The Indianapolis Colts have perfected the art of the comeback in their undefeated march through the season.
Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes Sunday and the Colts rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit for a 35-27 win at Houston, their 20th straight regular-season victory and their fifth straight come-from-behind win.
Indianapolis (11-0) clinched the American Football Conference South title when Jacksonville lost to San Francisco later Sunday.
”We don’t get overexcited certainly when things aren’t going the way we want them to,” Manning said. ”We don’t panic, we don’t yell, we don’t throw helmets. We just try to put the series behind us and move on to the next one.”
The Colts need one victory to tie the New England Patriots’ record 21-game run from 2006 to 2008. They play Tennessee at home next week.
Manning threw two first-half interceptions but had two second-half touchdown passes, including a 4-yarder to Dallas Clark that gave the Colts a 21-20 lead with about nine minutes left.
Clint Session stretched the lead to 28-20 seconds later when he returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown. Houston (5-6) fell to 1-15 over all against Indianapolis.
”That’s a good team over there,” Session said of the Texans, ”but we’re the Colts.”
Matt Schaub fumbled on Houston’s next possession and Chad Simpson’s touchdown run put the game out of reach.
”If you doubt, you’re done,” Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said. ”It’s just like showing a bad poker face. If they see that, you’re in trouble.”
The Bengals (8-3) beat the visiting Browns, 16-7, to complete an unbeaten run through the A.F.C. North. Determined to run against Cleveland (1-10), Cincinnati gave the ball 22 times to Larry Johnson, who joined the team two weeks ago and acknowledged he was still learning the playbook. He finished with 107 yards. ”I’m just glad they trust me to go in there, especially with the division and the playoffs on the line,” Johnson said. Cedric Benson missed his second straight game with a sprained hip.
Better Late Than Never
Vince Young hit a leaping Kenny Britt for a 10-yard touchdown as time expired, and the host Titans rallied to beat the Cardinals, 20-17. ”Once you see Vince scramble around, you never know if he’s going to run it or throw it,” Britt said. ”You just have to stay alive.” The Titans (5-6) have not lost since Young replaced Kerry Collins as the starter, and they are the first team to win five in a row after starting 0-6. Young drove the Titans 99 yards in the final 2 minutes 37 seconds. He converted three fourth downs on the drive, two with passes to Britt, and threw for a career-high 387 yards. Arizona is 7-4.
A fiery pep talk from Donovan McNabb and a 32-yard field goal by David Akers rallied the Eagles to a 27-24 home victory over the Redskins. A week after leading the Eagles (7-4) to their first fourth-quarter comeback since 2007, McNabb challenged his teammates to repeat the performance when they fell behind, 24-16, against the Redskins (3-8). ”He was into it,” Coach Andy Reid said. ”He said, ‘Hey, we’re scoring.’ ” McNabb drove the offense 90 yards for a touchdown and a 2-point conversion with 7:27 left and, after forcing a punt, moved the Eagles 66 yards to set up the winning kick.
A long field goal by Rian Lindell and a long touchdown by Terrell Owens propelled the Bills to a 31-14 victory over the visiting Dolphins. Lindell’s career-best 56-yard field goal with 3:35 left put the Bills (4-7) ahead for the first time, at 17-14. Only 72 seconds later, Ryan Fitzpatrick teamed up with Owens on a 51-yard scoring play. Ricky Williams had 115 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Dolphins (5-6), but Chad Henne threw interceptions on their final three possessions.
Chris Redman threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White on fourth down with 23 seconds remaining, and the Falcons may have saved their season with a 20-17 victory over the visiting Buccaneers (1-10). Will it last? That depends on how long quarterback Matt Ryan (toe), running back Michael Turner (ankle) and the starting offensive linemen Harvey Dahl and Sam Baker are out. All left the game with injuries. The Falcons are 6-5.
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