INDIANAPOLIS — Wins come in all sorts of shapes and sizes in the National Football League.
Sometimes they're blowouts, sometimes they're nailbiters, and then there's what the Indianapolis Colts accomplished on Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals seemingly could do no wrong for the first quarter and a half at Lucas Oil Stadium — while the Colts seemingly couldn't catch a break. Case in point: on the very first play of the second quarter, Bengals running back Joe Mixon practically carried the entire Colts defense on his back seven yards into the end zone to give Cincinnati a commanding 21-0 lead.
But a quick glance upwards into the open roof at Lucas Oil Stadium confirmed that the sky was, indeed, not falling in Indianapolis.
So the Colts got to work.
21-7. 24-7. 24-14. 24-21. 27-21.
And on the very first play of the fourth quarter, quarterback Philip Rivers, who caught fire on Sunday for the first time as a member of the Colts, lobbed a perfectly-placed 14-yard pass to tight end Jack Doyle, whose diving effort in the end zone, and the ensuing extra point from Rodrigo Blankenship, gave Indy its first lead of the game, 28-27.
Blankenship would add a 40-yard field goal later in the quarter, and then safety Julian Blackmon would seal the game by picking off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with 46 seconds to go, giving the Colts a scrappy 31-27 victory to move to 4-2 heading into their bye week.
The 21-point come-from-behind victory is tied for the second-largest in Colts franchise history, and is the largest for the Colts in a regular season home game.
"Obviously, big win today — huge win, huge complementary football," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "All three phases played well. Obviously, we didn't get off to a good start. Not quite the way we envisioned it, but we fought back hard. I give the guys a lot of credit. We did what it took to fight back in."
The Colts' woes on Sunday began early. On their second play from scrimmage, Rivers found Doyle on a quick screen play, but the tight end would fumble the ball without any contact as he tried to turn up the field, which was recovered by defensive tackle Xavier Williams at the Indianapolis 43-yard line.
Seven plays later, the Bengals would find the end zone for the first time with a two-yard run by Giovani Bernard.
The Colts couldn't move the ball on their next two drives, both of which finished in three-and-outs. The Bengals, meanwhile, couldn't be stopped on offense at that point. They went 78 yards in 12 plays on their second drive, which ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Burrow on 4th and 1, and then went 70 yards in just four plays on their third offensive drive, which ended in the aforementioned physical seven-yard touchdown by Mixon, to make it 21-0 one play into the second quarter.
The Colts would turn to their veteran quarterback to get them out of the rut from there.
Rivers turned in a second quarter for the ages on Sunday, completing 14-of-21 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns in the period; his 235 passing yards were the third most in a quarter in franchise history, trailing only Peyton Manning (247 in 2004) and Dan Orlovsky (240 in 2011), according to ESPN's Mike Wells.
By halftime, thanks to a 21-3 run, the Colts trailed by just three points, 24-21. It was anybody's ballgame from there.
"What I love about this team is nobody panicked," said defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who had five tackles (two for a loss) with a sack and four quarterback hits on Sunday. "Everybody stayed on track. Nobody was pointing fingers. Everybody was looking at themselves and how they can do better. It was all across the board. We just need to come out and everybody has to do their job and come out with more energy and play our style of football, and that's what we did."
The third quarter was relatively uneventful outside of a 55-yard field goal from the Bengals' Randy Bullock, extending Cincinnati's lead to 27-21.
But that's when Rivers and the Colts' offense began what would turn out to be a very well-rounded game-winning drive.
Rivers found tight end Trey Burton for 13 yards on first down. Then running back Jonathan Taylor got 21 and 17 yards, respectively, on two straight carries to quickly get to the Cincinnati 24-yard line. Two plays later, Rivers found rookie wide receiver DeMichael Harris, who was making his NFL debut on Sunday, for 10 yards to the 16.
Two plays later, after the game had turned to the fourth quarter, Rivers found a diving Doyle, who was able to get a little redemption for his earlier blunder, for the 14-yard touchdown. Blankenship's extra point was good, and Indy had officially come all the way back, taking its first lead of the game, 28-27.
Blankenship would add another field goal at the 4:07 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Colts' defense, which allowed just 168 total net yards and three points in the second half of Sunday's game, added the final blow, as Blackmon stepped in front of a Burrow pass intended for wide receiver Tyler Boyd at the Indy 19-yard line for the rookie's second big-time interception this season.
"It was big — really a great play," Reich said of the pick by Blackmon. "I thought (Matt) Eberflus did a good job of dialing it up the last couple drives there just to put the guys in position, but obviously Julian made the play. Obviously, it's very early in his career, but he's showing signs of being a big-time play maker, so that's really good for him and for us."
Rivers had his best performance with the Colts on Sunday, completing 29-of-44 passes (65.9 percent) for 371 yards with three touchdowns to one interception, for a QB rating of 105.4. His favorite target on the day was wide receiver Marcus Johnson, who was signed to the active roster from the practice squad this weekend for a third straight week and finished with his second-career 100-yard receiving performance — five receptions for 108 yards. Burton also added four receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown, on top of a one-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Safety Khari Willis finished with a game-best 10 tackles and also added a pass defensed. Cornerback Kenny Moore II had eight tackles (one for a loss) and two passes defensed. The Indy defense, as a whole, had 11 total passes defensed on the afternoon, tying a season-high.
Now the Colts head into their bye week with a ton of confidence at 4-2, and Reich said he wants to see the same kind of urgency displayed in today's game when his players return next week to begin preparations for their Week 8 matchup on the road against the Detroit Lions, who defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-16 today to move to 2-3 on the year.
"At the end of the day you have to try to do whatever it takes to win a game," Reich said. "Then when you do, even when it comes back and you win like this, you have to have the maturity to celebrate the win, to genuinely … it's good to win a football game, get back on track. But like we say, even if we would have lost it, we'll go in, we'll make the corrections. We're not going to ride the wave of results. We're going to go back in and make corrections and try to become a better football team for the next game."
See all the action from on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.