The Houston Texans are headed to the 2023 NFL Playoffs.
C.J. Stroud led a late touchdown drive and the defense stopped the Colts final drive to secure a victory in Indianapolis that propelled Head Coach DeMeco Ryans' team to the postseason.
The Texans won the coin toss, elected to defer, and kicked off to start the game.
Ka'imi Fairbairn's offering was caught in the end zone for a touchback, and Indianapolis began the game at its own 25-yard line. A handoff to running back Jonathan Taylor gained four yards for the Colts. A hands-to-the-face penalty on the next play gave Indianapolis, and on 1st-and-10 at the 34-yard line, Gardner Minshew completed a 5-yard pass to Michael Pittman, Jr. That duo linked up again on the next play for a 7-yard gain, and then again on the next play for a 9-yard pickup.
Taylor picked up three more yards on the ground, and the Colts had another first down.
On 1st-and-10 at the Texans 42-yard line, Minshew scrambled for a gain of nine yards. Taylor rumbled up the middle on second down for 13 yards.
From the Texans 20-yard line, Taylor carried left for a pickup of four yards. On 2nd-and-6, Taylor pushed ahead for two more yards, bringing up the first third-down situation of the night for the Colts. Minshew fired high-and-wide towards the front right corner of the end zone to bring up fourth down. Matt Gay's 38-yard field goal was good, and Indianapolis took a 3-0 lead with 9:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The Colts scoring drive went 56 yards on 11 plays, and lasted 5:45.
The kickoff by Indianapolis resulted in a touchback, and the Texans took the field at their own 25-yard line. From there, they wasted no time.
C.J. Stroud went deep over the middle and dropped a gorgeous pass into the waiting hands of wide receiver Nico Collins. It lasted all of nine seconds, and the Fairbairn extra point gave Houston a 7-3 advantage with 9:06 left in the first quarter.
A return on the kickoff brought the Colts out to their own 23-yard line, and Minshew threw incomplete on first down. He was then sacked for a loss of eight yards on second down, and Taylor carried for 10 yards on third down. The Colts punted from their 24-yard line, and return man Desmond King fair-caught Rigoberto Sanchez's 51-yarder at their own 24-yard line.
A handoff to Devin Singletary saw the Texans offense move ahead for five yards. On 2nd-and-5, Singletary got the call again and picked up two more. On 3rd-and-3, Stroud ran ahead for four yards and a first down.
He then fired a quick completion to Collins for six yards. On 2nd-and-4, Singletary carried to the left side and got two more. The 3rd-and-2 run by Singletary was pushed back for a loss of a yard, and the Texans were on to punt. Cameron Johnston dropped a 44-yard beauty that Josh Downs fair-caught at the Colts' 14-yard line with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Taylor ran for 14 yards on first down, and Minshew threw incomplete on the next play. DeAndre Houston-Carson broke up a pass over the middle on second down, and the Colts faced a 3rd-and-10. Minshew went deep over the middle incomplete, and the Colts had to punt again. Sanchez, from his own 27, blasted it 52 yards to the Houston 20-yard line. Desmond King returned it 15 yards, and the Texans had a first down at their own 35-yard line.
Stroud wanted tight end Dalton Schultz up the right sideline, but threw incomplete. On second down, Stroud connected with Collins on the right side for a 12-yard gain.
Singletary got a yard on the ground on first down, and picked up four more on the next play. On 3rd-and-5, the Texans were flagged for a false start, and then Stroud linked up again with Collins for seven more yards as the quarter came to a close.
Johnston unleashed a 45-yard punt to start the first quarter, and it was downed at the Colts' 1-yard line by Houston. A neutral-zone infraction by the Texans pushed the ball out to the Colts' 6-yard line, and Taylor tumbled forward for three yards to the 9-yard line. He then dashed ahead for a 5-yard gain and a first down.
He was given the ball again on first down, and Taylor gained three yards. Minshew threw a screen to Taylor on the left side that gained six more for Indianapolis. On 3rd-and-1, a handoff to Taylor was stonewalled for a loss of a yard. The fourth-down punt was boomed 63 yards, but King again made some nifty moves and returned it another 15 yards out to the Houston 30-yard line.
On first down, Singletary gained a yard. The next play saw Stroud throw a quick completion to wide receiver John Metchie, III on the right side, and the Texans faced a 3rd-and-4 at their own 36-yard line. Stroud went over the middle to Schultz for seven yards and a Texans first down.
The first down pass by Stroud fell incomplete on the left side, and on second down Singletary carried over the left guard for a gain of three. Again facing third down, Stroud quickly hit wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson over the middle for a 6-yard gain. The Texans wanted to go for it on 4th-and-1, but a false start pushed Houston back five yards and Johnston was on again to punt. Again, Johnston was masterful, sending it out of bounds on the left side at the Indianapolis 11-yard line.
