Colts rally to run record to 11-0
November 30, 2009
HOUSTON – The Indianapolis Colts have the formula for comebacks down pat. They sure know how to win divisions, too.
Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Colts rallied for a 35-27 win over Houston on Sunday, Indy’s 20th consecutive regular-season victory. When Jacksonville lost to San Francisco later in the day, the Colts clinched their sixth AFC South title in seven years.
Indianapolis (11-0) is one win shy of the New England Patriots’ NFL-record 21-game run from 2006-08. The Colts can tie the record if they beat Tennessee next weekend.
“One thing we’ve done a good job of all year is controlling what we can control and taking one game at a time,” Manning said. “Our team is taking that approach seriously. We handle each week, one at a time.”
The Texans (5-6) followed a familiar template, too – blowing a 17-point lead to the Colts at Reliant Stadium.
Last season, Houston led Indianapolis 27-10 before two fumbles by Sage Rosenfels helped the Colts to a 31-27 victory.
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Mistakes by the quarterback cost the Texans again a year later.
Houston scored the first 17 points of the game, led 20-7 at halftime and trailed only 21-20 when Clint Session intercepted Matt Schaub’s pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown with 8:09 left.
Schaub fumbled on Houston’s next possession, setting up Chad Simpson’s 23-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach for the Texans.
The Colts rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit for the fifth straight game and came back from 17 points down to win for the second time in three games. They trailed New England 31-14 before pulling out an improbable 35-34 victory Nov. 15.
“We were going to have some storms,” receiver Reggie Wayne said. “You’ve just got to fight through that adversity and just keep playing. That’s been out there for the last five weeks. I’m sure everybody in this locker room would want it a little easier. But these are the cards we were dealt. We just played our hand.”
The Texans have lost three straight games, two of them to the Colts. Houston slipped to 1-15 against Indianapolis all-time.
“I don’t think it’s difficult to stay positive,” receiver Andre Johnson said. “When you play a football game, win or lose, you have to forget about it and move on because you have another opponent the next week, and that’s all we can do. We can’t sit here and keep talking about it after the game is over with. There is nothing we can do.”
The Texans played a near-perfect first half to build a 20-7 lead. Houston’s offense scored on all four first-half possessions, and the defense intercepted Manning twice and limited the Colts to 22 offensive snaps.
Schaub went 6 for 6 on Houston’s impressive opening series, finishing with a rollout to his left and a short TD pass to Vonta Leach. The Texans scored on their first possession for the first time this season.
After Chris Brown finished Houston’s second drive with a 5-yard touchdown run, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing intercepted a pass by Manning, who was under pressure from defensive end Antonio Smith.
Johnson dropped a pass from Schaub in the end zone, and Houston settled for Kris Brown’s 35-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
“We were just executing, moving the chains and taking what they gave us,” Schaub said of the fast start. “We weren’t trying to force things and we were able to move it down the field and score.”
The Colts got help from a roughing-the-passer penalty on Smith on their ensuing possession, and Manning threw a 9-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon.
Brown tacked on a 33-yard field goal with 1:05 left in the half.
Wayne said no player raised his voice in the Colts’ locker room at halftime.
“It just goes to show the kind of bond we have, where we just stick in there and not panic and just keep playing,” he said. “Just like the last four weeks, we went down and nobody was pointing fingers, nobody was panicking about what was going on. We just continued to fight, continued to play our football and it all worked out.”
Houston cornerback Jacques Reeves was flagged for pass interference on Indianapolis’ first series of the second half, setting up the Colts at the Texans 19. Manning found Wayne in the corner of the end zone to cut Houston’s lead to 20-14.
The Texans mustered only 31 yards in the third quarter and Session made the game-changing interception midway through the fourth.
“It’s just football. How bad do you want it?” Session said. “They came out. They wanted it bad. We wanted it more. That’s a good team over there, but we’re the Colts. We do things the right way and we try to get every win we can get.”