INDIANAPOLIS – The Houston Texans made a statement in their opener by using a dominant effort by Arian Foster on the ground to earn a rare win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Duplicating that performance on the road figures to be more difficult, even with Indianapolis missing some key weapons for Peyton Manning.
The Texans seek their first win in nine tries in Indianapolis on Monday night when they face a Colts team trying to avoid an 0-3 start in the powerful AFC South.
Houston (4-2) improved to 2-15 all-time against Indianapolis (4-2) with a 34-24 victory Sept. 12 behind Foster’s career highs of 33 carries, 231 yards rushing and three touchdowns—all in the second half—on the ground.
“We know what kind of game plan we have to put together,” Foster said. “But the execution is going to be different, because the atmosphere of the game is going to be different. It’s a whole different animal.”
The Colts haven’t shown much improvement in their rushing defense since that game. They rank 26th against the run, allowing 137.3 yards per game while Foster is third in the league with an average of 105.8 yards.
“You’re going to see some of it at least, some of the game plan that they had put together for us in that first game, I would assume,” Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said.
The Texans have to feel they are getting closer to an elusive victory in Indianapolis after leading in the second halves of last two visits. Both teams enter off bye weeks, and the Colts received plenty of bad news.
They will be without Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark and receiver Austin Collie, who both caught touchdown passes from Manning in Week 1. Clark is out for the season with a wrist injury while Collie, who has a team-high six touchdown receptions, has an injured right thumb that could sideline him for several weeks.
Rookie receiver Blair White is expected to get more snaps while Jacob Tamme, who has six career receptions and none this year, will replace Clark.
Running back Joseph Addai is doubtful with a shoulder injury, and backup Donald Brown is questionable with a lingering hamstring problem. That may leave Mike Hart to make his first NFL start.
“As a group, I think we will all be working together to fill that void,” Tamme said. “Whatever position we get put in, we will go out there and do our best.”
The Colts have won seven of nine AFC South titles, losing three division games once when they went 3-3 in 2006. The South is the only division with three teams with two losses entering Week 8, and Indianapolis knows a loss Sunday could be too much to overcome.
“Obviously, we have our work cut out for us after losing two division games already,” center Jeff Saturday said. “(Houston) coming in here, it’s a home division game. Those are the ones that you have to win and secure to keep yourself on track.”
The Texans should receive a boost with the return of left tackle Duane Brown, who is back after finishing his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on banned substances. Brown turned in a solid effort in helping neutralize Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney in the opener, and is up for the challenge again.
“You can’t expect to just go out there and just show up, and think it’s going to happen again,” Brown said. “We still have to work for every yard we get. They’re not going to give us anything easily. It’s all about just going out there and getting it done.”
Houston has made a change with reigning defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing taking over at middle linebacker for DeMeco Ryans, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury Oct. 17 in a win over Kansas City. Cushing has started at outside linebacker.
“I’m just doing what they want me to do,” Cushing said. “I’m excited about the new opportunity. With DeMeco down, somebody had to step up. Coach asked me, and I’m more than willing to do it.”
The Colts will be facing a Texans defense that ranks last in the NFL, allowing 410.5 yards per game. Indianapolis amassed 463 yards in the opener.
“We’re pretty familiar with them,” Manning said. “We know how important a game it will be.”