Another regular season opener to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium, and yet another loss. Only thing is, this time around it wasn’t Arian Foster gashing the Colts for 231 rushing yards and 3 TD’s. With Foster nursing a sore hamstring, the Texans relied on the legs of their running back duo of Ben Tate and Derrick Ward to pound the Colts into submission en route to a team total of 167 rushing yards and 2 TD’s on the day in a 34-7 thumping. Not only was the Texans’ running game too much for the Colts defensively, but offensively, the Colts simply didn’t have an answer for the defensive pressure applied by recently converted linebacker and Pro-Bowl sack master Mario Williams. This, along with the newness of Kerry Collins, made it a long day for the Colts, as they were sorely outplayed in all facets of the game, including special teams.
There’s no question it’s going to be a long season for the Colts without the services of Peyton Manning. However, will every Sunday be more of the same with Colts’ fan wanting to turn off the game at halftime and hopelessly wishing for the good old days? Hopefully not. For whatever reason, the Colts are typical slow starters. Dating back to 2008, they’ve now lost three of their past four regular season openers. Sunday was more of the same, only this time #18 wasn’t under center, as the defense never seemed to “get tough” until the game was already out of hand, while Collins and the offense likewise sputtered until late. Nevertheless, the second half Colts actually resembled a quality, albeit not great team, forcing turnovers and outscoring the Texans by seven points. While it should be noted that the Texans probably weren’t going pedal to the metal in the second half, it still looked like Sunday was largely a tale of two teams. One team was terrible, while the other was passable. It’s the hope that this passable Colts’ team will be the one that will regularly show up on Sundays.
Why hope? For starters, Colts’ teams in recent history have started out unable to stop the run, only to shore up these woes as their seasons progress. Two, the more days Kerry Collins gets working with this offense and its receivers, the better he’ll be. It’s hard to believe that the man leading the Colts’ offense is the same guy that just a few weeks ago was retired, thinking he was finally done with football. Give it time. Aside from the two fumbles, Collins managed the game fairly effectively and made some nice throws late. The fumbles should cease once he gains a greater familiarity with his center, Jeff Saturday, and also when the Colts don’t have to attempt to block Mario Williams on a weekly basis. Additionally, the Colts also have some very winnable games on their schedule: Browns (home), Bengals (road), Titans (twice), Jaguars (twice), Panthers (home). The hope remains that Kerry’s Colts can win these type of games and hopefully steal a game or two in the process of keeping the Colts’ ship afloat until #18 returns. If Manning doesn’t return, sit back, take a deep breath, and be thankful that the 2011 Colts’ regular season should be the exception, not the norm, as the Colts still look to be a very competitive team going forward. Worst case scenario is that in April, the Colts get “Luck”-y and take a certain prized Stanford quarterback or perhaps another highly touted collegiate prospect early in the draft, something that hasn’t been a luxury in the Manning era of winning. Until then, believe in blue because all hope is not lost, as Kerry’s Colts should be increasingly more competitive. It’s just time to show some patience.