INDIANAPOLIS –Colts players had heard incessantly over the past six games that they had not scored a first-half touchdown.
That 37-drive streak stopped abruptly on Sunday in a 25-3 victory over Houston when Indianapolis ended an 80-yard drive 5:29 into the game with an Andrew Luck-to-Griff Whalen strike that triggered what became the season's second-largest victory margin.
"Yeah, we did," said Chuck Pagano on if the team needed a 'feel-good' win after weeks of struggles. "We left some points out there, but yeah, we needed it."
The Colts were 3-3 since beating Denver in October with comeback division wins at Houston and Tennessee, then with a 22-14 victory over the Titans two weeks ago.
Sprinkled among those were 30-, 29- and 14-point losses to St. Louis, Arizona and Cincinnati, though last week's setback to the Bengals allowed Indianapolis to clinch the AFC South crown and earn a home playoff game.
It was not the type of momentum-builder Pagano or his club sought.
"We talked all week about coming back," said Pagano. "Even though we had won the division, our first goal, we wanted to start building and gain some momentum, get a spark, whatever you want to call it.
"This was certainly something that's very positive for our football team moving forward, most definitely."
Sunday was a different tale.
The Colts moved beyond a one-score lead for the first time since November 14 midway through the second quarter and never looked back.
Seizing the lead had been an issue for the Colts. Sunday was only the second time in seven games the club had enjoyed a first-half advantage.
Helping get it was an up-tempo, aggressive drive to start the game.
"Just looking for a spark, a way to get the offense going," said Pagano. "Having a score on the opening drive was a big bonus and a confidence builder.
Andrew Luck was 19-of-32 passing for 180 yards and two scores, finding five targets during the game. Luck hit three-of-five passes for 29 yards, while the Colts rushed for 41 yards on the opening march.
Two of Luck's throws were to T.Y. Hilton, who finished the quarter with five of his eight receptions on the day.
"To get T.Y. (Hilton) involved (was big) because we know what kind of dynamic playmaker he is," said Luck. "To get him touches early and get him in that groove is a big part of it. Everybody did a great job of getting in the groove early and getting some good mojo."
The Indianapolis defense had a 44-minute period of 'mojo' play by limiting Houston to seven punts, two turnovers, a safety and a turnover on downs from late in the first quarter to late in the contest.
Indianapolis, which rushed for 152 yards, held Houston to 107 yards on the ground, while picking off Houston twice and forcing a safety.
After taking a 20-7 halftime lead, Indianapolis held Houston to 16 yards and no first downs on 10 plays in the third quarter. The Colts did not surrender a first down on six straight Houston possessions, and the Texans totaled 10 first downs on their last 11 drives.
Luck said the club had not lost confidence over the last few games and is looking to build on Sunday's performance.
"I don't think we're that fickle where we have to lose confidence after a bad game," said Luck. "But it (the win) was good. More importantly, we got two games left. Hopefully we can get a little mojo going through these next two games. This was a good start."
COLTS NOTES – With 16 playoff appearances in 30 years in Indianapolis, the Colts now have produced an 18th winning season in their local era…Chuck Pagano is one victory shy of joining Don McCafferty (1970-71), Ted Marchibroda (1975-76), Tony Dungy (2002-03) and Jim Caldwell (2009-10) as the only Colts coaches to start a career with consecutive 10-plus victory seasons and playoff berths…the Colts are 5-0 in the AFC South for the fourth time (2005, 07, 09)…the Colts are 10-0 under Pagano after losses, with a 253-170 scoring edge in those bounce-back wins…Luck (20) joins Russell Wilson (23), Ben Roethlisberger (22), Dan Marino (21), Joe Flacco (20) and Matt Ryan (20) as the only QBs with 20-plus starting wins in the first two seasons of a career…Luck's 7,673 passing yards are the third-most by a QB in his first two seasons…Luck has joined Marino, Peyton Manning, Wilson and Andy Dalton as the only QBs to have consecutive 20-plus TD seasons to start a career…Joe Reitz (concussion), Donald Brown (stinger), Sergio Brown (groin) and Daniel Adongo (hamstring) exited with injuries, after the club had deactivated five starters heading into the game…Reitz was playing RG, but left on the first drive and was replaced by Xavier Nixon…Pagano awarded Darius Butler (two interceptions) and Robert Mathis (one sack to set franchise and seasonal records) with game balls.