Colts hold on to beat Texans, end losing streak
HOUSTON -- By the midpoint of the fourth quarter, it appeared that Jacoby Brissett and T.Y. Hilton had done enough to steer the Indianapolis Colts clear of their doldrums and reverse a recent losing trend against their rivals in the AFC South.
And then, all of a sudden, things went a bit haywire.
Brissett and Hilton connected on two long scoring strikes as Indianapolis snapped a three-game losing skid with a 20-14 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
The Colts (3-6) took a 13-point lead with 9:12 remaining in the fourth quarter on the second of two Adam Vinatieri field goals before having to hold on for dear life, with linebacker Jabaal Sheard recording a sack and forced fumble on Texans quarterback Tom Savage on the final play from scrimmage. After pacing a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive earlier in the quarterb, Savage led the Texans (3-5) on a 73-yard surge to the Colts 7-yard line with seven seconds left before Sheard stepped forward.
"I just got there grinding. Just fighting through," said Sheard, who finished with two sacks on Savage. "Our boys held up coverage and Tom had to hold the ball, and I eventually got there."
Savage had completed his first career touchdown pass earlier in the fourth quarter, a splendid 34-yard strike to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with 6:11 left, before engineering a second threatening march that nearly enabled Houston to extend its series win streak to four games.
Savage, starting for the second time this season after rookie sensation Deshaun Watson sustained a right ACL tear in practice last week, finished 19 of 44 for 219 yards and a touchdown.
"I don't know if it was difficult," Savage said of reclaiming his rhythm. "I just didn't make the throws to win the game."
Brissett completed 20 of 30 passes for 308 yards leading an offense that thrived in fits and spurts. He teamed with Hilton on a 45-yard touchdown pass on the opening possession for a 7-0 lead at the 8:33 mark of the first quarter. The Colts punted on five of their ensuing eight drives, with Vinatieri adding a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Brissett-Hilton tandem struck again in the third quarter, with Hilton taking a short slant pass 80 yards for a score. Hilton went to the turf on his run deep in Texans territory, but was not touched by a defender, prompting him to leap to his feet and complete his jaunt into the end zone for a 17-7 lead with 1:56 left in the third. Hilton finished with five catches and 175 yards.
"(Colts tight end) Jack (Doyle) was behind me screaming, 'Get up, get up, he didn't touch you!'" Hilton said. "I just had to finish it off."
The Texans' lone score prior to the intermission came defensively, with strong safety Eddie Pleasant delivering a jarring blow on Brissett that dislodged the football for linebacker Lamarr Houston, who returned the fumble 34 yards for a touchdown with 4:34 left in the first half.
Otherwise, the Texans painted a picture of offensive ineptitude. Entering the fourth quarter, Houston had amassed only 140 net yards while Savage was 8 of 26 for 81 yards with a 40.7 passer rating. The Texans moved seven yards from rendering their earlier struggles moot, but after reflecting dynamism while scoring 30-plus points over five consecutive games with Watson at the controls, their offensive woes were impossible to overlook and disregard.
"We got a drive there at the end and we got enough opportunities and just couldn't put it in," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We called every low-red-area play we have and just couldn't get it done so we've got to go back to the drawing board."
NOTES: Texans rookie LT Julien Davenport made his second start of the season and first since Week 2 at Cincinnati. Houston traded veteran LT Duane Brown to Seattle earlier in the week. Chris Clark replaced Davenport at halftime after Davenport allowed a sack of QB Tom Savage in the second quarter. ... After totaling just 61 receiving yards in his three previous games combined, Colts WR T.Y. Hilton exceeded that total in the first half and finished with five catches for 175 yards and two scores. ... With his PAT in the first quarter, Colts K Adam Vinatieri surpassed Gary Anderson (2,434) for second in career points. Vinatieri (2,442) now trails only Morten Andersen (2,544). ... Texans TE Ryan Griffin was lost to a concussion in the first half and did not return.