The Indianapolis Colts staged an impressive comeback to notch the 27-24 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday night at Reliant Stadium.
Unforeseeable adversity befell the Texans after an inspiring start, though. After taking a 21-3 lead into halftime, Houston head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field as the two teams exited the field for the intermission. The team gave an encouraging update on the situation shortly thereafter:
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took over the head coaching duties for the gritty Texans, who entered the SNF matchup against the AFC South-leading Colts on a five-game losing streak but stuck together in this tight contest.
An apparent lopsided quarterback battle pitted 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck against the Texans' former undrafted free agent Case Keenum.
However, the local ex-University of Houston star held his own against his highly touted counterpart.
Luck got off to a rough start, while Keenum tossed three first-half touchdowns to star wide receiver Andre Johnson, the last of which came from five yards out and inside a minute left in the first half:
The deficit caused the Colts to abandon the running game, and the absence of veteran wideout Reggie Wayne (torn ACL) was noticeable—at least in the early going.
However, Luck turned it on in the second half, bringing Indianapolis back from the big deficit. The highlights came on two impressive touchdown throws, beginning with this perfectly placed pass to T.Y. Hilton with seconds left in the third:
A subsequent two-point conversion attempt was thwarted when Luck predetermined where he wanted to go with the football, missing a couple of wide open receivers to leave the score at 24-12.
Nevertheless, a 58-yard strike to Hilton with 9:46 left made it a single-possession game.
Even though Texans running back Ben Tate was running hard with multiple broken ribs and Keenum continued to play at a high level, it seemed that Houston was clinging to the lead and fated to lose it.
The devastating combination of Luck and Hilton struck again to cap off a six-play, 52-yard drive. Hilton came off a pick play in the flat, caught the pass, made a nifty open-field move and found pay dirt, giving Indianapolis a 25-24 advantage with four minutes left.
Coby Fleener was Luck's roommate at Stanford, and the rapport between the two seemed as strong as ever on the subsequent two-point conversion. This seeing-eye lob somehow found Fleener in double coverage to put the Colts up by three:
There was no letting up from the home team, though, as Case Keenum did his best to emulate the heroic game-winning prowess Luck has enjoyed in his first season-and-a-half:
The Colts defense shored up after being gashed by Keenum throughout the evening until the final drive, when clutch completions to DeAndre Hopkins and Johnson set up a game-tying 55-yard field-goal attempt.
Unfortunately, kicker Randy Bullock missed his third field goal of the game as time expired, thwarting the Texans' overtime bid.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: B+
The bad beginning is what dings Luck's grade a bit, but he was sensational when it mattered most.
Luck completed fewer than half of his 40 passes (18-of-40) and faced constant pressure (as has been commonplace in his brief pro career). Unfazed, the sturdy signal-caller stood in the pocket, absorbed the punishment and willed his team to victory to improve the Colts to 6-2 on the season.
Not much help was provided by the rushing attack, which amassed only 69 yards. All those things encompass why Luck lived up to the hype yet again, finishing with 271 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston Texans: A
So far, so good for the 25-year-old youngster. Keenum posted incredible numbers on Sunday, completing 20 of 34 passes for 350 yards, three touchdowns and no takeaways (a 123.4 passer rating).
Kubiak's absence as playcaller seemed evident when the Texans offense was stymied in the second half and held to just six points.
Nevertheless, Keenum hung tough in his second NFL start and did everything in his power under tough circumstances.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts: A+
As mentioned before, the passing game was off to a less-than-ideal start without Wayne in the receiving corps. Hilton stepped up in a big way.
With seven catches for 121 yards and all three of the team's receiving touchdowns, it's hard to poke any holes in Hilton's performance, as the second-year speedster Hilton proved himself as a true cornerstone of the Colts' young nucleus.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: A+
Not to be monotonous and highlight both teams' top receivers and their quarterbacks, but Johnson's monster performance is worthy of such praise.
Johnson served as a viable go-to target for Keenum and snagged a game-high nine receptions for 229 yards and three scores.
The last reception set up the Texans' kick to tie, which showcased how reliable Johnson was despite the fact that the majority of the defensive attention was focused on him.
For the Texans, the hope is that Coach Kubiak makes a full and speedy recovery. If he is unable to coach in Week 10, Phillips may be asked to stay on in an interim role as Houston hits the road to face the Arizona Cardinals.
Indianapolis will return home to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the St. Louis Rams and seek to extend its winning streak to three games.