INDIANAPOLIS – Colts fans are pleasantly surprised with two things on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
First and foremost that head coach Chuck Pagano is back on the sideline after a three month fight with Leukemia as the Colts face the Texans in the season finale.
The second is that every Colts starter that is healthy is on the field even though the game has no bearing on the Colts’ seeding in the playoffs.
It was a new philosophy that paid off as the Colts beat the Texans 28-16 to finish the regular season at 11-5.
After an emotional tribute to Pagano on the big screen before kickoff the Colts used the emotion to drive down the field 75 yards in 13-plays. The reached the endzone on a one-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Coby Fleener to make it 7-0.
With a solid passing attack the Texans managed to get into Colts territory twice over the next quarter but could only come away with a pair of Shane Graham field goals to trim the Colts lead to 7-6.
Sluggish after the first drive the Colts offense got a boost from the defense late in the second quarter when Vontae Davis intercepted a Matt Schuab pass and returned it 26 yards to the Houston 39-yard line. Luck would lead the team over that distance in six plays, handing to Vick Ballard on the last one for a touchdown to make it 14-6.
With a potential top seed in the AFC on the line the Texans had a strong start to the first half. Arian Foster busted out of his early game slump with a 13-yard touchdown run to pull Houston to within one at 14-3. Later in the third quarter Graham added another field goal to pull the Texans ahead.
But the Colts responded in what for them is an unusual way: A kick return. Deji Karim took the kickoff a yard into the endzone and found a hole up the middle and sprinted past the Houston coverage for a 101-yard kick return touchdown to immediately put the Colts back up ahead 21-16.
Luck would tack some more points in the fourth quarter when he hit a wide open T.Y. Hilton for a season-long 70-yard touchdown pass to put the Colts up 28-13. From there the Colts defense shut the door, stopping the Texans as Davis picked off another pass with 9:46 to go.
From there it was Ballard who led the way, carrying the ball ten times and helping the offense to five first downs to burn the rest of the time off the clock.