Colts @ Texans
Final Score: Colts 20, Texans 20
Writer: Brett Ford (@fadethatman on Twitter)
Well, that was anti-climactic.
The Colts out-snapped the Texans, 90-68, and gained over 500 yards of offense while holding Houston to just 299. Yet somehow, Indianapolis was forced to settle for a tie, 20-20, against the Texans in the season opener at Reliant Stadium.
Trailing, 20-3, in the third quarter, Matt Ryan led the Indianapolis offense to 17 fourth-quarter points and had the squad in position to hit the game-winning field goal in overtime, but Rodrigo Blankenship sailed the 42-yard kick wide right. Houston could not generate any offense in the overtime period as the two teams opened the year with a draw.
The Colts’ offensive distribution of touches was extremely narrow with Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman combining for more than half of the offensive opportunities. On the Texans’ side, Dameon Pierce got the start at running back but it was Rex Burkhead who claimed the lion’s share of the work in the backfield. Let’s dig into it.
Matt Ryan: 32/50, 352 Yards, 1 TD, 1 Int | 4 Carries, 12 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost), 2 Fumbles (Recovered)
Matt Ryan was called upon for 50 pass attempts in his first game as an Indianapolis Colt, a number that previous Colts starter Carson Wentz reached only once through the entire 2021 season, showing that head coach Frank Reich has a strong sense of trust in Ryan under center. Or at least more than he did with Wentz.
Ryan responded with 351 passing yards on 32 completions, the most passing yards that Ryan has thrown for in a game since Dec. 20, 2020. Ryan was focused on primary receiving target Michael Pittman, intending a team-high 13 passes for the lengthy wideout while completing nine. Ny’heim Hines and Jonathan Taylor combined for 10 catches on 13 targets as Ryan checked down to his running backs quite a bit as well.
The veteran quarterback had some trouble handling snaps today, fumbling three times on the transfer from his center, Ryan Kelly. Only one of them was lost for a turnover, but still, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Jonathan Taylor: 31 Carries, 161 Yards, 1 TD | 7 Targets, 4 Receptions, 14 Yards
Ny’heim Hines: 3 Carries, 4 Yards | 6 Targets, 6 Receptions, 50 Yards
Jonathan Taylor was the workhorse running back in this offense just like he was in 2021, receiving 31 carries and seven targets out of the backfield. Despite his workload (and his effectiveness), Frank Reich decided to get crafty on a fourth and goal in the second quarter. Instead of handing the ball to Taylor on the goal-to-go play from the two-yard line, Reich opted for a wildcat formation with Ny’heim Hines at quarterback. It ended just as poorly as we all expected.
Despite Reich’s play-calling and a negative game script for the majority of the game, Taylor ended up finding the end zone with a fourth-down carry to bring the Colts back to within striking distance.
Hines was dynamic out of the backfield as he finished with six catches for 50 yards and three carries. He continues to be a viable flex option with a solid floor and a strong ceiling.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Michael Pittman: 13 targets, 9 receptions, 121 yards, TD
Michael Strachan: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 36 yards
Alec Pierce: 2 targets
Mo-Alie Cox: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards
Kylen Granson: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards
Ashton Dulin: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 46 yards
Parris Campbell: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards
Michael Pittman demonstrated that he has evolved into a true alpha wide receiver in this offense, more than doubling the targets of any other Colts wideout to finish with nine catches for 121 and a score.
Ashton Dulin stepped into the WR2 role for the Colts on Sunday, finishing with three catches for 46 yards on six targets. Parris Campbell and Michael Strachan each outproduced rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce, who was targeted just twice to no avail. Pierce looked like he was put in the doghouse after he dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Keep an eye on the tight end split in Indianapolis, especially for bye week and deep league considerations. Kyren Granson may end up being the Colts’ top pass-catching tight end as he was targeted seven times, compared to Mo-Alie Cox who received just two targets. Granson finished with three catches for 22 yards.
Davis Mills: 23/37, 240 yards, 2 TDs, 3 sacks, 1 fumble (lost)
Davis Mills looked REALLY good against a Colts defense that was supposed to be an elite unit coming into the 2022 campaign. He finished with 240 yards and two touchdowns, both to shiny new toy O.J. Howard, and was an efficient game manager for the Texans. Houston offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton did a good job of moving the pocket and giving Mills easy looks early in the game to build his confidence and then allowed him to take shots downfield later in the game.
Mills should probably be scooped up in multiple-quarterback leagues and monitored in deeper leagues or as a streaming bye-week replacement.
Dameon Pierce: 11 carries, 33 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards
Rex Burkhead: 14 carries, 40 yards | 8 targets, 5 receptions, 30 yards
Dameon Pierce earned the start, but only carried the ball 11 times with just one target. Fantasy football pundits on social media were dead-set and determined that Rex Burkhead was not going to cut into Pierce’s receiving share. Welp…
Burkhead received a team-high 14 carries and added eight targets for five catches and 30 yards through the air. He was the leader of the timeshare, though against the Colts’ stout front seven it didn’t make too much of a difference. What made the difference between Burkhead’s and Pierce’s fantasy production was the passing game utilization. Definite cause for concern for those who took Pierce late in draft season at an elevated cost.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Brandin Cooks: 12 targets, 7 receptions, 82 yards
O.J. Howard: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 38 yards
Chris Moore: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 31 yards
Chris Conley: 2 targets
Nico Collins: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards
Brevin Jordan: 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
Pharaoh Brown: 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards
I SAW A ZOMBIE! Okay, so it’s not an episode of The Walking Dead, it’s previously-considered-washed O.J. Howard. Apparently, he is going to be a thing in Houston.
After being left for dead by the Buffalo Bills after a lackluster preseason, the veteran tight end was scooped up and immediately integrated into the game plan by the Houston Texans. A red zone weapon throughout his career in Tampa Bay, or at least before being supplanted by Gronk, Howard pulled in both of his targets and fell into the end zone on both plays.
Meanwhile, Brandin Cooks continued to dominate the Texans’ target share with a team-high 12 targets while the next three wideouts in the pecking order Nico Collins, Chris Moore, and Chris Conley combined for just eight targets. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan received some hype at the end of draft season but was targeted just twice for one catch and five yards.