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Colts’ notebook: Consummate team win includes Darius Leonard, D

zINDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 20: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans flips upside down after the hit by George Odum #30 of the Indianapolis Colts during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jacoby Brissett and the offense had to share post-game kudos Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Frank Reich found himself searching for the proper description of the Indianapolis Colts’ 30-23 win over the Houston Texans. He finally found it.

“The only word I can come up with is this was the consummate team win,’’ he said. “I mean this was the consummate team win. It really felt like that and that gives us some energy.

“I mean that’s obviously a big game against a very good football team, against a well-coached team, but you know, we still got a long way to go.’’

Consummate team win indeed.

Brissett passed for 326 yards and four touchdowns – both career highs – and the offense generated a season-high 383 yards. Most important, the offense went 4-for-4 in red-zone trips.

And that brings us to the defense. Among its highlights was holding the Texans to 2-for-5 in the red zone. In the first half, the defense limited Houston to 47-, 31- and 26-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goals after it had reached the 14-, 4- and 8-yard lines.

The defense basically bailed out the offense on the first two red-zone situations.

Reich opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 45 early in the second quarter, and that failed when Marlon Mack took a pitch to the left and was smothered for no gain. Despite the short field, the Texans settled for the first of Fairbairn’s field goals.

Reich second-guessed himself on the play call, not the decision.

“That’s a bad call,’’ he said. “Just trust out offensive line up front, just plow it back in there and live and die with that if you’re going to go for it.

“So that was on me and the defense got my back, got our back and held them to a field goal.’’

On the Colts’ next possession, Brissett dropped a shotgun snap from Ryan Kelly, Whitney Mercilus recovered and the Texans were in business with a first-and-goal at the 4. But on third-and-goal, Jabaal Sheard applied pressure on Deshaun Watson and Justin Houston came up with the first of his two sacks. Houston’s sack came when the officials ruled Watson was in his grasp, negating a possible touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.

“He said I was down. I don’t know,’’ Watson said. “You watch the tape of all the plays that I stand and make plays, especially in the red zone . . . he said he was trying to protect my health so it goes back and forth.

“But hey, that’s the call he made.’’

The early red-zone success, insisted Reich, was crucial

“That’s the ballgame right there,’’ he said. “I mean, those two stops are huge.’’

The defense came up with a third late in the second quarter after Houston had a first-and-goal at the 10.

The Texans entered the game tied for 1st in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 71.4 percent of the time.

But that was just part of the defense’s contributions.

It was relatively successful at holding down the Texans’ No. 5-ranked run game (100 yards on 24 carries) and came up with interceptions from Pierre Desir and Darius Leonard.

Leonard’s first interception of the season and third of his career sealed things. It came with 26 seconds to play and was highlight material. He scooped it up before it hit the ground after going off the hands of Keke Coutee.

“Coach put me in great position to make the play,’’ Leonard said. “I knew what route was coming. Tipped ball. We work day-in, day-out before we go to individual on catching the ball, working on tipped balls.

“It was a perfect opportunity to go out there and make a play.”

Not to mention a perfect setting. Leonard had missed the previous three games with a concussion.

“I was a little antsy to get back out there,’’ he said. “But I felt it in the fourth quarter. Legs got a little heavy.’’

Leonard finished with a team-high 10 tackles to go along with his game-ending interception.

Almost a ‘Jackie Moon’

Zach Pascal posted the best game of his career: six catches, 106 yards, two touchdowns. The second-year wideout nearly added his first career TD pass as well.

Late in the third quarter, Pascal took a lateral to the left from Brissett, moved to his right and lofted a pass to running back Nyheim Hines who had gotten behind the Texans secondary down the right side.

Too much arm from Pascal.

“Jackie Moon, man,’’ he said, referring to Will Ferrell’s role in the movie Semi-Pro. “The only thing that didn’t happen was the throw. Everything was perfect. At the end of the day, (Hines) was wide open. I’ve got to put it on him.’’

It’s a play the Colts have run in practice. To perfection.

“He was 7-for-7,’’ T.Y. Hilton said, “so he was ready for that. He just missed that one.’’

“I’ve been putting that on him,’’ Pascal agreed. “Come game time, I overthrow him.’’

Reich said the Colts have been itchy to insert their “Jackie Moon’’ play into a game.

“We’ve had that thing up three or four times this year where it’s like, ‘This is the week. This is the week we’re going to hit the Jackie Moon play,’’’ he said. “I wish you could have heard us on the sideline. All the coaches, ‘It’s Jackie Moon. We’re going to get us some Jackie Moon.’’’

Highlight from Ebron

It could have been epic. Instead it simply was the greatest catch of Eric Ebron’s career.

On third-and-1 at the Houston 4 early in third quarter, Reich not only stationed All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson in the backfield as a fullback, but sent him out of a route.

Brissett briefly considered throwing to the 6-5, 330-pound Nelson.

“It was going to be sweet – Q was going to score a touchdown,’’ Brissett said. “Then I thought, ‘Let me throw it to the person that I know catches the ball.’ We will have to fit another play for him to get an easier one.’’

Brissett turned to Ebron, who responded with a masterful one-handed catch at the back of the end zone. Somehow, he managed to get both feet in bounds before tumbling to the ground.

The officials ruled the pass incomplete, but overturned it after Reich’s successful challenge. As the review process was unfolding, Ebron was at midfield celebrating.

“Not to sound arrogant, but I kind of knew I had it the whole way,’’ he said. “I knew I had it the whole time. Now the foot-drag stuff, that all comes with repetition.

“Probably the greatest catch of my life.’’

Nowhere to run

The Colts entered Sunday with the NFL’s No. 4-ranked rushing attack. It was limited to a season-low 62 yards on 26 carries.

More shocking? The Colts were held to zero first downs on the ground. Houston gave them five on penalties and Brissett generated 18 through the air.

It marked the first time Indy finished with zero rushing first downs since Nov. 28, 2010 against San Diego (a 36-14 loss), and the first time in a win since a 17-13 nod over Arizona in the final regular season game in 2005.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast:

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