Colts hold off Texans to clinch AFC South title
Reggie Wayne finally got the postgame party he wanted. The 36-year-old Colts receiver is going back to the playoffs as a division champion.
It also means he'll get another game in front of his favorite fans.
Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes, Adam Vinatieri made a late field goal and Indianapolis' defense shut down Houston's offense Sunday in a 17-10 victory that clinched the AFC South and gave Wayne two franchise records.
"This never gets old. This feeling never gets old," Wayne said, referring to the division title as he downplayed the milestones. "At training camp we made some goals. Taking care of the division was our first goal so we were able to check that one off."
Wayne wasn't the only one hooting and hollering after the Colts' fourth straight win.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and return specialist Josh Cribbs, longtime Browns, couldn't believe they were finally heading into the postseason for the first time. Jackson was so excited he started toward the showers still wearing his championship hat.
Luck, meanwhile, reminded everyone the playoffs can't be taken for granted -- even though he's never missed out in his three NFL seasons.
Nobody understands this situation better than Wayne, who has reached the playoffs in 12 of his 14 NFL seasons. Three years ago, many thought his days in Indy numbered after the Colts went 2-14. But Wayne gave Indy a hometown discount and has spent the last three years chasing a second Super Bowl ring and Peyton Manning's records.
With 209 career games and 142 career wins, Wayne now holds both records, something that was not lost on teammates or coaches, who sent Wayne back into the game for the final snap.
"We gave out one game ball and that was to Reggie," coach Chuck Pagano said. "Really glad that things worked out, especially for that player. He embodies what we talk about, represents everything that Mr. (Jim) Irsay talks about."
Wayne couldn't have done it without some help and he had plenty Sunday.
Luck was 18 of 34 for 187 yards, throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns that turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 halftime lead. Daniel "Boom" Herron ran 11 times for 60 yards including five straight times on the game sealing drive that consumed 5 minutes, 3 seconds. Vinatieri finished it with a 29-yard field goal with 2:11 to go.
The defense dominated the short-handed Texans (7-7), too.
After deactivating receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Garrett Graham before the game, Houston lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Fitzpatrick was carted off the field with an air cast covering the leg.
Coach Bill O'Brien would not confirm reports that Fitzpatrick's leg was broken.
"I felt for him because he knew right away that it was injured," O'Brien said.
Without Fitzpatrick, the Texans turned to rookie Tom Savage. He completed his first NFL pass for a first down, then struggled. Savage finished 10 of 19 for 127 yards with two fumbles and two turnovers.
Arian Foster ran 26 times for 99 yards, but the Texans managed only 289 total yards and had their best play of the game -- a 25-yard TD run from Foster on fourth-and-1 -- nullified by a holding call. Houston wound up settling for a 53-yard field goal to make it 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, its only offensive points of the day. Kendrick Lewis returned an interception 27 yards for touchdown to give the Texans a 7-0 lead.
Luck tied it with a 26-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks early in the second quarter.
Then when it looked as if the Colts would blow another scoring chance following Wayne's second-quarter fumble, Savage gave it right back on a botched handoff. Three plays later, Luck hooked up with Dwayne Allen on a 3-yard TD pass to take a 14-7 lead.
The Colts never trailed again.
"Right now I'm so locked into what we've got going on here as a team and as a brotherhood," Wayne said. "We've got something really special, so hopefully we can continue on the success and stay hot."
Notes: Indy is 13-0 all-time at home against the Texans and has won 12 straight over AFC South foes. ... J.J. Watt had seven tackles, two hits and two passes defensed to join former Dolphins star Jason Taylor as the only players since 1991 with 10 sacks and 10 passes defensed in two different seasons. ... Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton left late in the game with a hamstring injury. ... Army Specialist Shanea Cornett surprised her two daughters, her younger sister and her mother when she walked into the south end zone after completing a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.