After struggling offensively in the first half all of last season, coach Gary Kubiak made it a point of emphasis in training camp for the Texans to get off to better starts.
They responded Sunday with 17 points in the first quarter and 34 in the first half, new team records, while shutting out the Colts.
The Texans outgained the Colts 259-72 in the first half. They forced two turnovers and beat the Colts in first downs 19-5. The Colts had only one drive that netted more than 13 yards. The Texans closed the half with five consecutive scoring drives, which doesn't include Jacoby Jones' 79-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"That's the best half of football that we've played as a team," Kubiak said. "It was explosive in every area – offense, defense, special teams. We needed to be that way. They're a heck of a football team. They are a big division rival. We talk about starting fast as a football team… We got going really good in a short period of time."
Mario gets two: Mario Williams had two sacks in his first game at outside linebacker, giving him 50 in his career. Both came at the expense of tight end Dallas Clark, with whom the Colts tried to block Williams one-on-one.
"Looks like he can play outside linebacker to me," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "The first series, he sacked the quarterback. He had a good game."
Williams' first sack came on the Colts' first drive of the game, four plays after a Matt Schaub interception. His second came in the fourth quarter with the Colts facing third-and-five from the Texans' seven-yard line.
"Mario continues to improve in his new role," Kubiak said. "It has been a process that every time he's gone out, whether its practice or a preseason game, he seems to do something better every week. He's off to a great start today."
Big game for Tate: Running back Ben Tate had 116 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in his first regular-season game. Derrick Ward started in place of the injured Arian Foster, and he and Tate split carries in the first half until Ward left with an ankle injury.
Despite a late fumble, Tate had the most rushing yards by a Texans running back in a debut game. He scored his first-career touchdown on a two-yard run in the first quarter.
"He's got a chance to be a fine player," Kubiak said. "To step on the field and have a 116-yard day… He has explosion. He's got big-play capability. He needs to learn how from a pro standpoint to play week-to-week, go recover this week and be ready to go in Miami on Sunday. But he's got a lot of ability."
A second-round pick from Auburn in 2010, Tate missed his entire rookie season with an ankle injury.
"It's been a long process for me," he said. "Coming back from an ankle injury, and then in camp having a hamstring injury and everybody bashing me, but it's whatever. As a player, you have to stay strong, and this injury has helped me stay mentally strong and deal with all the adversity."
Special play: Wide receiver Jacoby Jones put the Texans up 34-0 with a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the second quarter. Jones caught the ball on the right side, reversed the field and tiptoed past a defender on the left sideline on his way into the end zone.
"He actually hung it," Jones said of the punt. "Those types of balls are usually a fair catch, but my guys did such a good job of holding them up from getting down there I just took it and do what I do best, which is run as fast as possible.
"It's a thing one of my old coaches used to say: 'Offense rolls, defense holds, and special teams just stay special.'"
It was the third punt return touchdown of Jones' career, extending his team record. It was his fourth-career kick return touchdown, making him the Texans' new all-time leader in that category.
"I expect him to be one of the top returners in football," Kubiak said. "I think Jacoby's got an even bigger part in this football team this year than he's had in the past."
Big-leg Hartmann: Punter Brett Hartmann's five touchbacks on kickoffs in the first half were the most in a game in team history.
An undrafted rookie from Central Michigan, Hartmann also boomed a 54-yard punt on his first-career attempt. It was nearly downed inside the Indianapolis 5-yard line before rolling into the end zone for a touchback.
9/11 tribute: The Texans had extensive pregame ceremonies honoring the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The Homefield Advantage game captains were Fire Department New York firefighters Joel Attis, Timothy Hinchey, Michael Kaeser and Brian Gibbons and New York Police Department officers Robert Bello, Joseph Sanfilippo, Thomas Bomeisl and Amin Kosseim. They were introduced on the field to a standing ovation just before player introductions.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the last player out of the tunnel, came out waving an American flag. That was followed by a video message from Robert DeNiro describing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Next came a broadcast of "Taps" from the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., which played on the video board after player intros. There was a moment of silence in the stadium throughout the song, followed by chants of "USA" filling Reliant Stadium as a field-sized American flag was unrolled on the field.
"It was good to be a part of it," cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "I remember sitting in a classroom 10 years ago when they announced it at school about the events of 9/11. To be here playing a professional sport today and representing our country is a great feeling."