INDIANAPOLIS –A season that has seen the Colts earn an 8-1 record in games decided by seven points or less means many things, but not all, have gone right.
Sunday at Houston was one of the days when everything did not go right, and the Colts absorbed a 29-17 loss to the Texans.
The win gave the Texans their second straight AFC South title, and Bruce Arians says the Colts will adopt a new approach with two games to go.
"We just have to set new goals now," Arians said to Colts Radio. "We came here to win the division. Houston now has won the division, so we have new goals. It's, 'Get the next win and get ourselves in the playoffs.' "
The Colts have bounced back before. A 20-point season-opening loss at Chicago was answered with a gutty three-point win over Minnesota.
A 35-9 lopsided loss at the New York Jets was answered with a four-game winning streak. A 59-24 loss at New England spurred three more wins.
The Colts had a chance to earn the division title with wins in their last three games since they host Houston on December 30 after a trip next week to Kansas City.
Like the Colts, Houston had not dropped consecutive games all year. They also had been on the road for the last three games and after a 42-14 loss at New England, Houston wanted to rebound and end the division chase.
The Texans took a 10-0 lead 10:09 into action, then saw the Colts threaten to score a touchdown.
Houston staved off the second-quarter threat by forcing a fumble by the Colts' Mewelde Moore at the one-yard line. The Colts eventually scored a field goal one possession later thanks to a short field, but a more precarious situation was avoided.
After a Shayne Graham field goal got Houston back in front by 10 points for a second time, the Texans turned in a key play by blocking a Pat McAfee punt moments later and scoring off the eight-yard return. It was Houston leading 20-3 with 1:46 left in the half.
"Those are mistakes we have not been making," said Arians. "I'll take the blame for Vick (Ballard) not being in on the goal-line. … We probably should have had Vick in there for that play. The blocked punt was a technical error."
The Colts cut the halftime deficit to 20-10 with a long scoring pass just before the half. T.Y. Hilton roamed behind the Texans' secondary for a 61-yard reception from Andrew Luck.
After rookie Dwayne Allen scored on an eight-yard reception from Luck late in the third quarter, it looked like the Colts could continue comeback magic that has marked the season.
Houston, however, added two more field goals by Shayne Graham to conclude the scoring. The final kick came after a 78-yard drive when running back Arian Foster rushed for 75 of his 165 yards.
"We'll come back and evaluate the tape. There were a lot of mistakes for us expect to win on the road in a playoff (type) game," said Arians. We'll have to correct (that) and play better as a football team. We thought we had momentum seized back when we got it to a one-score score. All year, those are the ones we win. We didn't win it today."
Vick Ballard rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries, his first career 100-yard outing. Andrew Luck completed 13-of-27 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked five times by the aggressive Houston defense. Defensive end J.J. Watt had three sacks.
Matt Schaub completed 23-of-31 passes for 261 yards, with 11 passes going to Andre Johnson for 151 yards, including a three-yard touchdown. It is a record seventh straight game the Colts have allowed a 100-yard receiver.