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Colts HC Shane Steichen earns first career win with 31-20 victory over Texans

Steichen, 38, is the third-youngest coach in the NFL

Indianapolis Colts captain DeForest Buckner hands first-year head coach Shane Steichen the game ball after earning first career win with 31-20 road victory over Houston Texans.

One week after all five NFL teams with new head coaches went winless, Colts’ first-year head coach Shane Steichen became the first to emerge victorious with a 31-20 win in Houston.

Steichen, 38, is the third-youngest coach in the NFL and tried to play it cool in the visitors’ locker room at NRG Stadium following Sunday’s victory. But once captain DeForest Buckner handed Steichen the game ball, his emotions began to settle in. Steichen chose to accredit the players who put the work in during the week in preparation for the divisional matchup.

“(Steichen) was trying to play it all cool, but then when we gave him the team ball, his voice was cracking a little bit,” Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew said.

The 43rd meeting between the AFC South rivals marked the youngest QB matchup in NFL history, headlined by the No. 2 and No. 4 overall picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The opening quarter went according to plan for the Colts as Richardson led a meticulous 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive scripted by Steichen. Richardson is the only Colts rookie QB ever to rush for a touchdown in each of his first two games.

The 21-year old became the first Colts player in the 21st century with two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter of a game and the youngest quarterback in NFL history to rush for two touchdowns in a single game.

Richardson ignited the offense and completed 5-of-6 passes to five separate targets on the opening drive. Steichen caught the Texans’ off-guard and designed a tight end screen for Mo Ali-Cox, who ran behind lead blockers Braden Smith and Quenton Nelson and barreled over defenders to get inside the red zone.

From the spread formation on the next play, Richardson motioned running back Zack Moss to the field and Texans veteran linebacker Denzel Perryman followed him. Richardson read the man coverage before the snap, dashed left for a designed QB draw and accelerated off to the races for an 18-yard touchdown run to take a 7-0 lead.

Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart blew up the Texans’ first play from scrimmage in the backfield. On third down, defensive end Samson Ebukam rushed from the blindside and bear-hugged Texans’ QB C.J. Stroud, while opposite edge rusher Dayo Odeyingbo punched the ball loose and recovered the fumble inside Texans’ territory.

Indianapolis scored on the next play, but at a costly price. Richardson sustained a concussion after being leveled at the goal line by Texans’ safety M.J. Stewart on his second touchdown of the game. Richardson went to the medical tent after coming off the sidelines early in the second quarter and left the field to be evaluated for a concussion. Colts center Ryan Kelly suffered a concussion in the second half and did not return, meaning both must pass concussion protocol to be eligible to return for Week 3.

The Texans retaliated with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Stroud’s first career touchdown pass to Nico Collins. Houston’s 6-foot-4 receiver had his way with seven receptions for 146 receiving yards against the Colts young secondary as Stroud aired out 367 passing yards and completed 29-of-45 pass attempts.

Colts backup QB Gardner Minshew took over under center and found rookie TE Will Mallory wide open for a 43-yard reception to drive the ball inside the red zone. The Colts pounded the ground with consecutive runs by Moss, who scored an 11-yard TD run to extend the lead to 21-7. Moss rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in his season debut.

“(Minshew) is obviously a veteran guy who knows the system and operates at a high level,” Steichen said. “He had two good drives when he came in and scored four-for-four in the red zone with touchdowns, which was really good to see.”

Minshew worked the two-minute drill to perfection, completing a 4-yard dart near the pylon for TE Kylen Granson’s first career touchdown catch with 15 seconds to spare. Indianapolis’ 28 points in the first half is the most by any NFL team this season. The fifth-year veteran finished 19-for-23 passing for 171 yards with a 112.1 passer rating playing the final three quarters.

“I feel super comfortable in Shane’s offense,” Minshew said. “I felt like I’ve been preparing all week. Felt really ready to go there. Got a ton of reps this off-season with our ones, the starting offensive line, those receivers. They all made it really easy for me to come in today and for us to get a win.”