Colts Rally from 17-Point Deficit for Fifth Victory over New England in Last Six Meetings
INDIANAPOLIS – Amid the drama, Reggie Wayne said it came down to something simple.
Wayne, the Colts' three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, has been there before, as have many of his teammates: a high-profile rivalry game, a large deficit, an expiring clock. They faced that situation again Sunday night, trailing the New England Patriots by six points late in a breathless, back-and-forth nationally-televised game.
Then, what Wayne said needed to happen happened.
"We got a break," Wayne said.
The break was a late fourth-down stop. The Colts took advantage and when quarterback Peyton Manning threw to a diving Wayne for a one-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining the Colts (9-0) had another dramatic, memorable, come-from-behind victory – this one 35-34 over New England (6-3) in front of a franchise-record home crowd of 67,476 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"This team here just never quits – we stayed into it," said Wayne, who caught 10 passes for 126 yards and touchdowns as the Colts rallied from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to remain unbeaten.
"We're resilient," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "It starts at the top. It started with [former Colts Head Coach Tony] Dungy, and now with [Head] Coach [Jim] Caldwell, it's contagious."
The Colts, after trailing 24-14 at halftime and at the end of the third quarter, fell behind 31-14 and 34-21 in the fourth quarter.
But the Colts scored twice in the game's final 2:23.
"They certainly had us on the ropes there for a while, but our guys hung in there and didn't give up – it was just a great effort and certainly a great ballgame," Caldwell said.
"I don't think they could ever say it was in the bag, even at 31-14," said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who completed 28 of 44 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. "We kept scoring and making them have to make plays. . . .
"Certainly, a great team comeback win. Everyone had to do their part."
The victory is the fifth for the Colts over New England in the last six meetings. They beat the Patriots in the 2005, 2006 and 2008 regular seasons and the AFC Championship Game following the 2006 season, the latter of which many Colts players said was similar to last night's game.
The Colts rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat New England in that game.
Sunday's victory was the third time in franchise history the Colts had rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. They rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Tampa Bay in 2003 from a 17-point deficit to win in Houston last season.
"I knew this was going to be a good one, but I think this might be an instant classic," Colts rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers said.
The game was memorable throughout, but turned on several plays late.
The Colts, one series after a 36-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski gave New England a 13-point lead, moved 79 yards in 1:49 to again make it a one-score game, doing so when running back Joseph Addai scored on a 4-yard run to make it 34-21, Patriots, with 2:23 remaining.
Fifteen seconds later, New England faced 4th-and-2 at the Colts 28.
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick at first sent the punting team onto the field, then called timeout and sent the offense onto the field Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who completed 29 of 42 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns passed one yard to Kevin Faulk.
Colts safety Melvin Bullitt stopped Faulk a yard short with 2:00 remaining.
"Everybody in the building was [surprised]," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "But obviously, they have confidence in their offense. We had to come back on the field and make a play. We were able to do that."
The Colts then drove 29 yards in 1:47, with Manning throwing a slant to Wayne on 2nd-and-goal from the Patriots 1.
"Reggie called the last play," Manning said. "We threw a fade route to him earlier and they defended it well. It's hard for me to say it was his best catch ever because he has made so many, but it was timely."
"It was another one of those nail-biting games with the New England Patriots," Wayne said. "We were lucky enough to come out on top."
The Colts, who remained one of two unbeaten NFL teams along with New Orleans, extended their franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 18 games. They are tied with New England (2003-04) for the second-longest such streak in NFL history.
The Patriots also hold the NFL record with 21 consecutive regular-season victories from 2006-08.
The Colts, who won five consecutive AFC South titles from 2003-07 before making the postseason as a wild-card entrant, remained four games ahead of Houston (5-4) and Jacksonville (5-4) in the division. Houston was idle Sunday and Jacksonville beat the New York Jets, 24-22.
The Colts remained two games ahead of Cincinnati (7-2) in the AFC.
After neither team moved on its first drive, the Colts took a 7-0 lead when Manning threw a screen pass to Addai.
Addai, who threw a touchdown two weeks ago against San Francisco and caught and ran for touchdowns last week against Houston, turned the play into a 15-yard touchdown and an early Colts lead. Addai left with a finger injury after the drive, and returned at the start of the second half.
The Patriots then scored the next 24 points to take control.
New England tied it on the ensuing series, with the key play being a 55-yard, play-action bomb from Brady to wide receiver Randy Moss that gave the Patriots 1st-and-goal at the Colts 6. Running back Laurence Maroney's 1-yard run two plays later made it, 7-7.
The Colts managed just one first down on the ensuing possession, and a timely sack by Colts defensive end Robert Mathis kept the Patriots from taking a touchdown lead on New England's next series. The Patriots drove from their 29 to the Colts 13, but on 3rd-and-4, Mathis and defensive end Dwight Freeney pressured Brady.
Mathis sacked him for a nine-yard loss, and Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal gave New England its first lead, 10-7.
On the Patriots' next series, Moss outfought Colts safety Antoine Bethea for a long pass from Brady, then ran the final 10 yards for a 63-yard touchdown to give New England a 17-7 lead. The Patriots continued to stuff the Colts' offense on the next series, then drove 57 yards on five plays to push the lead to 17.
Brady threw his second touchdown pass of the game to cap the series – a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman on which Brady avoided good pressure by Mathis.
The Colts put together a clutch drive on the ensuing series, trimming the lead to 10 points with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Each team intercepted the other on the first drives of the third quarter, but New England turned in a time-consuming drive late in the quarter with a chance to pull away. Maroney fumbled into the end zone and middle linebacker Gary Brackett recovered to keep the Colts within 10. Second-year linebacker Philip Wheeler caused the fumble.
The Colts stayed within range early in the fourth quarter, with Brady throwing a five-yard touchdown to Moss early in the quarter, but Manning finishing the next drive with his third touchdown pass of the game, a 29-yard pump-and-go to Pierre Garcon. That made it 31-21 with 12:14 remaining.
"It was a good battle, a great battle," Bethea said. "It just shows what kind of team we have. There was no bickering on the sidelines. We hung in there together. We stuck in there. We were a team. We can build off this."