The Houston Texans had a great opportunity last Sunday to wrap up the number one seed in the AFC against the Minnesota Vikings, but failed to do accomplish that.
The Texans had one last opportunity to control their destiny against their division rival Indianapolis Colts, win and the road to the Super Bowl goes through Houston.
This would not be an easy game as they Colts would welcome back their coach Chuck Pagano who fought and won the battle against leukemia. Back on September 26th, Pagano took a leave of absence to due to receiving three rounds of chemotherapy and was just cleared back doctors to return to the sidelines since being in remission.
He received a heart felt welcome back on Sunday before the game by fans, Colts coaches and even the Texans coaching staff.
Pagano was back to his old form and ready to coach his team he hadn't seen in several months.
The Indianapolis Colts got off to a hot start on an emotional day, as Andrew Luck drove his team down the field in style. After a pass interference call against Texans B Harris climbing on Reggie Wayne, Luck dropped of a short pass to Coby Fleener for the 1 yard touchdown. Colts led the Houston Texans 7-0 in the first quarter.
The Houston Texans offense continued to look flat as they struggled to reach the end zone in their drive. Quarterback Matt Schaub began the tall task of getting a victory and capturing home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Texans began to spread out the offense as Schaub dumped short passes to Owen Daniels for 6 yards. Later Schaub passed to his favorite target Andre Johnson for a 8 yard gain as they muscled their way into Colts territory.
Schaub the found a wide open rookie wide receiver DiVier Posey for a 16 yard gain.
Ultimately the Colts defense prevented the Texans their opportunity to get into the end zone and settled for a Shayne Graham field goal. The Texans trailed the Colts 7-3.
The Texans defense began to awaken in the second quarter as Antonio Smith sacked Luck for 7 yard loss and forced the Colts to punt. The Texans would capitalize on their scoring opportunity and again settled for a field goal and only trailed 7-6.
After a series of back and for the defense battles between the two rival teams, the Colts offense pursued as Luck launched a spectacular pass to T.Y. Hilton for the 17 yard gain. One play later running back Vick Ballard bulldozed his way through for the 1 yard touchdown and the 14-6 lead.
Texans running back Arian Foster made his presence felt in the third quarter as he broke a tackle and ran for the 13 yard touchdown. Instead of his traditional bow in the end zone, Foster reached out and patted the #ChuckStrong sign in the back of the end zone as a sign of respect. Texans only trailed Colts 14-13.
The Texans defense made it difficult and stagnated the Colts offense as they were forced to punt. At about the 5:20 mark of the third quarter Texans kicker Shayne Graham connected on another field for the 16-14 lead over the Colts.
Upon the kickoff, Colts returner Deji Karim made the Texans pay, as blew by the defense for the 101 yard touchdown score, that seemed to fire up not only the crowd but the Colts team all around. Colts regained the lead over the Texans 21-16.
That was the turning point as Luck launched a deep pass to left to Hilton for the 70 yard touchdown, blowing by every defensive player with a Texans uniform. Colts extended their lead 28-16 over the Texans in the fourth quarter.
After a pathetic pass thrown by Schaub intended for Johnson that was intercepted by Vonte Davis, that would prove to be the nail in the coffin as the Colts held on for the 28-16 victory over the Texans.
The Colts (11-5) will play at Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round this weekend, while the Texans (12-4) will host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.
The slumping Texans have lost a head scratching three of their last four game as they fell to the number three seed, behind the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.
"We had a great opportunity the last two weeks, but we won't feel sorry for ourselves. We'll focus on keeping our confidence up, even if we have to play next week," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
JJ Watt was prevented from accomplishing the single season sack record set by Michael Strahan with 22.5. Watt finished the season with 20.5 sacks on the season.
"We made our road a little bit tougher, that's all. We're just gonna have to dig a little deeper....We didn’t win, so I could care less about the sack record. I want to win football games."
Andre Johnson finished with 1590 yards on the season which surpasses his previous record 1575 set back in 2008.
Arian Foster finished with 16 carries for 96 yards and 1 TD. Matt Schaub finished 24/36 on 475 yards, 2 interceptions, while being sacked 4 times.
Andrew Luck finished 14/28 with 191 yards, 2 TD, and for the first time 0 interceptions. "Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and heading into the playoffs. To get a win, I think means the world to him," said Luck.
Man, this has been a great year, a storybook ending. Let's keep it going. Hopefully we can continue to write this movie," said Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The Colts accomplished the second best turn around in NFL history by winning 9 more games than they did just one season ago.