After a loss as demoralizing as the 6-0 defeat the Indianapolis Colts suffered at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, it would have come as no surprise for Indy to struggle against the Houston Texans with their playoff lives hanging in the balance.
Yet despite being held to just 82 yards through the first 22 minutes of football, the Colts showed exceptional calm and execution against the frontrunners in the AFC South. Against the fourth-best scoring defense in the league, the Colts made all the big plays down the stretch on both sides of the ball, picking up a massive win as they look to get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.
Once again, Andrew Luck was masterful in guiding the Colts to victory. While the stats speak for themselves–a pair of touchdowns on 399 yards passing–Luck’s improved escapability in the pocket and knack for extending plays made all the difference on Sunday afternoon.
On multiple occasions, Luck squeezed past J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to step up in the pocket and deliver strikes, including a pair of huge fourth quarter completions to T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. The Colts were held to just 50 yards rushing on 23 total carries, but the offensive line only conceded two sacks, and Luck scrambled around in a fashion reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers.
The defense was equally superb, sacking Deshaun Watson five times and allowing just 3.56 yards per carry while also holding DeAndre Hopkins to a paltry four receptions. Although the defensive unit has struggled at times, they sit in the middle of the league in terms of scoring defense, no small feat for a side that is still “rebuilding.”
After a 1-5 start, this is hardly a team any expected to have a shot at making the playoffs in mid-December.
And yet, the Colts stared down their toughest opponent of the season in Houston, and handed the Texans their first loss since Week 3, which is as telling an indicator as any that this team has a legitimate chance to be playing into 2019.
Heck, Ebron even set a franchise record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end while Hilton set the record for most 150-yard receiving yard games on the very same day:
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 9, 2018
And just as was the case on Sunday, the Colts seem to control their own destiny. At 7-6, they sit just behind the Baltimore Ravens for the last spot in the AFC Wild Card chase. The Ravens also sit at 7-6, but would win the spot over Indianapolis based on their superior winning percentage in conference games. However, the Ravens still have a tough matchup on the road against the Chargers in Week 16.
Not to mention, the Steelers only have a half-game lead in the AFC North and must face the Patriots and Saints in consecutive weeks, which could open the door further for Indianapolis.
The Colts are 4-2 at Lucas Oil Stadium this season, and they get the Cowboys and Giants at home before the regular season finale against the Titans on the road. Given the level of resilience the team showed in taking down one of the best teams in the conference, it is not unthinkable that they just might run the table.