Darius Leonard spoke a shutout into existence on the latest episode of Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday night.
As birds chirped amid a tranquil breather at practice, the Colts' All-Pro linebacker had a sudden realization as he and teammate Kenny Moore II waited for their cue to resume.
"Bro, we need a shutout," Leonard told Moore. "We need a shutout. The teams we're supposed to get the shutouts on, we don't get."
Up against a 2-9 Houston Texans team with an offense averaging an NFL-worst 254.5 yards and 13.7 points per game, Leonard had every right to have a hunch going into Week 13's road tilt. The Colts defense held Houston to a field goal in their first meeting in Week 6, and the win marked a turnaround that vaulted the Colts (7-6) into playoff contention after an 0-3 start to the 2021 season.
In pitching the 31-0 shutout over Houston last Sunday, the Colts accomplished a feat they hadn't managed since Leonard's rookie season four years ago.
"That felt good -- going home after a shutout," recalled Leonard, who had a team-high 11 tackles and two passes defended in the 23-0 romp of the Dallas Cowboys in 2018.
Moreover, the Colts as a franchise hadn't posted a shutout on the road in nearly three decades, but Leonard seemingly knew there was a great chance at breaking that long streak.
Little did Leonard know his conception would soon be prompted by the man who first heard the idea.
On the first play of the game, Moore anticipated a Tyrod Taylor pass and made a tremendous sideline catch for his career-best-tying fourth interception of the year. The cornerback proceeded to force another turnover in Houston's ensuing possession, poking the ball out of Pharoah Brown's grasp and continuing what would end up becoming a dominant defensive display.
The Colts harassed Taylor enough to force a quarterback change, but rookie Davis Mills soon felt the wrath of a Colts defensive line that had four sacks and 11 QB hits. Indianapolis allowed just 141 yards of total offense and allowed no red-zone appearances in the shutout.
"Dominant defensive performance," Colts head coach Frank Reich said after the game, via the team's website. "The defense was unreal. I don't think they crossed the 50-yard line until a minute to go. That's an epic defensive performance from, really, start to finish, and that's what we talked about at halftime -- as good as it was in the first half, it was just as important for us to finish the game like that, just for where we want to go, finishing."
The stress-free victory was a timely one for the Colts, who enter a Week 14 bye before a crucial four-game stretch -- beginning Saturday, Dec. 18 with a prime-time matchup with the New England Patriots -- that will decide their playoff hopes.
Just as he anticipated the very next goose egg laid by an Indianapolis opponent, Leonard eagerly popped up off the cooler for the next practice drill.
"Horn!" he yelled before the foghorn blared -- ready to prepare for the eventual shutout, which should build the confidence of the Colts defense as it enters the home stretch.