INDIANAPOLIS -- Jerraud Powers recognized the formation immediately and appeared to know Roddy White's assignment better than the Atlanta wide receiver.
While White drifted outside rather than taking a hard slant, Powers jumped the route, went to his knees to corral Matt Ryan's under-thrown pass, scampered to his feet and raced six yards into the end zone for the first touchdown return of his NFL career.
It was exactly what the Colts needed, the kind of play that can turn a game around, but instead it turned out to be the only Indianapolis score in a 31-7 loss to the Falcons on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I know the ball's probably going to come to my side," Powers said. "Knowing Dwight (Freeney) and those guys on the front four get to the quarterback pretty fast I knew it was probably going to be something quick, so I looked back there to Antoine (Bethea) and told him, 'If I see something I'm going to jump it so get me over the top.'
"It was one of those things where it actually worked this time, went our way. It was just communication all around and we executed it well."
Powers' interception was the Colts' first takeaway since September 25 against Pittsburgh, his first of the season and the fourth of his career. It was the first returned for a touchdown since Kelvin Hayden did so last season.
"That's a big play," said Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "Obviously, any time you can get a pick-six, that's huge. But we just couldn't follow it up, we couldn't back it up, couldn't come back and answer again.
"It was a bit of a spark but we just couldn't put another good sequence together where you get a good scoring drive or another interception or turnover, something to get us going."
Despite the lopsided score that might indicate otherwise, Caldwell singled out Powers and linebackers Philip Wheeler and Pat Angerer (eight tackles) as defenders that performed well.
Wheeler had 10 tackles, his first sack of the season and very nearly provided a second defensive touchdown on the last play of the third quarter.
Wrapped up after a short gain, Atlanta receiver Julio Jones was struggling for extra yardage and lost control of the ball. Wheeler scooped it up and had a clear path to the goal line but officials called the play dead. Because the ruling on the field was that Jones' forward progress had been stopped before he lost the ball, there was no opportunity for a replay challenge.
"I think it was a fumble," Wheeler said. "I picked up the ball and I didn't hear a whistle yet so I kept running and I felt like I would've scored, but people stopped chasing me so I stopped and they said it wasn't a fumble but I'm pretty sure it was.
"We can't get discouraged. I know I didn't get discouraged by that, I just tried to come out and do it again the next play."
Powers' scoring interception return cut the deficit to 21-7 midway through the second period. The Colts came up with a defensive stop on Atlanta's next possession but could put any more of a dent in the deficit.
"Whenever you can get turnovers in the course of a game, especially a game like that when you're down, trying to find ways to fight back, claw back, get some points on the board, and you score on defense with a turnover usually it kick-starts things," Powers said, "but unfortunately we weren't able to get things going."
The defense was victimized by two big plays from Atlanta rookie wide receiver Julio Jones -- a diving catch for a 50-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead, and then a quick slant that turned into an 80-yard scoring sprint to make it 21-0. It was not the first time Powers, a former Auburn defensive back, had seen as much from Jones, a former Alabama standout.
"Julio's a big playmaker," said Powers, who as an Auburn University defensive back matched up against Alabama's Jones. "On the deep one, we just lost the ball trying to run back and get it. I thought Antoine or K.T. (Kevin Thomas) was going to get a pick right there but they both just kind of lost the ball in the sky and tip your hat off to Julio, he made a heck of a play.
"The other one was just bad communication across the board and not playing proper technique and he took advantage of it, catching a slant and taking it to the house. That's not them executing well because they're just trying to pick up a first down. That's us breaking down on defense. It's things like that, cheap plays that we give up that we've got to stop doing to put ourselves in better position to win the football game."
The team's 0-9 record obviously frustrates the Colts' defenders but has not robbed them of their mettle.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with the win as a group, but it's not going to change the way a lot of us play," said Wheeler. "We're going to play hard every down. If something's going to happen, we've got to make it happen. We're going to play no matter what the score, no matter who we're playing, no matter where we're at."