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Long-time veterans fuel Colts’ victory

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The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS — You’ve got to hand it to the old men of the Indianapolis Colts.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, kicker Adam Vinatieri, running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Andre Johnson and safety Mike Adams.

All up in the years by National Football League standards. Hasselbeck and Vinatieri are both over the age of 40. Gore, Johnson and Adams are in their 30s.

But there they were making big plays in the Colts’ 27-20 AFC South victory over Houston on Thursday night.

The win gives Indianapolis its third straight win, all against divisional opponents. It also gives the Colts some time – 10 days to be exact — before their Oct. 18 home-field matchup with the New England Patriots.

What with Indianapolis’ injury situation, namely quarterback Andrew Luck, the extra time couldn’t have come at a better time.

Yes, the Colts have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for the Patriots. Still too many penalties and mental mistakes to be successful over a long stretch.

“We’ll come in and watch the tape and get things cleaned up,” head coach Chuck Pagano said, adding that he was proud of his team’s effort against Houston.

“It speaks to the character of this football team and our coaches and their ability to block out the noise. Keep the blinders on. Keep the earmuffs on. Stick to the grindstone. Keep chomping. Keep working. Keep preparing. Keep playing. At some point it’s going to turn, unless you give up or unless you quit and just give in to it. These guys have never done that. And they will never do that. We’ve got great character on this football team. They have been through a lot.”

And now it’s on to New England.

“I love this football team and it’s starting to come together. We’ll have some time off to get healthy now. We’ve got 10 days before our next game, I believe,” the Colts coach said.

And will Luck be ready for the Patriots?

“He’s getting better every single day. He’s really, really close. (But) we’ve got to make decisions based on what’s best for the player, first and foremost, and then what’s best for the team,” Pagano said. “We’ve got full confidence in everybody.”

REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus. Backup QB Matt Hasselbeck continues to impress as he directed the Colts to their second straight win in less than five days. Hasselbeck fought off the effects of a bacterial infection and played flawless football against Houston, completing 18-of-29 passes for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He was not sacked or and did not throw an interception. WR T.Y. Hilton caught five passes for 88 yards, including a game-clinching reception near the end of the game that allowed the Colts to run out the clock. WR Andre Johnson had his best game of the season with six receptions for 77 yards and two TDs. A big key for Indianapolis was that Texans DE J.J. Watt was limited to two total tackles and one quarterback hit.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A. RB Frank Gore knew going into the Houston game, with starting QB Andrew Luck sidelined with a shoulder injury and backup Matt Hasselbeck fighting a bacterial infection, that he would have to carry much of the offensive load for the Colts. Gore responded in a big way with a season-high 98 yards in 22 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. He got a little relief from backups Zurlon Tipton and Josh Robinson, but it was Gore’s coming out party and he responded when needed the most.

–PASS DEFENSE: C. With not much of a pass rush to cause an issue, QBs Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer combined to complete 31-of-41 passes for 362 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. When Mallett left the game in the second quarter with an injury, Hoyer had an outstanding performance. He connected on 24-of-31 passes for 312 yards, two TDs and an interception, including a Hail Mary scoring pass at the end of the first half. His interception, though, late in the fourth quarter helped to salt the game away for Indianapolis. WR DeAndre Hopkins had a career night with 11 catches for 169 yards while RB Arian Foster added nine receptions for 77 yards.

–RUN DEFENSE: B. Foster led Houston with 41 yards in 19 carries, but still looked to be in recovery mode from his injury situation. As a team, the Texans rushed for 82 yards and averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Rookie DT Henry Anderson fought off an ankle injury to contribute four tackles while rookie NT David Parry added a pair of stops. The Colts, though, did a nice job with their team tackling and not allowing Houston to get its running game untracked.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: A. K Adam Vinatieri made a pair of field goals, the longest from 48 yards out, and both PATs in the win over Houston. P Pat McAfee punted three times for a 45.3-yard average. He had two punts downed inside the Texans’ 20-yard line. McAfee also did not have a kickoff returned in the game. WR Griff Whalen handled both the punt and kickoff return duties for the Colts. Indianapolis’ punt coverage unit did a good job.

–COACHING: A. With their backs to the wall and off to an 0-2 start of the 2015 season, the Colts could have imploded quickly. But Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff have found a way to get things turned around. Indianapolis has posted three straight wins. Yes, all three victories came against AFC South opponents. But wins are hard enough to come by in the NFL, so Pagano isn’t going to complain. Spotty play on both sides of the ball continue to be a concern. And injuries have been an issue to start the season. But give Pagano some credit. He and his coaching staff have been able to do what has been necessary to win three straight games.


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