The first half started with the defense picking up where it left off against the Bengals, stuffing any attempt to run the football and playing tight coverage in the secondary. One of the keys to the game, getting T.Y. Hilton involved in the offense, went according to plan as Jacoby Brissett connected for a 45-yard touchdown and put the Colts up 7-0 early.
It wasn’t until inside linebacker Jeremiah George got caught up in traffic on a designed pass to Lamar Miller that the Texans could get anything going. A penalty for a “horse collar-type tackle” added 15 yards to the end of Miller’s big play to set up the Texans in Colts territory. After DeAndre Hopkins was called for an offensive pass interference penalty that backed up Houston in a first and twenty situation, the officials bailed out Tom Savage with a weak roughing the passer penalty on Henry Anderson. Despite the gift of a first down and better field position, Houston had to settle for a field goal try — which they missed (the football Gods smote the officials).
After another offensive drive that featured a long pass to T.Y. Hilton, the Colts got back on the board with a field goal. This pushed the lead to 10-0. While it is certainly good that the offense was able to drive down the field, red zone efficiency is still a problem. Indianapolis cannot afford to get within the 10 yard line and only score field goals.
After Tom Savage hit on a nice 29-yard pass to Will Fuller in the middle of the Colts zone, outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard picked up a strip sack that was recovered by the Texans offensive line. Another hit on Savage resulted in an errant throw that fell incomplete. On third and long, the Colts allowed a short pass in front of them that had no chance to get a first down. This resulted in a punt that went into the end zone for a touch back, giving the Colts a chance to run a two minute drill going into the half.
As per usual, just when the Colts looked to have the game in hand, Jacoby Brissett made a big mistake. When you’re running a two minute drill with a 10 point lead, you’re hoping to use clock and potentially get a touchdown or a field goal before the half. Standing in the pocket scanning the field for a long time on third and medium is simply stupid. Allowing a strip sack returned for a touchdown when your defense hasn’t allowed Houston to get anything going is inexcusable.
This pushed the score to Colts 10 - Brissett 7 at the half.
Both teams started out the second half with ineffective drives. Quan Bray helped out Houston by allowing a punt to drop and get downed inside the five yard line. Bray had room to potentially get a return but made a poor decision.
On the ensuing offensive drive, Brissett took immediate pressure in his own end zone. Luckily, he was able to escape a potential safety and pick up a first down with his legs. A run for one yard and a sack backed the Colts back up to 3rd and 17 from the Colts 11 yard line. Another short pass on third and long came up well short and results in a punt.
In one of the strangest plays I have ever seen watching football, T.Y. Hilton took a short pass over the middle for a long touchdown in the most unlikely way you’ll ever see. Texans defender Kareem Jackson slipped as he tried to make a tackle on T.Y. Hilton and never touched him down. In a great veteran move, Hilton got back to his feet and ran in for the score to push the Colts to a 17-7 lead.
It became blatantly clear that the Colts fear giving away games after their horrible showing in the second halves of games during the first eight weeks of the season. Quick release options, dump-off passes, and running plays designed to chew up clock dominated the Indianapolis playbook to start the fourth quarter.
Somehow, in the face of father time, Adam Vinatieri booted a 53-yard field goal. It is hard to overstate just how powerful this kick was for the veteran kicker who continues to chase for the all-time lead in NFL scoring. Earlier in the week he missed practice with a back injury. In this game, he kicked a key field goal to put the Colts in good position to win late in the game. Colts lead increased to 13 at 20-7.
In an odd sense of déjà vu, a sense that Colts fans have been getting regularly in 2017, and just as the commentators mentioned that the Indianapolis defense had moved away from what was working, Tom Savage hit DeAndre Hopkins for a long touchdown. Pierre Desir had nice coverage but when the defense starts playing back on its heels, bad things happen. You’d think NFL football coaches who have been victimized all year, or for their entire careers, might learn to not fall into this trap. Instead, the Texans quickly cut the lead to six points at 20-14 with plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter.
The scariest part of this, outside of the fact that Indianapolis has proven entirely incapable of closing out games, is that the Colts offense had been playing its own version of “prevent.” After Frank Gore carried the ball twice to keep the clock moving, Indianapolis was bailed out from taking a sack with a defensive holding call. On the next set of downs, the Colts threw a short out to Jack Doyle for four yards and then rushed Gore up the middle for one, forcing themselves into a third down and five situation. Another pass attempted to Doyle was incomplete and put the ball back in Tom Savage’s hands with just over three minutes to play and one timeout.
If you are a Colts fan and the final drive for the Texans offense wasn’t the biggest Halloween scare of this holiday season, I want to go to whatever haunted house you attended. With the Indianapolis defense in full on “allow” mode, the question wasn’t whether the Texans would score but how many points they would get when they did. On cue, two big passes put the Texans inside of the Colts 25 yard line with over a minute to play.
After an oh too close near touchdown toss to DeAndre Hopkins was ruled incomplete. Another pass to Hopkins resulted in a first down at the Colts seven yard line. It felt way too familiar to be in a situation to lose another game at the very end after having the game under control.
Somehow, the Texans failed to get into the end zone on four straight plays. Jabaal Sheard picked up a strip sack on the final play of the game that was recovered by Barkevious Mingo to give the Colts an elusive win 20-14.
Jacoby Brissett — 20/30 308 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 fumble lost for a defensive touchdown
T.Y. Hilton — 5 receptions, 275 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jabaal Sheard — 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 4 quarterback hits
Pierre Desir — 3 tackles, 3 passes defensed