Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 351d

Texans show playoffs are tall task with Tom Savage

HOUSTON -- In Sunday’s 20-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Texans’ offense was a far cry from the creative, high-powered force the unit was a week ago with Deshaun Watson under center.

After Watson tore his ACL last week, the Texans turned back to Tom Savage, who struggled against the Colts. Indianapolis entered the game ranked 31st in passing defense, allowing an average of 290 passing yards per game. Savage was 19-of-44 for 219 yards and a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the first of the fourth-year quarterback's career. Savage did not throw an interception -- although the Colts came close several times -- and had a passer rating of 65.2.

"It's probably the most frustrating game of my life," Savage said. "It's one of those deals where you just weren't making the throws. Guys were open and I'm not going to give you the politically correct answer and say blah, blah, blah and we can do better.

"I've got to make the throws. I played like crap."

Savage had the Texans one play from a victory, with a first-and-goal from the Colts' 7-yard-line with 18 seconds on the clock. Savage threw three straight incomplete passes and was sacked on the final play of the game as the Colts preserved the lead.

"We got a drive there at the end and we got enough opportunities and just couldn't put it in," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We called every low-red area play we have and just couldn't get it done so we've got to go back to the drawing board."

Entering the game, the Texans were averaging 3.3 offensive touchdowns per game and had scored at least 30 points in a franchise-record five straight games. On Sunday, Houston scored just one offensive touchdown and added a defensive score on a 34-yard fumble recovery in the second quarter.

"We showed we can move the ball, we’ve just got to do it more consistently," Hopkins said. "Just come out and start fast. Not wait until late to pick things up."

The defense was much improved over the unit that has allowed an average of 26.9 points per game, which ranked 29th in the league and allowed 41 points in Week 8. Although the Texans' offense could not score after getting the ball back with 3:10 left, the defensive unit stopped Jacoby Brissett and the Colts' offense at the Houston 46 and forcing a punt.

Last week against the then-No. 1 ranked Seattle Seahawks’ defense, Hopkins had eight catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. Against the Colts, he had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. The majority of his yards came on the touchdown drive when he had catches for 12 and 34 yards. Hopkins became the first player in franchise history with a receiving touchdown in five consecutive games.

On Friday after the Texans put Watson on injured reserve, O’Brien was fired up talking about his team going forward, saying the group was not buying into “what’s out there, that the demise of the Houston Texans is upon us.”

While there is a lot of the season still left and the 3-5 Texans are only two games out of first place in the mediocre AFC South, Sunday’s performance against the then-last-place Colts did not inspire confidence that Houston can win the division for the third straight season.

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