Colts coast past Texans in wild card showdown full of SC stars
HOUSTON (AP) — Andrew Luck threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and the Indianapolis Colts raced out to a big lead and cruised to a 21-7 win over the Houston Texans in the wild-card game on Saturday.
Luck put on a show in his hometown, throwing for 191 yards and two touchdowns before halftime to help the Colts (11-6) build a 21-0 lead.
Running back Marlon Mack had 148 yards and a touchdown for Indianapolis, which advances to face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round next weekend.
Houston (11-6), which overcame a 0-3 start to win the AFC South, gave up too many big plays and couldn’t get anything going on offense in the first half to fall into the huge hole.
Deshaun Watson, who was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times in the regular season, was sacked three times and hit eight more times in a disappointing playoff debut. He finished with 235 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.
The Colts, who opened the season 1-5, continued an impressive run by winning their fifth straight and for the 10th time in 11 games. Saturday was their first playoff appearance since the AFC championship game loss at New England in the “Deflategate” game in the 2014 season.
It was another good game in a splendid season for Luck, who grew up in a suburb of Houston. He threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns in the regular season after missing all of 2017 with a shoulder injury.
The Texans didn’t score until rookie Keke Coutee grabbed a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap a 16-play, 89-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion that cut it to 21-7 with about 11 minutes left.
They led the NFL with nine comeback wins this season, but their attempt at a rally ended on their next possession when Watson’s pass on fourth-and-10 from the Indianapolis 24 fell short with about four minutes left.
Luck threw for 863 yards with six touchdowns as the teams split two meetings in the regular season. He picked up right where he left off in this one, when he found Eric Ebron on a 6-yard TD pass on their first drive. That play was set up by a 38-yard catch by T.Y. Hilton, who had 63 yards receiving on that drive.
Hilton didn’t have any catches on the next drive, but the Colts still drove down the field easily and made it 14-0 on a 2-yard run by Mack later in the first.
Houston went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Indianapolis 45 on its second possession and Watson was intercepted by Kenny Moore II. It was his first interception since he threw two against the Redskins on Nov. 18.
The Colts got to the 17 after that before J.J. Watt deflected Luck’s pass and he was intercepted by Brandon Dunn. But the Texans couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.
Indianapolis pushed the lead to 21-0 when Luck connected with Dontrelle Inman on an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The Texans had a fourth-and-1 from the 9 late in the second quarter and went for it again instead of settling for a field goal. The gamble didn’t pay off when Watson’s pass to DeAndre Hopkins was low and bounced in front of him in the end zone.
Colts: Safety Malik Hooker left in the third quarter with a foot injury. … S Mike Mitchell injured his calf in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Texans: Safety Justin Reid injured his ribs in the second quarter and didn’t return.
Colts: Travel to Kansas City where the Chiefs were 7-1 in the regular season.
Texans: The Texans have some decisions to make in the offseason with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and safety Tyrann Mathieu both becoming free agents. They might use the franchise tag to keep Clowney, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.