INDIANAPOLIS –Bruce Arians, the Colts' interim coach, made it clear what unit of the Indianapolis team deserved major credit for a 20-13 victory on Sunday over the Buffalo Bills.
"I thought they won the game for us," Arians said, "not only with the return for the touchdown but with the field position they created with how well they covered."
The punt return that Arians cited came early and set the tone. T.Y. Hilton brought the Lucas Oil Stadium fans to their feet with a slashing and stirring 75-yard return that gave the Colts a 7-0 lead. Indy never trailed.
It marked the Colts' first punt return TD since 2007. Hilton later caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck, making him the first player in franchise history to return a punt and catch a pass for scores in the same game.
Indy's punt coverage unit held the Bills' explosive Leodis McKelvin to a total of 24 yards on two runbacks. Buffalo hardly fared better on kickoffs, returning one for 32 yards and watching three sail into the end zone for touchbacks.
A common thread in the Colts' punting and kickoff teams is Pat McAfee, the team's punter and kickoff specialist.
"We asked Pat to have his best game ever as a kicker," Arians said. "He kicked the ball great."
McAfee punted five times, averaging 51.2 yards and 46.4 net yards. He boomed one 59 yards and placed two inside the 20-yard line.
Arians called it a "great job of kicking the football where it needed to be."
The Colts' defense did its job, too, holding the Bills to 16 first downs and four-of-13 efficiency on third down. Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller broke open at times and totaled 107 rushing yards. But Indy's defense held quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to 17-of-33 passing for 180 yards with one TD and one interception.
The Colts' offense played efficiently. Luck completed 20-of-37 passes for 240 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Reggie Wayne caught eight passes for 102 yards.
And in the end, the Colts' offense put the game away. Indy took over with 3:22 remaining, clinging to its seven-point edge. A Buffalo punt had pinned the Colts at their own five-yard line.
On second down, running back Donald Brown went around the left side for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, Luck passed to Wayne for 14 yards, pushing the game to the two-minute warning.
Buffalo used its last two timeouts right after the two-minute mark, so a first down by Indy would wrap up the victory. It came on third-and-10 at the Colts' 31. Luck's pass to Wayne fell incomplete, but Stephon Gilmore was flagged for interference.
The Colts went into their victory formation.
"Donnie Brown made a heckuva run coming off the goal line down there," Arians said. "Our left side blocked the crap out of them. That was a solid run. That was really what got it done for us.
"It's fun," Arians added, "to be able to finish ball games kneeling down."
FIRST QUARTER (9:56 remaining)
T.Y. Hilton had the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd up and boisterous with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. Hilton grabbed Shawn Powell's boot at the Colts 25 and a quick juke sent one defender sprawling. Hilton advanced up the field a few yards, cut hard right and was off to the end zone. It marked Indy's first punt return TD since 2007. Adam Vinatieri kicked the extra point. Colts 7, Bills 0
FIRST QUARTER (4:28 remaining)
Ryan Lindell put the Bills on the scoreboard with a 33-yard field goal following an 11-play, 65-yard drive. Two big plays aided the Bills. A 24-yard pass, Ryan Fitzpatrick to T.J. Graham, was good for 24 yards. C.J. Spiller's 23-yard run took Buffalo's offense to the Colts 20.Colts 7, Bills 3
SECOND QUARTER (4:08 remaining)
Vinatieri connected on a 25-yard field goal to extend Indy's lead. The Colts put together a 12-play, 82-yard drive and marched to the Bills 7-yard line. Quarterback Andrew Luck twice scrambled for first downs with gains of eight and 14 yards. He also completed passes to Donald Brown for 23 yards and to Dwayne Allen for 24.Colts 10, Bills 3
SECOND QUARTER (2:16 remaining)
Lindell added another field goal, this one from 31 yards. One big play set it up. Fitzpatrick connected with a wide-open Stevie Johnson for a 63-yard completion.Colts 10, Bills 6
SECOND QUARTER (0:00 remaining)
With no time on the clock, Vinatieri hit a 19-yard field goal that he almost didn't get to attempt. Here's how it played out: A 25-yard pass completion, Luck to Reggie Wayne, moved the ball to Buffalo's 3 in the waning seconds. With the Colts out of timeouts, Luck connected with Wayne again at the 1-yard line, but the wide receiver couldn't fight his way into the end zone. The clock continued to run. The Colts scrambled to the line and Luck spiked the ball with one second remaining, enabling the field goal unit to take the field. Colts 13, Bills 6
THIRD QUARTER (4:02 remaining)
The Colts took the long route for this score, going 15 plays and 87 yards while consuming 8:04. Luck was 4-of-4 passing on third down for 58 yards, including the eight-yard touchdown to Hilton. Perhaps Luck's finest moment on the drive came on a 25-yard completion to Reggie Wayne as Bills defensive end Kyle Moore had the Colts quarterback all but in his grasp. Vinatieri added the extra point. Colts 20, Bills 6
FOURTH QUARTER (11:30 remaining)
Fitzpatrick's pass to Lee Smith was good for a 1-yard touchdown that tightened the game. Fitzpatrick completed passes of 14 yards to Johnson and 12 to Donald Jones to advance the Bills. C.J. Spiller opened the drive with a 41-yard run. Lindell made the extra point.Colts 20, Bills 13