AFC South: 2012 Week 14 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 42, Texans 14

December, 10, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 42-14 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium:

What it means: The Texans suffered their second loss of the season and now stand at 11-2. While they still control both the AFC South and home-field advantage in the AFC, they’ve also created a scenario where the Colts also have control over the outcome of the division. The Texans and Colts play each other twice in the next three weeks. If the Colts win their final three games, they, not the Texans, will win the AFC South.

What I didn’t like: It’s a long list. With a chance to tie the game at 7-7, Matt Schaub threw a pick to Devin McCourty in the end zone early in the first quarter. The Texans allowed Tom Brady to drive the Patriots and throw touchdown passes on New England’s first three possessions and never did anything from there to make it feel like they could come back. The offensive line allowed a bunch of hits on Schaub. The defensive line didn’t do enough to disrupt Brady. The Texans forced two fumbles near their goal line but watched the Patriots recover both, one in the end zone. They didn't show any mental toughness and didn't look to have a plan to keep up. At all.

Coverage issues: His hamstring and/or groin may still be a factor, but cornerback Johnathan Joseph again didn’t play like a top defensive back. He was hardly alone. Glover Quin bit on a fake and allowed a 37-yard touchdown catch by Brandon Lloyd behind him. Young corner Brandon Harris got worked by Donte Stallworth on a 63-yard touchdown where he should have at least been able to tackle him after the catch. The front didn't rush well enough to help the secondary survive against Brady.

What I want to know: What message does Gary Kubiak send his team by giving up in the fourth quarter? The Texans were huddling on offense and running it a bunch at that stage, acknowledging they couldn’t mount any sort of surprise rally. Why not take a knee?

MVP talk: I thought J.J. Watt would have a big chance to make an impression on award voters with a big game, enhancing his candidacy for NFL Defensive Player of the Year and even making a bid for MVP. He made some plays, including forcing a fumble, but didn’t play to his usual standards. It was Brady who did the most to bolster an MVP bid.

What’s next: The Texans host the Colts in a giant AFC South game. If they win, they’ll be division champs. If Indianapolis wins, the Colts will remain alive for the division crown.

Rapid Reaction: Colts 27, Titans 23

December, 9, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- Thoughts on the Colts’ 27-23 win over the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts ensured a winning season, moving to 9-4 and staying in ideal position for an AFC wild-card berth. They are still in play for the division title and would benefit if the Texans lose Monday night in New England. The Titans assured themselves of a losing season, falling to 4-9. They have yet to win a game in the AFC South and have only one more chance -- on the last day of the regular season against Jacksonville.

What I liked: The Colts’ ability to come from behind, as has so often been the case. They were down 20-7 at the half and rallied to take leads of 21-20 and 24-23. Andrew Luck was under all kinds of pressure and made some mistakes, including a big pick-six to Will Witherspoon (that looked to have been aided by a missed call). But once again, he engineered the drives the Colts needed. And the defense produced as well, with a crucial interception and 3-yard return for a score by Cassius Vaughn and another pick from Darius Butler, which just about sealed the result.

What I didn’t like: Referee Pete Morelli and his crew didn’t have a great day. I felt like they let defensive backs get away with being handsy on receivers often -- particularly on early third-quarter Colts throws to Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery and a Titans pass for Nate Washington a bit later. Bigger than that was Witherspoon’s second-quarter 40-yard interception return. Luck should have swallowed it, but as he was being taken down by Derrick Morgan he tried to throw it and put it right in Witherspoon’s gut. When a very good freeze frame finally was shown -- and showed Luck with a knee down and the ball still in his hand -- Morelli had already ruled that the play stood.

What I didn’t like, Titans: Following a disastrous outing against Houston last week, Jake Locker played a really nice first half for Tennessee, hitting on 15 of 20 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. But he threw a terrible pass for Washington coming out of his own end zone that Vaughn jumped for a score, then threw behind Washington to Butler for a pick that set up Adam Vinatieri’s 40-yard field goal that made it 27-23 with 3:48 to play.

Injury issues: The Colts lost center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winston Justice (biceps) during the game, and neither returned. That put reserves A.Q. Shipley and Jeff Linkenbach on the field. Running backs Delone Carter and Robert Hughes couldn’t finish, which left Vick Ballard as the lone healthy back for much of the second half. Inside linebacker Kavell Conner suffered a hamstring injury on a late special-teams play. For the Titans, tight end Jared Cook didn’t finish.

What’s next: The Colts finally face the Texans with a trip to Reliant Stadium to face the division leaders for the first of two meetings in three weeks. Tennessee hosts the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."