Minshew threw a pass the way of tight end Mo Alie-Cox, but cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr. was there to break it up. On 2nd-and-10, running back Zack Moss blasted ahead for a 6-yard pickup. Facing a 3rd-and-4, the Colts went with a screen to Taylor to the right side, but the Texans defense thwarted it for a gain of just two.
The Sanchez punt went 51 yards, and King returned it 13 yards back to the Houston 43-yard line.
Singletary took a toss sweep to the right side for a 7-yard gain. Then, Stroud went to tight end Eric Saubert for a 5-yard completion and a first down. Singletary carried again, getting six yards up the middle. He took another toss to the right side and moved his way ahead for two more yards. On 3rd-and-2 at the Colts' 37-yard line, Stroud threw a quick flare to Collins on the left side and he scooted 29 yards up the left sideline to set up 1st-and-Goal at the 8-yard line. Then Singletary carried for four yards, and again for three more, and Houston was facing a 3rd-and-Goal at the 2-yard line.
After the break, Stroud found fullback Andrew Beck all by himself in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Fairbairn's extra point gave Houston a 14-3 lead with 1:57 left in the half.
The Colts quickly moved down the field, as Taylor gained 11 on 1st-and-10 from the 25-yard line. Then Minshew connected with Downs for a 16-yard completion. Penalties on the next two plays pushed Indianapolis to the Texans' 39-yard line, but the Colts gave 5 yards back on a false start.
Minshew threw incomplete deep up the right side on first down, and followed that up with a throw that was a bit too long up the right side. With 0:48 remaining in the second quarter, the Colts faced a 3rd-and-15, and handed to Taylor up the middle for a gain of 10. Gay's 52-yard field goal attempt snuck inside the right upright, and the Colts cut the Texans lead to 14-6 with 0:35 left in the half. The field goal was the sixth play of a 41-yard drive that lasted 1:22.
The ensuing kickoff resulted in a touchback, and the Texans offense came on the field and was penalized for a false start. With a 1st-and-15 at their own 20-yard line, Singletary's carry was stuffed at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Singletary gained three yards on a run to the left side, and the Colts called timeout with 0:23 left in the half. A 3rd-and-12 awaited the Texans after the short break, and Stroud's pass to Hutchinson fell incomplete. With 0:18 left, Johnston was on to punt again. He sent it 53 yards down the field, Downs brought it back 10 yards, and the Colts came on the field with 0:07 left at their own 34-yard line. Minshew fired incomplete, and the Texans headed to the locker room up by eight points.
Stroud and the Texans offense opened the second half from their own 25 after the touchback, and he immediately hit Collins for a 23-yard completion on the left side.
On 1st-and-10 at the their own 48, a screen pass to Singletary picked up two yards and moved the ball to midfield. A false start pushed the Texans back to their own 45 to make it 2nd-and-13. Stroud was then sacked by DeForest Buckner for a loss of eight yards. On 3rd-and-21, a quick pass to Collins picked up six yards and brought Johnston back on the field for his fifth punt of the day. It went 50 yards and Downs returned it six yards to the Indianapolis 13-yard line with 11:46 left in the third quarter.
Taylor sprinted up the middle for a run of 11 yards on first down, and then carried again for a gain of four on the next play. The 2nd-and-6 saw Minshew hit Kylen Granson for 23 yards, and then Taylor got loose. He became the first back of the season to gain 100 yards or more in a game against the Texans on his 49-yard touchdown run. The Colts went for two to tie it at 14, and got it when Minshew's jump pass was complete to Alie-Cox.
The possession went 87 yards on just four plays, and took 1:50 off the clock.
After another touchback, the Texans began their drive at the 25-yard line. A Singletary carry picked up two, and Stroud threw incomplete the way of Metchie on the left sideline on second down. The 3rd-and-8 pass sailed long on the right side the way of Hutchinson, and Johnston was back on to punt. He bombed it 62 yards, and Downs was blasted by Neville Hewitt at the 20-yard line.
Moss went to work, going to the right side for a 7-yard gain. On the next play, he added another 11 yards. Taylor then scampered up the left side for a 22-yard pickup. Taylor was slowed down for a gain of just a yard on first down, and Indianapolis was in a 2nd-and-9 situation at the Texans' 39. The defense stiffened and linebacker Denzel Perryman stopped Taylor for no gain. The 3rd-and-9 pass was swatted to the turf by defensive tackle Maliek Collins, and Gay was on for a 57-yard field goal try. It clanged off the right upright, and the Texans took over on their own 47-yard line.
A flea-flicker on the Texans' first play after the field goal miss saw Stroud scrap any plans of throwing, and instead run for a 12-yard gain. Then Singletary picked up four yards on first down and pushed the ball to the Colts' 37-yard line. Stroud rolled to his left on second down and gained four more to set up a 3rd-and-2. Stroud threw over the middle down to the 15-yard line, but the Colts broke up the pass intended for Hutchinson. Fairbairn's 51-yard field goal attempt from the left hash was straight and true, and the Texans were back on top, 17-14. The scoring drive went 20 yards on five plays and lasted 1:58.
