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Colts struggle in pass game in 20-17 loss to Texans

KRISTIE RIEKEN (AP Sports Writer)
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Colts struggle in pass game in 20-17 loss to Texans

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to throw as he is chased by Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Denico Autry (96) during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) -- Jacoby Brissett and the Indianapolis Colts couldn't get their passing game going on Thursday night against the Houston Texans, and it cost them a win and the top spot in the AFC South.

Brissett managed just 129 yards passing as the Texans (7-4) got a 20-17 victory to move into first place in the division.

''We just weren't clicking, we just weren't clicking in the passing game as well,'' coach Frank Reich said. ''We made a few plays, but not enough.''

The Texans trailed by four early in the fourth quarter when DeAndre Hopkins got in front of Pierre Desir and stretched out to haul in a 30-yard reception to take a 20-17 lead.

Houston's defense stepped up after that, forcing a punt on the next drive before stopping the Colts (6-5) on fourth-and-7 with 3 minutes left. Brissett came up a yard shy of a first down on Indy's fourth-down attempt late in the fourth quarter.

''I felt like everybody was covered at the time I made my decision to take off and run,'' he said. ''They're playing a coverage where they're trying to force me to run. I thought I had a chance of getting it and the guy made a good play.''

While the Colts were certainly disappointed in the loss, Reich tried to stress to his team to stay positive with five games left and the division race so close.

''There's still plenty of football left, and we're far from out of this thing,'' he said. ''This was a playoff atmosphere. Obviously, it was a good opportunity for us to take sole possession and have a sweep of Houston, but it didn't work out that way.''

T.Y. Hilton had topped 100 yards receiving in four of his last six games against the Texans and entered averaging 133.3 yards receiving in seven career games at NRG Stadium. He wasn't a factor, finishing with just 18 yards receiving in his return after missing three games with a calf injury.

''He was on a pitch count,'' Reich said. ''They had told me 20-30 snaps would be the recommended snap count. He was feeling a little bit tight, from what they told me. But give him credit because he wanted to get in there. Some of it was as a decoy so that was part of the plan.''

But Hilton refused to use his health or lack of practice time as an excuse for his poor game and lamented failing to make a couple of catches that would have extended drives.

''That's what I get paid for,'' he said. ''I let my team down today, 100 percent. I've got to get better.''

There were about 6 minutes left in the third quarter when Jonathan Williams, who helped fill in for injured starter Marlon Mack, wriggled away from three defenders and dashed 13 yards for a touchdown to put the Colts up 17-10.

''It was crazy to come off there, you throw for 175 yards, you're 60 percent on third down and 2 for 3 in the red zone, you just feel like you should win that game,'' Reich said. ''But what we lacked was big plays on offense.''

Will Fuller had a 51-yard reception on the first play of Houston's next drive, but the Texans couldn't move the ball after that and settled for a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to four.

The Texans led 3-0 after a field goal early in the second quarter.

There were about 8 minutes left in the second when Kenny Moore tipped a pass from Watson and intercepted it. It was the first time Watson had thrown an interception at home since Oct. 14, 2018, against the Bills, a streak of 303 attempts which was the longest active run in the NFL.

The Colts cashed in on the mistake when Brissett scrambled 5 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-3.

There were 2 minutes left in the first half when Watson avoided the rush and found Hopkins wide open in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown pass to put Houston back on top 10-7.

Indianapolis added a field goal at the end of the first half to leave it tied at 10-10 at halftime.

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