*Watch Texans TV at 3:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday for the live, streaming video of coach Gary Kubiak's weekly press conference.
INDIANAPOLIS - The Texans couldn't repeat their winning formula from Week 1 in a rematch with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football.
Instead of pounding the ball with their running game, they fell behind early and had to air it out. That played right into the hands of defensive end Dwight Freeney and the Colts, who put relentless pressure on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub to key a 30-17 Colts victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on a night when the Texans' defense kept Peyton Manning mostly in check.
The Texans went 0-for-6 on third down in the first half to dig themselves into a 17-3 hole from which there was no climbing out.
"We hold them to (366) yards of offense and they're 2-for-4 in the red zone, all indications are we should have a chance to win that football game," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're sitting there down at halftime and we should have been in a close football game. No excuse. We just couldn't stay on the field offensively."
The victory put Indy (5-2) on top of the rugged AFC South. The Texans dropped to third place in the division at 4-3, a half-game behind the Tennessee Titans (5-3) and a half-game ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4).
Schaub was sacked three times, twice by Freeney, and finished 22-of-38 passing for 201 yards. He threw one touchdown to Andre Johnson and one touchdown to the Colts – a 25-yard interception return by Kelvin Hayden in the second quarter.
Texans running back Arian Foster, who had 231 rushing yards against Indy in Week 1, finished with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (6.2 average). He also had 65 receiving yards on nine catches.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson led the Texans with seven catches for 106 yards before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with pain in his sprained right ankle.
The game played out as almost the complete opposite of the Texans' Week 1 34-24 victory over the Colts at Reliant Stadium.
Schaub threw only 17 passes in the first game and handed the ball off to his running backs 39 times. He threw 38 passes in this one and handed the ball off 17 times.
The Texans never trailed in Week 1 and led by at least 10 for most of the second half. The Colts never trailed on Monday night, and the closest the Texans got in the second half was within 10 points.
Manning had 285 passing yards and two touchdowns on Monday. That was a big improvement for the Texans' defense from the 433 passing yards they allowed in the opener, but the Texans didn't force any turnovers.
The Texans were dominant on third down in Week 1, and the Colts returned the favor in Week 8 by converting 47 percent (7-of-15) of their third-down chances to the Texans' 27 percent (3-of-11). The Colts dominated time of possession 36:25-23:35.
"Our plan was to be balanced," Kubiak said when asked why he didn't call more running plays for Foster. "Every time we show up, our plan is to be a balanced football team.
"I don't think we'd have any problem being a balanced football team had we made a third down… When you don't make third downs, you don't get snaps, and you usually get out of whack. And that's what happened."
Freeney was disruptive from the start on Monday, ending the Texans' first drive by sacking Schaub on third-and-10. He used his trademark spin move to blow by left tackle Duane Brown in Brown's first game back from a four-week suspension.
A few minutes later, Manning threw a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jacob Tamme to cap a seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive.
After the Texans turned the ball over on downs near midfield, defensive end Mark Anderson sacked Manning on third-and-eight from the Houston 41. The Texans got the ball back at their own 20 after a punt.
Schaub was picked off by Haden on the next play, and the Colts led 14-0 after Hayden waltzed into the end zone for an easy score.
"(He was) a little bit late with the ball, not a real good play call on my point from a coverage standpoint, (but) just make sure you don't make a mistake," Kubiak said. "(You've) just got to go ahead and take your sack or throw it away."
Foster got the Texans going on the ensuing drive with a 33-yard run past midfield. On third-and-five from the Colts' 28-yard line, linebacker Clint Session came unblocked up the middle to sack Schaub for a seven-yard loss. The Texans settled for a 53-yard field goal by Neil Rackers to make the score 14-3.
The Colts led 17-3 at halftime after Adam Vinatieri made a 48-yard field goal late in the second quarter. Schaub was 5-of-15 in the first half for 37 yards with a passer rating of 14.6.
"It's disappointing," Schaub said. "We did not play up to the level we come to expect from ourselves and the standards we've set with the Houston Texans. Offensively in the first half, we didn't do a thing."
The Colts received to start the second half, and the score was 24-3 within four minutes after Manning hit Reggie Wayne for a 15-yard touchdown.
Facing their biggest deficit, the Texans finally got into a rhythm on offense. Schaub led two consecutive touchdown drives, one ending with a 28-yard pass to Johnson and the other with a six-yard run by Foster.
The Colts responded to both touchdowns with field goals. Vinatieri converted from 23 yards out after the Texans stuffed the Colts on two running plays from inside the two-yard line, and he hit from 36 yards after a drive stalled at the Texans' 18.
"We tried to do what we had to do to stay in the game," defensive end Mario Williams said. "The biggest thing is we didn't get any turnovers and they did."
Vinatieri's last field goal made the score 30-17 with 7:28 remaining. The Texans didn't get another first down until the 3:09 mark, putting a damper on their hopes of a comeback.
With 1:04 remaining and the Texans down to their last timeout, Schaub was sacked and stripped by Freeney on third-and-10 from the Indianapolis 14. Lineman Eric Foster recovered the fumble for the Colts, and Manning knelt twice to end the game.
The Texans now will have a six-day week to prepare for a home game against the San Diego Chargers (3-5) on Sunday. The Texans are 2-2 at Reliant Stadium this season.
"Obviously, we can't turn back time," safety Bernard Pollard said. "We have to have a short memory. We have got six days until another game. We've got to be ready to go and play sound. We've got to find a way to win in our backyard."