For much of the first half, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck looked like he didn’t know what to do without Reggie Wayne.
As the night went on, he might have found his next long-term target.
With three touchdowns in the second half of their 27-24 win over the Texans, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton took a huge step toward becoming the guy for the Colts.
Wayne’s streak of 189 straight games ended with his torn ACL two weeks ago, and you just don’t replace him.
There’s no one in the group of Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey or Griff Whalen who could, of course. But those guys could help Luck by catching things that hit them in the hands.
Hilton started to in the second half, which was the only reason they got back into the game. In the first half, Luck didn’t appear to fully trust anyone other than his old Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.
Hilton needs to become more consistent catching the ball before he can get close to Wayne’s level, but he’s emerged as the one of the group with the best chance.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
But as it pertains to the common world of football, they found at least one important answer, and perhaps two.
If it’s too soon to say that Case Keenum is their quarterback of the future, it’s certainly too soon to say Andre Johnson is slowing down.
The quarterback making his second start and the veteran wideout connected nine times for 229 yards.
Johnson scored his first touchdown since Dec. 16, 2012 in the first quarter, and added two more before halftime.
But more than the scoring itself, the deep ball element that had been missing from the Texans offense was back.
Deposed quarterback Matt Schaub was averaging 6.7 yards per attempt in his six starts this year (a number which had been shrinking progressively, from 8.5 in 2011 to 7.4 last year).
By contrast, Keenum averaged 10.8 yards per attempt last week against the Chiefs, and 10.3 Sunday.
3. The Colts were not helped by a pair of special teams calls in the first half.
Texans special teamer Bryan Braman didn’t touch the ball when he plowed into Colts punter Pat McAfee, which should have been called a roughing penalty.
But the second quarter review which gave the ball back to the Texans after return man Keshawn Martin fumbled seemed bizarre. They reversed the call on the field to say Colts wide receiver LaVon Brazill touched it, but any contact seemed imperceptible.
Of course, the special teams gods giveth back, too. Texans kicker Randy Bullock missed three field goals — the sixth, seventh and eighth misses of the year from the 2012 fifth-round pick.
4. The Texans brought Ed Reed in for his leadership.
It certainly wasn’t for his play on the field.
Reed has been a step slow (or worse) all year, but he does things more befitting a rookie.
His third quarter personal foul on an incomplete pass kept a drive going. The fact the Colts only got a field goal out of the deal doesn’t matter that much, but Reed’s not delivering anything near the level to justify their investment in him.
5. The early hole they found themselves in made it not conducive to running.
But at some point, the Colts have to be concerned with what they’re getting from running back Trent Richardson.
After giving up a first-round pick to acquire him from the Browns, Richardson has averaged 2.7, 3.0, 3.1, 4.0, 2.6 and 2.5 yards per attempt.
Jim Brown might have been right. Richardson might be an ordinary back, but they didn’t pay an ordinary price.