INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Houston Texans waited 10 months to celebrate a victory.
So when Sunday’s wild game ended, they let it all out.
Players mobbed kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn after he made a 37-yard field goal in overtime, jumping up and down before leaving Indianapolis with a wild 37-34 victory to end the league’s longest losing streak at nine.
“We’re all happy about it, no doubt,” linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. “We finally got a ‘W’ after being 0-3 for a while. So, I think things are starting to click. Starting to play some complementary football. And so, that’s where this momentum is.”
It’s wasn’t just three games.
Houston (1-3) hadn’t won since Nov. 19, hadn’t won on the road since Sept. 14, 2017, and couldn’t even beat the Colts last season without Andrew Luck.
This season, the frustration grew as they lost at New England by seven, at Tennessee by three and at home to the New York Giants by five. Then Sunday, they blew a 28-7 lead to Luck’s Colts and two more chances to win - on Fairbairn’s 59-yard field goal on the second-to-last play and on their first possession of overtime when a strong drive stalled and Fairbairn made a 29-yard field goal to tie the score at 31 with 1:50 to play.
And just when it appeared Houston’s winless streak might continue, the Colts went for the win on fourth-and-4 from their 43-yard line. The Texans got the stop they needed and three plays later, Fairbairn made the winning kick - after Indy called timeout just before he missed the kick wide right.
“It took longer than it needed to,” defensive end J.J. Watt said after recording two more sacks to give him 80 in his career. “Very, very tiring, but we found a way. It’s a wild game, there at the end and there was a whole lot going on. Man, I respect their decision to go for it there at the end, go for the win instead of the tie.”
Indy (1-3) has lost two straight and all three losses came with the Colts having chances to take the lead in the final 2 minutes.
They’ve just kept coming up short.
“We’ve got to execute. I’ve got to play better,” Luck said. “I’ve got to throw a better ball. We all know where we have to improve.”
Deshaun Watson and his receivers certainly were in sync Sunday.
Watson was 29 of 42 with 375 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran six times for 41 yards and his first rushing TD of the season.
Hopkins caught 10 passes for 169 yards and one score while Keke Coutee broke Andre Johnson’s franchise record for receptions in an NFL debut. Coutee caught 11 passes for 109 yards. Johnson caught six passes in his first game.
The Colts initially lined up for their fourth-down play to try and draw Houston offside. When they didn’t, Indy called timeout and coach Frank Reich made the decision to go for the first down and the win with a short, seemingly safe pass on fourth-and-4.
But Luck was missing his favorite target, T.Y. Hilton, who was out with a hamstring injury, and his pass was too low for Chester Rogers.
The bigger problem is that Indy now visits New England on Thursday, presumably without Hilton.
“Probably not, probably not good, I mean with the hamstring on a short week,” Reich said.
Houston’s trademark defense also appears to have been rejuvenated. The Texans finished with four sacks against Luck and forced him to fumble twice, recovering one. Jadeveon Clowney scored his second career touchdown by recovering a fumble in the end zone on a botched snap from center Ryan Kelly.
Indy had only 107 yards in the first half, 40 coming on Hilton’s first catch.
While Luck led the Colts back from a 28-7 deficit to force overtime and Indy took a 34-31 lead on Adam Vinatieri’s 44-yard field goal, the defense stiffened one last time when Houston needed it most.
Vinatieri became the NFL’s career leader in field goals when he made a 42-yarder with 2 seconds left in the first half to make it 21-10. Hall of Famer Morten Andersen held the previous mark at 565.
Vinatieri extended the record to 567 with his overtime field goal and now heads back to New England, where he started his career, needing one field-goal attempt to move past Gary Anderson for No. 2 all-time. He also needs 26 points to break Morten Andersen’s career scoring record (2,544).
But he would have preferred extending his league record for victories (226).
“It’s weird, you know, you come off a loss and it doesn’t feel quite the same way,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll look back at in years to come and it will be pretty special.”
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