JUST SHORT

The Colts rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit before losing, 31-28, to the New England Patriots Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. 'It's just really sickening,' Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said.

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Colts Rally in Fourth Quarter Before Losing to New England Patriots, 31-28
INDIANAPOLIS – Once again, they rallied.

Once again, in a hostile environment, in difficult circumstances, the Colts on Sunday overcame adversity in dramatic fashion, and came oh-so close to a come-from-behind victory.

It didn't happen.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, playing with multiple starters out on offense and defense, threw four touchdown passes – including two during a frenzied fourth-quarter rally – but a late interception by safety James Sanders allowed the New England Patriots to hang on for a 31-28 victory in front of 68,756 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., late Sunday afternoon.

"Our guys hung in there and played well in spurts," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio afterward. "We just didn't quite get it over the hump, but they hung in there. They fought. The second half was a lot different than the first half. The defense stiffened a little bit and we were able to move the ball with a little more consistency.

"We gave ourselves a chance, at least."

The Colts, after trailing 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, pulled to within three on touchdown passes of five and 18 yards from Manning to rookie wide receiver Blair White.

The Colts' defense then forced a New England punt, after which Manning drove the Colts to the New England 24 with :47 remaining.

On 1st-and-10, Manning threw to Pierre Garcon on the right side of the field.

Sanders intercepted the pass and the Patriots ran out the clock.

The Colts last season trailed New England 31-14 early in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium before rallying for a 35-34 victory.

"I'm just sick about not extending the game," said Manning, who completed 38 of 52 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions for a 96.3 passer rating.

"There's just no excuse not to extend the game there, and give (kicker) Adam Vinatieri a chance for the field goals. Certainly, we were going for the win. We had some time, had some timeouts.

"We felt like we had a good play called. Just a poor throw – it's just really sickening."

Manning added of the final throw, "I certainly didn't get everything on the throw I wanted. I had the match-up we wanted. We wanted to take a shot at the end zone. I can't tell the reason – just did not get everything I wanted on the throw."

The Colts (6-4) dropped into a first-place tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4), who beat the Cleveland Browns, 30-27, at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday. The Tennessee Titans lost a third consecutive game – 19-16 in overtime to Washington – to slip to 5-5 and the Houston Texans are 4-6.

The victory kept the Patriots (8-2) tied with the New York Jets atop the AFC and AFC East.

"We had a chance to win, but it's a tough way to lose," said White, who caught five passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns and played extensively after second-year wide receiver Austin Collie left the game in the second quarter.

"We lost. That's the bottom line. Anytime you lose, you're not doing things right, so we've got to figure it out."

Reggie Wayne caught eight passes for 107 yards and a first-half touchdown, and wide receiver Pierre Garcon caught five passes for 62 yards. Tight end Jacob Tamme caught seven passes for 60 yards and Collie – who returned this week after missing last week's game with a concussion – caught five passes for 60 yards.

The Colts entered the game without starting running back Joseph Addai and reserve running back Mike Hart. They also were without linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session, as well as safety Bob Sanders and cornerback Justin Tryon. They have placed tight end Dallas Clark, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and safety Melvin Bullitt on injured reserve.

Donald Brown, starting his third consecutive game for Addai, rushed for a season-high 68 yards on 17 carries.

"Some of the guys who are not playing are part of the reason we're having to come from behind," Manning said, also referring to a 26-24 loss at Philadelphia two weeks ago, "because we're not doing enough good things in the first three quarters. But we've had two chances to win both of those games. We didn't get it done. No excuses. We had the opunity to do it, and when you don't do it, it's disappointing.

"I take the responsibility."

The Colts outgained the Patriots 467-346 and converted 28 first downs to 22 for New England. They also had 396 passing yards to 186 for New England, but while the Patriots forced three takeaways, Indianapolis forced none.

The Patriots led by seven after a back-and-fourth first half.

It was a half in which the Patriots took a quick lead, and the Colts kept it close with two solid second-quarter drives.

Brady and Manning each threw two touchdowns in the first two quarters.

The Patriots took a quick 7-0 lead, turning an interception on the Colts' first drive into a 7-0 lead when Brady threw 22 yards to wide receiver Wes Welker. That capped a four-play, 32-yard drive that started when safety Brandon Meriweather intercepted Manning to end the Colts' first drive.

The Patriots forced a punt on the ensuing possession, then took a two-touchdown lead when Brady passed eight yards to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez. New England used 7:46 on the possession, driving 82 yards on 15 plays.

Trailing 14-0, the Colts then put together an extended drive to cut the lead in half.

The Colts took possession on their 31 following the kickoff, then drove 69 yards in 11 plays, with Manning throwing his first touchdown pass of the game – a 1-yarder to tight end Gijon Robinson.

But the Patriots continued to move efficiently, and extended the lead again to 14 points when running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a five-yard run. The Patriots moved 65 yards on eight plays on the possession.

The Colts again cut into the lead just before halftime.

Manning moved the Colts quickly toward the goal line, passing 11 yards to Wayne to make it 21-14 at halftime. It was the fourth consecutive game the Colts have scored in the final two minutes of the first half, but New England pushed the lead to two touchdowns on a 36-yard run by Danny Woodhead with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter. Shayne Graham's 25-yard field goal with 10:23 remaining gave New England a 17-point lead, after which the Colts scored touchdowns on their ensuing two possessions.

They then drove 50 yards on their final possession, and had moved within scoring range when Sanders leaped high and cradled Manning's pass on the Patriots' six-yard line.

"He made quite a catch, but we were down there and had our opportunity," Caldwell said. "I don't think it falls on that one play. We can look back and see a lot of things we could have done better. We could have run the ball better. We could have done a lot of things a little better overall.

"There are a lot of things we need to get focused in on and see if we can play consistently well. If we play consistently the way we did in spurts today, we'd have fewer problems."

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