understated but proud Phillips said. “The effort was great, I thought, and our execution was pretty good. You have to be pleased, especially with 34-0 at the half. We felt like we had to come out strong against that team who had adversity with their quarterback.”
AP Photo/Eric GayJ.J. Watt, 99, and the Texans' front seven made life difficult for Kerry Collins and the Colts.
Smith said he often had the hard count the Colts tried to employ figured out.
“I don’t know if a veteran quarterback like that really gets rattled,” he said. “But I know he felt our pain. I know every time we hit him we tried to make him feel that.”
2) The defense was very clearly the weak element of the 2010 team.
But there is no holdover in terms of anyone on the team thinking anything but all-for-one-and-one-for-all, according to center Chris Myers.
“When they are getting great plays, the whole offense is on the field before they can even come off the field,” Myers said. “Same thing with the defense. It’s something we’ve been able to preach the whole preseason: We have each other’s backs no matter what. It’s shown this week and we’ll go from here.”
3) A year ago, the opening day win against the Colts was a big breakout game for Arian Foster, who ran for 231 yards. This year, with Foster out with a hamstring injury and Derrick Ward lost during the game to a knee injury, Ben Tate stepped up and produced 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
“The line played outstanding today, and the tight ends really did a nice job on the edge and opened up holes,” quarterback Matt Schaub said. “We have a good solid group of backs. Derrick really played well and then when Ben was in there, he’s a great guy who can read the one cut, make his move, get down hill and get yards and make a guy miss. We saw that today and it was good to see him play that way.”
4) One game does not a return-game turnaround make, but boy would a year of threatening kick and punt returns be a big addition. Jacoby Jones went 79 yards for a touchdown after Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff 46 yards.
Jones’ value on offense just went up with Kevin Walter’s serious shoulder injury. Can Gary Kubiak continue to put him at risk on special teams when the team is thin at wide receiver?
5) The Texans didn’t appear to think for a second about last year’s slow-starting offense when their second play from scrimmage was the Schaub pass that went through Johnson’s hands and wound up picked off by Melvin Bullitt.
These Texans showed resolve, as the defense stalled Indy with the first of Williams’ two sacks, and the offense marched 73 yards in 13 plays for a field goal to open the scoring.