The recipe was to run the ball against a challenged Colts defense and Houston racked up a season high in rushing yards. But it was still extremely difficult for this offense to finish drives. Nick Novak tied a career best with five field goals and the Texans needed every one of them to keep the pressure on Andrew Luck.
The Colts quarterback had just nine completions at intermission, but got it going in the second half, keeping the Colts within striking distance. The undermanned Houston defense kept pressuring Luck and picked off two passes, yet the Colts had the ball in a first and goal situation at the five yard line with a chance to take the lead in the third quarter.
That's when Jadeveon Clowney came up with one of the plays-of-the-year when he strip-sacked Luck, as Whitney Mercilus fell on the ball for his league-high-tying fourth fumble recovery. The Texans were able to march down the field and make it a two score game after Novak's fourth field goal.
But Luck and the Colts struck gold in the fourth quarter with a touchdown drive capped by a T.Y. Hilton reception that cut the lead to two. The Texans were resilient. And even though they had trouble finishing drives, they took the ball deep into Colts territory for another three-pointer that forced the Colts to try for a last minute touchdown drive.
Houston got the ball on downs after the Colts crossed mid field. The final stand put the stamp on a terrific defensive performance that we should remember for a long time, considering all the circumstances facing that unit.
This wasn't pretty, but it was needed and put a thin layer of separation between the Texans and Indy. Now the challenge shifts to fighting off the Jaguars and Bengals before the regular season finale at Tennessee. The Texans can ill afford to slip up. Yes, they have a 4-0 division record, but if the Titans keep winning and beat the Texans on closing day then they'll have the division championship.
There's a lot of football left. Jacksonville, even with just two wins, has to be taken seriously. And the Bengals, with a two game winning streak, don't seem to be interested in preparing for winter vacation just yet.
The Texans are back in the saddle and will try to ride this thing into the playoffs. There's plenty of work and healing to do. But they're alive after dropping three straight and almost dropping out of the race.
The Texans and Colts squared off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 14.