INDIANAPOLIS --With an emphatic game-opening drive, the Colts' offense ended its lengthy drought of first-half touchdowns.
That quick TD provided the impetus. The Indianapolis offense continued to do its job Sunday and the defense grabbed control of the game. The Colts constructed a workmanlike victory, 25-3, over the visiting Houston Texans.
"A great team win" is how Colts Coach Chuck Pagano described it, adding that "this is something that's very positive for our football team, for our organization."
First, there was that irksome, first-half TD drought to halt. The Colts' touchdown on the opening possession, coming on a 14-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Griff Whalen, ended a string of six games without a first-half TD from the offense.
This time, Indy ratcheted up the pace and produced fast points with an 80-yard push.
"I think everybody sort of did a good job of getting in the groove early and getting some good mojo," said Luck, who finished with 19-of-32 passing for 180 yards and two scores.
Pagano put it simply about the hurry-up style.
"Just looking for a spark," he said.
The Colts got it. The offense went on to hold the ball for more than 33 minutes against Houston. Trent Richardson ran 19 times for 64 yards, and Donald Brown had five rushes for 38 yards. Luck ran five times for 29 yards.
T.Y. Hilton caught eight passes for 78 yards. Griff Whalen, fresh off the Colts' practice squad, had four receptions for 45 yards and the touchdown. He also had a 51-yard punt return that set up one of Adam Vinatieri's three field goals.
However, it was the Colts' defense that performed major work in this one.
Darius Butler intercepted a pair of passes to lead an Indianapolis unit that held Houston to 239 total yards and 12 first downs. Robert Mathis had a strip-sack of Houston quarterback Case Keenum, resulting in a safety. It gave Mathis 16.5 sacks for the season and 108 for his career, both club records.
Luck watched with awe as Mathis performed in his usual top-notch manner.
"He's everything you could ask for in a leader, in a locker-room guy, in a veteran, in the example he sets, in his work ethic," Luck said about Mathis. "I feel honored to be in the stadium and see that happen and be able to give him a high-five."
The victory lifted the AFC South champion Colts to 9-5. The loss, which dropped the Texans to 0-12 in Indianapolis since 2002, put Houston at 2-12 for the season.
FIRST QUARTER (9:31 remaining)
The Colts got on the scoreboard first as the offense notched a first-half touchdown for the first time since an Oct. 20 victory over Denver. The score came on a 14-yard pass, Andrew Luck to Griff Whalen. On the 11-play, 80-yard drive, Donald Brown ran four times for 39 yards. Luck hit 3-of-5 passes for 29 yards. Adam Vinatieri kicked the extra point. Colts 7, Texans 0.
FIRST QUARTER (1:46 remaining)
The Texans gained their first points on a 49-yard field goal by Randy Bullock. Houston had pushed to the Indy 31-yard line, where it had a 2nd-and-1. But the Colts' defense stiffened, holding Dennis Johnson to no gain on a run and then forcing an incomplete pass.Colts 7, Texans 3.
SECOND QUARTER (12:00 remaining)
Indy's defense provided the big play leading to this home team score -- a 37-yard field goal by Vinatieri. Darius Butler intercepted a pass by Case Keenum and returned it 13 yards to give the Colts a first down at the Houston 17.Colts 10, Texans 3.
SECOND QUARTER (7:03 remaining)
A 41-yard pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton was the big gainer of this 70-yard touchdown drive. A pass interference penalty against Houston's Darryl Sharpton on the next play also helped the cause, providing the Colts with 25 yards. On second down from the 9-yard line, Luck tossed a nifty shuffle pass to Trent Richardson, who weaved his way into the end zone. Vinatieri added the extra point. Colts 17, Texans 3.
SECOND QUARTER (1:44 remaining)
Butler picked off another Keenum pass, putting the Colts in position to score again before halftime. After Butler's 25-yard return, the Colts had the ball at Houston's 44. Luck's pass to Da'Rick Rogers gained 12 yards. When the drive stalled, Vinatieri hit a 43-yard field goal.Colts 20, Texans 3.
THIRD QUARTER (12:27 remaining)
Whalen's 51-yard punt return put the Colts at the Houston 28-yard line. Luck scrambled for eight yards. But the drive sputtered, so Vinatieri booted his third field goal of the day.Colts 23, Texans 3.
THIRD QUARTER (1:53 remaining)
Indy's Robert Mathis strip-sacked Keenum and Houston recovered in the end zone, bringing the Colts two more points for a safety. For Mathis, it marked the 108th sack of his career, a club record. It also gave Mathis 16.5 sacks on the year, which is another Colts mark.Colts 25, Texans 3.