Colts Move to Within Game of Post-Season With 31-26 Victory At Oakland
TITANS VS. COLTS MOVED TO 4:15 P.M. NEXT SUNDAY
The Colts' approach has become as simple as their scenario.
As Colts running back Dominic Rhodes sees it, when it comes to winning late during an NFL season, the way to do so is relatively basic and time-tested:
Run to win.
And in the last two weeks, that's just what the Colts have done.
With Rhodes rushing for 98 yards – and with quarterback Peyton Manning converting a critical late-game first down with a running play – the Colts continued their late-season push for the post-season spot by rallying for a 31-26 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum Sunday.
"This is a playoff game," Rhodes told Colts Radio late Sunday after the Colts won their third consecutive game to maintain control of their post-season destiny.
"These last four are playoff games, and you know what you have to do in the playoffs. You have to run the football.
"Right now, we're going out and doing what we're supposed to do."
With the victory, the Colts' playoff scenario remains clear.
They must win their regular-season finale to not only win the AFC South, but to qualify for the post-season. The Colts, who have won six of the past seven AFC South titles, will win the division again if they beat the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.
"We've had that mentality the last four weeks," Colts center Jeff Saturday told Colts Radio Sunday. "Nothing's going to change.
"They (the Titans) are coming into our house. We have to get the win and secure a spot."
The Colts, who have won their last three games, moved a game ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday. Jacksonville lost to Washington, 20-17, in overtime in Jacksonville. But although the Colts now lead the division, the Jaguars would win the division if they beat the Houston Texans Sunday providing Indianapolis lost to Tennessee.
Indianapolis can secure the No. 3 seed in the AFC with a victory over the Titans if the Kansas City Chiefs lose to Oakland Sunday.
The Colts have made the playoffs an NFL-high eight consecutive seasons, one shy of the all-time NFL record for consecutive post-season appearances. Dallas made the post-season from 1975-1983.
"We have a little momentum going right now," Rhodes said. "We're definitely feeling good to be playing winning football."
The Colts, who spent much of the season ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing after ranking 31st and 32nd the last two years, rushed for 191 total yards and held the Raiders to 80 total rushing yards.
Rhodes, a 10-year NFL veteran who began his third stint with the Colts three games ago, rushed for 98 yards on 17 carries, with 83 of those yards coming on 13 second-half carries.
Running back Joseph Addai, out the last eight games with a neck injury, rushed for 45 yards on 12 carries, and Donald Brown – who rushed for 129 yards in a victory over Jacksonville last week – rushed for 28 yards on six carries.
"Either running back that goes in, they can get the job done," Addai said.
The Colts now have rushed for more than 150 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2006 season.
"It's kind of a week to week thing," said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who completed 16 of 30 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
"There's no question the past two weeks, it has been productive."
Said Saturday, "As an offensive lineman, you want to run it all the time, but however we have to win, I'm all for it."
Manning, whose seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon gave the Colts a 31-19 lead before a late Oakland touchdown, clinched the victory with a 27-yard rollout run late in the game.
With the Colts facing 3rd-and-2 from the Oakland 31 with 1:39 remaining, Manning faked a handoff to Rhodes, who was running to the Colts' left. Without telling anyone, Manning kept the ball and ran around the left side for a 27-yard gain.
With a chance to score, Manning instead slid at the 4, allowing the Colts to run out the clock.
The Colts, who allowed a 99-yard kickoff return to Jacoby Ford to open the game, allowed just four field goals by Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski after that until a six-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell to tight end Zach Miller with 1:51 remaining.
"We played together as a team, as a unified defense," Colts defensive tackle Fili Moala said. "You saw the outcome."
Indianapolis did not allow a first-quarter first down, and when Addai scored on a 6-yard run up the middle, the game was tied, 7-7.
Addai hadn't played since a mid-October victory at Washington because of a neck injury.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who has missed just two field goals this season, gave the Colts a 10-7 lead with a 30-yard field goal early in the second quarter, but Janikowski's 59-yard field goal midway through the quarter tied it again, 10-10.
That was the second-longest field goal in Raiders history, and when Janikowski converted from 38 yards later in the half Oakland led 13-10.
An 18-yard pass from Manning to tight end Jacob Tamme gave the Colts a 17-13 halftime lead, at which time Indianapolis had held Oakland to 60 rushing yards.
Janikowski, long one of the NFL's better long-range kickers, continued to keep the Raiders close early in the third quarter, converting from 51 yards to make it 17-16 before the Colts' first second-half touchdown pushed the Indianapolis lead to eight points.
Taking possession late in the third quarter, Manning drove the Colts 56 yards on four plays, giving Indianapolis a 24-16 lead with a four-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Blair White.
Manning, who hadn't thrown an interception in either of the last two games, was intercepted on the Colts' ensuing possession, a turnover that led to a 45-yard field goal by Janikowski.
That was the Colts' second turnover, and the defense allowed just three points off the giveaways.
"We're just trying to get in the playoffs," Saturday said. "We understand we have to win all of our games to secure the division. That's been our goal the past few weeks. There hasn't been any other talk, any other concern."
Said Moala, "We needed these last two games, but first and foremost, we had to take care of the Oakland Raiders. We did that today."