The very first series of Sunday night's Colts-Texans game served as a harbinger of the first three quarters, and a microcosm of Houston's season to date. Lamar Miller ripped off a 12-yard run and then Brock Osweiler was asked to attempt a forward pass on three straight dropbacks. The results? The first should have been intercepted, the second was overthrown in DeAndre Hopkins' general direction and the third resulted in a strip-sack courtesy of Robert Mathis. Miraculously, Houston recovered the fumble.
That proved to be the highlight of the first 45 minutes because Osweiler, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in March to be the Texans' franchise quarterback, continues to play like one of the league's worst passers. And it's not like he was asked to succeed, say, Peyton Manning. He's following in the illustrious footsteps of Ryan Mallett, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, who combined for some pretty dreadful football a season ago.
But through six games, Osweiler looks a lot like his predecessors. In fact, according to Football Outsiders, Osweiler ranks 28th among all passers, ahead of only Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill.
Fun fact: Hoyer, who is now the starter in Chicago with Jay Cutler sidelined with a thumb injury, ranks fourth. Fourth!
But -- and this is important, even if it doesn't mean much beyond this game -- Osweiler pulled it together late in the fourth quarter, throwing a game-tying laser to C.J. Fiedorowicz and dropping a dime to Jaelen Strong on the Texans' first drive in overtime that set up the winning field goal.
Maybe this is what Osweiler needs -- a few confidence-building throws to turn his season around. Or maybe he's exactly who he was for the first five weeks. Whatever, a bad Texans team outlasted an even worse Colts outfit to somehow move to 4-2 and remain in first place in the AFC South. Indy falls to 2-4, good for last place in the worst division in football.
Here are eight takeaways in the Texans' improbable 26-23 win.
1. The Colts aren't exactly setting the world on fire...
... unless we're talking dumpster fire or self-immolation. FO ranks them 27th in the league, though Andrew Luck might think that's too high for an offensive line that couldn't block anybody for much of the evening. As has happened often this season, Luck was running for his life, and by overtime, he looked like he was seeing ghosts.
And while the defense was bend-but-don't-break for 50 minutes or so, they ultimately played a non-trivial role in the outcome, blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. But don't worry, general manager Ryan Grigson has a perfectly good explanation.
Grigson: "When you pay Andrew (Luck) what we did, it's going to take some time to build on the other side of the ball."— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 7, 2016
This is the same Ryan Grigson who was given a contract extension in January. This seems like a good time to resurface those comments from Reggie Wayne about why the Colts are struggling.
"A lot of people are wanting to criticize Andrew Luck instead of really in my opinion going after what the big problem is," Wayne said during an Oct. 5 appearance on NFL Network. "I think that big problem is a lot of the front office decisions."
2. So what are the Texans going to do about Osweiler?
There are no style points for winning and there's plenty to be concerned about if you're coach Bill O'Brien. The options behind Osweiler include Tom Savage and Weeden, but that's not really the point. The Texans identified Osweiler as the future, and in the first month and a half, he has been mostly a disappointment. His struggles can be traced to inaccuracy, which manifests itself in incompletions and interceptions. And the interceptions usually come when he tries to force the ball to Hopkins.
Here's one of the worst throws Osweiler made Sunday night, and it came deep in Texans territory:
A few plays later, the Colts scored a touchdown, seemingly putting the game out of reach. It was Osweiler's eighth pick in six games. A season ago, he had six picks in seven starts.
Here are comments Osweiler made earlier this month, but they hold now, weeks later.
"I wouldn't call it trying to force the ball to [Hopkins]," he explained at the time. "I would call it I need to make a more accurate throw. There is a fine line of do you try to force your No. 1 wide receiver the football? But in those cases I don't think we were forcing anything, I just think I need to make better decisions and throw more accurate footballs."
Words to live by. And those better decisions came moments later.
Brock Osweiler's night:— Brad Gagnon (@Brad_Gagnon) October 17, 2016
First 52 minutes: 12 for 24, 102 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Last 15 minutes: 13 for 15, 167 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
3. This is a big-boy throw
Here's the Osweiler touchdown that cut the Colts' lead to one point with seconds left in regulation:
4. So was John Elway onto something?
Look, Elway wanted to re-sign Osweiler, and no amount of revisionist history can change that. But he also wasn't going to overpay for a young quarterback who was replacement level a year ago. So when he says things like, "A lot of times those deals you don't make are the best ones," there's some truth to it, even if he was smirking when he said it.
Osweiler started 1 of 4, then 2 of 8, and he was 7 of 17 for 64 yards at halftime. He finished 25 of 39 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. But his backfield mate was even more impressive. Which brings us to this ...
5. Lamar Miller is legit
After three quarters, Osweiler had 89 passing yards; Miller had 112 rushing yards. Put differently: Miller was the Texans' most dangerous offensive weapon, even if O'Brien was hesitant to use him early. Yes, Hopkins should hold that distinction, but he's reliant on his quarterback consistently being able to complete a pass 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Of course, the great irony is that once Osweiler stopped forcing the ball to Hopkins, he found it easier to throw completions.
Miller finished with 149 rushing yards on 24 carries, and he added another 29 receiving yards, including this, which cut the Colts' lead to seven points:
To recap: Once the Texans starting leaning on Miller, the offense started moving the ball. Funny how that works.
6. Frank Gore rushed for 100 yards ... twice
This sounds about right: Gore eclipsed the century mark!
For the first time since Dec. 16, 2012, the Colts have a 100-yard rusher. Congratulations to Ryan Grigson.— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) October 17, 2016
And then he was tackled for a loss ...
Frank Gore just lost 100 yards. Only the Colts. Only them.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) October 17, 2016
And then Gore surpassed the century mark again!
Gore has 100 again. His second 100-yard game of the season :)— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) October 17, 2016
7. A child actor led the Colts in receiving
We're not even kidding. Chester Rogers four catches for 63 yards.
In a recent interview with the Indianapolis Star, Rogers talked about his acting career: "I was actually in four movies. I was in Madea's Family Reunion, Constellation with Billy Dee Williams and Gabrielle Union, Re-Animated on Cartoon Network and I was in Dirty with Cuba Gooding, Jr. ...
"It was cool, but a lot of people don't realize that for every 'yes' you get, you get a whole lot of 'nos.' Like I got cast to play Chris Rock on Everybody Hates Chris. But then they recast the family on the show and it fell through. Then I was supposed to have a role in House of Pain. I got the role, signed a contract, got ready to move to Atlanta, and I got recast on that, too. Two big TV shows. That's that business."
8. Next up
The first-place Texans travel to Denver to face the Broncos (4-2) on Monday Night Football. Yep, that's right, Brock returns to where it all started. The Colts meanwhile face the Titans (3-3) in Tennessee in a game that no one would be surprised if they lost.