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Matt Hasselbeck renews Colts' AFC South dominance

The Indianapolis Colts might never lose a game in the AFC South again.

Matt Hasselbeck helped the Colts beat a division rival for the second time in five days Thursday night, this time on the road in a 27-20 win over a desperate Texans team in Houston.

It marked the 16th straight division win for the Colts. If the Texans (and Jaguars last week) can't beat the Colts without Andrew Luck, when are they going to beat them?

Then again, it's worth noting that the quarterback play for the Colts has improved since Hasselbeck took over. He put together another savvy performance, mixing great timing, anticipation, touch on his passes and a willingness to stand tough in the pocket. He finished with 213 yards on 29 attempts and two touchdowns, both connections with Andre Johnson.

With the chance to ice the game late, the Colts smartly chose to be aggressive. Hasselbeck delivered a 40-yard toss to T.Y. Hilton so they could run out the clock.

The Colts clearly made the right call in starting Hasselbeck. Expected to play earlier in the week, Luck sat out his second straight game with a shoulder injury. NFL Network's Stacey Dales reported before the game that Hasselbeck wasn't sure if he could play four quarters because of a bacterial infection. Instead, he put together what had to be one of the most satisfying performances of his career.

"I didn't know if I could make it through ... for some unknown reason, I was able to finish. I can't explain it. It was amazing. I've got nothing left, probably. I don't know. It's been an emotional day," Hasselbeck told CBS' Tracey Wolfson with tears in his eyes after the game.

Hasselbeck jogged off the field clearly enjoying the moment, shaking his head at the improbability of it all. He wasn't the only elder statesman to stand tall for the Colts. Johnson, the best player in Texans franchise history, more than doubled his yardage total for the season with 77 yards on six catches. Colts running back Frank Gore, meanwhile, ran hard all night on the way to 98 yards and a score.

This was far from a fluky win by Indianapolis. They were tougher up front, protecting Hasselbeck well and stuffing Arian Foster's running attack. Colts coach Chuck Pagano called it the "biggest win of his career" for the second time in three weeks. Meanwhile, the 1-4 Texans were beset by an almost comical quarterback situation.

Texans starting quarterback Ryan Mallett took himself out of the game after being hit in the midsection. Mallett attempted to re-enter a few plays later, only to be denied by coach Bill O'Brien. Mallett never returned. The television shots of Mallett upset on the sideline underscored the quarterback rotation that has dominated this Texans season.

For most of the game, Hoyer rewarded O'Brien's decision with sharp play. He hit a Hail Mary to end the first half and at one stage completed 17 of 18 passes. He's a more accurate and experienced quarterback than Mallett, just prone to big mistakes. Down seven points with two minutes, Hoyer had the Texans in position to tie the game. On a play where he received endless protection, he panicked and threw a deep pass up for grabs over the middle. Safety Mike Adams caught the short fly ball and Hasselbeck did the rest.

In the end, the Colts' 40-year-old backup is a better quarterback than the two Texans' backups in their twenties. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Colts are comfortably back on top of the division after three straight wins. They have plenty to improve on, but they can rest easy knowing they own the AFC South.

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