By Terrance Turner
Sept. 11, 2022 (updated Sept. 18)
The first Sunday of the NFL season kicked off today, with the Houston Texans hosting the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium in Houston. What at first looked like a blowout turned into a nail-biter late in the fourth quarter. The Colts fought their way back from a 20-3 deficit to tie the game. But neither team was able to gain an advantage in the game’s final moments.
Both teams went three and out on their opening drive. The Colts scored first when kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a 45 yard field goal.
The Colts got as far as the red zone on a following drive, advancing to first and goal. But their rookie receiver Pierce dropped an end zone pass that could have been a touchdown. The Colts went for it on 4th and goal and were stopped by the defense. Houston took over on downs and answered with a scoring drive of its own. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn made a 45-yard field goal that tied the game at three.
Colts quarterback Matt Ryan got intercepted by Texans defender Jerry Hughes. The Texans took over. The Colts defense was flagged for pass interference on a pass from Davis Chris Moore. That penalty took the Texans to the 16-yard line. Then quarterback Davis Mills found tight end OJ Howard for the touchdown.
It was 10-3 at the half.
The Colts were shut out in both the second and third quarters, as Fairbairn added another field goal in the third to give Houston a 13-3 lead. On the drive by Indianapolis, Matt Ryan fumbled, and the ball was recovered by Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey. Houston cashed in on the turnover when Davis Mills launched a deep pass to O.J. Howard for their second touchdown of the day.
Ryan fumbled again on the Colts’ next drive — in between two incomplete passes. The drive went nowhere and was over within a minute; the Colts punted the ball away. Houston did the same after an unsuccessful drive, and Indianapolis got the ball back. This time, they were able to put points on the board thanks to another field goal by Blankenship (this time from 27 yards out). Then Blankenship kicked the ball to Houston for a touchback.
This time, it was the Texans’ turn to fumble. A hit by E.J. Speed caused Davis Mills to fumble the ball. Colts linebacker DeForest Buckner recovered it. Indianapolis took advantage of the turnover and put together a scoring drive that relied largely on running back Jonathan Taylor. After carrying the ball on two out of three plays, Taylor rushed two yards into the end zone for the touchdown.
It was now a one-score game, with the Texans leading 20-13. Houston failed to add to its lead on its drive, and Indianapolis regained possession. Indy once again relied on Taylor to pick up yardage. Taylor picked up 13 rushing yards on back-to-back plays, then rushed another 14 yards on the next play to take Houston to the 15-yard line. Receiver Michael Pittman caught the pass for the touchdown.
With less than two minutes left, the pressure was on for the Texans to score and put the game away. They could not. After advancing just four yards in three plays, they were compelled to punt. Colts also had to punt after another fruitless drive.
The Texans regained possession with 11 seconds left. They elected to let the clock run out. The game went into overtime. (Overtime rules: one 10-minute period; a touchdown or safety on the first possession wins the game. If score is tied after each’ teams’ first possession, the next score wins the game.)
The Texans’ drive was a disaster. On 3rd and 22, Mills got sacked by the Indianapolis D, and the Texans were forced to punt. For a time, it looked as though the Colts might win the game; led by Matt Ryan, Indianapolis easily got within field goal range. But all hopes were dashed when Blankenship missed a 42-yard field goal.
Neither team was able to score in the entirety of the 10-minute overtime period. So this game ended in a tie: 20-20.
UPDATE (Sept. 18): As the Colts got shellacked by the Jacksonville Jaguars (who won, 24-0), the Texans lost to the Denver Broncos today in Denver, Colorado.
The first three series each ended with a punt; the Broncos were the first to score when kicker Brandon McManus kicked a 20-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead. On the next drive, the Texans answered with a field goal of their own; Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was good from 40 yards out. The game was tied with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
A Broncos punt was followed by another scoring drive for the Texans; Fairbairn again kicked solidly from 44 yards. It took Denver nearly the entire half to even the score, but they eventually did (after a penalty for delay of game). With just 20 seconds left before halftime, McManus sent a 24-yard kick sailing through. It was tied 6-6 at the half.
The offensive struggles continued in the third quarter. The Texans added another field goal, but a promising drive for the Broncos floundered thanks to penalties and a stout Texans defense. Once again, the Broncos were sabotaged by poor clock management. They were going to have McManus kick a 54-yard field goal late in the third quarter, but ran out of time when the play clock went down to zero. That incurred a delay-of-game penalty, forcing the Broncos to punt. Denver fans were not pleased:
Thankfully, Denver soon gave fans something to cheer about. After two fruitless possessions each by the Texans and Broncos, quarterback Russell Wilson located Denver tight end Eric Saubert in the end zone for the touchdown. Denver took a 13-9 lead early in the fourth.
McManus later added a field goal, giving Broncos a seven-point lead. Texans tried to tie the game but turned the ball over on downs — on two consecutive drives. The Broncos won, 16-9.