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Colts-Texans: What we learned

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INDIANAPOLIS — For the second consecutive season, the Indianapolis Colts are the AFC South champions.

Quarterback Andrew Luck overcame yet another slow start, and the Colts took advantage of a first-half leg injury that knocked Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick out of the game for a division-clinching 17-10 victory Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indianapolis (10-4) has a three-game lead on Houston (7-7) with two regular-season games remaining. Luck finished 18 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdown passes.

Any Texans hopes of victory essentially were wiped out with 13:17 remaining in the second quarter when Fitzpatrick suffered what multiple sources reported as a fractured left leg while attempting to scramble for a first down. Fitzpatrick was transported from the field to the locker room on a cart.

However, when asked specifically after the game if Fitzpatrick’s left leg is broken, Texans coach Bill O’Brien would neither confirm nor deny the report.

“I don’t know yet,” O’Brien said. “I’m not sure. I felt for him, because he knew right away that it was injured.”

The Texans’ official website described Fitzpatrick’s departure only as “a leg injury.”

Fitzpatrick was replaced by rookie Tom Savage, who until Sunday had not thrown an NFL pass.

Savage finished 10 of 19 for 137 yards.

While the news was not good for Houston, the Colts couldn’t be happier with their status after starting the season 0-2.

“This is step one,” Luck said of the AFC South title. “It’s a great win, especially a great job by the defense. It wasn’t pretty, but to be division champs is special. We are excited about that, and we know we have to get back to work. The defense has been doing a heck of a job getting us field position.

“It did seem like we got into a bit of a funk there. But credit the Texans for doing a heck of a job. They are a good defense. They have guys that can rush, and they have great linebackers. But I am proud of our offensive line. They allowed us to run the ball well on our last drive.”

Sunday’s victory also marked the franchise-record 209th game as a Colt for wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who broke Peyton Manning’s record of 208.

“He is the best,” Luck said of Wayne. “It is an honor to play with him.”

Wayne was emotional after the record-setting game.

“This never gets old,” Wayne said. “But right now, I really don’t have the time to sit back and take this all in. Maybe I will do that this off season. Maybe then I will put everything into perspective.”

Houston actually took an early 7-0 lead when free safety Kendrick Lewis intercepted a Luck pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown with 5:56 remaining in the first quarter.

The interception was the 14th this season from Luck, who has been plagued by opening-half fumbles and interceptions in recent weeks, although the Colts have won four in a row since a November loss to New England in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Luck, who was 16 of 26 for 164 yards and two touchdowns during the first 30 minutes, got untracked late in the first quarter and early in the second quarter. Luck’s 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on the second quarter’s first play capped a six-play, 78-yard drive and tied the game at 7.

With 7:45 remaining in the second quarter, Savage fumbled, and Colts linebacker Bryan Werner recovered at the Houston 37-yard line. Three plays after the Savage fumble, Luck threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen to give Indianapolis a 14-7 advantage with 6:21 to go in the first half.

“Houston is a darn good team,” Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. “That defense is outstanding. We were fortunate to generate some yards on the ground. We had a good rush average (3.9 yards a carry), and our defense was outstanding. This was a playoff game for Houston, and we knew that coming in.

“Today also was very, very special for Reggie Wayne. You talk about availability all the time, he has been available for a long, long time. He always has shown up. I am really glad how things worked out. He embodies everything that we talk about. He has great resiliency.”

Wayne caught four passes 24 yards on Sunday.

What the Colts said:

“We gave out one game ball, and that was to Reggie Wayne. He has 142 wins, which is an all-time franchise record. He represents everything that Mr. (Jim) Irsay talks about in terms of this being a family. He is the ultimate team player. With him, it’s all about team first. What he has sacrificed and what he has given to this organization and to the city, he is going to be in this franchise’s ring of honor at some point and will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a very, very special player and a special person.” — Coach Chuck Pagano talking about wide receiver Reggie Wayne breaking the franchise record for games played with 209.

“Our defense was all about making plays, none more important than Vontae Davis’ interception to end the game. The defense did a heck of a job. We didn’t capitalize on all the opportunities the defense gave us, but we did enough. We made enough plays. We were able to get the ball to our tight ends, and the offensive line did a great job against that defense.” — Quarterback Andrew Luck.

What the Texans said:

“I think for a first-year player — for a rookie player put in that situation — I thought he did OK. You know I have to watch the film. There were things I’m sure he wishes he could have the play back. We have to do a better job in certain areas, but I thought the guy went in there and competed, made some decent throws and got us in the right plays. I was pleased from the stuff I saw from the sideline.” — Coach Bill O’Brien on the play of backup quarterback Tom Savage, who replaced the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick.

What we learned about the Colts:

1. After beginning the season with consecutive losses to Denver and Philadelphia, Indianapolis has won 10 of its last 12 games, including four in row since losing to New England in November. The Colts are in position to host a first-round playoff game either Jan. 3 or 4.

2. While Andrew Luck draws most of the attention because of his prolific passing, the Colts’ defense has improved and played well in recent victories against Jacksonville, Cleveland and now Houston. Moving forward, the defense likely will make or break the Colts in the playoffs.

–P Pat McAfee continues to show why he is among the league’s best, averaging 45.6 yards on seven kicks with four rolling dead inside the 20-yard line.

–QB Andrew Luck was only 2 of 8 passing for 23 yards during Sunday’s second half, when Indianapolis scored only three points. He was 16 of 26 for 164 yards during the first half, throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns.

What we learned about the Texans:

1. In Arian Foster, the Texans have an elite running back, but they have been unable to challenge the Colts’ AFC South domination because unlike Indianapolis, Houston is weak at the quarterback position, especially now that starter Ryan Fitzpatrick likely is out for the year after suffering a left leg injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s 17-10 loss. Backup Tom Savage is not the answer.

2. The Texans have managed to be at .500 with two home games remaining in large part because their defense continues to be excellent, led by defensive end J.J. Watt, who sacked Luck twice Sunday and pressured him countless times. Houston limited Luck to 23 second-half passing yards.

–RB Arian Foster just missed another 100-yard rushing day with 26 carries for 99 yards.

–DE J.J. Watt had his usual strong game with five solo tackles, including two for losses totaling 19 yards, a tackle assist and a pass broken up.


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