September 12, 2011
The season-opening game at Houston’s Reliant Stadium on September 12, 2010 matched the host Texans against the defending AFC Champions, the Indianapolis Colts. Houston was coming off of a 9-7 record in ’09, the franchise’s first winning season. Under offensive-minded Head Coach Gary Kubiak, QB Matt Schaub had a Pro Bowl year and had an outstanding receiver to throw to in WR Andre Johnson. However, the running game had been disappointing due to injuries on the line and the dropoff in performance of second-year RB Steve Slaton. Undrafted rookie RB Arian Foster (pictured above) had started the season on the practice squad and played well when given an opportunity late in the year, giving him the chance to take over the starting role in 2010.
The Colts, under Head Coach Jim Caldwell, were a steady and successful team that was coming off of a Super Bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints after going 14-2 during the regular season. QB Peyton Manning had yet another MVP year and the club appeared to be solid on both sides of the ball. Moreover, Indianapolis had an overall record of 15-1 against the Texans and had won the last six games between the division rivals.
The Texans started off fast as they scored on their first two possessions on field goals of 30 and 49 yards by Neil Rackers to take a 6-0 lead after a quarter of play. The third drive, which extended into the second quarter, culminated in the first touchdown of the game as Schaub threw to WR Kevin Walter for 22 yards. The TD was set up by back-to-back completions of 23 yards to WR Jacoby Jones and 21 yards to Johnson.
However, on Houston’s next possession and following two runs by Foster that gained 17 yards, Schaub was intercepted by DB Melvin Bullitt, who ran 19 yards to give the Colts good field position at the Texans’ 35. Indianapolis took full advantage as Manning, passing on every down, completed five of seven passes that ended with a 14-yard touchdown throw to WR Reggie Wayne. Houston’s lead was cut to 13-7.
Following a three-and-out possession by the Texans, the Colts took over at their own 35 with 3:50 remaining in the half. Converting a fourth-and-two play along the way, Indianapolis moved methodically down the field. A 26-yard Manning completion to WR Pierre Garcon got the ball down to the Houston six yard line, and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 20-yard field goal to cut the Texans’ lead further to 13-10 at halftime.
Houston started off the second half with a 15-play, 66-yard drive that featured Foster carrying the ball 10 times for 49 yards, including a one-yard touchdown. The Colts, now down 20-10, drove to the Texans’ 27, but Manning was sacked for a seven-yard loss by defensive ends Mario Williams and Jesse Nading, pushing Indianapolis out of field goal range. The resulting punt went into the end zone for a touchback and Foster started off the Houston possession with an 11-yard run that put him over 100 yards for the game.
The Texans’ drive stalled at the Indianapolis 42 and, following a punt, Manning completed four straight passes that moved the Colts 40 yards to the Houston 46. However, on a pivotal play, a deep pass to Garcon that gained 32 yards ended with the wide receiver fumbling and Houston CB Glover Quin recovering, giving the ball back to the Texans at their nine yard line.
Foster immediately took off on a 42-yard jaunt and, after Steve Slaton ran for 13, followed up with an 11-yard carry up the middle and then a 25-yard run for a touchdown. In short order, instead of the Colts closing the margin, the Texans had now extended it to 27-10.
Manning again filled the air with passes on the ensuing 12-play drive, hitting WR Austin Collie three times and Wayne and TE Dallas Clark twice apiece. The second completion to Clark was for 10 yards and a TD that, with the successful PAT, made it a ten-point game. However, an attempted onside kick failed as Walter recovered for the Texans.
Once again Houston kept the ball on the ground, which meant Foster carrying six times for 41 yards that included an eight-yard touchdown. With the clock now down to just under two minutes to play, the result was virtually sealed, although Manning completed a deep pass to Collie that resulted in a 73-yard touchdown.
While it was once again a ten-point game, Nading recovered another onside kick attempt by the Colts to snuff out any possible threat. Houston was able to run out the clock and come away with a 34-24 win.
The Colts outgained Houston (463 yards to 355) but the breakdown of rushing to receiving yards showed a significant contrast. The Texans rushed for 257 yards while Indianapolis ran the ball just 10 times for 44 yards and passed for the rest. Each team suffered two sacks and one turnover apiece.
Arian Foster’s breakout performance was the biggest story as he set a new club record with 231 yards on 33 carries and scored three touchdowns. Matt Schaub went to the air only 17 times, with 9 completions for 107 yards, and had one TD as well as one interception. Andre Johnson led the receivers with three catches for 33 yards.
For the Colts, Peyton Manning completed 40 of 57 passes for 433 yards and three TDs, suffering no interceptions. Austin Collie (pictured below) caught 11 passes for 163 yards and a TD and Dallas Clark also had 11 receptions, for 80 yards. Reggie Wayne gained 99 yards on 7 catches that included a score. RB Joseph Addai accounted for all of the team’s rushing statistics and contributed a further 6 catches for 29 yards.
“At halftime, we talked about the key to the game being the most physical team and our offensive line,” said Houston’s Coach Kubiak. “That's what you want as a coach. You want those guys walking the sideline saying, 'Run the ball, coach’.”
Things did not go as well for the Texans the rest of the year. While the offense was proficient in both running and passing the ball, the defense collapsed and ended up ranking 30th in the league. Houston finished at 6-10 for third place in the AFC South. Arian Foster continued to perform very well, however, as he led the NFL in rushing with 1616 yards on 327 carries (4.9 avg.) with 16 touchdowns.
The Colts won the division with a 10-6 record but struggled at times due to injuries and lost in the Wild Card playoff round to the Jets. Peyton Manning led the league in pass attempts (679) and completions (450) and ranked second in yards (4700), TD passes (33, tied with Drew Brees of the Saints), and completion percentage (66.3).