Texans fall to the Colts 19-16

Indianapolis Colts' Pierre Garcon is tackled by Houston Texans' Kareem Jackson during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

December 23, 2011 8:43:32 AM PST
Reggie Wayne kept the ball after all of his NFL touchdowns. Until Thursday night.

Wayne made one of his trademark moves to outmaneuver a Houston defensive back with 19 seconds left, freeing himself for a 1-yard touchdown catch that gave the Colts a 19-16 victory over the AFC South champion Texans.

After perhaps making his last catch as a Colt in front of the home crowd, the 11-year veteran who is in the final year of his contract handed the ball to Dan Orlovsky, the quarterback who threw it to him. Orlovsky has overcome the stigma of being the quarterback of the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008 to win consecutive NFL games for the first time.

"For him to come and get two games in a row, him throwing me the ball to seal the game, I felt like he deserved that ball," Wayne said. "I was just glad to be the guy to give it to him."

Orlovsky finished 23 of 41 for 244 yards and beat the team he played for the past two seasons. Wayne was emotional when talking about Orlovsky's development.

"He's a hard worker, man," Wayne said. "He's a great dude. He's had some tough luck in his career."

Wayne, a five-time Pro Bowl player, celebrated his winning catch by flinging his hands into the air, pointing toward the fans he loves and hugging his teammates before heading to the Colts' locker room for possibly the final time.

"I said if this is going to be the last game, I want to go out with a bang. It was great," Wayne said. "It was a great feeling to go out. Hopefully, I'll be back, but you never know."

Wayne finished with eight catches for 106 yards, the biggest, of course, giving Indianapolis (2-13) a second win in five days. It was Wayne's third 100-yard day of the season and put the Colts' No. 2 career receiver in position to match another franchise record with eight straight 1,000-yard seasons.

Indy's suddenly strong finish could jeopardize the Colts' stronghold on the No. 1 overall draft pick. St. Louis and Minnesota also have only two victories.

But Wayne and his teammates don't care about that chase. They wanted a win, and some of them wanted to win for teammates such as Wayne, Robert Mathis and Jeff Saturday, who were cornerstones of one of the league's model franchises. All of them have expiring contracts.

"I don't know what's going on with all that," Wayne said. "We'll see what happens. Right now, everybody in this locker room, our motto is to win games."

For Houston, it was a bitter reminder that it hadn't completely swung the balance of power in the AFC South.

Having already wrapped up the franchise's first playoff berth and still playing for a first-round bye, the Texans (10-5) seemed poised for a playoff tuneup in Indianapolis.

Instead, they looked anything but playoff-ready.

Houston settled for two field goals in the red zone, didn't convert a third down until getting a lucky bounce late in the fourth quarter, its running game was stymied late and the defense helped the Colts with three penalties on the decisive drive.

"The last two were absolutely unnecessary on my part," rookie defensive end J.J. Watt said after being called for two of the penalties. "That's on me. I can't do that. I can't hurt our football team like that."

Houston is 0-10 in Indianapolis and hasn't scored more than 20 points in a game since T.J. Yates took over as the starting quarterback.

Yates was solid, 13 of 16 for 132 yards with a rating of 101.0, and Arian Foster had a big day, rushing 23 times for 158 yards.

But when the Texans had to sustain drives or punch it into the end zone, they squandered away scoring chances.

"We make one play offensively at the end, the game's over," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We make one stop at the end, the game's over."

At the start, the game certainly looked as if it would be a repeat of the Texans' 34-7 season-opening blowout when Brian Cushing beat the Colts blockers on the game's first play, sacking Orlovsky and stripping the ball. Foster ran for 8 yards on the next play, then scored on a 9-yard burst off the left side to give Houston a 7-0 lead.

The teams traded five field goals over the next 58 minutes.

Then somehow Orlovsky got rolling. He connected with Pierre Garcon for 11 yards and Jacob Tamme for 10. After a 3-yard completion to Donald Brown, Wayne caught a 34-yard pass on third-and-7 to keep the drive alive with 51 seconds left.

Houston's three penalties moved the ball to the Houston 1. On first-and-goal, Orlovsky lobbed the pass to Wayne, who hauled it in for the momentous catch.

"It's big," Wayne said. "For one thing, not knowing what my future's going to be, just wanting to get a win, couldn't get anything better than this."

NOTES: Before the game, Colts owner Jim Irsay told NFL Network that if Peyton Manning plays next year, it will be in Indianapolis. ... Wayne also moved past Rod Smith for No. 18 on the NFL's career receptions list. Smith finished with 849. Wayne has 854. ... Houston's four-game road winning streak came to an end. ... Adam Vinatieri missed a 42-yard field goal just before halftime, ending his streak of 33 consecutive field goals made at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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