Determined to bounce back from an embarrassing loss, the Houston Texans used big performances from Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins and solid defense to beat the Indianapolis Colts and move into first place in the AFC South.
Watson threw two touchdown passes to Hopkins and finished with 298 yards to help the Texans to the 20-17 win Thursday night.
The Texans (7-4), who were routed by Baltimore 41-7 on Sunday, trailed by four early in the fourth quarter when Hopkins got in front of Pierre Desir and stretched out to haul in a 30-yard reception for a 20-17 lead. The Texans got things going on that drive with a 33-yard run by Carlos Hyde.
“It was a good team win,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “Guys came in here on Monday to turn the page and were very focused … this week and it showed up on the field.”
Houston’s defense stepped up after the touchdown by Hopkins, forcing a punt on the next drive before stopping the Colts (6-5) on fourth-and-7 with thre minutes left. Jacoby Brissett threw for 129 yards, and came up a yard shy of a first down on Indy’s fourth-down attempt late in the fourth quarter.
“There’s still plenty of football left, and we’re far from out of this thing,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “This was a playoff atmosphere. Obviously, it was a good opportunity for us to take sole possession and have a sweep of Houston, but it didn’t work out that way.”
Hopkins finished with 94 yards receiving and his first TD reception came on a 35-yard grab in the second quarter.
Will Fuller, who returned after sitting out three games with a hamstring injury, had seven catches for 140 yards for the Texans.
“Anytime we have a healthy Will … he’s been a very productive guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s made chunk plays for us, touchdowns, and he’s a great player. And when we get him as a part of our offense it really helps us and it opens up a lot of different things.”
Watson was able to complete several long throws on Thursday including ones for 51 and 44 yards to Fuller.
“I was able to put enough air on the ball and let our guys make plays and that’s what they get paid to do, that’s what they love do,” Watson said. “Just give them a chance and most likely they’re going to come down with it.”
T.Y. Hilton had topped 100 receiving yards in four of his last six games against the Texans and entered averaging 133.3 receiving yards in seven career games at NRG Stadium. He wasn’t a factor, finishing with just 18 yards receiving in his return after missing three games with a calf injury. Reich said Hilton was limited on Thursday and that they wanted to keep him under 30 plays.
There were about 6 minutes left in the third quarter when Jonathan Williams, who helped fill in for injured starter Marlon Mack, wriggled away from three defenders and dashed 13 yards for a touchdown to put the Colts up 17-10.
Fuller had a 51-yard reception on the first play of Houston’s next drive, but the Texans couldn’t move the ball after that and settled for a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to four.
The Texans led 3-0 after a field goal early in the second quarter.
There were about 8 minutes left in the second when Kenny Moore tipped a pass from Watson and intercepted it. It was the first time Watson had thrown an interception at home since Oct. 14, 2018, against the Bills, a streak of 303 attempts which was the longest active run in the NFL.
The Colts cashed in on the mistake when Brissett scrambled 5 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-3.
There were 2 minutes left in the first half when Watson avoided the rush and found Hopkins wide open in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown pass to put Houston back on top 10-7.
“I don’t know where the safeties and the corners were, but they weren’t in position, so I just kind of laid it out there,” Watson said.
Indianapolis added a field goal at the end of the first half to leave it tied at 10l at halftime.