INDIANAPOLIS – Looking to secure their first-ever victory at Indianapolis and stay in the hunt for a top seed in the AFC, the Texans led the one-win Colts for almost the entire game on Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Key word: Almost.
Former Texans quarterback Dan Orlovsky put the Colts ahead for the first time – and for good – with a one-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 19 seconds remaining. It capped a 12-play, 78-yard drive in the final two minutes that featured three penalties on the Texans. Houston was penalized 11 times for 84 yards overall in a 19-16 loss that dropped their record to 10-5 on the season.
"We'll go back and look at the calls, but obviously we hurt ourselves way too much all night long," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "You do that, you're not going to win in this league. It was very disappointing."
The Texans were 1-of-10 on third down. The lone conversion came late in the fourth quarter on a deflected pass to Jacoby Jones that bounced off Colts safety Antoine Bethea's shoulder pads.
Running back Arian Foster had 158 rushing yards on 23 carries (6.0 average) and a touchdown, but the Texans could sustain only two drives of longer than three minutes. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates attempted 16 passes but was sacked four times, including twice by defensive end Robert Mathis past Texans right tackle Eric Winston.
"Everyone else was doing their job and I wasn't," Winston said. "That's the bottom line. I played against a good player, and he played me better than I played him."
Orlovsky, the Texans' backup from 2009-10, was 23-off-41 for 233 yards and a touchdown. He completed passes of 11, 10 and 34 yards on the final drive to move the Colts to the 20-yard line with 46 seconds left. That was followed by back-to-back penalties on rookie defensive end J.J. Watt, one for illegal use of hands to the face and one for a low hit on Orlovsky.
On third-and-goal from the six, Texans safety Glover Quin was flagged for pass interference at the one-yard line. Wayne scored on the next play with a leaping catch over cornerback Kareem Jackson.
"We played hard all night," Kubiak said. "We felt like we needed to win a dirty, physical football game, and we were well on our way to doing that. We make one play offensively at the game, game's over. We make one stop defensively, game's over. We didn't finish. We needed to finish the game one way or the other."
The Texans came out like they had a point to prove after losing to the Carolina Panthers at home on Sunday. Linebacker Brian Cushing sacked Orlovsky and forced a fumble on the first play of the game, and Brooks Reed recovered at the Indianapolis 17-yard line. Foster put the Texans up 7-0 two plays later with a nine-yard touchdown run.
Houston's defense forced a three-and-out on the next series, and it looked like a rout might be on. But two plays later, Yates was stripped by Mathis, who recovered the fumble at the Texans' 36-yard line.
Texans linebacker Connor Barwin sacked Orlovsky three plays later to push the Colts out of field goal range. Later in the first quarter, Cushing stopped Joseph Addai for no gain on third-and-two from the five-yard line to force Indy to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
That was the first of seven field goals on the night. Neil Rackers put the Texans up 10-3 with a 44-yarder late in the first quarter. Vinatieri made a 32-yarder late in the second quarter and missed a 42-yard attempt wide left in the final minute of the first half.
The Texans got the ball first in the third quarter. Yates completed passes of 12 yards to Kevin Walter and 16 yards to Jones, and Foster sprang loose for a 30-yard run to set up a 35-yard field goal. Vinatieri added a 47-yard field goal late in the third quarter, and the Texans went three-and-out on the next series.
Orlovsky then led the Colts drove 67 yards in 11 plays for a 31-yard field goal, which made the score 13-12 with 6:48 remaining. Yates responded by taking the Texans on an 11-play, 67-yard drive of their own, which also ended with a 31-yard field goal. Rackers' final kick put the Texans up 16-12 with 1:56 remaining.
With no timeouts, Orlovsky then led the Colts on the game-winning drive. The Texans will have 10 days to stew over it until their Jan. 1 regular-season finale at Reliant Stadium.
"It's just like any other loss," Quin said. "They're all tough to live with; we've just got longer to live with it. Just gotta deal with it, get back to the drawing board and try to finish up with a win against Tennessee."
The Texans are now 0-10 all-time at Indianapolis. They'll need to beat the Titans in Week 17 and have Baltimore (10-4) and/or New England (11-3) lose twice to have a chance at a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson (hamsting injury) was inactive for the Texans. Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) started after being listed as questionable but had only one catch for four yards. Cushing had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles. Watt drew three penalties but had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and three passes defensed.