HOUSTON – Coach Frank Reich wouldn't blame a missed field goal in overtime for the Indianapolis Colts' season-opening tie against the Houston Texans.
To him, it shouldn't have come down to that.
“There were plenty of mistakes throughout that game where we could have sealed it and we didn’t," Reich said.
Matt Ryan rallied Indianapolis in the fourth quarter to force overtime against the Texans in his Colts debut on Sunday, but neither team could score on two overtime possessions each and the game ended in a 20-20 tie.
The Texans led 20-3 entering the fourth quarter in coach Lovie Smith's debut, but Ryan led three successive scoring drives, culminating with his 15-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman with 1:54 remaining.
Indianapolis got the ball back with 1:19 left in regulation but was forced to punt — a sign of things to come in the extra period.
Houston got the ball first in OT, but Davis Mills was sacked twice, leading to a punt.
The Colts moved into field goal range with a 13-play drive that chewed up 6:30, but Rodrigo Blankenship’s 42-yard attempt sailed wide right with 2 minutes left.
Rex Burkhead was dropped for a 2-yard loss on third-and-1 with 40 seconds left and the Texans punted again, essentially playing for the draw.
The Colts got two more plays in but didn’t get anywhere close to field goal range as time expired and the crowd booed the first tie in Texans history.
“Obviously we didn’t lose the game, but it kind of feels that way since we were up, we were doing so many good things in the beginning and then they came back," Houston linebacker Christian Kirksey said.
Ryan, playing his first game for Indy after 14 seasons with Atlanta, threw an interception and lost a fumble as he struggled early. But he finally got the offense going late, finishing with 352 yards passing and a touchdown. Rushing champion Jonathan Taylor finished with 161 yards and a TD.
“You’re disappointed to not come out of here with a win. At the same time we didn’t lose," Ryan said. “We’ve got to find a way to tighten things up. But the effort across the board to me is encouraging. I think if we play with that kind of intensity, clean up some of these mistakes and execute a little bit better, there’s a lot of things we can build off of.”
Mills threw for 240 yards and two scores.
The Texans were outscored 62-3 in two losses to the Colts last season. They looked great through three quarters Sunday.
“When you get a lead like that, good things had to happen on both sides of the football and special teams," Smith said. “So that’s what we’ll build on."
The Colts trailed by 10 and were driving in the third quarter when Ryan fumbled a bad snap, and it was recovered by Christian Kirksey. The Texans cashed in on the error when Mills found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 20-3.
That drive was helped by a 15-yard penalty on Yannick Ngakoue for roughing the passer.
Howard, who was a late addition to the team the team after signing on Sept. 2, had two receptions, both for scores. He reeled in a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Indianapolis settled for a short field goal early in the fourth quarter after third overall pick Derek Stingley knocked down a pass on third down from the 4.
E.J. Speed sacked Mills and forced and recovered a fumble on Houston’s next drive. The Colts cut the lead to 20-13 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Taylor with about eight minutes to go.
Jerry Hughes, who had two sacks and an interception in his debut with the Texans, was disappointed in the team's performance in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve got to learn how to close games out," he said. “We didn’t do it, and we’ve got to learn from it."
The Texans started three rookies in RB Dameon Pierce, Stingley and safety Jalen Pitre. It’s the most rookies Houston has started in Week 1 since first overall pick DE Mario Williams, TE Owen Daniels, RB Wali Lundy, LB DeMeco Ryans and OL Charles Spencer all started the 2006 opener.
Sunday was Ryan's 74th career game with 300 yards passing, moving past Philip Rivers for fourth place in NFL history. He also reached 60,000 yards passing, becoming the second-fastest player to reach the mark by doing it in his 223rd game.
The Texans used their opener to honor and remember the victims of the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
The Texans hosted the Uvalde high school football team and wore “Uvalde Strong” decals on their helmets.
Colts: Visit Jacksonville next Sunday.
Texans: Visit Denver next Sunday.
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