Game Balls: Colts at Texans

ColtPower.com editor Eric Hartz hands out game balls for the top Indianapolis Colts on offense, defense and special teams during Sunday's 31-27 win over the Houston Texans. Who gets the leather for the defense, which forced three turnovers in the final four minutes? What about for the offense, which scored the most points of the season to date? FInd out who Hartz picked inside!

Offense:


AP Photo/David J. Phillip

WR Reggie Wayne:

David J. Phillip's photo says it all.

Defense:

LB Gary Brackett:

No shortage of candidates here, although the defense got run and passed over for much of the game again. Raheem Brock and Robert Mathis both forced fumbles, and Melvin Bullitt made an interception to clinch the game, but it was Brackett's fumble return for a touchdown that was the key to the game.

Brackett not only had the awareness to pick up the ball — which Brock jarred loose with an airborne hit on Sage Rosenfels — and immediately head downfield, but he also was able to fend off a tackle and tiptoe down the sideline en route to the end zone.

The fact that Brackett took the fumble all the way back was also tremendously important when one considers what Rosenfels' mental state must have been like at the time.

There was no media timeout after Brackett's score, so in real time, only three minutes, 15 seconds went by between the time Rosenfels made his ill-considered leap before he was back in the huddle calling another play.

Had Brackett simply fallen on the ball, or gone out of bounds during the runback, the Indianapolis offense would have had to take the field. That would have given Rosenfels time to go to the sideline, catch his breath, talk to Gary Kubiak, get a drink, talk to Matt Schaub, look at photographs, talk to the coaches in the booth, and generally get his mind right before going out to protect a lead — and all with less time on the clock.

Instead, he had less than 200 seconds from the time he helicoptered through the air before he was back under center. That's simply not enough time for a career backup to get his emotions under control, and it showed when he made another major error just two plays later.

Special Teams:

DB Jamie Silva:

There weren't any big special teams plays in the game, which is once again perhaps the biggest positive the Colts can take from this game in that area. The Colts have improved their coverage units tremendously this season.

Adam Vinatieri made a 46-yard field goal, but missed an attempt from 49 yards, which would have been the longest of his Colts career. After making 89.3 of his field goal attempts in 2006 and 79.3 in 2007, Vinatieri has made only 66.6 percent (4-of-6) this season. Those numbers may normalize as the season goes on, but right now, Vinatieri doesn't look like a great option from more than 40 yards.

Hunter Smith had five punts and a gross average of 50 yards (43.3 net) which is solid, but we'll give this game ball to Silva, the rookie safety who went undrafted because of concerns about his speed, but signed with the Colts as a free agent, impressed in the preseason, was cut but signed to the practice squad and ultimately activated after Bob Sanders was injured. Sunday, he led the Colts with three special teams tackles and helped hold the Texans to an average starting position at the 29-yard line.

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