Colts Rally from 17-Point Deficit for 20th Consecutive Regular-Season Victory
The Colts spent November coming from behind in dramatic fashion, and making history by doing so.
Fittingly, they finished the month the same way.
With Peyton Manning throwing three touchdowns, and with the defense dominant throughout the second half, the Colts rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit for a 35-27 victory over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
The Colts, one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL, have won their last five games after trailing in the fourth quarter.
No team in NFL history had done that more than three consecutive games.
"It's one of the things that has been kind of a hallmark of our team through the years, that you can't count us out," Colts first-year Head Coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio after the Indianapolis rallied from a 17-0 first-half deficit for its 15th victory over Houston in 16 all-time meetings.
"Even when things don't look really good, you don't find any panic on the sidelines. This is something, I think, that is special about our group."
The Colts (11-0), who trailed 17-0 in the first half, outscored the Texans (5-6) 28-7 in the second half to win in Houston for a second consecutive season after trailing by 17 points. They trailed Houston, 27-10, with less than four minutes remaining last season before winning, 31-27.
"Houston came out early and made a lot of plays," Manning, who completed 27 of 35 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns and two first-half interceptions, told Colts Radio. "Our offense, we had some missed assignments and mental errors.
"We didn't have many possessions in the first half. We were much sharper there after the second series."
With the Colts' sixth consecutive win against Houston, along with a Jacksonville loss on Sunday, the team clinched its sixth AFC South title in seven seasons, while the Colts' eight consecutive playoff appearances is the NFL's longest active streak.
The Colts extended their franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 20 games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history. The NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories is 21 by the 2006-2008 New England Patriots.
On Sunday, the comeback was a about more than an offense that was efficient throughout the second half. It also was about a defense that held Houston to 154 yards and a touchdown in the half, with 75 yards coming on a touchdown drive with Indianapolis leading by 15 points late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts' second-half comeback looked like this:
• A four-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 11:20 remaining in the third quarter. Texans 20, Colts 14.
• A six-yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Dallas Clark with 8:24 remaining in the fourth quarter. Colts 21, Texans 20.
• A 27-yard interception return by linebacker Clint Session with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Colts 28, Texans 20.
• A 23-yard touchdown run by running back Chad Simpson with 2:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. Colts 35, Texans 20.
The Texans' final touchdown came on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Matt Schaub to wide receiver Jacoby Jones with :18 remaining. Tight end Jacob Tamme knocked the ensuing onside kick out of bounds to secure the victory.
Caldwell said the second-half turnaround wasn't as much about halftime speeches as halftime adjustments and improved second-half play.
"Really, to be honest with you, it wasn't any different than any other halftime," Caldwell, now 11-0 as an NFL head coach, told Colts Radio. "We make adjustments the exact same way. We point out the issues and what we'd like to do in the second half.
"Our guys are pretty resilient. They find a way to come out and get the job done."
The Texans produced 16 first-half first downs, with Schaub completing 14 of 17 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. The Texans also rushed for 90 first-half yards and did not commit a turnover.
"We just felt like we weren't executing our scheme," Session, whose interception return was his first career touchdown and the Colts' second defensive touchdown of the season, told Colts Radio. "They (were more physical than) us. That's a good team over there. They had us on our heels a little bit, and we suffered for it."
In the second half, the Texans rushed for 32 yards, produced 11 first downs – three in the third quarter, with Schaub completing 17 of 28 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
"Our defense came out in the second half and played really good," Colts running back Joseph Addai, who rushed for 69 yards on 15 carries, told Colts Radio.
"Unfortunately, we've been in those situations before," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett told Colts Radio. "Things worked out.
"We made a couple of adjustments, switched up a couple of things, and it worked."
Schaub also was intercepted twice in the second half, and 76 of his second-half passing yards came on the final drive. A Colts defense playing without four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney (9.5 sacks this season) registered two sacks, with a sack/fumble by Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis stopping a second-half drive and setting up Simpson's game-clinching touchdown in a game that hardly could have started worse for the Colts.
The Texans, after losing their last two games by three points to AFC South rivals Indianapolis and Tennessee, controlled the game early, taking a 17-0 lead that nearly was larger.
Schaub, efficient throughout the first half, capped a 79-yard, 11-play opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to fullback Vonta Leach. A five-yard run by Chris Brown pushed the lead to 14-0.
Texans linebacker Brian Cushing intercepted Manning, whose arm was hit on the throw, on the ensuing possession, but the Colts held Houston a 35-yard field goal by kicker Kris Brown. Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson nearly had a touchdown reception on the drive, and an officials' review upheld a ruling on the field that the pass was incomplete.
The Colts cut into the lead late in the first half with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. That made it 17-7, and a 33-yard field goal by Brown pushed the lead to 20-7 at halftime.
"We came out kind of flat," Colts safety Antoine Bethea, whose third-quarter interception was his team-leading fourth of the season, told Colts Radio. "We knew we had to control the line of scrimmage. Once we stopped that, we made them one-dimensional.
"You don't want to come out flat, but it happens. It's a 60-minute game. You want to come out and play 60 minutes, and that's what we do."