Andrew Luck tormented the Houston Texans. Again.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is playing like a star.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien
J.J. Watt and his girlfriend, Houston Dash player Kealia Ohai watch a video tribute during a public celebration of life for Houston Texans owner Robert C. McNair at NRG Stadium. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, POOL)
Voice of the Texans Marc Vandermeer
Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney
Texans D.J. Reader
Andrew Luck bounds into the cramped visitors’ interview room at NRG Stadium. The Houston kid does not complain about having to dodge a string of camera wires on the floor. He simply takes a little leap. When Luck does not quite catch the start of a reporter’s question, he politely asks her to repeat it.
Decked out in a gray three-piece suit (jacket, vest, pink shirt, no tie), Andrew Luck is in full corporate quarterback mode at the moment.
But don’t be fooled. The Stratford High School and Stanford University product, the ultra polished son of former Houston Oilers backup quarterback (and new XFL commissioner) Oliver Luck, the well-packaged comeback story, is also a cold-blooded football destroyer.
Luck shows that side most of this Sunday afternoon, throwing for 399 yards, throwing serious doubt into this Houston Texans team’s ability to win in the playoffs. The Indianapolis Colts’ lifeline racks up 223 passing yards in the second quarter alone, completely turning a game upside down.
And if you don’t think, he loves doing it to Houston’s team, you’re being blinded by that nice suit and podium persona.
“Andrew loves carving them up,” Colts tight end Eric Ebron says at his locker.
Luck cuts off the Texans’ nine-game winning streak, handing the home team a 24-21 loss. But it’s the new doubts that hurt most. For after feasting on the likes of Brock Osweiler, Colt McCoy and Josh Allen, the Texans run into the type of elite 30o-yard passing monster they’re sure to face in the playoffs.
“We went no huddle and Andrew just got on fire,” Colts head coach Frank Reich says.
“He just ignited that thing.”
These 9-4 Texans have no answer for this rebuilt top quarterback. Not with T.Y. Hilton, a 5-foot-9 jitterbug with a 4.3 second 40 time who’d have been right at home in Mouse Davis’ old Houston Gamblers’ run and shoot offense, blazing right by Houston’s experienced (but hardly speedy) secondary.
“It seemed like T.Y. had 399 of those yards,” Ebron laughs.
It is actually 199 of the 399 on nine catches, none bigger than the 60-yarder that starts the whole second quarter onslaught.
Yet for all of Hilton’s brilliance, the finishing touch turns out to be be Luck clowning Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. On third-and-one, with Houston needing a stop to give its own franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson a chance to pull off a last minute win, Luck runs a fake hard snap count that’s clearly designed specifically to bait Clowney into jumping offsides (all the action is on Clowney’s side of the field).
Luck barks out signals and keeps on calling them out even when it seems like he’s reached the point when he has to call at timeout — and Clowney jumps.
The Texans’ defensive disruptor just sits on the turf in the seconds after the gaffe, almost in disbelief.
“I came very close to calling timeout,” Luck says. “But I said, ‘I’ll give it one more go.’ ”
Clowney seemingly only wants to go home after the game, briskly leaving the locker room before reporters can talk to him. To be fair, Clowney often does not show much interest in bothering to talk to reporters after wins either. Though, he often relents and does eventually speak.
Whether that makes this dodge better or worse is up to your interpretation.
It does leave J.J. Watt in the unfortunate position of having to answer the offsides questions for the guy who actually jumped offsides.
“He jumped offsides,” Watt says. “I mean, I think we all saw the same thing. I don’t know what you want me to tell you. We all saw the exact same thing.”
T.Y. Hilton’s Sweet Second Home
There is no debating how much the Colts embrace dominating at the Texans’ place, though.
“Like everybody says, this is my second home,” Hilton says.
Yes, Andrew Luck is not the only one low key clowning the Texans.
The Colts’ glee is not what will really linger and damage Bill O’Brien’s team, though. Blowing a chance to move past the Patriots in the race for the AFC’s No. 2 seed (and crucial first round bye) on a day that New England uncharacteristically bungles away a win in Miami isn’t even the true bummer.
No, the real danger is that the elite quarterback truth has come out again — mainly the idea that Romeo Crennel’s Texans defense cannot handle them.
With Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady all looming as potential AFC playoff obstacles that could be a crippling fault.
“We saw some opportunities through film that we thought we could take advantage of,” Luck says.
Down the hall, the Texans are coming to grips with the end of their incredible streak and the realization that they’re no longer the NFL’s hottest team.
“We played another NFL team that did some good things,” DeAndre Hopkins says at his locker. “They won today.
“You can’t win them all.”
Sometimes, it’s how you lose that’s alarming. Andrew Luck may be the perfect corporate pitchman quarterback now, dressed in his nice suit, saying all the right things. But it’s the vision of the cold-blooded quarterback who torments suspect defenses that lingers.
This is the Texans’ nightmare come to life. They’d better hope it’s just fleeting.