INDIANAPOLIS – The state of Indiana celebrated its 200th birthday on Sunday afternoon.
The celebration was marred by their home state Colts suffering a crippling blow to their postseason chances.
Sunday's 22-17 loss to the Texans gave Houston their first-ever seasonal sweep of the Colts.
Coming into Week 14 having won three of their last four, the Colts' mistakes on Sunday looked eerily similar to those that put this team in an early season divisional hole.
The Colts did not hesitate all week in acknowledging the massive stakes at hand on Sunday.
A three-way tie atop the AFC South entering Sunday saw the Titans and Texans maintain pace, and the Colts take a momentous step back.
"Obviously we had a great opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it," Chuck Pagano said after the Colts fell to 6-7 on the season, further damaging their middling playoff hopes.
"There were a lot of things that went wrong out there. It all starts with me."
Houston's game plan coming into Sunday led to the desired offensive execution via the ground, with the defense blanketing an Indy offense that put up 41 points less than a week ago.
Texans running back Lamar Miller had 107 rushing yards, helping the Texans to a more than 12-minute time of possession advantage. Miller's two season-high rushing games this year have both come against the Colts.
"We couldn't slow down the run," Pagano said after his team lost its third divisional game of the season.
The surprise to Pagano, and many on Sunday, was how the Indy offense played against the Texans.
Houston's three turnovers forced were the most they've ever had against the Colts.
As we saw earlier this season with the Colts, the turnovers came at critical moments.
None more so than a late third-quarter strip of Andrew Luck.
With one of the league's top red-zone offenses facing a 2nd-and-Goal from the two-yard line, the Colts lost one yard to set up a 3rd-and-Goal from the three.
Looking right the whole time, Luck never felt Jadeveon Clowney's pressure from the backside.
Clowney's move around Dwayne Allen got to Luck and the Texans recovered the fumble to end any chance the Colts had at re-taking the lead.
"We didn't respond the right way," Luck said after an afternoon when his two interceptions led directly to Houston field goals and the offense struggled with drops. "All year we've responded the right way. And this was a great opportunity that we did not take advantage of."
One play that won't show up as a turnover in the box score, but felt like one, came late in Sunday's first half.
With the Texans leading 10-3, the Colts had a chance for a score right before intermission (and the ball to start the third).
Adam Vinatieri's missed field goal from 55 yards out gave Houston the ball at its own 45-yard line with 46 seconds left.
It ended up being the Texans who got the final minute score. Houston kicker Nick Novak split the uprights from 52 yards out, giving the Texans a 13-3 lead at break.
The six-point swing late half proved to be the difference in the 22-17 final.
Houston's secondary was glued to the Colts receivers for much of Sunday, largely contributing to a first-half quarterback rating of 34.5 for Luck---just six days after he had a career-high 147.6 rating on Monday Night Football.
Photos from the week 14 game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.
One final chance for the Colts did arise after the defense held Houston to yet another field goal with 2:47 remaining.
Down five, the Colts moved the ball all the way to the Houston 42-yard line, before facing a 4th-and-1 with the game clock hovering around 90 seconds.
After a Houston timeout forced the Colts out of their initial fourth-down call, Luck and the offense failed on a screen attempt to passing-down back Robert Turbin.
When the ball hit the turf, jubilation commenced on the visiting sideline.
As Houston's playoff hopes stayed in the right direction, the Colts' crumbled to near extinction.
The possibility of the Colts missing the playoffs for a second straight season (which would be the first time since 1997-98) is now getting closer to reality.
"It's tough," Frank Gore said on Sunday after the Colts squandered a tremendous opportunity in their home stadium.
"Now we have to play the wishing and hoping game."