INDIANAPOLIS – The questions keep coming, and Jacoby Brissett consistently provides the answers.
On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback passed his biggest test to date – completing 26 of 39 passes for a career-high 326 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 win against the Houston Texans.
Colts head coach Frank Reich said the team knew it would need to put the offense on Brissett’s shoulders entering the game, and he delivered.
The Texans sold out to stop the run game and played man-to-man coverage exclusively in the first half. Credit the Indianapolis receivers for winning their matchups and Brissett for picking defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s scheme apart.
In the process, he earned a well-educated fan.
“We got after him and hit him a bunch,” Houston defensive end J.J. Watt said. “Sometimes, he gets the ball out while he is getting hit. Every time he gets hit, he pops back up and keeps playing. I respect that toughness and respect the way he plays. Give him all the credit for it.”
The NFL took note as well.
Brissett was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, capping a week during which he significantly raised his national profile.
Indianapolis (4-2) spent most of its first five games running the ball behind a strong offensive line and physically wearing down opponents.
Houston took a page out of the Oakland Raiders’ playbook and stacked the box, daring the Colts to beat them through the air. It worked for the Raiders in a 31-24 upset victory on Sept. 29, but Brissett proved against the Texans he’s a quick study.
He got a career day from wide receiver Zach Pascal — six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns — and perhaps the catch of the year from tight end Eric Ebron, whose one-handed grab in the back of the end zone needed a replay review to be believed.
But, mostly, Brissett did what he’s done all year. He stood strong in the pocket, made good decisions, protected the football and kept the chains moving.
That it happened more through the air than on the ground brought more attention his way. But Brissett’s teammates say he’s been in control of the huddle since Week 1.
“When he’s calling the plays, it’s the look in his eyes,” Pascal said. “(He) understands what’s being done, focus up. When we’re out there on that field on offense, it’s not just lackadaisical and b.s. time. It’s time to lock in. And let’s go get the job done.”
Brissett has done that with great efficiency.
He’s thrown 14 touchdown passes — one more than in 15 games as a starter in 2017 — against just three interceptions. And Indianapolis has been among the league leaders in the red zone and on third down.
But a quality that can’t be measured seems to drive Brissett most.
Watt alluded to it in his comments after Sunday’s game, and Brissett likely will get the opportunity to display it once again Sunday when Von Miller and the Denver Broncos come calling.
He’s playing behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and he trusts the big boys up front implicitly. But nothing seems to faze Brissett.
After his fumble deep in his own territory set up a Houston field goal last week, Brissett went back out and directed a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive without a second’s hesitation.
He takes a similar approach to opposing defenses. No matter how many times he’s hit, Brissett keeps getting back up and attacking.
“I think the first thing is you’ve got to be fearless, and Jacoby is that,” Reich said. “He’s able to keep his poise because he’s not afraid. The second part of that, and equally as important to being fearless, is you’ve got to know what you’re doing. You’ve got to know where the ball is supposed to go.”
Brissett will be the first to admit he’s still got plenty of work to do.
He can hold on to the ball too long in certain situations, and his anticipation can improve. But he seems to be getting better each time he takes the field.
And it’s winning him even more trust in the locker room.
Former punter Pat McAfee recently said in his role as an ESPN commentator it was Brissett — and not starting quarterback Andrew Luck — who called the players’ only meeting last season after a 1-5 start.
Pascal couldn’t confirm that piece of reporting, but it wouldn’t surprise him.
“That’s the type of guy he is,” Pascal said. “He’ll take authority and leadership for the offense or the team, and if something needs to be discussed, he’ll be that guy to do it.”
Two months into the post-Luck era, this is unquestionably Brissett’s team.
He and the Colts still have to prove they can perform at this level each and every week, but big wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Texans have proven the team can’t be ignored in the AFC race.
And Brissett’s big numbers against Houston will give future opponents something to think about as they draw up schemes to stop the Indianapolis offense.
The 26-year-old quarterback will block most of this out.
He’s not interested in stats or individual accolades. He’s playing for the guys in the huddle with him, and little else matters.
“It’s been great,” Brissett said. “We have a good group of guys and just to go to work with everybody on a daily basis not just Sundays — throughout the week — just makes Sunday that much more special.”