HOUSTON – With their offense sputtering in the second half Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts turned to their defense to seal a win over the Houston Texans.
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes in the first half and the defense dominated after that, lifting the Colts to the 26-20 victory.
The Texans had a chance to take the lead with about 90 seconds left. They were at the Colts 2 when Deshaun Watson fumbled a low snap and Anthony Walker pounced on it to secure the victory.
“It was crazy," Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said. “Obviously, that’s why it’s a 60-minute minute game and you’re never surprised by things that happen in this league ... we got a good break there. We made the break. They dropped the ball and we went and got it.”
Watson took responsibility for the miscue even though the snap wasn't great.
“I should have just caught the ball," he said. “I know it was a little low and hot, but for me I take pride in catching every snap regardless of where it is and how fast it is."
The Colts (8-4) led 24-20 at the break after Rivers threw TD passes of 21 and 39 yards. Their offense didn't score after that, but the defense held Houston (4-8) scoreless in the second half and Justin Houston added a safety with a sack of Watson in the end zone.
The safety was Indy’s third this season and the fourth of Houston’s career, tying him for the most in NFL history. Houston had three sacks, three QB hits and forced a fumble.
With Sunday's shutout in the second half, the Colts are allowing an average of 7.33 points in the second half of games this season.
Watson threw for 341 yards and ran for a score in the first half. But he did not have a touchdown pass for the first time this season and threw an interception after not being picked off in the last six games.
He seemed stunned after the fumble and sat alone on Houston’s bench with a towel covering his head for several minutes after the game ended. Watson was still emotional more than an hour after the game, choking up more than once while talking to reporters.
“I was disappointed for the whole city ... that’s why I was sitting on the bench," Watson said.
The Colts had a chance to add to their lead with about seven minutes left, but Jonathan Taylor was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Houston 5.
“We weren’t as good executing in the second, though we did get the running game going,” Rivers said. “We found a way to win but we sure don’t feel like we played perfect.”
Indianapolis added to its lead three plays later when Houston sacked Watson in the end zone to make it 26-20.
The Colts had two penalties on the ensuing drive and punted to give the Texans that last chance.
T.Y. Hilton had a season-high 110 yards receiving and a touchdown. Taylor ran for 91 yards after missing a game because of COVID-19 contact tracing. Rivers threw for 285 yards.
Keke Coutee had 141 yards receiving and Chad Hansen 101. Both players set career highs in Houston’s first game since star receiver Will Fuller received a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.
The Texans were driving late in the third quarter when Kenny Moore ripped the ball out Brandin Cooks' hands as he was falling to the ground. The play was reviewed and upheld as an interception, the first pick off Watson since Oct. 11.
Indy couldn’t take advantage of the mistake and had to punt.
The Colts led 7-0 after a 21-yard TD catch by Hilton on their first drive. Houston tied it when Watson scrambled 11 yards for a score later in the first quarter. That score was set up when Watson wriggled out of the grasp of a defender and completed a 64-yard pass to Coutee.
A 52-yard field goal by Kaʻimi Fairbairn gave Houston a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter. Nyheim Hines put the Colts up 14-10 on a 5-yard run with less than a minute left in the first.
Fairbairn missed a 53-yard field goal attempt before Indianapolis made it 21-10 on a 39-yard catch-and-run by Taylor. Then Houston got within 21-17 on a 6-yard run by David Johnson, and both teams added field goals to leave Indianapolis up 24-20 at halftime.
Rivers has 3,263 yards passing this season to join Brett Favre and Drew Brees as the only players in NFL history to have 3,000 yards passing in 15 straight seasons.
Colts: RT Le’Raven Clark was carted off the field in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Texans: TE Pharaoh Brown sustained a concussion in the first quarter.
Colts: visit the Raiders next Sunday.
Texans: visit the Bears next Sunday.