HOUSTON (AP) — Darius Leonard and the Indianapolis Colts defense had one goal entering Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
“Before we even went out there, I said: ‘If we don’t shut these guys out, we didn’t do good enough,'” he said.
The star linebacker helped the Colts accomplish that, leading a defense that forced two turnovers in a 31-0 victory. It is the first time Indy has held a team scoreless since beating Dallas 23-0 on Dec. 16, 2018, and the team’s first shutout on the road since a 6-0 victory at New England in 1992.
“The defense was unreal,” coach Frank Reich said. “That’s an epic defensive performance from really start to finish.”
Jonathan Taylor ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns to lead Indy’s offense in the rout.
“The coaches are putting together great schemes,” Taylor said. “A lot of runs they’re opening up like the Red Sea, so I’m not getting touched for a few yards.”
The Texans turned the ball over twice in the first quarter and quarterback Tyrod Taylor was benched in the third quarter as Houston (2-10) lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
“We got outcoached and outplayed,” coach David Culley said.
Jonathan Taylor, who leads the NFL in yards rushing, has 16 rushing touchdowns this season, which ties the franchise record set by Lenny Moore in 1964. It’s the 10th consecutive game in which he’s ran for a touchdown, the longest streak in the NFL since LaDainian Tomlinson did it in 18 straight in the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
The Colts improved to 7-0 this season in games in which the 22-year-old Taylor runs for at least 100 yards.
Carson Wentz threw for 158 yards and a touchdown for the Colts (7-6) before being replaced by Sam Ehlinger with five minutes left in the fourth quarter and the game long decided.
Things went wrong for Houston immediately with Tyrod Taylor throwing an interception on the team’s first play. It was initially ruled an incompletion, but the Colts challenged the call and the review showed that Kenny Moore grabbed it just before falling out of bounds.
The Colts took a 7-0 lead when Jonathan Taylor took the snap out of the wildcat and ran 1 yard for the score.
The second big mistake by the Texans came on the fourth play of the next drive when Pharaoh Brown fumbled after a catch and it was recovered by the Colts.
They failed to capitalize on that mistake when Michael Badgley’s 35-yard field goal sailed wide left.
Indianapolis extended the lead to 14-0 when Wentz found Ashton Dulin in the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown just before halftime. The Colts kept that drive alive on a sneak by Wentz on fourth-and-1.
Jonathan Taylor’s second TD run came on the opening possession of the third quarter to push the lead to 21-0. It was a 3-yard run that capped a 75-yard drive.
Tyrod Taylor was evaluated for an injury after Houston’s first possession of the third quarter, but the team said he was available to play, and it was Culley’s decision to insert backup Davis Mills in his place. He was 5 for 13 for 45 yards before being replaced.
Culley said after the game that Taylor hyperextended his wrist and the trainers weren’t sure that he could grip the ball, but that he could have played if they needed him.
Culley has been adamant all season that Taylor would be Houston’s starter if he was healthy, but he certainly wasn’t as supportive of the veteran after Sunday’s loss.
“We’re just going to look at the whole situation,” he said. “I’ve got to look at the video to see exactly what happened. … I’ve got to look at Tyrod while he was in there and look at Davis while he was in there and see where we need to go from there.”
After the two early turnovers, the Texans punted on four consecutive drives before Mills entered the game with about four minutes left in the third quarter. The QB change didn’t do anything to help Houston’s offense and the Texans punted twice after Mills took over and turned the ball over on downs on his other three possessions.
Mills was 6 of 14 for 49 yards.
The boos from the sparse crowd began early and grew louder with each terrible offensive possession as the Texans were shut out for the second time this season. It’s their second loss to the Colts this year after they got a 31-3 victory in Indianapolis in October.
The Colts outgained Houston 389-141 and Indianapolis had 26 first downs to just 9 by the Texans.
A 23-yard field goal with about nine minutes left made it 24-0 and rookie Deon Jackson added a 3-yard TD run with two minutes to go.
TAKE IT AWAY
The Colts lead the NFL with 29 takeaways this season and Sunday was the 14th consecutive game in which they’ve forced at least turnover going back to last season. That’s the longest active streak in the NFL.
Houston linebacker Zach Cunningham was inactive after being suspended for violating team rules. The move comes after he was suspended for a quarter in a game earlier this season for the same thing. His punishment comes a week after safety Justin Reid was suspended against the Jets for violating team rules.
Culley said he was surprised and disappointed that his team continues to have these issues.
Colts: Have a bye next week and host New England Dec. 18.
Texans: Host Seattle next Sunday.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL