INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich couldn’t stop raving about his offensive line following Sunday’s 33-13 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Indianapolis Colts had two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time in 34 years, and it seemed at times the offense could get whatever it wanted on the ground whenever it wanted to do it.
It’s the kind of performance that instills confidence in a group rebounding from a poor three-week stretch.
But it’s not one that can linger.
Not with Thursday’s critical showdown against the Houston Texans (8:20 p.m., Fox) looming.
The Colts (6-4) might have momentum on their side, but they’ll need more than that to win at NRG Stadium.
“Momentum is true for all of us, but we also talk about – what also is a thing is the tendency to let down after a good performance,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said. “We talked about that yesterday as a team. It is just human nature. When you have as good as a game as we did last Sunday and play very well in all three phases, what we talked about was that there can’t be any let down.
“We’re just acknowledging – let’s just acknowledge that there is a human-nature tendency after having a dominating performance to think, ‘OK, we’ve got this.’ That is the last thing we can have because we know the team that we are playing against – they are going to come in here with the right mindset.”
There’s no doubt about that.
Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins told reporters after his team’s 41-7 loss against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that the Colts game was a “must win.”
That reportedly was echoed in the Texans’ locker room throughout the short practice week, and with good reason.
The winner of this prime-time battle takes control of the AFC South heading into the season’s final five weeks.
For the Colts, that means essentially a two-game lead as they would hold the tie-breaker over Houston (6-4) by virtue of a season sweep. For the Texans, it means a measure of revenge against a team that has won three straight in their stadium – including a wild-card playoff game in January.
Houston also has a history of bouncing back from bad losses under head coach Bill O’Brien. The Texans are 9-1 following double-digit losses during his tenure.
“I think anytime you have a quick week after a day like (Sunday), it is probably a good thing,” O’Brien said. “I think that you can turn the page quickly here (Monday) and get really focused obviously on the Colts. We did that right after the game, really.
“It’s time to move on because you have to have a sense of urgency because you have a division opponent coming in here that’s coming off of a win. So our guys will be really focused.”
Indianapolis got some good news on the injury front Wednesday.
Cornerback Pierre Desir will return after a four-game absence because of a hamstring injury, and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) and tight ends Mo Alie-Cox (thumb) and Eric Ebron (ankle) were listed as questionable after being limited or out of practice throughout the week.
The biggest news, however, concerns wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. He’s also listed as questionable and was estimated as a full participant if there had been a practice Wednesday.
With five 100-yard receiving games in eight career trips to Houston, Hilton’s potential presence can’t be overstated.
But the 30-year-old four-time Pro Bowler cautioned Tuesday he won’t rush his return.
“It’s just if I can get back out there and help my team,” Hilton said. “It has just been tough for me watching these last three games, and I’m not accustomed to missing games. It’s just been tough, but I’m just getting my body back how I need it.”
Running back Marlon Mack (hand), cornerback Shakial Taylor (ankle), safety Khari Willis (concussion) and wide receiver Parris Campbell (hand) have been ruled out.
Jonathan Williams – who rushed for 116 yards Sunday against Jacksonville – and Jordan Wilkins are expected to split snaps in place of Mack, and Clayton Geathers and George Odum will divvy up Willis’ role.
No matter the challenges, the Colts believe they have what they need to compete.
“There is a real strong belief that the guys who can play can win,” Reich said. “So I really don’t get caught up too much in (injuries). I just think, ‘Who is going to be in there? Well, let’s roll.’”