BUY AFC SOUTH CHAMPS GEAR HERE
The Texans clinched their second consecutive AFC South title on Sunday with a victory against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium.
Defensive end J.J. Watt had three sacks, three tackles for loss, 10 tackles and one forced fumble as the Texans (12-2) beat the Colts (9-5) 29-17. Wide receiver Andre Johnson had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown, running back Arian Foster had 27 carries for 165 yards (6.1 average) and linebacker Bryan Braman blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown in the victory.
"It's a great win for our team, for our city," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "Obviously, we've been working toward that all year long. To win a 12th game in this league is very difficult to do. Just very proud of our guys and how they continue to battle and play hard every week. You do that, good things come your way."
Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes but was sacked five times. He threw for 186 yards and completed just 48 percent of his passes (13-of-28). Texans quarterback Matt Schaub was 23-of-31 (74 percent) for 261 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 109.7.
The Texans were just 1-of-5 in the red zone (20 percent), settling for five field goals by Shayne Graham on the day. They were penalized nine times for 69 yards. They allowed the Colts to gain 5.0 yards per carry, including 18 carries for 105 yards (5.8 average) by rookie running back Vick Ballard.
"It's a tough league," Kubiak said. "I know you all are probably tired of me saying it, but it's hard to win in this league. You just have to keep battling; you never know what it's going to take. I think that's a dang good football team we just played… I like the way we got back to what we kind of are as a football team today: Protecting the ball, running the ball, playing solid defense. That's how we win."
Coming a 42-14 loss at New England, the Texans' defense limited the Colts to 1-of-8 (12 percent) on third down and 1-of-3 (33 percent) in the red zone.
"All day today, we were playing hard football, just Texans defense, causing turnovers, big plays, sacks, TFLs," Watt said. "It felt good to be the 'Bulls on Parade' again."
Schaub came out firing with passes of nine and 52 yards to Johnson on the Texans' first two plays. The Texans stalled in the red zone and settled for a 29-yard field goal by Graham.
"We came out in the game plan to just play hurry-up mode, which we do well in," Schaub said. "We found a way to make some plays. 'Dre made two huge plays there and got us going. From there, we had some tough field position there in the second quarter, but we found a way to make some plays and our defense played outstanding."
Safety Glover Quin broke up a third-down pass intended for Reggie Wayne on the next drive, forcing the Colts into a three-and-out. The Texans then drove 57 yards in 13 plays to take a 10-0 lead on a three-yard touchdown catch by Johnson on third-and-goal.
The Colts got two first downs on their next drive on defensive penalties by the Texans, but defensive end Antonio Smith and Watt sacked Luck to help force a punt. The Texans outgained the Colts 126-11 in the first quarter.
The Texans' defense came up big early in the second quarter. The Colts got the ball in Texans territory on back-to-back drives, first at the 38-yard line and then at the 34, but came away with only three points. Watt forced a fumble at the one-yard line that was recovered by Tim Dobbins on the first drive. Watt had a three-yard tackle for loss inside the 10-yard line on the next drive as the Colts settled for a 26-yard field goal.
The Texans responded with a 35-yard field goal to make the score 13-3 with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter. The kick was set up by a 36-yard catch by rookie wide receiver DeVier Posey, who also absorbed a 13-yard personal foul penalty on safety Joe Lefeged on the play.
With 1:54 remaining in the second quarter, Braman blocked a punt at the eight-yard line and recovered it for a touchdown. It was his second blocked punt of the season.
"Coach is always talking about making plays that you're supposed to make," Braman said. "If you're there and it's your play to make, that's something that you have to do. It just felt good that I was able to do my job when the coaches called on me, play my role with the team."
Just when it looked like a rout might be on, the Colts struck back two plays later with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Luck to a wide-open T.Y. Hilton over the middle. Graham hooked a 50-yard field goal attempt wide left on the final play of the second quarter to make the halftime margin 20-10.
The Texans added another field goal, this one from 27 yards, early in the third quarter. That capped an 11-play, 78-yard scoring drive on which Foster had six carries for 59 yards. The Colts cut the deficit to 23-17 with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Luck to tight end Dwayne Allen. Ballard had five carries for 60 yards on the drive.
Graham made a 46-yard field goal with 8:35 remaining to put the Texans up 26-17. Foster picked up 75 rushing yards on the Texans' next drive, helping to take 3:40 off the clock. That led to another short field goal by Graham, which made it a two-score game with 1:05 remaining.
"With a team like this with our defense playing very well, we have to close out games an offense," Foster said. "That's something we emphasize. I think when you're successful at that, it's going to be tough to beat."
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin sacked Luck on the Colts' next play, and the game ended without much drama three plays later. Texans coach Gary Kubiak was doused with a bucket of Gatorade by offensive linemen Duane Brown and Chris Myers as the final seconds ticked down on the Texans' division-clinching victory.
"A lot of people wondered how we would respond after last week," Johnson said. "I said we would respond well, and we went out and did it."
With the victory, the Texans maintained their standing atop of the AFC with two games remaining. They can assure themselves of home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if they beat the Minnesota Vikings at Reliant next Sunday and the Colts at Indianapolis a week later.
"(Winning the division) is a great accomplishment, and we all feel good about it," Johnson said. "We aren't as excited as we were last year, because last year, we had never done it before. We're familiar with it now, and we have bigger goals. That's what we're focused on now is winning and getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs."