INDIANAPOLIS — Two groups that mixed for seven wins final season proved how far forward of schedule their rebuilds are by enjoying for a playoff berth Saturday evening, and the Houston Texans did not need to accept an ethical victory.
A fourth-down stand with 1:03 left secured a 23-19 victory over the Indianapolis Colts as Houston heads to the playoffs. The Texans would be the AFC South champs if the Jacksonville Jaguars lose on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
It capped an incredible common season for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans, however it additionally confirmed the Colts are on monitor below their first-year head coach, Shane Steichen.
In coaching camp, the Texans mentioned they’d shock the world, and qualifying for the playoffs in Ryans’ first 12 months as coach backed up the prediction.
Stroud’s poise belied his inexperience as he was enjoying in his first prime-time NFL recreation and the stakes have been win or go house.
The rookie engineered a 12-play, 73-yard scoring drive within the fourth quarter to place the Texans up for good. He was 7-of-7 for 82 yards on the drive
Because of this, the Texans are going to the playoffs for the primary time since 2019. This was Stroud and Ryans’ first season collectively, and so they captured 10 regular-season wins after three final season.
QB breakdown: Stroud confirmed why he is the favourite to win Offensive Rookie of the Yr. The primary play of Houston’s first drive was Stroud’s 59-yard go to Nico Collins for a 75-yard landing, and Stroud continued the efficient day throwing for 264 yards and two touchdowns . He crossed the 4,000-yard mark, changing into the fifth rookie in NFL historical past to achieve that milestone.
Describe the Texans’ recreation in two phrases: Nico Collins. The Texans have been with out their No. 2, 3 and 4 receivers and wanted Collins to hold the passing recreation. He completed with 9 catches for 195 yards (Houston had a complete of 264) and a TD. Collins completed with the very best share of reception yards (74%) in a recreation in Texans historical past (with a minimal of 200 passing yards).
Pivotal play: The Colts have been dealing with a fourth-and-one from the Texans’ 15 with 1:06 remaining within the recreation. As a substitute of operating Jonathan Taylor, who was banged up earlier within the recreation with heel and ankle points, Gardner Minshew threw to operating again Tyler Goodson, however Goodson dropped it, successfully sealing the result. — DJ Bien-Aime
The Colts got here away from this recreation understanding they have been forward of schedule of their reboot from final season and effectively on their method towards taking one other step in 2024.
That they have been enjoying in a significant recreation in Week 18 mentioned fairly a bit about how far they’ve come from a four-win season. What Saturday evening revealed, nevertheless, is that they have extra work to do. The dearth of depth within the secondary was uncovered. The broad receivers and tight ends made minimal impression and the tackling was shoddy.
However the Colts and Steichen must be a workforce to be reckoned with, even after a disappointing loss.
Largest gap within the recreation plan: Defensively, the Colts made some potential miscalculations. They arguably waited too lengthy to combine issues up, just like the well timed blitz defensive coordinator Gus Bradley known as for from security/linebacker Ronnie Harrison Jr. within the fourth quarter that led to a sack of Stroud. When Stroud is comfy within the pocket, hassle tends to comply with for the protection.
Pivotal play: Stroud hit Collins for a 75-yard landing on the Texans’ first play from scrimmage, a play that laid naked the Colts’ deep points within the secondary. Personnel modifications associated to accidents have eroded the depth, and the shortage of security assist (there have been two safeties lined up deep on the play) for rookie cornerback JuJu Brents on the deep ball steered somebody blew a protection.
Eye-popping Subsequent Gen stat: The Colts produced 167 of their 227 speeding yards earlier than contact, averaging 4.5 yards earlier than contact on every rush. That manufacturing got here in opposition to a Houston protection that allowed, on common, 1.6 yards earlier than contact per rush this season — the most effective mark within the NFL. Taylor turned within the second-biggest efficiency of his profession with 188 speeding yards. — Stephen Holder