The Colts are heading back to the postseason, as Sunday they won a hard fought game against the Texans, 17-10, to win the AFC North.
Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes, Adam Vinatieri made a late field goal and Colts defense shut down the Texans offense to clinch the win and the South.
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and return specialist Josh Cribbs, longtime Browns, couldn’t believe they were finally heading into the postseason for the first time. Jackson was so excited he started toward the showers still wearing his championship hat.
Luck, meanwhile, reminded everyone the playoffs can’t be taken for granted — even though he’s never missed out in his three NFL seasons.
Nobody understands this situation better than Wayne, who has reached the playoffs in 12 of his 14 NFL seasons. Three years ago, many thought his days in Indy numbered after the Colts went 2-14. But Wayne gave Indy a hometown discount and has spent the last three years chasing a second Super Bowl ring and Peyton Manning’s records.
With 209 career games and 142 career wins, Wayne now holds both records, something that was not lost on teammates or coaches, who sent Wayne back into the game for the final snap.
“We gave out one game ball and that was to Reggie,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Really glad that things worked out, especially for that player. He embodies what we talk about, represents everything that Mr. (Jim) Irsay talks about.”
Wayne couldn’t have done it without some help and he had plenty Sunday.
Luck was 18 of 34 for 187 yards, throwing for two second-quarter touchdowns that turned a 7-0 deficit into a 14-7 halftime lead. Daniel “Boom” Herron ran 11 times for 60 yards including five straight times on the game sealing drive that consumed 5 minutes, 3 seconds. Vinatieri finished it with a 29-yard field goal with 2:11 to go.
The defense dominated the short-handed Texans (7-7), too.
After deactivating receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Garrett Graham before the game, Houston lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Fitzpatrick was carted off the field with an air cast covering the leg.
Coach Bill O’Brien would not confirm reports that Fitzpatrick’s leg was broken.
“I felt for him because he knew right away that it was injured,” O’Brien said.
Without Fitzpatrick, the Texans turned to rookie Tom Savage. He completed his first NFL pass for a first down, then struggled. Savage finished 10 of 19 for 127 yards with two fumbles and two turnovers.
Arian Foster ran 26 times for 99 yards, but the Texans managed only 289 total yards and had their best play of the game — a 25-yard TD run from Foster on fourth-and-1 — nullified by a holding call. Houston wound up settling for a 53-yard field goal to make it 14-10 early in the fourth quarter, its only offensive points of the day. Kendrick Lewis returned an interception 27 yards for touchdown to give the Texans a 7-0 lead.
Luck tied it with a 26-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks early in the second quarter.
Then when it looked as if the Colts would blow another scoring chance following Wayne’s second-quarter fumble, Savage gave it right back on a botched handoff. Three plays later, Luck hooked up with Dwayne Allen on a 3-yard TD pass to take a 14-7 lead.
The Colts never trailed again.
“Right now I’m so locked into what we’ve got going on here as a team and as a brotherhood,” Wayne said. “We’ve got something really special, so hopefully we can continue on the success and stay hot.”