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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are heading back to the playoffs. And they are bringing a strong ground game and an improving defense.
The Colts used Luck's two second-quarter touchdown passes and a time-consuming drive for a late field goal to beat the Houston Texans 17-10 on Sunday, clinching their second straight AFC South title.
"We ran the ball well and we had a good rush average," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "Our defense did a great job stopping their run."
That's the combination Pagano has been looking for since he took the Colts' job in 2012.
Over the last part of the season, the Colts (10-4) appear to have firmed up both areas. Indy rushed for 110 yards against the Texans (7-7), including nine straight plays on a late drive for a 29-yard field goal. The Colts have rushed for 100 or more yards three times in four weeks.
The defense, meanwhile, has allowed just four touchdowns over the past four weeks — even though the Colts have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate.
And Luck has made just enough plays to help Indy win four straight. He was 18 of 34 for 187 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception against the Texans.
"They've been doing a heck of a job giving us great field position," Luck said. "We didn't necessarily capitalize on all the opportunities that our defense gave us and other stuff, but did enough."
Houston dropped to 0-13 in Indianapolis, though it certainly had chances to end that losing streak on Sunday.
The Texans grabbed a 7-0 lead on Kendrick Lewis' 27-yard interception return. Luck tied the score with a 26-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks.
Houston then recovered Reggie Wayne's fumble, but rookie quarterback Tom Savage botched a handoff on the next play and gave the ball right back to Luck.
Three plays later, Luck hooked up with Dwayne Allen on a 3-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
Here are some other takeaways from Sunday's game:
QUARTERBACK QUANDARY: Houston lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the second quarter with a left leg injury. Fitzpatrick was carted off the field with an air cast covering the leg.
With Ryan Mallett already out for the season, the Texans must make some decisions. Savage and Fitzpatrick were the only quarterbacks on the active roster Sunday. Thad Lewis was inactive.
REGGIE'S RECORDS: Colts receiver Reggie Wayne has achieved a lot of feats in his 14 NFL seasons. Sunday was another big day. He caught four passes for 24 yards, won his ninth division title and broke the franchise records for games played (209) and career wins (142). He was tied with former teammate Peyton Manning in both categories.
WATT'S ELECTRIC: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt sure knows how to light up the Colts. In the first meeting this season, he had two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown. This time, he had two more sacks, two passes defensed and seven tackles. Nine of his 53 career sacks are against Indy.
DIVISION DOMINANCE: Indianapolis has dominated the AFC South since its creation in 2002. Indy has won nine division titles since 2002 and 12 straight games against division foes.
TURNOVER TROUBLE: Pagano has spent the last month pleading with his offense to protect the ball. They're still having problems. Wayne lost one fumble and Luck threw another interception Sunday. Over the last four games, Indy has fumbled 14 times, losing eight, and thrown four interceptions. The two turnovers Sunday allowed Houston to break its franchise record for takeaways with 31 — two more than it had in 2011.
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