INDIANAPOLIS — Quenton Nelson isn’t the likeliest of motivational speakers.
The Indianapolis Colts all-pro left guard speaks louder with his punishing blocks than with his words, but tradition is tradition.
Head coach Frank Reich chooses one captain each week to address the team at the hotel the night before the game, and Sunday was Nelson’s turn.
The former Notre Dame star handled the duties well prior to the Colts’ 30-23 win against the Houston Texans.
“I don’t think he’s a very loud speaker or anything like that,” Indianapolis center Ryan Kelly said Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “(He) speaks with his actions. I’m not gonna disclose what he said or whatever, but (he’s) a guy that people can rally behind.”
Kelly said generally most speakers talk about what motivates them or why they play the game.
With Nelson, actions normally do the talking. Anyone who’s seen the Colts play in the past two seasons can probably guess what motivates the standout offensive lineman — acts of physical violence.
Running back Marlon Mack doesn’t often see Nelson’s pancake blocks live, but he makes sure to seek them out when he gets the tablet in his hands on the sideline.
Those wipeout blocks, especially common when Nelson is pulling and targeting a defender on the edge, tend to fire up his teammates.
And, often, Mack said, Nelson doesn’t even need to say a word.
“You just know when it’s game time, man, Q, he’s ready to go,” Mack said. “He’s locked in, focused. It just gives you that motivation when you see the look in his eyes. You just know he’s ready to go, so you’re ready to follow that and just go out there and run through a brick wall with him.”
Indianapolis’ roster is being built in Nelson’s image – blue-collar, tough and mean.
The Colts didn’t run the ball as well as they hoped against the Texans, but Jacoby Brissett was sacked just once. And the quarterback chalked that up to the coverage in the defensive secondary.
Reich told the players before the game they’d need to make plays in the passing game to win, and the Colts were up to the challenge. Brissett set career highs with 326 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Nelson even nearly got into the act.
On third-and-1 at Houston’s 4-yard line during the third quarter, Nelson lined up as the fullback behind Brissett. He carried out a run fake before running a route into the end zone, though the touchdown pass ultimately went to tight end Eric Ebron.
“I actually thought Q was gonna get one (touchdown),” Mack said. “I know he probably had, like, a celebration planned. He’s waiting on his chance, man. He’s definitely gonna get it.”
With cornerback Kenny Moore II sidelined because of a knee injury, the Colts had to get creative against Houston.
Part of the solution included seldom-used defensive back Rolan Milligan, a safety and special teams contributor for much of his two seasons in Indianapolis. He hadn’t played a defensive snap this year before Sunday, but he made three tackles in his NFL debut as a cornerback.
“He was playing all over the place,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “Rolan did an outstanding job for us. He played mostly nickel slot corner, and he also adjusted to some tight ends as well. But he did an outstanding job.
“I thought he tackled well. I thought he covered well. He operated within the defense. He didn’t have any wild guesses or anything like that. I thought he did a nice job.”
The best teams find ways to use the entire 53-man roster – and beyond – over the course of a successful season.
That means the majority of the non-starters need to prepare for roles that sometimes fall outside of their comfort zones.
“(Milligan) has played nickel for us in different spots for us during the course of (training) camp,” Eberflus said. “He’s one of those guys that’s not your top one or two guys, so those guys have to learn a lot. Credit to him – he’s got great functional intelligence. It doesn’t hurt that he went to my alma mater, the University of Toledo.”
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni wore a new T-shirt to his weekly news conference.
The front featured an image of Ebron making a one-handed catch super-imposed over the words “Got This.” It was an homage to the highlight-reel touchdown catch Ebron made just two days earlier against the Texans.
“All the tight ends came out to walk-through with this on (Tuesday), and I just wanted to let them know that I wanted one, too,” Sirianni said. “Eric delivered in multiple ways.”
Rookie linebacker E.J. Speed also sported a new design featuring linebacker Darius Leonard’s vicious stiff-arm of Houston wide receiver Kenny Stills and the words, “Coming Through.”