HOUSTON – The Indianapolis Colts came into NRG Stadium and rolled to a commanding 21-7 victory over the Houston Texans on Saturday in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs.
A game-opening scoring drive set the tone for a 21-point first half for Andrew Luck and Co., who never looked back. The Texans made a brief late charge but fizzled.
Here are three things we learned Saturday.
1. Disappointing matchup
You were expecting a close game, right? Everyone was because of how things played out between these division rivals this season. Houston won the first meeting 37-34 in overtime, and Indianapolis won the next 24-21. Vegas pegged the Colts as 1 1/2-point underdogs entering Saturday’s tilt.
So, what happened? The experience factor. The intensity level raises in the postseason, and Deshaun Watson looked just like quarterback making his first playoff appearance. He was pressing early and it took him too long to settle in. Meanwhile, Luck (3-3 in the postseason) looked relaxed from start to finish. His recognition of the Texans’ defensive tendencies was evident by the way he directed traffic, changed plays, anticipated pressures and responded accordingly. His numbers: 19-for-32 for 222 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts fed off of their quarterback.
Watson got a little help from his defense when they recorded an interception off of a deflected pass when the Colts were in scoring position in the first half. And the Texans largely held Indy in check in the second half. But the offense couldn’t step up. Coaching experience didn’t, however, come into play. Bill O’Brien (in his fifth season) was outdone by first-year coach Frank Reich, who helped the Eagles to the Super Bowl last year as offensive coordinator.
2. Too many people been sleeping on Luck
Because of his dazzling, wire-to-wire coming out party (5,381 yards, 50 touchdowns, 13 interceptions), Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the favorite to win MVP honors. But Luck (4,593 yards, 39 touchdowns, 15 INTs) probably should have seriously been in that conversation. When you consider the Colts’ 4-12 2017 record without Luck and the 10-6 turnaround he orchestrated this season (winning nine of the last 10 games), his value and impact are undeniable. Sure, he’ll get comeback player of the year honors. But he’s deserving of more.
3. Headed to Kansas City
Speaking of Mahomes, Luck will get a chance to engage in a shootout with the second-year pro. But it’s the Colts’ defense that actually will beresponsible for holding Mahomes in check. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ defense will have a lot of pressure on them as well. This season they ranked 31st in the league, surrendering an average of 421 yards a game, and 24 in points (26.3 per contest). But Indianapolis ranks 10th in points allowed (21.5) and 11th in yards (339.4).
Meanwhile, Houston’s journey ends here, but the Texans have a bright future. The turnaround from 4-12 to 11-5 was impressive. Watson displayed great growth in his first full season. But the Texans have to upgrade his supporting cast. Houston needs to further upgrade its offensive line after surrendering a league-high 62 sacks.
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.