HOUSTON — A year ago at this time, Andrew Luck was at home struggling with an injured shoulder that cost him the entire season.

On Saturday, he wrote a happy ending to the latest chapter of his comeback season, throwing for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and the Indianapolis Colts raced out to a big lead and cruised to a 21-7 win over the Houston Texans in an AFC wild-card game.

Luck put on a show in his hometown in a stadium where he’d attended games throughout childhood and played in them since high school, throwing for 191 yards and two touchdowns before halftime to help the Colts (11-6) build a 21-0 lead.

He denied feeling “at home” at NRG Stadium, but admitted to having warm feelings for the city he grew up in and where his grandparents and many friends still reside.

“But it’s still an away stadium,” he said. “It was very loud, very energetic, but fun to win, certainly.”

Running back Marlon Mack had 148 yards and a touchdown for Indianapolis, which advances to face the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round next weekend.

“We know we have an elite quarterback and we can throw it for 400 and win when we have to,” Indianapolis Coach Frank Reich said. “But the margin for error in playoff football when you try to do it that way is very thin. When you can win like this – running the football and stopping it – that’s just everything.”

Houston (11-6), which overcame a 0-3 start to win the AFC South, gave up too many big plays and couldn’t get anything going on offense in the first half as it fell into the huge hole.

Deshaun Watson, who was sacked an NFL-leading 62 times in the regular season, was sacked three times and hit eight more times in a disappointing playoff debut. He finished with 235 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.

“Just a lack of execution on our part,” Watson said. “We didn’t make plays. I didn’t make plays. Communication was a little off. You just got to give the Colts the credit.”

The Colts, who opened the season 1-5, continued an impressive run by winning their fifth straight and for the 10th time in 11 games. Saturday was their first playoff appearance since the AFC championship game loss at New England in the “Deflategate” game in the 2014 season.

It was another good game in a splendid season for Luck. He threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns in the regular season after missing all of 2017 with a shoulder injury.

The Texans didn’t score until rookie Keke Coutee caught a 6-yard touchdown pass with about 11 minute left, capping a 16-play, 89-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion.

They led the NFL with nine comeback wins this season, but their attempt at a rally ended on their next possession when Watson’s pass on fourth-and-10 from the Indianapolis 24 fell short with about four minutes left.

Luck threw for 863 yards with six touchdowns as the teams split two meetings in the regular season. He picked up right where he left off in this one, when he found Eric Ebron on a 6-yard TD pass on their first drive. That play was set up by a 38-yard catch by T.Y. Hilton, who had 63 yards receiving on that drive.

“We didn’t have a lot of guys that made the playoffs (in the past), so the guys that made the playoffs wanted to go out there and set the tone early, try to get the crowd out of the game,” Hilton said. “That’s what we did.”

Hilton didn’t have any catches on the next drive, but the Colts still drove down the field easily and made it 14-0 on a 2-yard run by Mack later in the first.

Houston went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Indianapolis 45 on its second possession, and Watson was intercepted by Kenny Moore II. It was Watson’s first interception since he threw two against Washington on Nov. 18.

The Colts got to the 17 after that before J.J. Watt deflected Luck’s pass, and it was intercepted by Brandon Dunn. But the Texans couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.

Indianapolis pushed the lead to 21-0 when Luck connected with Dontrelle Inman on an 18-yard  pass in the second quarter.

“It’s very frustrating when they’re able to execute and get their job done,” Watt said. “We had a couple of big penalties early in the game as well. But you have to overcome it and you have to find a way to win.”

The Texans had fourth-and-1 from the 9 late in the second quarter and went for it again instead of settling for a field goal. The gamble didn’t pay off, as Watson’s pass to DeAndre Hopkins was low and bounced in front of him in the end zone.

COWBOYS 24, SEAHAWKS 22: The young Dallas defense stuffed the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense in a wild-card win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Now it’s time for the Cowboys to take on either the league’s all-time leader in yards passing in Drew Brees of New Orleans, or this year’s fifth-best passing offense in Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams. The divisional round game will be next weekend.

A group now led by playmaking linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, rather than 2016 All-Pro Sean Lee, has been up to the challenge all season. And that included a 13-10 win over Brees that ended the Saints’ 10-game winning streak.

“We’ve got to take the same mindset next week … and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Vander Esch said. “We can be confident, but there’s a difference between being confident and being overly, maybe I should say cocky, if you want to use that word. We do a pretty good job of bringing ourselves back down.”

