INDIANAPOLIS – Down 31-3 early in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Colts put together one of their best quarters of the season in outscoring the Patriots, 21-0.
On the defensive side of the ball the Colts forced three consecutive three-and-outs, while the offense compiled 18 first downs in their final four series.
The stand by the defense to keep the Colts within striking distance was made more impressive by the fact that Indianapolis was without its starting middle linebacker and NFL leader in tackles Pat Angerer, and only had two healthy cornerbacks after starters Jerraud Powers and Terrence Johnson exited with injuries.
"The first couple (of drives) we were looking very positive," linebacker Ernie Sims said. "I think when New England started doing the no-huddle, things kind of got derailed. We had our starting 'mike' linebacker go down and a couple of our cornerbacks go down and that kind of set us back at a couple of positions."
Sims said the players huddled together on the sidelines and knew it was time to step up.
"The leaders, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea, those are leaders on our defense and (they) got together and we told ourselves, 'We can't let this happen,' " Sims said. " 'We've got to step up to the plate and make plays and get the ball back to our offense and give them a chance.' "
The comeback started late in the third quarter as the Colts turned a 15-play, 86-yard drive into their first touchdown of the afternoon.
Quarterback Dan Orlovsky hit six-of-seven passes on the drive, spreading out the completions to four different receivers. After driving down to the New England 12-yard line, running back Donald Brown finished off the drive with three straight rushes, the last of which came from five yards out for a touchdown.
On the next two Patriots possessions, the Colts held New England quarterback Tom Brady to two-of-five passing for no yards.
The offense then took over with 6:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and Orlovsky would complete his first six passes on a 93-yard drive that took 11 plays. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass, one of his eight fourth-quarter catches, to cap the drive.
Indianapolis struck once again on its final drive when the offense went 90 yards in five plays. Garcon caught his second touchdown pass in as many drives. The 12-yard touchdown reception finished off a drive that took only 1:07 off the clock. Orlovsky zipped the team the distance by completing five straight passes.
In the final quarter, Orlovsky was 18-of-20 passing for 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Two of the Colts' three fourth-quarter touchdown drives covered at least 90 yards, and the 21 points scored is the most in one quarter this season for the Indianapolis.
"It was a lot of fun," tight end Jacob Tamme said. "Things were clicking and we felt like they couldn't stop us, which is a good feeling. (New England) did what they had to do to win the game. They played well early. Truth be told, we played well early. We just didn't finish drives there. Their offense is like a machine so you can't just get into a big scoring battle with them, but we almost did. We just didn't quite have enough time at the end."
"We made a strong push at the end," defensive end Robert Mathis said. "I'm proud of our guys but moral victories, no. It is wins and losses in this league. Football is about momentum so, hopefully, we can just take that into next week and finish the job."
The Colts also held the Patriots offense to just 11 yards of total offense in 10 plays and impressed their head coach with a final comeback attempt.
"I think it's experience," Jim Caldwell said of why his team did not quit. "There are guys that certainly have been a part of this organization for a long time and certainly do a good job just in terms of setting an example. I think this is the kind of character that we look for, particularly when times have been tough. You look for guys to step up and keep fighting and not give in. I think they displayed that in a number of different positions across the field yesterday. A very, very tough situation but we were still able to come back and get some good fourth-quarter drives and a couple of stops defensively as well to narrow the score."
The Colts once again will face another stiff road test this Sunday as they travel to Baltimore to take on the 9-3 Ravens.
In search of the their first win of 2011, the Colts will look to carry the late game success they had in New England as they have the challenge of one of the best teams in the AFC.