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Colts defeat Texans, 31-20

By Elwyn Henderson

      The 0-1 Houston Texans faced the 0-1 Indianapolis Colts Sunday in their 2023 home opener at NRG Stadium in Houston, hoping to get their first win of the young season.  Houston dropped their opener last Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens, while Indy dropped their opener at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.  Both teams featured rookies starting at quarterback, C.J. Stroud for the Texans and Anthony Richardson for the Colts.  The two had very similar outings in Week 1 and both performed admirably.  The question going into the game was which would improve the set most from last week and lead their team to victory.

     Houston won the coin toss to begin the game and elected to defer to the second half.  Ka’Imi Fairbairn kicked off to begin the contest.  The ball was a fair catch and the Colts began their first drive at their 25.

     Richardson led his team downfield with precision.  The Colts drove the 75 yards in 10 plays and 4:16 and Richardson dialed up his own number and ran into the end zone from 18 yards out with 10:44 left in the first quarter.  Matt Gay added the PAT and Indianapolis had an early 7-0 lead.

     Gay kicked off following the score and the kick was returned from the 5 up to the 18 where Stroud and the Houston offense set up for their first possession of the game.  The Colts came with a crushing defense and on a third down the Texans fumbled the ball and after a successful challenge the ruling was that the visitors recovered.  They up on the 15 and on the first play Richardson ran around right end for a TD with 9:13 left in the opening frame.  Gay’s extra point kick was good and Houston was in a deep 14-0 hold just 5 minutes and 47 seconds into the game.

     Following Gay’s kickoff Houston set up at their 32 for their second attempt at getting into the game.  On the second play of the possession Stroud hit Nico Collins for a 22-yard gain down to the Colts 34.  Houston converted a 4th and 1from the 15.  Three plays later Stroud hit Collins n an 8-yard TD pass with 3:14 left in the quarter.  Fairbairn made the point after kick and Houston
cut the deficit in half, 14-7.  The drive was 13 plays, 68 yards and took 5:59 off the clock.    

     Indy began their next drive at their 25 after a touchback.  The defense rose to the occasion and forced a three-and-out.  Rigoberto Sanchez punted the ball down to the Houston 32 and Stroud and company returned to the field.  It was a quick three-and-out and Ty Zentner punted the ball down to the Colts 32 and Richardson brought his unit back on the field.  It was a short possession as the Texans forced a three-and-out.  After a Sanchez punt Houston went back on the offensive at their 28, but they failed to pick up a first down and Zentner punted the ball back to the visitors.

     Things got a bit more interesting on the next Colts possession, as Richardson was being evaluated for a concussion, forcing Gardner Minshew II to come in at quarterback.

     Minshew hit a long pass on the drive setting up an 11-yard TD run by Zack Moss with 9:43 left in the first half.  Gay hit the extra point and The Colts led 21-7.  The drive was 6 plays, 76 yards and took 3:02.

     Houston moved down to the Indy 11 on their next possession before being forced to settle for a 29-yard Fairbairn field goal with 4:25 left until halftime.  The drive was 9 plays, 64 yards and took 5:18.  The field goal brought the score to 21-10 in favor of the Colts.  

     Minshew remained in at quarterback and Richardson was ruled out of the game with a concussion.  He brought his team back on the field at the 25 for their next possession and methodically moved them down the field.  The drive ended when Kylen Granson stretched the ball over the pylon before being pushed out of bounds, giving the Colts another touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half.  Gay nailed the point after and Houston trailed 28-10.

     After a touchback and a kneel down by Stroud the first half ended with the Texans heading to the locker room without any answers while being blown out at home.

     Gay kicked off to begin the second half and though the Texans picked up a couple of first     Minshew continued to get the job done as the replacement field general for Indianapolis.  The
Houston defense did get it together just in time to prevent another TD, forcing a Gay 42-yard field goal with 5:50 left in the third frame.  The kick was good and the Colts pushed their advantage to 31-10.  The drive was 9 plays, 56 yards, and took 3:18 off the clock.

downs they were forced to punt the ball away on the third series.


     There was no further scoring until Fairbairn hit a 36-yard field goal with 13:24 left in the game, moving the score to 31-13.  The drive was13 plays, 57 yards and took 7:26.

     Houston found the end zone on their next possession when Stroud tossed a 23-yard TD pass to Tank Dell with 9:48 left in the game.  Fairbairn connected on the PAT and the Texans closed the gap to 31-20.  The drive was a 5-play, 67-yard affair that consumed 1:41. 

     The Houston defense got the ball back for the offense again and Stroud moved the team down the field.  The drive stalled out at the Colts 28, forcing a 46-yard Fairbairn field goal attempt.  Houston was called for a false start, forcing a 51-yard attempt.  The kick was wide left, leaving the score at 31-20 and ending the game for all practical purposes with 2:41 left in the game.

     There was no further scoring and the Texans dropped to 0-2 while the Colts evened their record at 1-1.

     Texans Coach Demeco Ryans was asked about the problems on the defensive side of the ball when he faced the media after the disappointing loss.

     “Defensively today, we weren’t good enough. If we want to be a good defense, it all starts up front – stopping the run. We did not stop the run. We did not tackle well. Fundamental football wasn’t good enough. If you want to win games in this league, we’ve got to play better. Third down situational football, red zone, again, wasn’t good enough. We gave them four [opportunities] in the red zone, and they scored on all four [opportunities]. For us, we have to eliminate teams scoring in the red zone. We have to own it and make them kick field goals. We didn’t do that today.”

     When Stroud held his presser he was asked about the shoulder injury he suffered through during the days before the game and his thoughts on his performance.


     “First and foremost, I want to give all glory and praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Had a hard week, man. Trying to fight my tail off just to be able to play because my shoulder was hurting me. But, at the end of the day, I wanted to be out there for my guys, and I wanted to play. I had a little pain here and there, but at the end of the day, I just wanted to play because I had the opportunity from God just to be in a great city like Houston. I wanted to play in the home opener and try to flip this thing around the right way by playing well. Yeah, it was ups and downs, but I feel like my guys around me made me more positive as the week went on. They were telling me, man, if it happens, it happens. If not, just do whatever you can do to not play if you’re not feeling well. So, I decided to play, and I feel like I did okay. Of course, you always want to do better. Got to not take sacks in the red zone and got to score in the red zone. That definitely was the main reason why we didn’t put any points on the board. We were driving the ball pretty well, just got to finish those drives. I feel like, overall, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think there’s hope. I think we showed that today, that we’re going to fight, and we’re not just going to turn around and lay down just because the score flips early. We’re going to keep fighting till the end.”

     Houston hits the road again next Sunday when they travel to Florida to take on the 2-0 Jacksonville Jaguars.  Hopefully, they will find an answer on defense and have a better game against the Jags.

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