Colts linebacker Darius Leonard really went a long way to force the game-sealing fumble.
For the second time in three weeks, the Indianapolis Colts were a goal line fumble away from suffering a devastating upset loss at the hands of the undermanned Houston Texans. Back in Week 13, DeForest Buckner forced a strip of Deshaun Watson that neutralized any opportunity for a potential go-ahead touchdown.
On Sunday, however, it was Darius Leonard who iced the game with an incredible punch tackle that forced the ball loose from Keke Coutee, who otherwise might have bullied is way into the end zone to give Houston a chance to tie things up or potentially take the lead with a two-point conversion.
It’s not hyperbolic to call this the play of the season for the Colts, as the win kept them right on pace with Tennessee in the AFC South. With that in mind, check out this awesome slow-motion video that shows just how much Leonard hustled to force the game-sealing turnover.
You’ll notice that Leonard’s initial responsibility on the play was covering David Johnson, who was eating the Colts alive as a receiver out of the backfield. The Pro Bowl linebacker admitted after the game that he got picked by another receiver before he noticed Coutee running with the pigskin in his left hand.
After a ferocious seven-yard sprint, well, you know what happened next. Leonard’s quote after the game proved that his sensational play wasn’t a matter of luck. The former second-round pick first learned of the effectiveness of the punch tackle in college and has worked tirelessly to master it over his first two-plus seasons in the NFL.
"“My college coach, Jonathan Saxon, was like, ‘You have long arms. I think you can punch the ball and wrap-up at the same time and still make the tackle.’ That’s when I started doing it. And now in the NFL, I practice it every day.“You have to make sure you see the back part of the ball before you punch, because if not, you might break your hand or something. You just have to be smart when you do it and in crunch time, that’s when you feel so comfortable doing it.”"
What more is there to say about Leonard? On top of padding the stat sheet over the first three quarters of games, he has a ridiculous knack for showing up in the clutch and we honestly couldn’t think of a more deserving player to be the cornerstone of the Colts’ defense for the next decade.