Colts Rally from 17-0 Deficit Before Losing in Overtime to Dallas Cowboys, 38-35
INDIANAPOLIS – All is still not lost.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said that's what's imant to remember in the wake of a wild, back-and-forth, 38-35, overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys in front of 67,471 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
David Buehler's 38-yard field goal with 7:55 remaining in overtime gave the Cowboys (4-8) their third victory in four games and the Colts (6-6) their third consecutive loss.
Yes, for the Colts, the loss created a difficult circumstance.
And yes, it's a bad feeling.
But Manning said the reality is four games remain, and although the Colts are not over .500 after 12 games for the first time in nine seasons, they are not out of the AFC South race.
"Our goal has always been to win our division," Manning said Sunday after the Colts rallied from deficits of 17 and 13 points to force overtime with a dramatic second-half rally.
"We certainly have goals after that, and that's still our goal. We certainly have put ourselves in a hole, and we are having to play catch-up."
The Colts, who have won six of the past seven AFC South championships, slipped into second place in the division, a game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5), who beat the Tennessee Titans, 17-6, Sunday afternoon.
"I don't think we've ever been 6-6 in a while," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney. "We've just got to take one game at a time, like we've always done. We're going to try to keep this tunnel vision and get back to winning games and doing things the right way."
The Colts, who have games remaining at Tennessee, at home against Jacksonville, at Oakland and at home against Tennessee, will win the AFC South if they win their remaining games. If the Colts and Jacksonville finish tied at 10-6 with Indianapolis beating Jacksonville in two weeks, the Colts would win the division based on a better record against common opponents.
"You've got to stay alive, keep fighting, keep pushing," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "You can't get sidetracked. We know the goals we have to achieve."
The Colts on Sunday trailed 17-0 and 27-14, and the rallying began in quick fashion early in the fourth quarter.
First, running back Javarris James scored on a 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Colts had driven 79 yards in nine plays to to get to the 1, with a 40-yard pass from Manning to Wayne giving the Colts 1st-and-goal.
James' 1-yarder made it 27-21, Cowboys.
The Colts held the Cowboys without a first down on the next possession, and wide receiver Taj Smith broke through the right side of the Dallas line and blocked Mat McBrier's punt. Smith recovered and returned it two yards for the tying touchdown. It was Indianapolis' first blocked punt since 2007, and its first for a touchdown since 1989.
Adam Vinatieri's point-after gave the Colts their first lead.
"We took the lead and had an opportunity to do some things," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "We just fell short."
Dallas used much of the fourth quarter to retake the lead, driving 81 yards on 18 plays with quarterback Jon Kitna passing to Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten for two yards and a 33-28 lead. Kitna's conversion pass into the right corner of the end zone to wide receiver Roy Williams gave the Cowboys a touchdown advantage.
The Colts then drove 81 yards for the tying touchdown.
Manning, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 74 yards on the drive, completed five passes to Wayne on the drive for 67 yards. Wayne's last reception – a 17-yarder to Wayne – gave the Colts a first down at the seven. James then rushed twice for seven yards, and his two-yard run and ensuing Adam Vinatieri point after made it 35-35.
Smith forced a fumble by Bryan McCann on the ensuing kickoff, but Dallas recovered.
Each team punted to start overtime, then linebacker Sean Lee's interception gave Dallas possession at the Colts 36. Dallas rushed five times for 16 yards, with Buehler's game-winner coming on 3rd-and-6.
"It's kind of disheartening when you have an ending like that, but you just can't go in the tank about it," Mathis said.
The Colts were in the game in the second half despite a slow start and a difficult first half.
The Cowboys scored quickly on the game's first drive, moving 80 yards on a nine-play drive capped by a 20-yard run around left end by running back Tashard Choice.
Manning threw the first of his interceptions on the ensuing drive, a turnover that Dallas turned into a 10-point lead with a 12-play, 72-yard drive.
Buehler's 30-yard field goal made it 10-0, a lead Dallas extended t 17-0 when Orlando Scandrick returned Manning's second interception 40 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second quarter.
The Colts' defense, which played efficiently much of the game after Dallas' early touchdown, didn't allow a point the rest of the half, and the Colts cut the deficit to 10 points with an extended drive early in the second quarter.
Taking possession at their 14, the Colts drove 86 yards on 15 plays, with Manning capping a drive that consumed 8:15 with a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. A third-year veteran, Garcon caught five passes for 42 yards on the drive and also had an 11-yard run.
The Colts trimmed the lead to three points on the first drive of the third quarter, with Wayne catching a 34-yard touchdown pass from Manning, but Dallas inched the lead back to six when Buehler connected on a 46-yard field goal.
A 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by Lee made it 27-14.
While there was disappointment throughout the locker room after the ensuing rally resulted in fourth loss in five games, the talk remained, too, on the goals at hand.
The Colts visit Tennessee in four days, and a victory in that game would set up a critical game against Jacksonville in two weeks, and Colts players said that's the reality, that even though the circumstances are real and unusually difficult, all is very much not lost.
"Our backs are on the wall," Colts defensive tackle Dan Muir said. "What it's going to do is show everybody what kind of men we've got in our locker room. I can guarantee you this: We are not going to give up. We are going to continue to fight, and we are going to fight because that's what we do."
Said Mathis, "We're going to respond, we've got to respond, and we will respond. Just come back, bring your lunch pail, go to work, punch the clock. Let's go."