“I just wanted to try to be relentless, and stay with it,” said Freeney, a rookie defensive end. “This is a good team out there. Sometimes the record doesn’t show it. The last time we played them we got, like, four sacks in the last minute. So we have to stay with it.
“I was missing it all day,” he said of his pursuit of Carr, the No. 1 overall pick this year. “I was coming real close. Then I finally got it in the fourth quarter.”
That’s also when Scioli was most effective as Carr was forced to pass on almost every play in a desperate attempt to catch up.
“Earlier in the game, with the score a little closer, they didn’t have to drop back and go downfield as much. … But once time was running out, we knew they had to open it up, so that was our chance,” said Scioli, whose three sacks cost Houston 16 yards.
He also had seven tackles for the Colts (8-4).
“We just went out and played our game,” Scioli said. “Our defense has continued to get better as the season has gone on. … You see guys knowing the reads a lot better and you just feel the energy and intensity has picked up. And the confidence of the defense, that we can stop anybody.”
Indianapolis, which kept a one-game lead over Tennessee going into their AFC South showdown next week, took a 10-0 lead in the first five minutes following two Houston fumbles. First, Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 31-yard field goal. Then, after Frank Murphy fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the 16, Peyton Manning hit Marcus Pollard on the first play for a touchdown.
Vanderjagt added a 46-yard field goal early in the second quarter, and backup James Mungro ran in from the 1 for the final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Texans (3-9) never got closer than 41 yards to the end zone until the final minutes of the game. They reached the 26, but a holding penalty, a sack by Freeney and another penalty pushed them back to the 47 for a punt.
The Colts’ Troy Walters fumbled the punt, however, giving Houston the ball at the 21, and six plays later, after a sack by Scioli, a 34-yard field goal by Kris Brown gave the Texans their only points.
“Obviously, they’re struggling a little bit offensively. They’re real young,” said linebacker Rob Morris, who led the Colts with nine tackles.
He said it was “real disappointing” to not get the Colts’ first shutout in five years.
“But three points isn’t bad either,” Morris said. “We know we should have had the shutout and we almost knocked them out of field position still. But we won.”
Carr was 20-of-35 for 137 yards.
Manning, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 3,000 yards in each of his first five seasons, was 15-for-28 for 190 yards. Marvin Harrison had nine catches for 101 yards, tying Raymond Berry’s team record of 631 receptions. It also was the fourth straight 100-yard game for Harrison, who leads the league in catches and receiving yardage.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Harrison said. “That’s always my goal, to go out and improve and do better than I did the last week.”
Manning praised the Texans’ defense, as well as his own.
“We kind of knew coming in we had to be patient and try to protect the ball, make the plays when we had a chance,” Manning said. “We got the lead early and that kind of dictated a little bit what we did the rest of the game. It wasn’t worth taking many chances with a 13-0 lead and the defense really taking care of their offense.”
Carr has been sacked 64 times this season, eight short of the NFL record set in 1986 by Randall Cunningham.
“I’m very frustrated,” Carr said. “It’s just competitiveness. We just have to play better than that. We have to play tough.
“They come out and do the same thing every week and they’re good at it,” he said of the Indianapolis defense. “They shoot you down. What’s so frustrating about it, is you have to sustain drives. Or you have to be in atwo-minute situation. You’re not going to get big plays against this team.”
It’s only the second time since moving to Indianapolis that the Colts have started at least 8-4; they were 10-2 in 1999. … Although the game was blacked out in Indianapolis, the game was a sellout by kickoff, extending the Colts streak to 30. … Houston was 2-for-15 on third-down conversions. … Manning’s younger brother, Ole Miss QB Eli Manning, visited his brother in theColts locker room after the game.