INDIANAPOLIS-- The Texans hung tough behind their rookie running back and backup quarterback against the high-octane Colts Sunday. But ultimately too many big plays by Peyton Manning and company were too much to overcome.
Indianapolis defeated Houston 30-21 at RCA Dome. Manning, the Colts' perennial Pro Bowl quarterback, threw three touchdown passes, two of those to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Rookie running back Domanick Davis countered with two touchdown runs of his own.
Davis had helped the Texans take a 14-3 lead, gaining 72 first half yards and scoring his first career touchdown in the process. But his fumble late in the first half gave the Colts an opportunity to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room. Two plays into the second half, Manning hit Wayne on a 57-yard scoring strike and the Texans were forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Davis finished with 105 yards on 25 carries, becoming the first rookie to crack the 100-yard mark in his first two NFL starts since Denver's Mike Anderson in 2000.
Meanwhile, Tony Banks replaced David Carr at quarterback for two series in the first half, culminating with Houston's first scoring drive. Carr suffered a right ankle sprain on the Texans' second drive but returned to throw a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Miller to cap Houston's second touchdown drive. Banks returned to start the second half and played all the way through.
Banks completed 12 of 17 passes for 88 yards and an interception on the game's final play. Carr completed 8 of 9 passes for 62 yards.
Manning completed 22 of 30 passes for 269 yards and was not sacked. Colts running back Edgerrin James rushed for 104 yards after missing the previous three games with a back injury.
The Texans got the ball first as wide receiver J.J. Moses returned the kickoff to the Houston 25. On the first play from scrimmage, Carr dropped back and hit Miller for a 25-yard gain. Two plays later, Carr hit wide receiver Jabar Gaffney for 19 yards to convert a 3rd and 8.
But the Texans went backwards after that. A false start penalty by tight end Jabari Holloway was followed by three consecutive negative yardage plays. First and 10 at the Colts 29 turned into 4th and 23 at the Colts 42. Punter Chad Stanley did his job, pinning Indianapolis at its 10.
Houston's defense, which played one of its best games of 2002 in this building, made the field possession hold up as the Colts went three-and-out. Moses returned the ensuing punt to the Texans 43, but the Texans could only muster four yards and punted again.
The Colts' offense started to click behind James, who gained 18 yards on two carries, then helped quarterback Peyton Manning sell a nasty play fake that resulted in a 31-yard completion to wide receiver Troy Walters.
The drive stalled at the Texans 14 and kicker Mike Vanderjagt connected on a 32-yard field goal to give Indianapolis a 3-0 lead.
Banks took the field for the Texans on the final play of the first quarter. Banks led Houston to one first down, completing all three of his passes for 13 yards. But then the Texans got the break they were looking for.
On the ensuing punt, long snapper Bryan Pittman recovered a fumble by Colts kick returner Brad Pyatt, giving the Texans the ball at the Colts 28. Banks hit wide receiver Andre Johnson for 13 yards and Davis scampered 15 yards around the right end for the go-ahead touchdown on the next play.
Houston's defense again forced a three-and-out and Carr returned to the huddle. He followed Banks' lead, completed a pass to Johnson before handing it off to Davis for a 14-yard gain. Two plays later, Davis broke off a 19-yard run to the Colts 43.
Carr hit Gaffney in stride for a 13-yard gain to the Colts 28, then watched as Davis -- again finding space on the right side -- darted 27 yards to the one-yard line. Carr then lofted a pass under pressure to Miller, who made a gorgeous catch and got both feet in bounds. Suddenly, the Texans were up 14-3 and the RCA Dome crowd was showering the home side with boos.
Manning and the offense responded. Manning hit wide receiver Marvin Harrison for a 37-yard pass down the left sideline. He then connected with fellow wideout Reggie Wayne for 12 yards before Texans cornerback Marcus Coleman was flagged for a face mask on James. That gave the Colts first and goal at the Texans 5.
James got the ball to the edge of the goal line and Manning lofted a scoring strike to tight end Marcus Pollard to close Houston's lead to 14-10.
Two plays later, free safety Marlon McCree was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Houston's defense stiffened on two runs but Manning hit Wayne for a two-yard touchdown pass on third and goal to convert the turnover into a 17-14 lead.
Two plays into the second half, Manning found a wide-open Wayne gliding down the right sideline to give Indianapolis its biggest lead.
Banks guided the Texans into Colts territory but the drive stalled and Indianapolis took over at its own nine-yard line. Manning continued to get plenty of time to throw and went about dissecting Houston's defense again. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 72 yards, moving Vanderjagt into position to hit a 29-yard field goal to give Indianapolis a 27-14 lead.
Meanwhile, the Texans continued to lose players on defense. Cornerback Aaron Glenn missed the series after a blow to the head and defensive end Corey Sears left the field a few plays before the field goal.
But Banks and the offense kept plugging away. Davis broke off a 16-yard run to move over the 100-yard mark for the second consecutive game and Banks completed some short passes to move Houston into field goal range. Then those tricky Texans resurfaced.
Instead of having Kris Brown attempt a 42-yard field goal on 4th and 2, Stanley took the snap and ran 12 yards to the Colts 13 on the last play of the fourth quarter.
Davis ran for no gain on the next play but Colts linebacker David Thornton was flagged for unnecessary roughness, moving the ball to the Colts 6. Davis scored from two yards out on third and goal to get the Texans within 27-21.
But the Colts started riding their primary horse and James responded with a stellar drive. James rushed six times for 47 yards, allowing Vanderjagt to boot a 22-yarder that put Indianapolis up by two scores.