HOUSTON — Fourth-quarter rallies have become so commonplace for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck that his analysis of the comebacks is as routine as his ability to lead the Colts to victory.
Luck and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton connected for three second-half touchdowns and the Colts rallied from an 18-point deficit to wrest control of the AFC South with a 27-24 win over the two-time division champion Houston Texans on Sunday night at Reliant Stadium.
Luck, who passed for 271 yards, found Hilton for a 9-yard score with four minutes remaining to give the Colts (6-2) a one-point lead. Luck completed a two-point conversion pass to tight end Coby Fleener for the final margin to seal his 10th game-winning rally in his two-year career.
“We managed to convert some third downs, put some drives together and T.Y. Hilton did one heck of a job. Everybody did a heck of a job,” Luck said. “I don’t think we freaked out and got out of our system. I think we just settled down a bit and played ball.”
The Texans (2-6) dropped their sixth consecutive game, but not until they surged into Colts territory in the waning moments. On the final snap from scrimmage, second-year kicker Randy Bullock missed his third field goal attempt of the game, a 55-yarder, as the clock expired.
Luck had seven fourth-quarter comeback victories as a rookie, so even after the Texans extended their lead to 24-3 with 4:25 left in the third quarter, it was folly to discount his ability to rally the Colts again.
After finishing 0 of 6 on third downs in the first half, the Colts were aided by two third-down conversions, the second via a late hit against Luck by Texans linebacker Darryl Sharpton, during a 13-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that Luck capped with a 10-yard strike to Hilton (seven catches, 121 yards) on third down to cut the deficit to 24-12.
And after Bullock missed a 43-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing Houston drive, Luck struck again. He did so with haste this time.
On the second play of the first possession of the fourth quarter, Luck hit Hilton in stride for a 58-yard touchdown, with Hilton blowing past Texans Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph en route to the end zone.
“We were in zone,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “There is no reason for us to get beat deep. That’s really the bottom line.”
When Houston stalled again, Luck and Hilton completed the comeback.
“I don’t know if there’s a tougher (quarterback) in the league,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said of Luck. “One that can make the plays under the duress that he was under and extend plays. So credit to him and credit our offensive line for manning up, stiffening their spine and bowing their neck and finding enough to get out of here with a win.”
With Texans quarterback Case Keenum making his second career start and his first in front of his adopted home crowd, Houston wasted little time using Keenum to attack the Colts downfield. On the third play from scrimmage, Keenum completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Andre Johnson after a perfect execution of a bootleg rollout.
Two possessions later, Keenum hit Johnson on a 41-yard strike down the middle of the field. Johnson beat safety Antoine Bethea on the play, scoring his second touchdown after totaling zero the first seven games.
The Texans extended their lead to 21-3 before halftime, with Keenum scrambling 22 yards to the Colts 5 before completing his third touchdown pass to Johnson of the half. It marked the first time in Johnson’s illustrious career that he had three touchdowns in a game.
“They changed up some coverage in the second half, tried to take me away a little more,” said Johnson, who finished with nine receptions for 229 yards. “But there were still plays out there for us to make. We just didn’t make them.”
But after frustrating Luck into 3-of-12 passing while sacking him three times in the first half, the Texans failed to slow him when a stand was sorely needed. That Luck executed a stunning rally surprised no one.
NOTES: Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the sideline as the first half ended and was transported to a local hospital for observation. The Texans’ public relations issued a statement noting that Kubiak did not suffer a heart attack and was resting comfortably. Phillips served as interim coach in the second half. … The Texans played with the retractable roof open at Reliant Stadium for the first time since Oct. 30, 2011, a 24-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. … Colts WR Reggie Wayne officially had his streak of 189 consecutive games played snapped. Wayne had the second longest among active players to Washington Redskins LB London Fletcher, who played his 248th consecutive game earlier Sunday.