The last two years – two AFC titles – were extra sweet for Andre Johnson. The longtime Texans receiver endured years of bad teams with little excitement that didn’t make the postseason.
“I thought all those days were over,” Johnson said.
Those days are back.
The Texans squandered an 18-point first-half lead to the Indianapolis Colts and lost 27-24 in a game many called a must-win coming into the week. The Texans have now lost six in a row after a 2-0 start. At 2-6, they would need to win the rest of their games to reach 10-6, the worst record to reach the postseason a year ago.
The game took a scary turn shortly after the first half, when head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed near the sideline. The health of their head coach obviously weighed on the players but they refused to use it as an excuse.
Instead, they pinned the loss on missed opportunities on offense, letting up big plays on defense and poor special teams play.
“It’s very frustrating,” J.J. Watt said. “This is a tough league and you have to play extremely well at times for an entire game. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Behind an electric first half from new starting quarterback Case Keenum and Johnson, the Texans bolted to a 21-3 halftime lead but scored just three points the rest of the way. They were outscored 24-3 in the second half.
Even after all that, Randy Bullock had a chance to make a 55-yarder to tie the game up. But he missed – his third miss of the night – as the clock expired.
Johnson caught seven balls for 190 yards and three touchdowns … in the first half. But as good as the Texans were in the first half, they struggled to score points in the second. Johnson had just two catches in the second half.
“They changed up their coverage a bit,” Johnson said. “They stopped mixing it up, trying to disguise things and stuff like that but that’s part of the game. That’s going to happen.”
While the Texans’ offense was sputtering, Andrew Luck got the Colts going. On the last play of the third quarter he threw a touchdown to T.Y. Hilton. He then threw two more TDs to Hilton in the fourth quarter.
The big touchdown pass to Hilton was a 58-yarder. Hilton sprinted past a trailing Johnathan Joseph.
“It was just one of those plays they caught us in the right coverage,” Joseph said. “Just nothing more than that.”
On a different scoring drive, Kareem Jackson was called for a costly pass interference penalty. Big plays continue to plague the Texans’ defense.
“Me and Kareem hold ourselves to a high standard,” Joseph said. “Any moment in this defense, you can have moments like that because we play man-to-man and so many things and we’re kind of exposed. We hold ourselves to a higher standard. And we feel like it’s our job to get it done.”
Luck had a very good second half, throwing for three touchdowns but Joseph said the Texans lost because they didn’t play well enough.
“Nah, it was all on us,” Joseph said when asked about Luck’s play. “Self-inflicted wounds.”
And this season has been full of self-inflicted wounds. The Texans have out-played many of their opponents this season but have lost six games in a row.
“You play the game and you line up and play against people and you feel like you’re better than them,” guard Wade Smith said. “And you’re playing as such and you’re showing that you’re better than them. But then you do things that allow them to get back in the game and it’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.”
And the tough times are back.