INDIANAPOLIS-- Beating the Colts in this raucous environment requires both poise and precision. The Texans displayed neither trait Sunday at RCA Dome and the result was a costly (and dubiously historic) setback.
The Colts defeated the Texans 49-14 behind five touchdown passes from quarterback Peyton Manning and a stellar defensive effort. Indianapolis' much-maligned defense matched Houston's scoring total, harassing the Texans until garbage time and sacking quarterback David Carr five times. The Colts also intercepted Carr three times, returning one for a touchdown and scoring another touchdown on a fumble return.
The 49 points represent the most ever yielded by the Texans in a single game. After beating Jacksonville on Halloween to improve its record to 4-3, Houston has now suffered back-to-back routs on the road to drop to 4-5. Indianapolis is now 6-3, remaining tied with Jacksonville for first place in the AFC South.
Running back Domanick Davis scored two touchdowns for the second consecutive week and had 153 total yards. But he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry as the Texans couldn't get their running game going early. Carr had his worst outing of the season, completing 22 of 41 passes for 215 yards.
Meanwhile, despite two interceptions, Manning was nearly unstoppable. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 320 yards, including 10 of 11 in the second quarter, when the Colts blew the game open. His five touchdowns passes put his season total at an astounding 31 scoring strikes. Wide receiver Brandon Stokley led Indianapolis with five catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans have now given up nine touchdown passes in the past two weeks, which is Carr's total through nine games.
Houston won the toss and took the ball. The Texans also took a shot from a fired-up Colts defense and the raucous crowd. Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney blew by tackle Seth Wand on the opening snap, forcing an incompletion. Houston eventually went three-and-out and punted, something you don't want to do early against Indianapolis.
On 3rd and 5, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning found tight end Dallas Clark for 21 yards to the Texans 38. Manning then converted another third down to the Colts' other tight end, Marcus Pollard. The completion went for 17 yards to the 18-yard line.
Manning ended the drive with a third-and-goal pass to wide receiver Brandon Stokley. The two-yard touchdown toss gave the Colts a 7-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Houston's offense was still rattled, committing two consecutive false starts to set up 1st and 20 from its own 17. The Texans could manage just one yard on the next two plays, but on 3rd and 19 Carr fired a 19-yard strike to wide receiver Corey Bradford. Freeney was also flagged for roughing Carr, giving the Texans some much-needed breathing room to the Colts 49.
But the Texans stalled there as Davis carried twice for minus-three yards before a Carr incompletion. Chad Stanley's punt backed Indianapolis up to its 18.
Linebacker Kailee Wong sacked Manning and forced a fumble, which Stokley recovered. But the Colts were forced to punt and Houston got the ball at the Indianapolis 45 with 3:12 left in the quarter.
But the Colts kept coming. On two consecutive plays, Colts defensive end Robert Mathis forced Carr to fumble in the pocket, turning 2nd and 6 into 4th and 32. Stanley punted for the third time and the Texans had minus-five total yards to show for three drives. Carr had been sacked twice and knocked down four times.
On the Colts' ensuing snap, defensive end Gary Walker injured his right foot and left the game, his return questionable. There was no questioning Manning's priorities. With the Texans crowding All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Manning decided to feed Stokley, who caught two passes for 38 yards, moving the ball to the Texans 19. Houston challenged both calls and both calls were upheld.
The Colts moved the ball closer and again victimized the Texans on third down. Manning hit a diving Reggie Wayne on a five-yard touchdown pass to give Indianapolis a 14-0 lead with 11:55 left in the half. The connection was the Colts' fifth third-down conversion in six trips.
Houston's offense got its sea legs back, marching into Colts territory. But the drive stalled at the 37-yard line when Davis couldn't convert a 3rd and 1. Kris Brown trotted out and missed a 55-yard field goal wide left. The defense held and Carr found wide receiver Andre Johnson down the right sideline for 25 yards to the Texans 45. But the drive stalled there.
And the ensuing punt summed up Houston's first half. Stanley shanked a punt, which bounced backwards into the stunned hands of Colts wide receiver Aaron Morehead. He raced 34 yards to the Texans 29. Colts running back Edgerrin James then rushed around the right side for 28 yards. One play later, Manning hit Clark for his third touchdown of the day and a 21-0 lead.
The Texans turned the ball over for the first time on their next series as Carr was picked off by linebacker Jim Nelson. Manning then hit Stokley for 21 yards to the Texans 27. Houston held and Mike Vanderjagt missed a 39-yard field goal, a rarity for him, especially indoors.
The half ended but things snowballed to start the second stanza. Manning found Stokley deep across the middle and he raced 69 yards to the end zone to give Indianapolis a four-touchdown cushion.
Houston got the ball back and Carr was hit again by Mathis. The ball came loose and Colts free safety Bob Mathis scooped it up and raced 37 yards for another touchdown.
If the Texans weren't in hurry-up mode before, that did it. Carr marched the Texans down to the Colts' six-yard line. But on 3rd and goal, he looked for wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in the end zone and was picked off by Colts linebacker Gary Brackett. Indianapolis took over at its own 20.
Manning made his first mistake of the afternoon, misreading a route and throwing it right to cornerback Aaron Glenn, who returned it to the Colts 16. It was Glenn's 33rd career pick. Houston took advantage of the short field as Davis rushed into the end zone from a yard out, cutting the lead to 35-7.
But Manning wasn't done. After a holding penalty negated a long pass play to Pollard, Manning rolled right and connected with Clark, who raced 80 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. It was the second-longest touchdown reception yielded by the Texans in their brief history and also marked another dubious record -- most points allowed in a single game. The score was 42-7.
The Texans later drove deep into Colts territory but Carr's pass to Bradford in the end zone on fourth down fell incomplete. Manning remained in the game and kept throwing, but was picked off by linebacker Antwan Peek, who returned his first career theft 20 yards to the Colts 32. Davis capped the drive with another one-yard touchdown run, his second of the day. Davis now has three multi-touchdown games this season and six in his career.
The Colts added insult to injury with 1:47 left as cornerback Von Hutchins picked off Carr and raced 77 yards to the end zone for Indianapolis' second defensive score of the game.
The Texans return home to kick off a two-game homestand against Green Bay Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. After a 1-4 start, the Packers have reeled off four wins in a row.