To kick off the 2018 NFL playoffs, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts traveled deep into the heart of Texas to face Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans.
The Colts were the underdogs on the road, despite winning nine of their last ten and beating Houston head to head the last time the two teams played, which happened to be in Houston. Houston was coming into the game with an 11-5 record, their best record with Bill O’Brien at the helm.
The Colts started off fast, led by T.Y. Hilton. Hilton torched the Texans defense on the opening drive, picking up a crucial third down and followed it up with another big pass play. The Colts then cashed in with an Eric Ebron touchdown, gaining a lead they would never surrender.
Marlon Mack ran for a touchdown on Indy’s second drive, which put Houston in an early 14-0 hole. Watson’s answer? A terrible interception, thrown to DB Kenny Brown, giving the ball back to Luck.
Luck eventually threw a pick off a deflected pass by J.J. Watt, but Watson and company couldn’t do anything with it. Luck proceeded to throw another touchdown midway through the second, which proved to be the last Indy scoring drive.
Houston’s lone scoring drive came throughout most of the fourth, with Keke Coutee on the receiving end of a Watson pass. After a review, the touchdown stood.
Aside from the scoring drives, the teams kept trading punts for the most part. The turnover battle was even, but Mack’s 100 plus rushing yards loomed large as the Colts were able to eat clock with their rushing attack.
The real difference in the game was in the trenches. The Colts’ offensive line manhandled a Houston pass rush featuring Watt, JaDeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus. Quentin Nelson and co. were able to create running lanes at will.
For the Texans, the struggles continue as they search for answers. Bill O’Brien deserves to be on the hot seat despite his regular season successes, as the excuse for him for years had been the absence of a quarterback. With Watson, it was assumed that they would see playoff success, but they will have to wait at least another year,
The Colts meanwhile, are on the opposite path. They started 1-5, and Frank Reich is making a late push for Coach of the Year because of the way he has brought together a relative collection of castoffs and unknowns. The Colts are young and hungry, and they move on to face Patrick Mahomes and the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs next Saturday.