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Colts-Texans: What we learned

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton connected for three second-half touchdowns and the Indianapolis Colts rallied from an 18-point deficit to take control of the AFC South with a 27-24 win over the two-time division champion Houston Texans on Sunday night at Reliant Stadium.

Luck passed for 271 yards and found Hilton for a 9-yard score with four minutes remaining to give the Colts (6-2) a one-point lead. Luck completed a two-point conversion pass to tight end Coby Fleener for the final margin.

The Texans (2-6) dropped their sixth consecutive game, but not until they surged into Colts territory in the final seconds. On the final snap from scrimmage, second-year kicker Randy Bullock missed his third field goal attempt of the game, a 55-yarder as the clock expired.

Luck, with nine fourth-quarter comebacks, has proved to be talented and resilient. And after the Texans extended their lead to 24-3 with 4:25 left in the third quarter, Luck initiated yet another white-knuckle comeback.

Aided by two third-down conversions, the second coming on a late hit against Luck by Texans linebacker Darryl Sharpton, Luck capped a 13-play, 78-yard touchdown drive with a 10-yard strike to Hilton (seven catches, 121 yards) on third down. The Colts failed to convert a two-point pass attempt.

But after Bullock missed his second field goal attempt on the ensuing Houston drive, Luck struck again. He did so with haste this time.

On the second play of the Colts' first possession of the fourth quarter, Luck hit Hilton in stride for a 58-yard scoring pass, with Hilton blowing past Texans Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph en route to the end zone. When Houston stalled yet again, Luck and Hilton capped the rally.

With quarterback Case Keenum making his second career start and his first in front of his adopted home crowd, the Texans wasted little time using him. On the third play from scrimmage, Keenum completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson down the near sideline after a near-perfect execution of a bootleg rollout.

Two possessions later, the Texans turned prime field position into a 14-0 lead. After a deflected punt gave Houston the ball at its 43, Keenum completed a 41-yard scoring pass to Johnson down the middle of the field. Johnson beat Colts safety Antoine Bethea on the play, with Keenum tossing a perfectly lofted pass to the back of the end zone.

The Texans closed the first half with a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive, with Keenum scrambling 22 yards to the Colts 5 before completing his third touchdown pass to Johnson of the half. It marked the first time in his illustrious career that Johnson had three touchdowns in a game.

Defensively, the Texans frustrated Luck into 3-of-12 passing in the first half and sacked him three times.

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt blocked a field goal attempt by Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri in the first quarter and the Colts needed a 46-yard pass interference penalty on defensive back Kareem Jackson to set up their lone first-half score, a 30-yard Vinatieri field goal with 3:30 left before halftime.

What the Colts said

"It meant a lot, especially last night. He surprised us by coming in and by giving us that extra momentum to fight for him. Not only for him but for the team, and it was a great team win." -- WR T.Y. Hilton on playing without injured veteran WR Reggie Wayne, who made the trip to Houston and offered vocal support to his position group.

What the Texans said

"I remember standing in the tunnel there, about to get announced and thinking this is pretty cool. It is hard to believe that I am here. That was very special to me, and very special to play in Houston again in front of our crowd." QB Case Keenum, undrafted last season out of the University of Houston and making the first home start of his career.

What we learned about the Colts

1. QB Andrew Luck is as unflappable as they come, and his second-half performance offered additional proof that ice water flows through his veins. Luck completed 15 of 28 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all to WR T.Y. Hilton, in the second half to rally the Colts from a 24-3 deficit in the third quarter. "The guy just continues to keep showing up late in games," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

2. The Colts talk about playing the full 60 minutes, but their collective pattern of behavior continues to prove that their mantra isn't just lip service. Luck gets the credit for engineering 10 fourth-quarter comebacks, but the Colts received contributions in all three phases to complete this rally. "We're a resilient team," Colts LB Jerrell Freeman said. "We just go out and play for 60 minutes."

What we learned about the Texans

1. Their special teams are an abomination. Second-year K Randy Bullock missed three field goal attempts to run his league-worst total to eight and P Shane Lechler uncorked a 19-yard punt in the fourth quarter that set the stage for the Colts to march 52 yards for the winning touchdown. Return specialist Keshawn Martin suffered through another unforgettable night on kickoffs. "Tonight was a rough night for me," Bullock said. "I had a really good week of practice and didn't see any of this coming. It is very upsetting and very frustrating."

2. The Texans' injury concerns at running back are glaring. They survived the week with Arian Foster nursing a hamstring issue and Ben Tate battling bruised ribs, but Foster lasted just one series before departing with back problems. Tate amassed 81 yards on 22 attempts, but his elusiveness was clearly compromised. "It was tough," Tate said. "I was in a lot of pain. I was trying to do the best I could. I gave it my all."
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