The Houston Texans earned their most important victory of the season Thursday with a 20-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium.
As a result, Houston seized sole possession of first place in the AFC South at 7-4 and avoided a season sweep and lost tiebreaker at the hands of the Colts in the process. The trio of Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V proved too much for the visitors' secondary in a low-scoring battle.
Indianapolis is still well within striking distance at 6-5 but is just 1-3 in its last four games.
Notable Fantasy Stats
- HOU QB Deshaun Watson: 19-of-30 passing for 298 yards, two touchdowns and one interception
- HOU WR Will Fuller V: seven catches for 140 yards
- HOU WR DeAndre Hopkins: six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns
- IND QB Jacoby Brissett: 16-of-25 passing for 129 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions; four carries for 20 yards and one touchdown
- IND RB Jonathan Williams: 26 carries for 104 yards and one touchdown; three catches for 17 yards
Texans' Receivers Shine in Prime Time
Fuller returned for the first time since Oct. 20 and simplified the formula for Houston.
If Watson gets enough time to throw behind an offensive line Football Outsiders ranks as 24th in the league in pass protection, this aerial attack is a nightmare for opponents. He didn't the last time out when the Baltimore Ravens sacked him six times, but Indianapolis only managed a single sack and couldn't keep up with Fuller or Hopkins downfield.
Hopkins made a spectacular catch along the sidelines and scored on a blown coverage in the first half before giving the Texans the lead for good in the fourth quarter when he beat single coverage and hauled in a 30-yard score.
Fuller took advantage of the additional attention Hopkins always receives and caught multiple deep balls in the third quarter alone.
The pairing helped Houston overcome some of its struggles finishing drives that included settling for two field goals in the red zone and a failed fourth down inside Colts' territory. Watson also threw an interception in the first half that set up Indianapolis' first touchdown, although he continued to hone in on his top two targets as the game progressed.
Hopkins may be the best receiver in the league, and Fuller is fast enough to beat almost anyone on a deep ball in man coverage. Best of luck stopping them down the stretch if they remain healthy.
Colts' Play-Calling Leaves Much to be Desired in Close Loss
The Colts entered play fourth in the league in rushing yards per game, but Thursday figured to be the time for a change in strategy.
After all, running back Marlon Mack is sidelined with a fractured hand, and star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton returned after missing the last three games with a calf injury. The Texans were also an ugly 29th in the league in passing yards allowed per contest and missing secondary members Bradley Roby, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Justin Reid and Mike Adams.
Yet, Indianapolis continued to pound Jonathan Williams between the tackles for marginal gains.
There were some bright spots with the rushing attack, including when Williams capped an 11-play drive—featuring 10 runs—with an impressive touchdown after bouncing off a tackle. Brissett also scored a touchdown with his legs on an option keeper but appeared hesitant to test the decimated Houston secondary downfield.
Even when the Colts were trailing by three in the fourth quarter, they ran seven of the 10 plays on a drive that ended with a turnover on downs in Houston territory. Fittingly, Brissett came up short on a scramble on the 4th-and-7.
The Texans defense was practically begging to be beaten through the air on Thursday. Indianapolis apparently had different ideas and lost as a result.
Both teams face AFC foes at home in Week 13. The Texans host the New England Patriots, while the Colts face the Tennessee Titans.