Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chris Rucker one of NFL's top rookies of the week

Colts vs. Texans: Five pivotal factors

Can Colts' defense rise again?

By Reggie Hayes

December 22, 2011

Rucker & Lacey
No, it's not a sequel to the old cop series, “Cagney & Lacey.” It's the Colts' cornerback combination of rookie Chris Rucker and revived third-year player Jacob Lacey. Rucker played so well in the Colts' win over the Titans he was a candidate in an NFL promotion for top rookie of the week. Lacey was playing so poorly earlier in the season, he was inactivated while healthy. He had an interception return touchdown against Tennessee. Both players need another strong game against an offense hurt by quarterback injuries.

The Freeney/Mathis Express
It's been a while since the defense had as satisfying a day as they did against Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. They were able to play with a lead for once and force the kind of pressure that led to hurried throws and three-and-outs. Mathis wants to close the season strong in this contract season. Freeney's finish is important, too, considering this has been an overall productive season. They'll be trying to rattle Houston quarterback T.J. Yates.

No running allowed
A huge factor in the Colts' win over the Titans last Sunday was the defense's ability to stop running back Chris Johnson. He managed only 20 yards on 14 carries before one big 35-yard gain. Texans backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate will present similar problems. Indianapolis' renewed vigor against the run could be attributed to an overall boost in morale with Mike Murphy taking over as defensive coordinator. Credit, too, should be given to the strong tackling of linebackers Pat Angerer and Ernie Sims. Sims looked unleashed for the first time this season.

Orlovsky control
The success of quarterback Dan Orlovsky against the Titans can be attributed to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen's decision to keep Orlovsky from trying riskier plays. The Colts relied on the running game to set up the pass, and Orlovsky got rid of the ball quickly most of the time when he did go to the air. Given time, and the offensive line did a decent job Sunday, he can find sure-handed targets in Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme.

Offensive line drive
The Texans will bring the heat on Orlovsky, so it's critical for the offensive line to have a strong showing. Joe Reitz's return to left guard was a nice boost against Tennessee, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo rebounded after a rough game against the Ravens. If the Colts can keep this current line healthy, these last two games could result in some positive building blocks for the future.

The pick: Colts 23, Texans 20

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