The kickoff resulted in a touchback, and Taylor was met by linebacker Blake Cashman after gaining just a yard. The next play saw Minshew throw over the middle to Alie-Cox for 12 yards and another first down. Khalil Davis dropped Taylor for a 4-yard loss on first down.
Minshew then found Pittman for an 18-yard completion, but a 15-yard personal foul on King tacked on 15 more yards. Minshew went back to Pittman again, and the duo advanced the ball another five yards. Moss plunged ahead for four more yards, and the quarter expired.
The Texans started the fourth quarter leading the Colts 17-14 but with Indianapolis driving.
The Colts started the frame facing a 3rd-and-1 at the Texans 24 yard line. The Colts challenged the spot of the ball and won, which moved the ball to the 23 and set up a new set of downs and put 45 seconds back on the clock in the 3rd quarter because of the challenge.
A short run by Moss, which lost a yard, set up a 2nd-and-11 and brought an official end to the third quarter.
The Colts started the fourth quarter with a run by Moss again as he picked up two yards. On 3rd-and-9, Minshew completed a pass to Cox for six yards, which brought up a fourth down. Gay came out and attempted a 35-yard field goal, which he made for his third field goal of the evening. The field goal tied the game at 17 apiece with 13:33 remaining.
The Texans took over at their own 27 as Dameon Pierce returned it 30 yards out of his own endzone to set up the offense. Stroud's first pass of the drive was caught by Beck for an eight-yard gain up to the 35. Following a short run by Singletary for a first down, the Texans from their own 38 went backwards as Stroud was sacked all the way back at his own 28 for a loss of 10. On 2nd-and-20, Stroud connected with Schultz, who took the ball 17 yards up to the 45 to set up a manageable third down. Not a surprise, Stroud went right back to Schultz on the next play for a five-yard gain and a first down at the 50.
The Texans were called for a hold on the next play, which pushed them back to the 40 and a 1st-and-20. Stroud hit Schultz gained six on the first play, followed by an amazing catch by Collins for a gain of 14 yards and a first down to the Colts 40. Stroud found Schultz as he back-pedaled in the pocket on the next play, which he picked up nine yards on and Singletary capped it with a four-yard run to gain a first down at the Colts 27.
With a new set of downs, Singletary went backwards on the first play for a loss of 3 back to the 30. On 2nd-and-13, Stroud found Collins across the middle for a gain of 23 yards down to the Indianapolis seven-yard-line. The Colts were flagged for a horse collar tackle, which put the ball at the three. Singletary capped the drive with a run up the middle for a touchdown run. The Texans missed the extra point, making it 23-17 with 6:20 remaining in the game.
The Texans scoring drive went 73 yards in 12 plays, spanning 7:13.
The Colts started their drive after the ensuing kickoff went into the endzone for a touchback. After a run by Taylor for a loss, Minshew hit Downs for a 28-yard gain to the Houston 48. Facing a 2nd-and-10 after a run for no gain by Taylor, the Minshew hit Downs for four yards. On 3rd-and-6, Taylor ran for five yards but a penalty for illegal use of hands to the face, the ball was moved to the Texans 34.
A trio of rushes by Taylor is what came next, gaining five on two of the runs and none on the other to move the ball to the 24 of the Texans, which brought on the two-minute warning.
After a three-straight runs by Taylor for two, six and one, it set up a 4th-and-1 at the Texans 15. After a timeout, the Colts came out and Minshew tried to hit Goodson in the flat but the pass fell incomplete and ended up being a turnover on downs. The Texans took over on their own 15.
With the Texans holding the 23-17 lead and with the ball with 1:03 remaining in the game they went to the run. Singletary rushed for three yards and then one yard on the first two plays of the drive. The Colts burned their final two timeouts between the runs to stop the clock with 54 seconds left.
Houston ran the ball again on 3rd-and-6 with Singletary and he got four yards. With the clock ticking down, the Texans burned a timeout with eight seconds left in the game facing a 4th-and-2.
The next play, Johnston ran around and ran out of the back of the endzone for the safety with one second remaining on the clock. The safety for the Colts made the score 23-19 in favor of the Texans.
Houston had to perform a free kick by Johnston from their own 20 due to the safety. The ball was fielded by Downs, who fielded it. The Colts tried to lateral it a couple of times but then fumbled it, which ended the game.
The Texans defeated the Colts 23-19 to improve to 10-7 on the 2023 season and have clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since the 2019 season. Houston enters the playoffs as at least an AFC Wild Card team. If the Tennessee Titans defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the Texans will win the AFC South and then host a playoff game at NRG Stadium.