The 7-4 Houston Texans retook the lead in the AFC South on Thursday night to open up Week 12 when they defeated the 6-5 Indianapolis Colts, 20-17. It was a close matchup all the way to the end, but the big plays the Texans created on the offensive side of the ball was what gave them the winning edge.
Houston's wideouts ran wild against Indianapolis' secondary, as Will Fuller caught seven passes for 140 yards and DeAndre Hopkins caught six passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. On the other side, the Colts never really got anything going through the air, but they were effective on the ground. They turned 39 rushes into 175 yards, but the Texans' defense stepped up in the fourth quarter to stop a potential game-winning drive.
Will Brinson is joined by the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends to react to the Texans' 20-17 victory over the Colts on Thursday Night Football. Give it a listen below and be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform:
The battle for the AFC South is nowhere near over, but the Texans made a statement by rebounding after an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week and retaking first place in the division. Jump in below to our live blog to catch up with in-depth analysis, highlights, and more from the game. Check back here soon as we will break the game down further with key takeaways.
Why the Texans won
It wasn't pretty, and Deshaun Watson certainly didn't play one of his best games, but the Texans utilized a few big plays to gut out a win on Thursday night. Fuller was playing in his first game since the Texans lost to the Colts in Week 7, and he caught two huge bombs from Watson, one for 44 yards and the other for 51. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Watson posted three of his four longest completions in terms of air distance in this game. His 51-yard pass to Fuller covered 59.4 yards in the air, the 44-yard pass to Fuller covered 49.3 yards in the air and Watson's 35-yard touchdown to Hopkins in the second quarter traveled 49.5 yards in the air. Watson finished with 298 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He was inconsistent and missed some throws, but connected on a few dimes downfield that really made the difference in this game.
Why the Colts lost
While the Texans created several big plays in the passing game, the Colts lost because they were unable to get any big plays from the passing game. Jacoby Brissett recorded a career-high 126.7 passer rating when he played the Texans last month, but he completed 16 of 25 passes for just 129 yards on Thursday night. The lead receiver was tight end Eric Ebron, who caught four passes for 44 yards. T.Y. Hilton, who was operating on a pitch count due to a calf injury, caught three passes for just 18 yards and dropped a couple of big passes which could have affected the outcome of the game. The Colts were great when it came to moving the ball on the ground -- Jonathan Williams had 104 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and Nyheim Hines had 51 yards on nine carries -- but there's a point in the game where you're forced to throw it. Indianapolis ran a 10-play, 36-yard drive that took 4:39 off the clock when they were losing by three points late in the fourth quarter. Once the Texans finally stuffed the run, the Colts couldn't move the chains through the air and that was pretty much the ball game. Brissett is a good quarterback, but the play calls were very vanilla on Thursday night.
On that 10-play, 36-yard drive that took up more than four minutes off the clock, it sure seemed like the Colts were going to run the ball down the Texans' throat and score a game-winning touchdown late in the game. After all, the Colts scored a touchdown in the third quarter to cap off an 11-play, 66-yard drive that included just one pass. After the Colts picked up their second first down of the drive, the Texans' defense finally stepped up and stuffed the run. Hines picked up just three yards on first and second down, Watson's pass fell incomplete on third down and then he was stopped short after trying to convert the first down with his feet on fourth and seven. There was still 2:49 left on the clock, but it became clear that the Texans' defense had just won the game.
Play of the Game
Fuller sure didn't look like someone who was dealing with a hamstring injury on Thursday night. He caught a couple of big bombs, but this 51-yard completion stood out since Kenny Moore had his hand in Fuller's facemask as he was reeling in the catch. What a play.
The Colts return to Indianapolis next week, where they will host another divisional rival in the Tennessee Titans. The Texans face another big challenge next week, as they will host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.