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Winning, not draft position, Texans’ goal in finale vs Colts

Jan 1, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith looks up before the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

By 4 p.m. Sunday, the Houston Texans might be on the clock.

Lose the regular-season finale at the Indianapolis Colts and they will lock up the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, giving them the right to take either a franchise quarterback or a game-breaker at another position.

That would give Houston (2-13-1) two of the top 12 selections, thanks to a trade with the Cleveland Browns that sent quarterback Deshaun Watson north. There’s also the possibility the team could trade the top overall pick for more picks and/or veteran help at other positions.

But Texans coach Lovie Smith isn’t interested in picking first in the draft. His goal is to end on a winning note in what’s been a long, mostly fruitless season that has included a nine-game losing streak.

“I’ve been asked this question a few weeks because we’ve been in that role,” he said. “I understand it. We’ve been trying to win for a long period of time, every game. None of that has changed.

“That’s why there is disappointment in what happened (last week). We’re going to go to work this week and do everything we possibly can to win this last game.”

Houston played three straight good games against Dallas, Kansas City and Tennessee, upsetting the reeling Titans on Christmas Eve in Nashville, before laying an egg last week in a 31-3 loss at home to new AFC South leader Jacksonville.

The Texans trailed 21-0 less than four minutes into the second quarter and never threatened to get back into the game. It was their 10th loss in 11 games.

“Everybody has high goals for winning every game, winning the division,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of things that we didn’t get accomplished. Was that realistic? I don’t know, but those were our goals.”

Indianapolis fell way short of accomplishing its summer dreams. Beginning with a 20-20 tie against Houston in Week 1, the Colts have continually shot themselves in the hoof with turnovers and other mistakes.

The midseason firing of coach Frank Reich for Jeff Saturday failed to ignite much, aside from a Nov. 13 win at Las Vegas. Indianapolis (4-11-1) has lost six straight since, including a 38-10 setback last week in New York to the Giants.

“From a season-long perspective, just haven’t made nearly enough plays,” Saturday said. “There’s been enough mistakes that you’re just not going to generate offense in the NFL that way.”

No team has thrown more interceptions (18) or coughed the ball up more often (31) than the Colts. An offensive line that has in recent years been a source of satisfaction has not helped the team’s three quarterbacks, allowing 58 sacks. Four more on Sunday would match the franchise record.

Sam Ehlinger will get the start on Sunday with Matt Ryan as the backup. Nick Foles was knocked out in the second quarter last week with a season-ending rib injury. Ehlinger was 9-for-14 last week with his first NFL touchdown pass to Michael Pittman.

–Field Level Media