I could not believe it when the Colts came back last night and won against the Patriots. As a matter of fact, I had stop watching the game because the Colts where getting beat so bad.
The largest home crowd in the Indianapolis Colts’ 57 seasons of NFL membership witnessed one of the club’s most improbable victories Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne had characterized as “the halfway Super Bowl” turned on a hair-brained decision.
New England coach Bill Belichick opted to go for a first down on fourth-and-2 from the Patriots 28-yard line with 2:08 to play. Three plays after Colts safety Melvin Bullitt hammered running back Kevin Faulk down after a 1-yard gain, Peyton Manning’s 1-yard pass to Wayne made the Colts 35-34 winners.
The crowd of 67,476 exploded. Colts ran frantically all over the field. Heads sagged on the New England sideline.
What was Belichick thinking?
“We thought we could win the game on that play,” Belichick said. “That was a yard I was confident we could get.”
The Patriots got Belichick’s yard, but needed 2.
So, with seven games to play, the Colts occupy the high ground. At 9-0, they lead the AFC South by four games over Houston and Jacksonville, both 5-4, and only Cincinnati (7-2) is within two games in the chase for the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
The Colts’ 18th consecutive regular-season victory matched the Patriots (2003-04) for the second longest streak in NFL history. New England holds the record, 21 straight, 2006-08.
The rivalry of the decade goes into the homestretch shoe-horn tight. The Colts are 110-43 since the start of the 2000 season. The Patriots are 108-45. Only San Francisco has won more games in a decade, 113 from 1990-99.
New England (6-3) lost for the first time in its past four games.
Patriots punter Chris Hanson netted an average of 44 yards on four punts. That net put would have left the Colts at their 28-yard line with one timeout and less that two minutes to play. Belichick sent his punt team onto the field, but after a timeout, called it back. The Patriots went for it.
Brady’s quick pass went to Faulk, who was tightly covered by Bullitt. The Colts had new life, and they capitalized when Wayne beat cornerback Jonathan Wilhite and Manning’s pass was on the mark.
“With New England, you kind of expect the unexpected,” said Manning, who completed 28-of-44 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions as the Colts overcame a 31-14 fourth-quarter deficit.
Wayne finished with 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots also were crippled by two end zone turnovers: safety Antoine Bethea’s interception and a fumble by running back Laurence Maroney that was caused by linebacker Philip Wheeler and recovered by linebacker Gary Brackett.
The big game was a glut of big plays, nearly all of them by New England during the early going.
Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss had four catches for 144 yards and a touchdown in the first 19 minutes. The Patriots scored 24 consecutive points to take a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
At that point, the Colts had yielded completions of 55, 20 and 63 yards to Moss and 36 yards to tight end Benjamin Watson. Faulk bolted 29 yards on a draw play.
The Colts cut it to 24-14 just before halftime on Manning’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Wayne, but Moss’ second touchdown, a 5-yard catch, made it 31-14 early in the fourth quarter.
The Colts came back with touchdowns on Manning’s 29-yard pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, Joseph Addai’s 4-yard run and the game-winner.
Brady hit 29-of-42 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Moss had nine catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
The Colts just kept digging.
“We just kept fighting. We just kept telling ourselves, ‘We can get back in this and make a run,’ ” Colts center Jeff Saturday said. “You look at the numbers for the whole game and they’re not that much apart. They just kept making some big plays.”
The Patriots and Colts have accounted for half of the past eight Super Bowl titles, New England winning in 2001, ’03 and ’04, the Colts in ’06. Each time the champion won the teams’ regular-season meeting.
It would be no surprise if the teams were to meet again.
The Colts’ win over New England was their 18th straight in the regular season, tying the Patriots for the second-longest streak in league history. The all-time mark also is held by the Patriots. A look: