INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Houston coach Lovie Smith kept insisting his team would play for the win Sunday.
When he got the chance in the final minute, Smith delivered on that promise.
After Davis Mills threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Akins with 50 seconds left, Smith dialed up the same combination on a 2-point conversion play to give Houston a rare and improbable 32-31 victory at Indianapolis, costing the Texans the No. 1 pick in April’s draft.
Not surprisingly, Smith cared more about the celebration than the consequences.
"Whenever you play, you play to win the game," he said, rekindling the words of an old coaching friend, Herman Edwards. "We wanted to finish the right way and we were able to do that."
Mills first converted on fourth-and-12 with a 30-yard completion to Brandin Cooks at the Colts 18-yard line. Then after throwing two incompletions and taking a 10-yard sack, Mills somehow threaded the pass through the hands of Colts safety Rodney Thomas II and into the hands of Akins, giving Houston its second win in three weeks and its fourth-ever win in Indy as the Chicago Bears moved into the top draft spot.
Indy (4-12-1), meanwhile, lost its seventh straight under interim coach Jeff Saturday, assuring itself of a top-five draft selection.
Like Smith, Saturday wasn’t thinking about the future after finishing this season.
"I’ve never seen a lot of what I’ve seen the past eight weeks, I guess baptism by fire or whatever you want to call it," he said. "Rod just mistimes it or whatever, just some crazy plays happened and unfortunately they happened for them and not us."
Indy got one last shot, but couldn’t move the ball into scoring position and Sam Ehlinger’s final heave was knocked down short of the goal line to cap yet another ugly chapter in this miserable season.
The Colts lost their final seven games after winning Saturday’s coaching debut in early November.
But for a game few followed because it had no impact on the playoff picture, it certainly finished with a flair.
Ehlinger threw two touchdown passes in the final 19 minutes and led Indy on three successive scoring drives to erase a 10-point deficit and give the Colts a 31-24 lead with 3:33 to play.
Mills finally answered with the completion to Cooks with 1:26 to go and the passes to Akins.
Initially, it looked as if it might be a rout when Houston took a 10-0 lead before Indy even ran an offensive play.
Rodney McLeod Jr. returned the first of Mills’ two interceptions for a 26-yard touchdown score to make it 24-21. Three plays later, Thomas II, a high school teammate of Bills safety Damar Hamlin, picked off Mills and Ehlinger capitalized by throwing a 4-yard TD pass to Mo Alie-Cox to give Indy a 28-24 lead with 10:30 to go.
Indy thought it had sealed the victory when Chase McLaughlin made a 54-yard field goal with 3:33 to go.
But Mills’ late-game magic allowed Houston to pull it out.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling," Mills said after finishing 22 of 38 with 298 yards and three TDs. "The guys found a way to fight, and we got the result we wanted in the end."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.