The Texans fell, 25-3, to the Colts in a game with record-high penalties, two interceptions by Case Keenum, and a safety. It's the 12th consecutive loss of 2013, and the franchise remains winless in Indianapolis in a dozen tries.
"We looked like a team that lost 11 in a row playing a good football team and that's pretty much the way we played the first half," interim head coach Wade Phillips said. "I thought the second half our defense really played well the second half. We couldn't get anything going offensively. They beat us pretty good in this ballgame. It wasn't a close game."
Sunday's game at Indianapolis was the first that counted on Phillips' record as interim head coach for Houston. Despite his efforts during the week of practice to limit mistakes and let players have fun, the Texans struggled. Case Keenum threw two interceptions and was sacked four times, including one that resulted in a Colts safety.
Penalties also plagued the Texans for a second-week in a row. Houston repeated its 14-penalty performance from last week at Jacksonville. Against the Colts, the Texans had 114 yards in penalties while the Colts were flagged just four times for 36 yards.
"That's very disheartening," Phillips said of the penalties. "Ten of them were in the first half which really hurt our defense. I don't know what pass interference is anymore. I thought the guy made a heck of a play to get the ball on the one-yard line. At the end of the game, we jumped offsides. When you know its third-and-one, those kind of penalties, there's no excuse for those."
The Texans defense forced a turnover when Johnathan Joseph intercepted Andrew Luck in the first quarter. The turnover led to the Texans' lone score of the game, a Randy Bullock 49-yard field goal.
On the Colts' opening drive, Houston committed two penalties, both neutral zone infractions. Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck marched the Colts down the field on an 11-play, 80-yard to drive, ending in a 14-yard touchdown pass to Griff Whalen, his former Stanford teammate. Whalen was signed to the active roster on Saturday.
Joseph intercepted Luck's pass just as the Colts were deep in Houston territory on their second offensive series. It was his third interception of the season, and he had a 32-yard return on the play. Bullock's field goal capped a 7-play, 32-yard drive that lasted 2:27.
After forcing Indianapolis to punt, the Texans offense turned over the ball for the first time. Two plays into the drive, Keenum threw his first interception, a pass intended for Andre Johnson. Colts cornerback Darius Butler picked off Keenum's pass and returned it 13 yards. Luck took over at Houston's 17-yard line but settled for a 37-yard field goal by Adam Viniateri following a four-play, minus-2-yard drive.
"Andre ran a little in and out route, a little pivot route," Butler said after the game. "I was all over him. I didn't think Case (Keenum) would throw it, but he threw it I guess to give him a chance, and I was able to jump in front of it and make a play."
The Colts steadily added to their lead in the first half. Luck threw a 41-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton and a defensive pass interference call on Darryl Sharpton moved the ball another 25 yard to put the Colts within striking distance at the two-yard line. Three plays later, the Colts scored their second touchdown of the day on a nine-yard shovel pass from Luck to Trent Richardson. The Texans trailed 17-3 with 7:03 remaining in the second quarter.
"It's something we practiced a lot," Luck said. "I'm not quite sure when we installed it, but great job by Trent (Richardson) of creating that space and I don't know if I deserve a touchdown pass. It's more a touchdown run, but I'll take it."
Keenum threw his second interception of the day on the next drive. Butler picked off another Keenum pass, intended for Johnson, and returned it 25 yards. Viniateri added a 43-yard field goal to give the Colts a 20-3 lead heading into halftime.
The Texans opened the second half but went three-and-out and did not get a first down until the fourth quarter. Shane Lechler's 53-yard punt was returned 51 yards to put the Colts within scoring range again. Viniateri kicked his third field goal of the day, a 40-yarder, and the Colts increased their lead to 20 points.
Houston's fourth possession of the second half ended on the first play. Keenum, in shotgun from his own endzone, was strip-sacked by Robert Mathis. Duane Brown recovered the fumble and was tackled for a safety by Cory Redding. The Texans were penalized 10 yards for a taunting call on Brown who threw the ball at the opponent. Indianapolis led 25-3 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
"I went through my reads down the field and didn't see anybody open," Keenum said. "Instead of stepping up in the pocket, I thought Duane (Brown) did a great job of blocking him and that's another thing they've coached me up on is, especially with these guys, you have to step up in the pocket, you can't just try to escape out this way. It's up towards the line and that was another bad decision on my part. That one was totally on me."
The Colts relied on Richardson and the run game in the fourth quarter in an attempt to take time off the clock. The Texans fell 25-3 in the 24th meeting between the two AFC South teams.
"We play them twice a year," Andre Johnson said. "They know us very well. We know them. And everyone is going to game plan. They find out the things you like to do and break different players down. They had the beat on us today. So we have to give them credit."
Ryan Griffin started for Garrett Graham, who was inactive, and finished with a career-high 6 catches for 62 yards.
Keenum was 18-of-34 passes for 168 yards, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 42.3. Luck threw for 180 yards and completed 19-of-32 passes for two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 82.8.
"Well I thought he was great again," defensive backs coach Vance Joseph said about Luck. "He can stay alive. We had him back there sacked on a couple of third downs where he would bust through and run for them. They were 5-of-15 on third down but he ran for three of those. I mean they could have been 2-of-15 on third down. I mean he is a good player. He is a real good athlete, that's what guys don't know about him."