Bullitt's Late Interception Clinches Colts Victory . . . Again
INDIANAPOLIS – Melvin Bullitt is making this a habit.
It's a habit he and his Colts teammates and coaches are starting to like. A lot.
Bullitt, the Colts' second-year safety, turned in the Colts' lone takeaway in a crucial AFC South victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon, intercepting Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels with :32 remaining in a 33-27 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
It was Bullitt's team-high fifth interception of the season, but as imantly, his second game-clinching interception in as many weeks and third in 10 games this season.
"It's being in the right spot at the right time," said Bullitt, who started on Sunday in place of two-time Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders.
Bullitt, a free agent from Texas A&M, intercepted Rosenfels in Houston in Week 5 to clinch a come-from-behind, 31-27 victory at Reliant Stadium, and last week, with the Colts leading 24-20 on the game's final play, his one-handed, end-zone interception off a pass from Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger again secured the victory.
"We were mentioning that in there (the locker room)," Dungy said. "It's kind of (New York Yankees relief pitcher) Mariano Rivera. It's not often you get one to end a game in a season, but having three and three big ones when we needed them, that's great.
"Melvin's doing a good job. He's playing for Bob and making things happen and learning as he goes. He's getting better and better every week. I'm happy for him that he is making those big plays. I'm happy for us, too."
On Sunday, the Texans took possession at their 24 with 1:57 remaining following a field goal by Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. They drove to the Houston 48, and on 1st-and-10, Rosenfels threw deep to his right for tight end Owen Daniels. Bullitt cut toward the middle of the field from the sidelines, and sliding in front of Owens, snared the pass for the game-clinching interception.
"Any time the ball's in the air, everybody's like, 'I'm going to get the pick,''' Bullitt said. "That's what we did. We got another one and it just happened to be a game-ender."
LITTLE DOUBT: The Colts gained a key first down in the fourth quarter when Dungy challenged an official's spot after a reception by Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison on 3rd-and-9 from the Texans 34.
Officials initially placed the ball at the 17, short of the first down. After Dungy's challenged, officials re-spotted the ball at the 16 for a first down.
"We thought we were going to get it," Dungy said.
A PRODUCTIVE DAY: Harrison, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, had one of his better games of the season, catching a team-high nine passes for 77 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
"We watch Marvin practice, and if you watch the game, he's been behind the defense a lot," Dungy aid. "He's just been a little off. It's a matter of timing more than anything else. We had that pretty good timing today. Marvin's playing pretty well."
PRESSURE PACKED: Dwight Freeney's hot streak continued Sunday.
Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, last week registered two sacks in the Colts' 24-20 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, his first double-digit sack game since last season, before he sustained a season-ending foot injury in November.
On Sunday, Freeney's 6-yard sack of Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels stopped an early Houston drive and forced a field goal. He also had a sack on the Texans' final possession.
"That was a big play," Dungy said. "The sack ends up taking a lot of time, No. 1, and it put them in a long-yardage situation, so that did help."
Freeney now has four sacks in two games and a team-high seven sacks for the season.
Defensive end Robert Mathis, second on the Colts with five sacks, had a key pass breakup in the third quarter to force a Texans punt.
SANDERS INACTIVE: The injury issues in the Colts' secondary continue.
Bob Sanders, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety and the 2007 Associated Press National Football League Defensive Player of the Year, was among eight players declared inactive by the Colts shortly before kickoff of their game against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday.
Sanders missed practice Friday with a knee injury, according to the team's injury report.
"He had some swelling after practice Thursday or, really, Friday morning," Dungy said. "We felt like he was going to be fine. It's just one of those things – we'll have to investigate and keep working it. Hopefully, he'll be ready to play this week (against San Diego). If not, (safety) Melvin (Bullitt) will get a lot more work."
Starting cornerback Kelvin Hayden, out since Week 5 with a knee injury, also was declared inactive Sunday, and starting corner Marlin Jackson is out for the season on injured reserve.
The Colts' Sunday inactives were:
Sanders (knee), Hayden, linebacker Buster Davis, center Steve Justice, wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), Tom Santi (shoulder), defensive tackle Daniel Muir and defensive end Curtis Johnson.
BULLITT STARTS: With Sanders out, Melvin Bullitt – who started five games for Sanders earlier this season – will start at safety alongside 2007 Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea.
At cornerback, Tim Jennings and Keiwan Ratliff – who had started the previous two games – again will start.
GRAHAM INJURES ANKLE: Colts cornerback Nick Graham sustained an ankle injury in the first half and did not return. Dungy, who said X-rays were negative, said he knew of no other serious injuries for the Colts.
HOW THEY SCORED
TEXANS 06 07 07 07 – 27
COLTS 03 06 14 10 – 33
TEXANS 3, COLTS 0
Kris Brown 28 FG, 9:21 remaining first quarter. Drive: 10 plays, 70 yards, 5:39. Key play: Steve Slaton 26 run on 3rd-and-1 from Texans 29.
COLTS 3, TEXANS 3
Adam Vinatieri 40 FG, 5:39 remaining first quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 27 yards, 3:42. Key play: Chad Simpson 46 kickoff return gives Colts 1st-and-10 at Texans 49.
TEXANS 6, COLTS 3
Brown 34 FG, 2:48 remaining first quarter. Drive: Five plays, 56 yards, 2:41. Key play: Kevin Walter 61 pass from Sage Rosenfels on 1st-and-10 from Texans 28.
COLTS 6, TEXANS 6
Vinatieri 39 FG, 11:34 remaining second quarter. Drive: 14 plays, 53 yards, 6:24. Key play: Dallas Clark 10 pass from Peyton Manning on 3rd-and-10 from 50.
TEXANS 13, COLTS 6
Ahman Green 1 run (Brown kick), 2:51 remaining second quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 41 yards, 4:56. Key play: Jacoby Jones 39 punt return gives Texans 1st-and-10 at Colts 41.
TEXANS 13, COLTS 9
Vinatieri 32 FG, :05 remaining second quarter. Drive: Fourteen plays. 66 yards, 2:46. Key play: Dominic Rhodes 18 pass from Manning On 3rd-and-15 from Colts 31.
COLTS 16, TEXANS 13
Joseph Addai 23 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 11:08 remaining third quarter. Drive: 10 plays, 81 yards, 3:52. Key play: Marvin Harrison 12 pass from Manning on 1st-and-10 from 50.
TEXANS 20, COLTS 16
Steve Slaton 71 run (Brown kick), 9:30 remaining third quarter. Drive: Three plays, 79 yards, 1:38.
COLTS 23, TEXANS 20
Addai 7 run (Vinatieri kick), 6:14 remaining third quarter. Drive: Seven plays, 80 yards, 3:16. Key play: Gonzalez 28 pass from Manning on 1st-and-10 from Colts 20.
COLTS 30, TEXANS 20
Harrison 10 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 14:56 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 11 plays, 73 yards, 4:32. Key play: Addai 12 run on 3rd-and-3 from Texans 22.
COLTS 30, TEXANS 27
Ahman Green 2 run (Brown kick), 8:54 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 10 plays, 77 yards, 6:02. Key play: Andre Johnson 10 pass from Rosenfels on 2nd-and-2 from Texans 42.
COLTS 33, TEXANS 27
Vinatieri 31 FG, 1:52 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 16 plays, 69 yards, 7:02. Key play: Harrison 9 pass from Manning on 3rd-and-9 from Texans 25.