Five Things Learned: Colts-Texans (2019, Week 12)

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 6-5 on the season Thursday with their 20-17 loss to the Houston Texans in their 2019 Week 12 matchup at NRG Stadium.

In a game that featured two tied scores and six lead changes, the Colts just couldn’t come up with a couple big plays to make a difference in the end. With the win the Texans improved to 7-4 on the year and have taken a stranglehold on the AFC South Division lead heading into the final month of the season.

“Tough road loss — a division loss. I thought our guys prepared very hard, came in here and played against against a good football team on the road, Thursday night,” head coach Frank Reich said. “We knew it was a big game, we knew what was at stake, and I thought we fought hard. … We just wanted to hang in there, and we had chances at the end; we didn’t make enough plays in any of the phases to come as a winner tonight.”

Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Thursday's loss to the Texans:

» ‘WEREN’T CLICKING:’ The last time these two teams met — in Week 7 at Lucas Oil Stadium — the Colts’ passing game was virtually unstoppable, as quarterback Jacoby Brissett was on fire the entire afternoon en route to AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. But on Thursday night in Houston, it was the quite the opposite, as the Houston secondary mixed things up with a soft zone coverage, leading to several checkdowns and otherwise less-than-ideal passing situations. Brissett on Thursday completed just 16-of-25 passes for 129 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, and he had no pass completions for more than 14 yards; for a reference, Brissett had six passing plays of 20 or more yards back in Week 7 against the Texans — and two more that went for 19 yards. “We just weren’t clicking. We just were not clicking in the passing game as well. You know, we made a few plays, but not enough,” Reich said. “We had a few shots called here or there; we just were not clicking.”

» HILTON’S RETURN: T.Y. Hilton and the Colts have become accustomed to some of the biggest games of his career happening on the NRG Stadium turf, but circumstances were a bit different on Thursday night, as Hilton was making his return to the field after missing three games with a calf injury suffered in practice on Oct. 30. Reich later said Hilton was on a pitch count against the Texans — he unofficially ended up playing 25 offense snaps (37 percent) — and he seemingly could never really get into a rhythm with Brissett. Hilton was targeted six times in all and had three total receptions for 18 yards, while he also had a couple possible drops on potentially huge third-down plays in the second half — missed opportunities he was lamenting after the game. “I’ve got to make that,’ Hilton said. “That’s what I get paid for. I’ve got to make it. I let my team down today. One hundred percent on me. I’ll get better.”

» WINNING NUMBERS, BUT…: The Colts on Thursday night won the time-of-possession battle, 33:17 to 26:43; they out-ran the Texans by 76 rushing yards, 175-99; they were 2-for-3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and 9-of-15 on third down; and they won the turnover battle, 1-0. Those facts are almost always a slam dunk victory for the team ahead in all those categories — but Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was able to find DeAndre Hopkins for two big touchdown passes, and they didn’t look back from there; the Colts, meanwhile, had no such luck. While the Colts mostly held the Texans’ offense in check, you can’t help but tip your cap to Watson for his ability to make magic when he team needs it most. “He’s Deshaun Watson. He had a great game,” Colts linebacker Darius Leonard said. “He’s one hell of a quarterback. He can beat you on his feet and with his arm. He’s just a great quarterback that you have to stop.” Watson, in all, completed 19-of-30 passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, which was a sensational effort from cornerback Kenny Moore II to tip the pass attempt in the air and then snag it for the pick.

» WILLIAMS CARRIES LOAD: Jonathan Williams had great success spelling starting running back Marlon Mack — as well as backup running back Jordan Wilkins — last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, finishing with a career-best 116 rushing yards. So with Mack now expected to be out at least a few weeks with a fractured hand, and with Wilkins continuing to nurse a sore ankle and available only in an emergency, it was Williams’ turn to carry the load once again against the Texans — and he ran with the opportunity. Making his first-career start, Williams on Thursday ran the ball 26 times for 104 yards and a terrific 13-yard rushing touchdown, while also catching three passes for 17 yards. While the passing game struggled throughout Thursday’s game, Williams certainly held up his end of the offensive bargain. The Colts, in all, ran the ball 39 times for 175 yards — an average of 4.5 yards per carry. “It just shows you what type of group we have. And our backs are amongst the best of them,” Brissett said. “Our O-line does a great job. They call for the runs. Our receivers and tight ends, game in game out, do a heck of a job of blocking down field. And the 175 yards is as a result of that.”

NOTES OF INTEREST:

— The Colts are one of two teams (Baltimore) to have two different rushers have two or more 100-plus yard rushing games this season.

— Kenny Moore II intercepted his second pass of the 2019 season and the sixth of his career. The turnover led to a Colts touchdown on the ensuing drive.

— It was the first interception Deshaun Watson threw in his last 10 regular season home games.

— See more stats and notes from Thursday’s game by clicking here.

See all the best action on the field as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Houston Texans in primetime at NRG Stadium.

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