John McClain: No one wanted to win in the Texans-Colts game. So no one did

Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans. Fans support on NFL Game. Silhouette of supporters, big screen with two rivals in background.

John McClain: No one wanted to win in the Texans-Colts game. So no one did

If a tie is supposed to feel like kissing your sister, the first one in Texans’ history felt like kissing your brother.

The Texans entered the first game of regular season against Indianapolis as seven-point underdogs at NRG Stadium, but the 20-20 deadlock felt like a loss because they could have – and probably should have – defeated the Colts.

If the Texans had rallied from a 20-3 deficit as the Colts did, a tie wouldn’t have felt so icky. But they blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and looked inept on offense on two overtime possessions, letting a shocking upset slip through their fingers.

“Even though it’s a tie, in my eyes, it’s a loss,” defensive end Jonathan Greenard said. “I understand it doesn’t hurt us, but it doesn’t help us, either.”

Nobody liked settling for a tie, including Lovie Smith, who was coaching the Texans for the first time and making the defensive calls.

With 26 seconds left in overtime and the Texans facing fourth-and-3 at the Colts’ 49 after Rex Burkhead had been stuffed for a 2-yard loss, Smith elected to punt – accepting the tie rather than going for the victory.

“I felt like a tie was better than a loss in that situation,” Smith said. “If they had stuffed us on the play, they have one play, and they’re in position (to win).

“It’s not like we were playing our best defense at the time. We were drained.  In an ideal world, you don’t want a loss — you want a win, but if you can’t get the win, sometimes you settle for the tie. A lot of football left in the season.”

Smith didn’t want to put his defense back on the field and risk losing on a field goal. His offense hadn’t done squat in four possessions or since Davis Mills was sacked and lost a fumble that set up a short touchdown drive for the Colts and ignited their rally from the 17-point deficit.

Still, we’re talking about the Texans, a team not going to the playoffs and with little to lose other than an opening game. Imagine the excitement if they had gone for it and escaped with a victory.

“We thought about it,” Smith said. “I knew if we didn’t get it, they had time, and it’s not like we were playing our best defense then. If we had made it, we would have been in position (to win). Just felt like based on what all had happened in the game, that was the right decision.”

Smith’s defense surrendered 517 yards. Once again, the Texans had no answer for running back Jonathan Taylor, the NFL’s leading rusher last season who gouged the Texans for 288 yards and four touchdowns in 31-3 and 31-0 victories last season.

Taylor carried 31 times for 161 yards and touchdown.

With Matt Ryan as their fifth opening-day quarterback in five years, the Colts are the popular pick to dethrone Tennessee as the AFC South champions, and they had to rally from the 20-3, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime on Sunday.

Both teams got the ball two times in overtime. Based on their ineptitude, it was difficult to tell which team is favored to win the division and which one is predicted to finish in last place.

The Texans got after Ryan early, but once the Colts began their comeback in the fourth quarter, he moved them up and down the field. He finished with 352 yards, one touchdown, one interception and an 83.1 rating.

There should never have been a Colts rally that led to overtime, but a blindside strip sack by outside linebacker E.J. Speed changed the complexion of the game.

The Texans led 20-6 when Speed blew by left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who was involved in a double-team block with rookie guard Kenyon Green. Rather than peel off and block Speed, Tunsil stuck with his double-team until it was too late.

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recovered Mills’ fumble at the Texans’ 20, leading to Taylor’s 2-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 20-13 with 7:46 left in the game.

“As an offensive line, we weren’t focused at the end of the game,” right tackle Tytus Howard said. “Caused some bad moments. Lack of focus doesn’t have anything to do with (anybody) but you. Can’t blame anybody else. It’s not something that’s hard to do. We just didn’t get it done.”

Mills and the offense played well building the 20-3 lead. He threw two touchdown passes to new tight end O.J. Howard. Like Smith and his teammates, Mills felt the complexion of the game change after the sack and fumble.

“You felt the momentum change after that play,” he said. “On offense, we’ve got to maintain what we had moving in the first half and going into the third quarter. We’re close, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“A tie is always better than a loss. It could change some things at the end of the season in the division, but I think after this our guys have got a bad feeling. I’m definitely disappointed. We knew we could win. We put ourselves in a good spot.”

After the sack and fumble, the Texans couldn’t generate any offense to speak of. They got one first down on the next series before punting, and the Colts went 80 yards on seven plays to make it 20-20 on Ryan’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman.

“I thought the big sack where we had the turnover really gave them momentum going the other direction,” Smith said. “It changed it completely. We had control. In the end, it was about playing field position, us not turning the ball over, especially in a favorable position, which we did. Those are things that can cost you and have to be cleaned up.

“Both teams were a little tired there at the end. We had control, they had control, of course, with the field goal, and once they missed it, we had an opportunity.”

The Colts should have won in overtime, but Rodrigo Blankinship missed a 42-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining. The Texans failed to take advantage with their ill-fated drive that ended with Cam Johnston’s punt rather than going for it on fourth-and-3.

(John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He also can be read on

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