This is the backstory to one of the great moments of Week 9, the eventful evening inside Reliant Stadium that featured yet another late-game comeback for second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who guided the Indianapolis Colts to a 27-24 win over the Houston Texans. The Colts' comeback win, as well as the Miami Dolphins' walk-off safety against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Seattle Seahawks' rally past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are nominees for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the week. Cast your vote for the GMC Never Say Never Moments of Week 9.
For two seasons, the Texans got to enjoy the view from the top of the AFC South. As the Colts transitioned from Peyton Manning to the newcomer Luck at quarterback, Houston won consecutive division crowns. The tide has turned back into the favor of the Colts, who own a sizable lead over their division rivals in the standings. This is due in large part to the late-game heroics of Luck, who has directed 10 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in a season and a half in the league. That is the largest total for a quarterback in his first two NFL seasons (since 1960), topping Jake Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals (9), and the Cleveland Browns' Bernie Kosar, Washington Redskins' Jay Schroeder and Manning (each with 8).
Here are the key moments before the moment:
Texans bullish from the start
The aftermath: Not even a minute into the game, and the Texans strike with a big play, courtesy of a quarterback who opened the season at No. 3 on the depth chart behind starter Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates. Keenum is a local hero, having starred at the University of Houston, setting numerous passing records along the way. This early score set the tone for what was a first half thoroughly dominated by the Texans, who desperately needed a win to remain a factor in the AFC playoff race. The Colts' first drive of the game resulted in a blocked field goal at the hands of defensive end J.J. Watt.
Keenum-to-Johnson combo connects again
The play: Keenum and Johnson hook up for yet another huge play, this time a 41-yard touchdown that gives the Texans a 14-0 lead.
The aftermath: Before the first half would end, Keenum and Johnson would connect on a 5-yard touchdown play that gave the Texans a 21-3 lead heading into the half. Johnson's three first-half touchdowns represented his first scores of the season, and the Texans receiver finished with 229 yards in the game (190 of those yards came in that explosive first half). The Texans appeared well on their way to a possible season-shifting victory over what was one of the top teams in the league during the seasons's first half. However, it was during intermission that the spirit of this game shifted profoundly.
Texans coach collapses at halftime
The aftermath: It is not clear when Kubiak will be able to resume coaching duties. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has in the past served as head coach for Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys (as well as an interim head coaching stint with the Atlanta Falcons), took over the head coaching duties in Kubiak's stead. The halftime episode was a chilling blow to a Texans team that had been enjoying its best start to a game in quite some time.
Luck-to-Hilton connection heats up
The aftermath: While the first half was dominated by the Keenum-to-Johnson duo, the Luck-to-Hilton connection picked up where the Texans' tandem left off. After the Colts and Texans exchanged field goals to get the score to 24-6, the Colts offense started to find its way. After going 0-for-6 on third-down attempts in the first half, the Colts managed to finish the game 4-for-13 on third downs. The 10-yard scoring play from Luck to Hilton was one such third-down conversion, and came at a time when the Colts badly needed a score.
Luck goes deep to Hilton
The play: Hilton catches a 58-yard touchdown pass from Luck.
The aftermath: The Colts were clearly in control at this point. Down just 24-19 after Hilton's long touchdown play, the Colts' dynamic QB-WR duo struck again on the team's next possession, this time for a 9-yard touchdown play. A two-point conversion pass from Luck to tight end Coby Fleener was successful, giving the Colts a 27-24 lead and forcing the Texans to get into field-goal position with less than a minute remaining for a shot at overtime.
The aftermath: The Colts' first lead of the game was the only one they needed, executing yet another dramatic late-game rally for victory to improve to 6-2 and remain in the thick of the chase for the top seed in the AFC playoffs. This was the Colts' first game since losing star wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the season with a right ACL tear in the team's win over the Broncos in Manning's much-ballyhooed return to Indy.
Luck is well ahead of the competition when it comes to game-winning drives since entering the league. His 10 game-winning drives tops the seven posted by the Seahawks' Russell Wilson, and the six posted by the Falcons' Matt Ryan and the Lions' Matthew Stafford. It is also proof that no matter how dire the situation might seem, the Colts always have hope.