Colts hold off Texans

Colts jump out to 24-0 lead after one quarter, but need late defensive stops to claim first place in AFC South Division.

One incredible quarter almost wasn’t enough.

The Indianapolis Colts seized a 24-0 lead after just 15 minutes. It was as if the power had been sucked out of Houston’s NRG Stadium. That is, until J.J. Watt flipped the switch back on.

The Texans rallied behind their defensive star, who scored on a 45-yard fumble return and had two sacks, but the Colts endured with a final fumble recovery to hang on for a wildly entertaining 33-28 victory Thursday night.

It elevates the Colts (4-2) to first place in the AFC South, and completes a first-round sweep of division foes. Second-year outside linebacker Bjoern Werner stripped the football away from Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson recovered to put this one away with 1:48 remaining.

In addition to Watt, the Texans (3-3) also received stellar performances from running back Arian Foster (109 yards rushing, two TDs) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (seven catches, 99 yards, 1 TD), but lost fumbles on their final two possessions.

Despite the short week, the Colts seemed unstoppable at the start. After a field goal on the visitors’ opening drive, the Colts’ Pat McAfee recovered his own onside kick to keep the momentum going. Trent Richardson ran for a 5-yard score, then Andrew Luck threw short TD passes to Ahmad Bradshaw and Coby Fleener.

“We’ll be happy with the fast start,” Luck said in his postgame TV appearance on NFL Network.

"When you give a team a 24-point lead right out of the gate, you're going to have a difficult time," Watt said. "We fought."

Watt's fumble-return TD was his third score of the season. He became the NFL's first player to score on a fumble return, interception return and reception since the St. Louis Cardinals cornerback Billy Stacy in 1961.

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano acknowledged afterward that Watt, when all is said and done, could go down as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.

Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had a career-high 223 receiving yards on nine receptions with one touchdown to continue his dominance in games at Houston. In three games on the Texans’ home turf, Hilton has caught 19 passes for 422 yards and five TDs. Hilton’s 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter provided what turned out to be the winning points.

"I was fresh," Hilton said to ESPN. "I took care of my body all week."

Luck completed 25-of-44 passes for 370 yards and three TDs with one interception. The latter was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

But the fast start almost was for naught.

The Colts couldn’t put the Texans away in the final quarter. Houston’s first possession with a chance to take the lead ended at the Colts’ 33 when Johnson lost the football while running across the middle and Colts’ safety Mike Adams recovered. The play was reviewed and upheld.

After another Colts punt, Houston took over at its 9. On the Texans’ second play from the 21, Fitzpatrick tried to escape a collapsing pocket and Werner jarred the ball loose. Jackson fell on it. The Colts exhaled and celebrated.

The Colts get the weekend off before beginning preparations for an Oct. 19 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals (3-1). The Texans don’t play again until an Oct. 20 trip to Pittsburgh (3-2) on Monday Night Football.

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