Thu, 02 Dec 2021

5 Things to Watch: Texans at Colts | Week 6

Houston Texans
17 Oct 2021, 18:02 GMT+10

Drew Dougherty

The Texans (1-4) hit the road this weekend for a Week 6 matchup with the Colts (1-4). The AFC South rivals are squaring off for the first time this season and will meet again at NRG Stadium in Week 13 on December 5. Here are five things to watch when they kick off at noon CT inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

1) Do It Again, Davis - QB Davis Mills was excellent against the Patriots after a rocky outing the week before in Buffalo. Three touchdown passes, zero interceptions and a completion rate of 72.4 percent were some of his key numbers from the contest. Mills explained what was different.

"Big thing, obviously, just protecting the football," Mills said. "When you're not turning the ball over, you have a chance to win the game when it comes down to it. So, that was the biggest step, just making smart decisions and giving my team a chance."

WR Brandin Cooks was also encouraged, and not surprised by, the progress he saw from the rookie signal-caller.

"Like I've said before, he's growing every day, every week and every game that he gets a chance to go out there and play," Cooks said. "You continue to see him get better and learn from the little things and come out and practice and work on them. He's going to continue to grow, and he has the right mindset for sure."

On the season, Mills has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 669 yards, with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Colts pass defense has allowed a league-worst 15 touchdown passes this season. They've also tallied three interceptions.

2) Spark Up the Run - The Texans running backs combined last Sunday to average 2.8 yards per rush attempt. The run game has struggled mightily in all four losses this year while being successful in the lone victory. Offensive Coordinator Tim Kelly believes the ingredients are in place for the rushing attack to get going.

"Some of it's there, some of it's play design, some of it's upfront, some of it's with the back," Kelly said. "Until we can get everybody on the same page and executing at a high level, we're not going to get the results we want."

Charlie Heck, who started at right tackle last Sunday, and will likely do so again at Indianapolis, echoed Kelly and also attributed the lack of success to self-inflicted wounds.

"A lot of it is we are being our own enemy," Heck said. "We're not really able to get into a rhythm because of penalties, pre-snap stuff, lining up wrong. I think once we eliminate that, we will be able to really get into a rhythm and get the run game going."

Pro Bowl LT Laremy Tunsil will miss this contest after undergoing a mid-week thumb surgery, so Geron Christian will likely be the player who fills in. Christian took over for Tunsil after the latter suffered the injury last Sunday.

3) Contain Taylor - Colts RB Jonathan Taylor is a threat on the ground and in the passing game. In three of the five Colts contests this season, the second-year back has 100 yards or more from scrimmage.

On Monday night at Baltimore, he caught a screen pass on the Colts' third offensive play and took it 76 yards for a touchdown. He finished the evening with three catches for a team-best 116 yards in the loss and also ran 15 times for 53 yards and another score.

DL Jonathan Greenard entered the NFL last season like Taylor and has always been impressed with the running back.

"He's very decisive, very patient at times," Greenard said. "He's pretty much an all-around back. He's everything you can ask for, for a Colts running back. He kind of fits that scheme. We've got our work cut out for us. We've got to definitely get all 11 hats to the ball."

On the year, Taylor's averaged 4.5 yards per carry and has caught 14 passes for an average of 14.1 yards per catch.

"He's special now," Colts QB Carson Wentz said. "He's dynamic out in space. You saw that on the screenplay. He caught a ball out of the backfield on a shallow route. He can do more than just your standard downhill run game. He's dynamic and a big part of what we do."

4) Does Hilton Have It? - Colts WR T.Y. Hilton was placed on IR in early September with a neck injury, but on Wednesday, he returned to practice. He remains on IR but could be added to the active roster for Sunday. His return has boosted the spirits of his coaches and teammates, as they've seen his heroics against the Texans over the course of the last decade.

Hilton has played 18 regular-season games against Houston in his career, with 97 catches for 1,718 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. The Colts have won 12 times versus the Texans. If he's added back to the mix before game time, he's one more weapon--and a potent one at that--for QB Carson Wentz. Despite the absence over the last month or so, Wentz isn't worried about whether or not Hilton can come in and contribute immediately.

"We all know how hard he's been working," Wentz said. "Whether he's out at practice or not, we know how hard he's been working through rehab and everything. Physically, I'm hoping; I'm optimistic. I think everybody is hoping he can be out there, but mentally, he's still dialed in. He's a smart, savvy veteran. So, if he can go, I'm not worried about where he's at mentally or any of that stuff."

Hilton wouldn't say whether or not he'd suit up Sunday.

"That's up to the docs," Hilton said. "I've got to get my legs back under me. I've got to pass some tests. So, just cause I'm practicing doesn't mean I'm playing. I'm just out there giving this team the boost that we need."

Hilton caught 12 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Texans in 2020.

5) Clean Up Mistakes - Two weeks ago, 10 penalties for 100 yards crippled the Texans offense in a blowout loss at Buffalo. Last week at home against the Patriots, some special teams gaffes were harmful in a close defeat versus New England. The Texans missed a pair of extra-point tries, had a kickoff go out of bounds, and saw their first punt go for zero yards. In a game that was decided by a late field goal, those mistakes were costly.

Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross said the fix isn't overly complicated.

"It's going to come down to two things: technique and fundamentals," Ross said. "So, as we continue to do that, as we continue to play fast, play aggressive, find ways to attack, it's all great, can draw up a million things on paper, got to go out and play with fundamentals and technique."

Ross, who coached in Indianapolis the last three seasons, shared his thoughts on the Colts special teams.

"We're going up against a very, very good special teams unit," Ross said. "They're well-coached. They have guys that have been in their core four, playing and developing. That is their developmental engine of the team in Indianapolis. You see guys grow, growing from undrafted free agent special teams types of players into offensive and defensive players."

Indianapolis had its share of struggles on Monday Night Football, though. One field goal attempt was blocked, and the Colts missed another late in regulation. Further, their K Rodrigo Blankenship will miss the game with a hip injury, so practice squad K Michael Badgley was signed to the active roster.

The next time you can see the Texans at NRG Stadium will be on October 31 as they host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8. Kickoff is set for noon CT. Click here for tickets.

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