Houston to face Bengals in playoffs
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.