INDIANAPOLIS –On November 4, the 4-3 Colts hosted 4-3 Miami in a game that had mid-season implications in the AFC.
The Colts emerged 23-20 winners that day with a fourth-quarter comeback that put them a nose in front of Miami, and it kept Indianapolis in good stead among other competitors like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
The season is four games later now and four games remain. The Colts stand at 8-4, a game ahead of Cincinnati (7-5) and Pittsburgh (7-5). The three teams, for the moment, are the chief competitors for two Wild Card spots. Three additional teams stand at 5-7 – Miami, Buffalo and the New York Jets.
The Colts have won three of their last four since the win over Miami. Two of those came on the road, including Sunday's 35-33 comeback at Detroit where the Colts trailed by 12 points with four minutes to go.
The resilient team scored twice in the last 2:39 on drives that covered 85 and 75 yards and that were capped off by Andrew Luck scoring passes, the last one coming with no time remaining.
"We're elated at the victory," said Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians. "Some teams find ways to win, others don't. Ours (does). (I) can't be prouder of the game, another team victory.
"We found a way to win a big ballgame on the road against a very quality opponent. (I) don't care about the stats. The only stat that matters is No. 8 (wins). We've got a fighting bunch of guys, and we've got a fighting coach at home."
On Sunday, Houston (11-1) clinched a playoff spot, but not the AFC South title. Indianapolis visits Houston on December 16 and hosts the Texans on December 30, the day the Colts hope to welcome Head Coach Chuck Pagano back to the sideline for the first time since September 23.
New England (9-3) and Denver (9-3) have clinched their respective division crowns, while Baltimore (9-3) dropped a last-play home decision yesterday to Pittsburgh, 23-20.
In addition to playing Houston twice, the Colts host Tennessee (4-8) Sunday and travel to Kansas City (2-10) for a December 23 game.
Pittsburgh has games remaining with San Diego (4-8), at Dallas (5-6), Cincinnati and Cleveland (4-8). Cincinnati plays Dallas, at Philadelphia (3-9), at Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Steelers won at Cincinnati on October 21, 24-17.
The Colts are 5-3 in games against AFC teams. Cincinnati is 5-5, while Pittsburgh is 4-5.
Without getting too far ahead, the Colts are focused on Tennessee. The Colts were 3-3 when they met Tennessee on October 28, and Indianapolis scored a late touchdown then survived a final Titans drive to reach overtime.
There, the Colts won the coin toss and drove 80 yards for the deciding touchdown in a 19-13 affair. It was one of five games the Colts have won this year in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"We understand the position we're in, but again, nothing has been accomplished yet, but on to the next one," said Luck.