INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 1-3 on the season Sunday with a 37-34 overtime loss to the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts were able to bounce back from an 18-point deficit with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, eventually tying the game at 31 late in the fourth quarter and sending the game into overtime. From there, the two teams traded field goals, but the Texans were able to escape with the victory after hitting a game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired.
Colts head coach Frank Reich — who elected to try to earn a first down on 4th and 4 from the Colts' 43-yard line late in the overtime period instead of punting and virtually playing for a tie, leading to Houston's game-winning kick — remained steadfast in his aggressive nature after the game.
"We fought back hard to the very end," Reich said. "I thought we had a good drive going there at the end and then just came up short. … We're not playing to tie. We're going for that 10 times out of 10. That's just the way it's got to roll."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's game against the Texans:
• AGGRESSIVE MINDSET: We'll just get that overtime decision out of the way first: Reich isn't ignorant to the differences between wins, losses and ties in the NFL, particularly when it comes to divisional games, like Sunday's matchup against AFC South Division foe Houston. When it comes down to tiebreaker scenarios — and, in the AFC South, this hasn't been rare in recent seasons — a tie game is obviously favorable to a loss. But from the outset, Reich said he is going to be aggressive as the Colts' head coach, and with buy-in from quarterback Andrew Luck, he sent the offense back on the field to try to convert that 4th and 4 play on its own side of the 50. The quick pass attempt towards Chester Rogers fell incomplete, and Houston got a quick first down on its end and was able to knock in the game-winning kick. Being aggressive has its advantages, and it also has its disadvantages. Had the Colts converted, they would've liked called their final timeout, and then had about 20 seconds to try to get into field goal position. But that's simply not the way it ended up working out. "I think that's who we are going to be as a team," Reich said. "We're going to be aggressive. That's what we want from our players. That's a mindset that we have in our players. That's the only way to win in this league, I think."
• LUCK'S RECORD-BREAKING DAY: A week ago, some outsiders were wondering if Luck still had some work to do to get to 100 percent. The Colts had an overall lackluster day throwing the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Indy offense didn't seem like it was able to get any big chunk plays down the field. Luck answered those questions, and then some, on Sunday against the Texans, however. He tied a franchise record with 40 completions, broke the franchise record with 62 passing attempts, set a career-high with 464 passing yards and had four passing touchdowns with no interceptions. Luck was, as running back Nyheim Hines called him, "cold blooded" in the second half particularly, as he led the big comeback effort by completing 20-of-25 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns in the final two quarters alone. What an effort.
• GIVETH, TAKETH AWAY: The chatter about Sunday's Colts-Texans games was and still is understandably about Indy's decision to play for a win rather than a tie in overtime, but, as is the case pretty much after any loss, a few key mistakes earlier in the game, if avoided, could've potentially led to a much different outcome for the Colts. This time, it was two key turnovers by the offense that led to immediate touchdowns for the Texans. The first came at the 5:30 mark of the the first quarter, as the Colts, backed up to their own two-yard line, had a botched snap from center Ryan Kelly, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game at 7. Then, at the 1:53 mark of the second quarter, Luck dropped back and was sacked by J.J. Watt, who stripped him of the ball, which was recovered by the Texans' Duke Ejiofor at the Indianapolis 8-yard line. Two plays later, Deshaun Watson found DeAndre Hopkins for a five-yard touchdown pass to go up 21-7 with 1:13 left in the first half. There's obviously no telling how the game would've played out without one or both of these miscues by the Colts, but it's a prime example of just how important it is to take care of the football — not that anybody on Indy's side needs to be reminded of that.
• SWARMING: The Colts' defense logged seven sacks on Sunday, as several players were able to get to Watson throughout the ballgame: Denico Autry had two sacks; Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, Margus Hunt, Jihad Ward got one apiece; while Jabaal Sheard and Kemoko Turay split a sack. The Colts now have 17 sacks on the season through four games — they had 25 all of last season, ranking 31st in the NFL. Indy not only ranks second in the league in that category, sitting just one behind the league-leading Chicago Bears' 18, but it has the most sacks through four games it's ever had. What a turnaround for this defense, which continues to learn and develop under first-year coordinator Matt Eberflus.
• NOTES OF INTEREST:
— With his 42-yard field goal at the end of the first half Adam Vinatieri set the all-time NFL field goal record with his 566th career field goal, breaking Morten Andersen's record of 565. He also now sits 26 points behind Morten Andersen (2,544) for most points all-time.
— With 23 passing first downs the team tied a franchise record set on 10/3/10 at Jacksonville.
— In his 74th career game Luck passed 20,000 career yards, tying Dan Marino for the second fastest to reach that mark in NFL history. Has also now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 27 consecutive games which ties Manning for the second-most in team history.
— Zach Pascal and Nyheim Hines each brought in their first-career touchdown receptions. Hines' nine receptions are tied for second by a Colts rookie and are the most since Nov. 16, 1986.
— The Colts defense tied the 2015 St. Louis Rams for the most tackles for loss (31.0) through the first four games of a season since 1994.
— Darius Leonard (7.0) and Margus Hunt (9.0) have combined for 16.0 tackles for loss, the most by two teammates through the first four games of the season since 1994.