Colts Rally 20-17 Victory over Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – Offensive tackle Ryan Diem was preparing for overtime.
Center Jeff Saturday – like Diem, his linemate, and a lot of others on the Colts' sideline – was resigned to playing a while more, too. Then suddenly . . .
Texans' kicker Kris Brown's 42-yard final-play field goal missed. Game over.
Just as suddenly, the unbeaten, AFC South-leading Colts (8-0) had their eighth consecutive victory to start the season – a wild, memorable victory over AFC South rival Houston (5-4) in front of 66,033 at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
Colts 20, Texans 17.
"I was pretty much assuming we were going to overtime," Diem said after the Colts rallied from a 17-13 fourth-quarter deficit for their third division victory in as many games this season.
"I thought it was for sure," he added, laugh, "but he [Brown] missed."
Brown's miss capped a wild fourth quarter, a quarter that capped a memorable day.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, after throwing 40 passes in an up-tempo first half, threw for just 76 yards in the second half, but after Houston rallied from a 13-3 halftime lead, Manning led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive for the game's winning points.
"Huge win," said Manning, who completed 34 of 50 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown with an interception. "Great effort. Great job kind of hanging in there. Obviously, everything wasn't perfect, but great job of just kind of fighting and came up with the big win.
"Houston played well and they have an excellent team. Fortunate to win, and certainly, always want to win those division games, especially the ones at home.
"We'll definitely take it."
A two-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Addai put the Colts ahead, 20-17, lead with 7:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, and an interception by Colts linebacker Clint Session ended the ensuing possession for the Texans, who scored touchdowns on their first two second-half drives.
Session's interception gave the Colts possession at their 40 with 2:13 remaining, but the Texans forced a punt and took possession at their 15.
Quarterback Matt Schaub, who completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown in the second half, drove the Texans to the Indianapolis 24, spiking the ball to stop the clock there after completing seven of eight "non-spike" passes on the drive.
Brown, who kicked a 56-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, then pulled the potential game-tying kick wide left, securing Houston's eighth loss in as many trips to Indianapolis.
"A couple of plays here and there and they're celebrating in the locker room," said Colts tight end Dallas Clark, who caught 14 passes for 119 yards.
The Colts, who have won 14 of 15 meetings with the Texans all-time, remained one of two unbeaten teams, with New Orleans being the other. The Colts have won their last 17 regular-season games dating to last season, the longest such streak in franchise history.
The NFL record for consecutive victories is 21, set by New England from 2006-2008.
The Colts, who play host to the Patriots (6-2) on Sunday night, moved three-and-half games ahead of the Texans, who entered the game on a three-game winning streak and above .500 at the season's midway point for the first time in franchise history.
The Colts, who won the AFC South from 2003-2007 and made the playoffs in 2002 and last season as a wild-card team, won four games this season in late September and early October by double digits, but their four other victories – 14-12 over Jacksonville (Week 1), 27-23 over Miami (Week 2), 18-14 over San Francisco (last week) and Sunday's game have come by a total of 13 points.
"That's the mark of a great football team," Saturday said. "We've won eight games so far and we're ahead in our division, which was our main focus and goal. It was big to get a win against these guys. To play all three of our division opponents and win the first three is extremely imant to us.
"Hopefully, that will give us a little separation between us and the Texans."
The Colts took control early with a high-tempo first quarter in which they ran 31 plays – including 25 passes from Manning – and produced 201 total yards.
"That was obviously by design," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "We wanted to try to press the issue and be as aggressive as we possibly could early on and see if we could set a pace. Sometimes, if you go fast enough and quickly enough you can slow down a few pass rushers, and they have some good ones."
Indianapolis moved efficiently on its first drive before punting, and after a sack by Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney – his ninth of the season – helped stop the first Houston drive, the Colts took a 7-0 lead with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard pass from Manning to Addai.
The Colts controlled momentum the rest of the quarter, holding the Texans to 12 first-quarter yards and no first downs, and late in the quarter, rookie Jerraud Powers intercepted a pass intended Texans Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The Colts then drove 41 yards for Stover's first field goal, a 22-yarder.
The pace slowed a touch in the second quarter, with the Colts pushing the lead to 13-0 on a 37-yard field goal by Stover with 12:50 remaining in the half.
"I'm not sure what happened," Saturday said. "I just know drives would stall – for some reason. We have to go back and look at it and see what we can improve on."
Houston, held without a first down until 7:13 remained in the second quarter, drove 88 yards from its
11 to the Colts 1, but lost possession on a strange play just before the two-minute warning.
On 1st-and-10 from the Colts 10, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub passed to running back Ryan Moats, who carried to the 1. As he was tackled, the ball squeezed out and landed inches inbounds. Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had been out of bounds, recovered, and after a review, the result was a touchback. Colts ball.
"That was huge," Manning said.
Texans safety Bernard Pollard intercepted Manning at the Texas 14, after which Houston drove for Brown's 56-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
The Texans then took the second-half kickoff and pulled to within three after Schaub passed for a 1-yard touchdown to Moats, capping an 86-yard drive that consumed 6:29. Houston then took the lead early in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run by Steve Slaton capping a play drive that consumed the final 6:39 of the fourth quarter.
"It's real big," Caldwell said. "For us to have an opportunity to play an outstanding team, first of all – obviously they're well prepared and did a great job matching up with us – to get a win at home against a team that has been extremely hot – this was huge for us.
"It's still one game, but it's almost like it counts as double bonus when you get it at home in this situation."