The Indianapolis Colts have clinched the AFC South, but they’re
hardly playing their best heading into the final three weeks of the
They’ve been anything but lackluster when facing the Houston
Texans, who have dropped all 11 meetings in Indianapolis.
The Texans will try to snap that skid and an 11-game overall
losing streak when they play their first game under interim coach
Wade Phillips on Sunday.
Although Tennessee’s loss at Denver on Sunday handed
Indianapolis (8-5) the division crown, coach Chuck Pagano said he
can’t afford to rest starters following a 42-28 loss at
“‘We talked and said, ‘They gave us 16 games, we’re playing 16
games,”’ Pagano explained. ”Right now, we’ve got a lot of things
to get better at. We have to go back to work and play good
football, consistent football for 60 minutes.”
The Colts haven’t scored a first-half touchdown in the last six
games. They’ve been outscored 114-24 in the first 30 minutes over
that span, which began a week after the loss of receiver Reggie
Wayne to a torn ACL on Oct. 20.
Indianapolis has also struggled defensively, allowing an average
of 32.2 points while dropping three of five. The Colts gave up 19.4
per game during a 6-2 start.
Indianapolis seems headed for the No. 4 seed, with AFC West
leader Denver at 11-2, East leader New England at 10-3 and the
North-leading Bengals at 9-4 and holding the head-to-head
Even if they can’t move up, the Colts would like to regain their
form from an early season in which they defeated San Francisco,
Seattle and Denver.
”You never want to backdoor your way into it, but we won (the
division),” NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis said. ”We’re in there,
punched our ticket to the playoffs. We just have to hit the
After throwing for an average of 237.0 yards with two touchdowns
and five interceptions in his previous four games, Andrew Luck went
29 of 46 for 326 yards and matched a career high with four TDs
The second-year pro will try to build on that performance
against a Houston team that has the second-best pass defense in the
league, allowing an average of 183.6 yards.
Luck has not thrown an interception while tossing seven
touchdowns in three career meetings with the Texans. Though he went
18 for 40 at Houston on Nov. 3, he threw for 271 yards and three
second-half scores to T.Y. Hilton as the Colts rallied from 18 down
for a 27-24 victory.
Hilton has 14 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns in three
career games against the Texans, while rookie Da’Rick Rogers could
also play a large role after his 107-yard, two-touchdown effort
The Colts’ 11 straight home wins over the Texans have come by an
average of 13.9 points, with the most recent one a 28-16 victory
against the eventual AFC South champions Dec. 30.
This season has been a much different story for league-worst
Houston (2-11), which dropped its 11th in a row by a score of 27-20
at Jacksonville last Thursday.
The Texans were penalized 14 times for a team-record 177 yards
in the defeat before firing coach Gary Kubiak on Friday. They’ve
turned things over to Phillips on an interim basis for the second
time – the other when Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke at halftime
”What’s taken place with this organization is unacceptable,”
general manager Rick Smith said. ”We’ve got three weeks of an
evaluation process left and we’ve got to right the ship.”
Smith said he’d like to see what quarterback Case Keenum can do,
and he’s been named the starter against the Colts even though
Kubiak benched him late in the third quarter last week.
Since throwing for 822 yards with seven touchdowns and no
interceptions in his first three starts, the rookie has thrown for
770 yards with two scores and four picks over his last four. His
best performance, however, came when he went 20 of 34 for a
career-high 350 yards with three touchdowns against the Colts.
Star wideout Andre Johnson had nine catches for 229 yards – the
second-highest yardage total of his career – with three touchdowns
in that meeting. The six-time Pro Bowler has 46 receptions for 722
yards and six scores in his last five games against
”A win for this team would be big,” Phillips said. ”The
team’s been uptight to me. All the pressure’s been on them, they’ve
put it on themselves and rightly so. Now we just have to go