In a 24-22 win that ended what the Elias Sports Bureau said was the Seahawks’ record streak of nine straight victories in playoff openers, the Cowboys held Seattle nearly 100 yards below its league-leading average of 160 yards Saturday night.

Chris Carson, who had his first career 100-yard game in a Week 3 win over Dallas that turned Seattle’s season, was limited to a season-low 20 yards on 13 carries. The Seahawks finished with 73 yards rushing, and quarterback Russell Wilson’s legs weren’t the factor they often are.

“We take great pride in stopping the run, too,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s about discipline. It’s about winning your gap. It’s about setting the edge. It’s about tackling. But it’s also about physical and mental toughness. That’s a really important part of our football team.”

The Cowboys believe that applies to defending the pass as well. Although they sacked Brees just twice, there were five quarterback hits in one of his worst games of the season. Dallas has been a top-10 defense most of the season.

“The confidence is there, but it’s all about being patient and executing,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who led the team in sacks for the second straight year with 101/2 and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl. “It doesn’t matter about your confidence.”

The Seahawks won six of their last seven in the regular season to reach the playoffs a year after missing for the only time in Wilson’s seven seasons. They overhauled the defense and lost one of the mainstays they decided to keep in disgruntled safety Earl Thomas, who broke his leg in Week 4. And they found Wilson a running game without a big name such as Marshawn Lynch.

“Nobody thought we were going to be here, so we’re miles ahead of where expectations were,” said coach Pete Carroll, who got a three-year extension through 2021 late in the regular season. “This doesn’t mean anything to me because that’s not my expectations.”

Dallas passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard, who took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli this season, is expected to have a busy Sunday.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Miami owner Stephen Ross was one of his guests during the game, and that Ross would interview Richard for the team’s vacant head coaching position before the former Seattle defensive coordinator starts preparations for the divisional round. The Jets are also expected to interview Richard, who was fired by the Seahawks after last season and hired by Dallas.

“There are no secrets in the NFL when it comes to people that can help you win football games,” Jones said. “And he’s a winner.”

Sebastian Janikowski didn’t play after injuring his hamstring while missing a 57-yard field goal try on the final play of the first half. The 40-year-old isn’t under contract for next season, and Carroll figured he simply hurt himself trying to kick the ball as hard as he could.

The question is whether Seattle, or any other team, will want to take the risk after the Seahawks were left with no good options for an onside kick down two points with 1:18 left. Michael Dickson’s drop-kick went too far and was an easy game-sealing catch for Dallas receiver Cole Beasley. Plus, it was the second time in the last three weeks of the season that Seattle had an injury issue with Janikowski.

NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was the only skill position player to sit out Dallas’ 36-35 win over the New York Giants in the regular-season finale with the Cowboys already locked in as the NFC’s fourth seed. He was busy again in his return, with 26 carries for 137 yards and four catches for 32 yards. It was his fourth game of at least 30 touches this season. Expect a heavy load again in a week. “I’m glad I took the week off,” he said. “We have bigger things.”

NOTES

FINES: San Francisco safety Antone Exum Jr. was fined $53,482 by the NFL for his hit on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods last Sunday.

Exum was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play in which he hit Woods in his midsection in the third quarter of the 49ers’ 48-32 loss while breaking up a deep pass.

Kiko Alonso and Robert Quinn of Miami were docked $10,026 for unnecessary roughness, and Jordan Mills of Buffalo was fined $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct after they were all ejected for their roles in a skirmish between the teams last Sunday.

JETS: The team announced it completed an interview with Mike McCarthy, the former Green Bay Packers coach and the third known coach to meet with New York since Todd Bowles was fired last Sunday night.

The Jets met with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on Wednesday, and former Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase on Friday.

New York is also expected to interview Cowboys defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Kris Richard in Dallas on Sunday and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken early next week. ESPN reported that Monken will meet with the Jets on Tuesday after interviewing with Green Bay on Saturday and then Cincinnati on Monday.

DOLPHINS: New Orleans defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is the third candidate to interview for the Dolphins’ coaching job, joining Brian Flores of New England and Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy.

Allen went 8-28 as head coach of the Raiders before being fired four games into the 2014 season.

Since he joined the Saints, they have risen from 31st in yards allowed in 2015 to 14th this season.