Hous­ton to face Ben­gals in play­offs

Tex­ans

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - Con­tin­ued from C

It started with Pagano’s re­turn. He took an in­def­i­nite leave Sept. 26 to be­gin the first of three rounds of chemo­ther­apy for leukemia Sept. 26 and didn’t make it back to the side­line un­til Sun­day when the can­cer was in com­plete re­mis­sion.

Pagano’s Colts (11-5) will play at Baltimore in the wild-card round next week­end. The slump­ing Tex­ans (12-4) have lost three of their last four and as the third seed will play the Cincin­nati Ben­gals at home next Satur­day at 3:30 p.m.

“We had a great op­por­tu­nity the last two weeks, but we won’t feel sorry for our­selves,” Tex­ans coach Gary Ku­biak said af­ter giv­ing Pagano a hug and whis­per­ing in his ear af­ter the game. “We’ll fo­cus on keep­ing our con­fi­dence up, even if we have to play next week.”

When Pagano first walked onto the field, he waved to the fans and hugged his wife, Tina.

When fans gave him a stand­ing ova­tion af­ter a 1-minute video played on the sta­dium’s two Jum­botrons just be­fore kick­off, a choked up Pagano held his tears in check.

When he left the field, he hugged ev­ery­body in sight — as­sis­tant coaches, Colts play­ers, even Tex­ans play­ers and coaches — be­fore mov­ing the postgame party to the locker room, where Ir­say pre- sented him with a game ball and they did a do-sido to­gether.

“What a day, what a day,” he said.

Play­ers had a dif­fer­ent kind of wel­come-back cel­e­bra­tion planned. “Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and head­ing into the play­offs,” quar­ter­back An­drew Luck said. “To get a win, I think means the world to him.”

Luck, as usual, had a big hand in the vic­tory. He was 14 of 28 for 191 yards with two more touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions. He wasn’t alone, though.

Karim swung the game with the kick­off re­turn just sec­onds af­ter the Tex­ans took their only lead, and when Luck con­verted on third-and-23 with the 70yard TD pass early in the fourth quar­ter, the crowd was in a frenzy.

Luck broke Pey­ton Man- ning’s fran­chise record for com­ple­tions by a rookie but fell 15 short of Sam Brad­ford’s NFL mark. Luck also moved into third all-time among rook­ies with 22 TD passes.

The Colts pre­vented J.J. Watt from get­ting too close to Luck — or any closer to Michael Strahan’s NFL sacks record (22½). Watt fin­ished with 20½.

“We didn’t win, so I could care less about the record,” Watt said.

Matt Schaub fin­ished 24 of 36 for 275 yards with two in­ter­cep­tions and no touch­downs. Arian Fos­ter ran 16 times for 96 yards. An­dre John­son caught 12 passes for 141 yards and be­came the sec­ond player in league his­tory with three sea­sons of 100 or more catches and 1,500 or more yards. The other: ex-Colt Marvin Har­ri­son.

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