Colts use balanced attack to down Texans 21-7 in wild card
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
HOUSTON (AP) The Indianapolis Colts have won all season thanks in large part to big games from quarterback Andrew Luck.
In a 21-7 wild-card game win over the Houston Texans on Saturday they showed that they're pretty good at running the ball, too.
Luck threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and Marlon Mack had a career-high 148 yards rushing and a touchdown on a day the Colts finished with 200 yards rushing.
"There were some really effective runs early in the game," Luck said. "And then the way we finished the game, I'm proud of the guys up front. It's not easy to run the ball on that defense. It's a really good defense with a lot of good players, but we made the most of it and I'm proud of all the guys."
The Colts advance to face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round next weekend.
Luck threw for 191 yards and two scores in the first half to help the Colts build a 21-0 lead. His first one came on the game's first drive when he found Eric Ebron on a 6-yard TD pass. That play was set up by a 38-yard catch by T.Y. Hilton, who had 63 yards receiving on that drive.
Hilton didn't have any catches on the next drive, but the Colts still drove down the field easily and made it 14-0 on a 2-yard run by Mack later in the first.
Mack became the first player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Texans this season after the most yards they'd allowed to one player came when Saquon Barkley gained 82 yards on the ground on Sept. 23.
"We came into this game saying we needed to dominate up front," Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said. "We needed to run the football and stop the run. To roll off 200 yards on that defense is unbelievable."
"We had multiple plans of attack in order to slow them down to chip and thump them every time we could," Reich said. "Run the ball to slow them down, we talked a lot about that this week. Those are two phenomenal players, and our guys did a great job."
Some things to know about the Colts' win over the Texans:
Reich is wowed by how much his team has grown since Oct. 14, when a loss to the New York Jets dropped the Colts to 1-5.
"I really can't believe it," he said. "That's what happens when you believe in each other, and you work hard every day and you just get a little bit better. One percent better every day, that's what we talk about ... as the season goes on, that's a long climb. If you can keep getting better throughout the season with the players that we have, I believe we're right where we should be."
Indianapolis is the third team in league history to make the postseason after a 1-5 start, and the Colts win on Saturday was their fifth straight and 10th in the last 11 games.
Houston's passing game was hampered by a shoulder injury to star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first half on Saturday. Hopkins was second in the NFL with a career-high 1,572 yards receiving in the regular season, but was limited to five catches for 37 yards in a game in which he said that he sustained a Grade 3 AC strain of his right shoulder.
Hopkins acknowledged it being difficult to play through his injury and was in so much pain after the game that he winced repeatedly during the simple task of trying to zip his jacket.
But Hopkins, who started each game this season despite dealing with minor injuries, said he never thought about sitting out after the injury.
"Nah, I would have had to have a broken leg or something," he said.
While disappointed in Saturday's loss, Hopkins was impressed with Houston's turnaround to reach the postseason after starting 0-3.
"I'm proud of this team for even being where we are in this position," he said. "We've got a real good team. We've got a lot of tough guys in here. We'll be back next year."
Saturday's win capped an exciting - and hectic - week for Ebron after he and his wife Gabriella welcomed their second son, Aiden Blaise, on Thursday.
Luckily Ebron's wife is from Houston and the baby was born here, giving the tight end more time to spend with his new addition. He said he spent Friday night at the team hotel, but slept on a couch in the hospital on Thursday night after Aiden's birth.
He was even on daddy duty after the game, holding his adorable 14-month-old son Oliver during postgame interviews.
"This is great, man," he said. "It's a great emotional win, man, and I want to cry just simply because of everything that I've been through and to have so much support from my family and friends has been a great journey."
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Updated January 6, 2019