INDIANAPOLIS — Houston's latest loss had nothing to do with Chuck Pagano's return Sunday.
It was all about what the Texans didn't do: take advantage of their chances.
Matt Schaub threw two interceptions and Houston gave up a 101-yard kickoff return and a 70-yard TD pass on third down in a 28-16 loss at Indianapolis that cost the Texans home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The good news is they'll play at home against Cincinnati. The bad news: They're playing next week.
"With all we had to gain today, we fell short of what we were trying to get done," a frustrated Schaub said. "There were plays to be made."
Again, Houston (12-4) failed.
So instead of heading into the playoffs with momentum, the Texans are going into the postseason with three losses in four weeks, two blown opportunities to clinch home-field advantage and a wild-card round game they hoped to avoid. The Colts (11-5) will play at Baltimore in the wild-card round next weekend.
And just like last week, in a befuddling loss at home to Minnesota, nothing went right.
The Texans settled mostly for field goals and when they did finally take the lead with 5:22 left in the third quarter, they gave it right back on Karim's kickoff return. Houston is 0-11 all-time in Indy.
"You've got to handle it like a man and move on," coach Gary Kubiak said. "But we're very capable of flipping it back the other way, too, and that's what I'm going to focus on."
For the Colts, it was a day for dancing.
For the first time since Sept. 23, Chuck Pagano took his customary linebacker stance on the sideline, hands on bended knees. He signaled touchdowns when the Colts scored, patted Karim on the helmet after the kickoff return, and gestured for penalty flags to be thrown.
And after the game, Pagano even tossed aside the stodgy image of an NFL coach and began jumping around with players, assistant coaches and even team owner Jim Irsay like he was a kid again.
Why not after spending the last three months battling cancer?
"There was a lot of high-fiving, a lot of dancing, a lot of hugging going on and a lot of celebrating," an emotional Pagano said. "There's a lot to celebrate right now."
And not much to celebrate in Houston, even if the AFC South champions made the playoffs for the second straight year.
Indy did everything it needed to Sunday.
The Colts prevented J.J. Watt from getting too close to Luck – or any closer to Michael Strahan's NFL sacks record (22 1/2). Watt finished with 20 1/2.
"We didn't win, so I could care less about the record. It's about winning," Watt said.
Which the Colts did in Pagano's return.
"Guys really did not want to lose in his first game back and heading into the playoffs," rookie quarterback Andrew Luck said. "To get a win, I think means the world to him."
They fulfilled that promise.
Luck went 14 of 28 for 191 yards with two more touchdowns and no interceptions.
Karim swung the game with the kickoff return just seconds after the Texans took their only lead, and when Luck converted on third-and-23 with the long TD pass to T.Y. Hilton early in the fourth quarter, the crowd was in a frenzy.
Luck broke Peyton Manning's franchise record for completions by a rookie but fell 15 short of Sam Bradford's NFL mark. Luck also moved into third all-time among rookies with 22 TD passes.
And Indy completed the second greatest turnaround in league history – winning nine more games than it did in 2011.
"Man, this has been a great year, a storybook ending," Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne said. "Let's keep it going. Hopefully we can continue to write this movie."
Schaub finished 24 of 36 for 275 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Foster ran 16 times for 96 yards.
NOTES: Andre Johnson caught 12 passes for 141 yards and became the second player in league history with three seasons of 100 or more catches and 1,500 or more yards. The other: former Colt Marvin Harrison. ... Manning had 326 completions, Luck finished the season with 339. ... Watt had a shared sack taken away in the first half when the officials erased a sack-fumble of Luck because of the "Tuck Rule." ... The Colts lost starting guard Joe Reitz in the first half with a head injury. ... Houston linebacker Daryl Sharpton left the game with a hip injury. Linebacker Tim Dobbins left in the second half with what Kubiak thought was a shoulder injury.