On Sunday, in the team's fifth trip to the Indianapolis Colts' home field, the old demons returned in a 43-24 loss to the defending AFC South champions.
Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning passed for 400 yards and three touchdowns, completing 68 percent of his throws, and receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne each had more than 100 receiving yards, to spark Indianapolis' offensive onslaught.
Defensively, the Colts' ultra-quick defensive line collected three sacks and forced four fumbles, recovering two of them. The Texans outscored the Colts 21-13 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late.
"You come into a hostile environment, and this stadium is as hostile as it gets, and you can't have things happen to you that look like nervous things," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "The second play of the game we had a bust as a football team, which there is no excuse for since we prepared for (it) over and over again. So that just shows to me there are nerves there and we haven't figured out a way to settle down. This is a great football team here, and if you do anything to help them, you have absolutely no chance. And we definitely helped them today."
The play Kubiak referenced occurred after the Texans received the opening kickoff. After quarterback David Carr was sacked by defensive end Robert Mathis for an eight-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage, Carr fumbled the next snap and defensive tackle Raheem Brock recovered it on the Houston 16 for the game's first takeaway.
Following two runs for six yards, Indianapolis scored on third-and-four when quarterback Peyton Manning found wide receiver Brandon Stokley open for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Adam Vinatieri's extra point gave the Colts a 7-0 lead with 12:48 left in the first quarter.
Almost five minutes later, after the Texans' first punt of the game, the Colts extended their lead to 14-0 when Manning found rookie running back Joseph Addai open for a 21-yard touchdown pass to cap their six-play, 63-yard drive over 2:31.
On their third series of the game, the Texans gained three first downs before running back Wali Lundy fumbled on the Indianapolis 19. Defensive tackle Montae Reagor recovered for the Colts' second takeaway.
Strong safety Glenn Earl turned momentum in the Texans' favor when he intercepted Manning's pass in the end zone on third-and-two from the Houston 12. Yet a pass interference call on free safety C.C. Brown negated the turnover. Addai rushed for a two-yard touchdown on the ensuing snap, but head coach Gary Kubiak challenged the ruling, arguing that Addai fumbled before crossing the goal line. The officials reviewed the play and overturned the call.
Since linebacker Morlon Greenwood recovered the fumble in the end zone, the Texans' offense took over on their 20-yard line with 11:58 left in the first half. On the fourth play of the drive, fullback Jameel Cook was flagged for a chop block, moving the Texans back 15 yards and leading to Stanley's second punt.
Manning passed for 44 yards on three completions to set up Adam Vinatieri's 39-yard field, which put the Colts ahead 17-0 with 6:02 left before halftime.
Carr found his rhythm the next series. He completed his first four pass attempts for 36 yards, including a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson. On third-and-nine from the Indianapolis 32, running back Samkon Gado sprinted nine yards up the middle of the defense to set up Kris Brown's 43-yard field goal attempt. The score on the 10-play, 55-yard drive cut the Colts' lead to 17-3 with 1:54 remaining in the first half.
The Colts bounced back, though, by engineering a nine-play, 44-yard drive that Vinatieri finished with a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
The Colts opened the second half with a 13-play drive highlighted by Addai's 16-yard rush to the Houston 12. On third-and-13, Manning connected with tight end Bryan Fletcher on a 15-yard touchdown pass, which gave Indianapolis a 27-3 lead after Vinatieri's extra point.
With 3:21 left in the third quarter, Vinatieri added to the Colts' lead with his third field goal, a 38-yarder, which capped an eight-play, 38-yard drive.
A sack by defensive end Jason Babin for a 10-yard loss forced the Colts to punt for the first time of the game on their third possession of the second half.
Carr moved the Texans to midfield after completions to Johnson and Cook for 18 yards and 15 yards, respectively. On third-and-seven from the Indianapolis 33, Carr found tight end Owen Daniels open on a post route for a 33-yard touchdown to cap the seven-play, 80-yard drive over 2:35. Brown's extra point cut the Colts' lead to 30-10 with 11:36 left in the game.
An 18-yard catch by Marvin Harrison followed by Reggie Wayne's acrobatic 37-yard catch with cornerback Lewis Sanders in his face, led to the Colts' fourth touchdown of the game on a two-yard run by Dominic Rhodes.
Losing 37-10 with 7:52 remaining in the game, the Texans' offense returned to the field. Sparked by Gado's 27-yard rush to the Indianapolis 9, Carr scrambled eight yards on the next snap before finding tight end Mark Bruener open on a play-action pass to make the score 37-17 after Brown's extra point.
One more time, the Colts responded with a scoring drive. Marching 75 yards in nine plays, Indianapolis rushed for 28 net yards and passed for 27 more on one completion to Wayne. Running back Ran Carthon scored on a three-yard run. Punter Hunter Smith's extra point was blocked by defensive tackle Seth Payne, which left the Texans down 43-17 near the two-minute warning.
A late scoring drive by the Texans, which Carr finished by throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Johnson, made the score 43-24.
To add injury to insult, the Texans discovered after the game that rookie left tackle Charles Spencer, who left the game early due to injury, will miss the remainder of the season with a broken leg.