Texans clinch AFC South with 29-17 win over Colts

The Houston Texans won the AFC South on Sunday and immediately
shifted their focus to the future.

”We have bigger goals,” Andre Johnson said after Houston’s
29-17 win over the Colts. ”What we’re focused on now is winning
and getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.”

The Texans host Minnesota next week and finish the regular
season at Indianapolis, and will have home-field advantage
throughout the AFC playoffs if they win out.

Houston was happy to put last Monday night’s ugly 42-14 loss to
New England behind them with Sunday’s victory.

”A lot of people were wondering how we were going to respond,”
Johnson said. ”I think a lot of people doubted us after what
happened last week. We (felt) like we had to show people what we
were really about.”

Johnson gained 151 yards receiving and a touchdown, Bryan Braman
had a special teams score on a blocked punt, and Shayne Graham
kicked five field goals.

The Texans (12-2) grabbed their first AFC South title last
season after the Colts nosedived without injured quarterback Peyton
Manning. Manning is gone to Denver and rookie Andrew Luck couldn’t
do much against the inspired Houston defense.

The Colts (9-5) had won three straight games and needed a win to
clinch a playoff berth a year after going 2-14 in 2011. Before
that, they took the division seven times since Houston entered the
league in 2002.

”It was a tough loss for us in that we came here with one idea
and that was to win the division, and we’re not going to win the
division – they did it,” Indianapolis interim coach Bruce Arians
said.

Thanks in great part to three sacks from Watt, Houston bounced
back six days after the loss to New England on national
television.

”I’m enjoying myself,” Watt said. ”I’ve said all along that
if you’re not trying to be the greatest, you’re wasting your
time.”

Luck threw for 186 yards with two touchdowns in the return to
his hometown. He had led the Colts to a rookie-record six wins on
drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, and he got
the Colts within six points late in the third quarter.

”We came here to win, not put up a respectable showing,” Luck
said. ”We’ll move on to next week and hopefully get better.”

Houston’s defense shut Luck down after he made it close, and the
Texans used Arian Foster to eat up the clock. Foster ran for a
season-high 165 yards to leave him with 1,313 yards rushing, giving
him his third straight year with at least 1,200.

”It’s not really that we bounced back,” Foster said. ”It’s
that we played the football that we know we’re capable of playing.
We feel we’re a team that if we play how we know we can … it’s
going to be hard for us to get beat.”

Watt increased his AFC-leading sack total to 19 1/2 – the NFL
record for a season is 22 1/2 – and finished with 10 tackles. He
also forced a fumble for the third straight game.

”I don’t even know the stats,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.
”But it seemed like every time I looked up, he was making a
play.”

Luck was sacked five times playing behind a makeshift offensive
line missing center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winston
Justice (biceps).

Johnson, who has 11,008 yards receiving in his career, scored on
a 3-yard reception to make it 10-0 in the first quarter. The Texans
didn’t score a touchdown on offense after that, but were helped by
Braman’s special teams effort.

Braman blocked his second punt of the season, recovered it and
returned it 8 yards for his first career touchdown to make it 20-3
just before halftime.

Vick Ballard had 60 yards rushing on a Colts drive that ended
with an 8-yard touchdown reception by Dwayne Allen to cut Houston’s
lead to 23-17 in the third quarter. Ballard finished with a
career-high 105 yards rushing.

Houston couldn’t do anything on its next drive and punted. But
Indy sputtered, and interim coach Bruce Arians even drew an
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a punt, giving Houston the ball
at the Colts 39.

Graham added a 46-yard field goal to push the lead to 26-17 and
made his fifth field goal with about a minute left.

Rookie T.Y. Hilton and Luck connected on a 61-yard touchdown
pass just before halftime.

Watt’s forced fumble on Mewelde Moore on the Houston 1 was
recovered by Tim Dobbins early in the second quarter, robbing the
Colts of points. And the Colts stalled inside the red zone again
and had to settle for Adam Vinatieri’s 26-yard field goal to cut
Houston’s lead to 10-3.

The Texans had set the tone as they got to Luck early, sacking
him twice on the Colts’ second drive. Antonio Smith got to him
first, and Watt put a move on backup tackle Jeff Linkenbach and
took him down for a 15-yard loss.

On offense, Johnson was dominant. He put Houston up 10-0 when he
waltzed into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown reception. Johnson
kept things going earlier in the drive when he caught a pass, lost
it and then grabbed it again just before it touched the ground for
a 10-yard gain on third-and-9.

NOTES: Luck needs 74 yards to break Cam Newton’s rookie yards
passing record of 4,051 yards. … Dobbins has recovered four
fumbles this season, a franchise record. … Braman’s two blocked
punts this season are a single-season franchise record.

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