The Colts gave "Throwback Thursday" a new meaning in this particular game. Matt Hasselbeck was dropping dimes, Andre Johnson was scoring touchdowns, Frank Gore was showing great burst on his runs, and Adam Vinatieri was perfect on his field goals. Are we sure that this is still 2015, or did we travel back in time to 2006?
There was major concern with Hasselbeck entering this contest. Andrew Luck was the one with the shoulder injury, but Hasselbeck spent time in a hospital on Tuesday morning with flu-like symptoms. A report by Stacy Dales prior to kickoff seemed to indicate that Hasselbeck may not make it through the entire game. Despite this, however, Hasselbeck was terrific. He fired sharp, accurate passes to his receivers and lofted some perfect throws to his targets for significant gains. A beautiful ball to Andre Johnson for 24 yards set up a touchdown, while a 43-yard bomb to T.Y. Hilton sealed the game at the very end.
Hasselbeck finished 18-of-29 for 213 yards and two touchdowns amid zero turnovers despite not practicing at all this week. His numbers could've been even better, but he suffered through a couple of drops. Houston's anemic defense had something to do with it, of course, but Hasselbeck played extremely well. He tearfully told Tracy Wolfson after the game that he had nothing left.
While Hasselbeck was great, the big story was Andre Johnson. The veteran receiver, making his return to Houston, had looked completely done through three games. He was targeted heavily, but could do nothing with those opportunities. It seemed like he would ultimately get phased out of the offense completely, but this resurgence came out of nowhere. Johnson reeled in six of the seven balls thrown to him for 77 yards and two touchdowns, including a big pick-up on fourth down. None of this was fluky; Johnson dominated, which has to be very promising for the Colts (and fantasy owners) going forward.
The third veteran I mentioned earlier, Gore ripped through Houston's defense, which once again had major issues versus the run. He nearly hit the century mark, going 98 yards and a touchdown on just 22 carries. He had some big lanes to run through, as the Colts did a good job neutralizing J.J. Watt. What they did was double team and chip Watt often. The other Texans should've stepped up, but it never happened.
Other Colts worth noting are T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Both dropped passes, but Hilton made up for it with five grabs for 88 yards, including the aforementioned 43-yarder at the end to seal the victory. Moncrief, on the other hand, never did much; his only catch went for three yards. His drop was costly, as it occurred on third down.
Indianapolis' veterans were the story for the Colts. The Texans, meanwhile, were all about the quarterback controversy. Ryan Mallett wasn't terrible to open the game, but he took a crushing blow early in the second quarter. Brian Hoyer stepped in and completed a couple of passes. Mallett, meanwhile, was cleared to play, but Bill O'Brien decided to keep Hoyer on the field. Mallett looked stunned at first, and then angry, and then upset. He slammed his helmet on the ground, then shook his head furiously, then had this look of utter disgust, even as the Texans were having success. And to top it off, Mallett ran into the locker room before the first half was over. As my picks podcast co-host Matvei texted, "He gets the Jay Cutler Award for sportsmanship."
Mallett wasn't done. He spent the entire second half looking miserable. The camera panned to him pouting on multiple occasions. Luck, meanwhile, was jumping up and down and high-fiving everyone. That's the difference between a great and an awful teammate. Then again, Luck is actually a professional quarterback. Mallett, who is likely to be permanently benched, barring injury, doesn't have much of an NFL future.
Hoyer did well overall. He went 24-of-31 for 312 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He made numerous great throws, and at one point, he completed 11 consecutive passes. He actually gave the Texans some life. Unfortunately, he made two terrible mistakes late in the fourth quarter. His first was overthrowing DeAndre Hopkins for a potential touchdown, while the second was an atrocious interception that he hurled while getting hit. It wasn't a fourth down, so Hoyer easily could have thrown it away. The camera caught O'Brien shouting, "Why did you do that!?" right after the pick was made.
As for Mallett's actual performance on the field, he was uncharacteristically accurate early on, though he did miss a throw. He went 7-of-10 for 50 yards and a pick, which was only partly his fault. The ball bounced off Arian Foster's hands, but Mallett should've put more touch on the ball. Mallett's play isn't why he'll be benched going forward; it's his horrible attitude and sportsmanship. How can a quarterback lead a team when he's actually visibly upset that his own team is winning?
Speaking of Foster, he had a very mixed game. He looked good early on, but was partly to blame for an early pick. He then took some negative plays. For example, he reversed field and was swallowed up for a loss of four. Foster then appeared to be concussed, but somehow snuck onto the field. The coaching staff finally noticed and took his helmet away. Foster was eventually cleared in the third quarter, but by then, the Colts were way ahead.
Foster managed just 41 yards on 19 carries, as rookie nose tackle David Parry did a surprisingly good job of clogging the run. Foster was more effective as a pass-catcher, hauling in nine balls for 77 receiving yards.
Hopkins had a huge evening. He snatched 11 passes for 169 yards. He also could've scored a touchdown, but Hoyer overthrew him. He's a stud, and it's amazing that he's posting these massive numbers despite his mediocre quarterbacking.
You may notice that Jaelen Strong scored twice. Pay no attention to that from a fantasy perspective. Those were Strong's only two receptions of the game, and one came on a fluky Hail Mary at the end of the first half. There was no one within 10 yards of Strong on the second score, thanks to a blown coverage.
The Texans appeared to be coached poorly in this game. They were extremely sloppy and were guilty of horrible penalties. There was a roughing-the-passer infraction on third-and-22, though that was a shaky call. Hopkins was whistled for taunting at one point. The worst sequence came on one drive when Houston was flagged for a face mask, a defensive hold that negated an interception, and one of the most obvious pass interferences you'll ever see.
Bengals XX, Seahawks XX
Chiefs XX, Bears XX
Falcons XX, Redskins XX
Ravens XX, Browns XX
Packers XX, Rams XX
Eagles XX, Saints XX
Buccaneers XX, Jaguars XX
Bills XX, Titans XX
Cardinals XX, Lions XX
Broncos XX, Raiders XX
Patriots XX, Cowboys XX
Giants XX, 49ers XX
Chargers XX, 49ers XX
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.