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Texans 34, Colts 7

Man down, Colts trampled by Texans

By Chris Duncan
Associated Press / September 12, 2011

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HOUSTON - Hey, Peyton Manning. If there was ever a doubt about what you mean to Indianapolis, there isn’t anymore.

Texans 34, Colts 7.

What already looks like a long, long season for Indianapolis might be the chance, at last, for the Texans to make a leap forward in the AFC South.

Matt Schaub threw for 220 yards and a touchdown, Ben Tate rushed for 116 yards and another score in relief of the injured Arian Foster, and Houston dominated Kerry Collins, Manning’s replacement, in yesterday’s season-opening rout.

The Texans weren’t ready to say the win signals a change in the division. Houston beat the Colts with Manning in last year’s home opener, but finished 6-10.

“We were in the same situation last year,’’ star receiver Andre Johnson said. “And then, things just went bad for us.’’

Then again, with Manning out indefinitely, Houston has never had a better chance to earn the franchise’s first postseason berth.

“Every year, you get your group together and it’s your chance to do something special,’’ Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “So it was this group’s first opportunity together and they made it happen.’’

Not having Manning on the field certainly helped.

The four-time MVP quarterback didn’t travel with the team as he recovers from his third neck surgery in the 19 months. His streak of 227 consecutive starts, including playoffs, ended.

The Colts lured the 38-year-old Collins out of retirement less than three weeks ago to take a crash course in the offense. Based on the opener, they may need to find a better solution.

Collins fumbled on consecutive snaps that set up Texans touchdowns in the first quarter, and he was sacked three times. He didn’t throw an interception, but the offense mustered only 236 yards and 15 first downs against Houston’s 3-4 defense guided by new coordinator Wade Phillips.

“This wasn’t the day, obviously, that we’d hoped for, but it’s a long season,’’ Collins said. “I don’t care what the situation is, we just can’t do those things and expect to have a chance to be in the ball game. We’ve got a lot to do obviously. We’ll get back to work.’’

The Texans sprinted to a 34-0 halftime lead, even with 2010 NFL rushing leader Foster deactivated with a left hamstring injury. Foster ran for 231 yards in the opener against the Colts last year.

Tate, a 2010 second-round draft pick who sat out last season with a broken ankle, carried 24 times and Derrick Ward scored a touchdown before leaving with an ankle injury.

Indy, meanwhile, seemed overwhelmed on both sides from the start.

Mario Williams hinted at what was coming when he sacked Collins for a 9-yard loss on Indy’s fourth snap. Williams, Houston’s sacks leader in each of the past five seasons, made his first start at outside linebacker, one of the big changes introduced by Phillips.

Houston’s defense showed improvement after ranking as one of the league’s worst in 2010.

“It was obviously a good start for us,’’ Phillips said. “We felt like we had to come out strong against that team. They had adversity with their quarterback. We had to play strong early, and I thought we did that.’’

The Colts’ defense was just as vulnerable as the offense, allowing 259 yards and 19 first downs in the first half.

“We couldn’t do anything right in all three phases,’’ Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said.

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