The Indianapolis Colts roared back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Houston Texans 35-27 on Sunday - the fifth game in a row they have won after being behind going into the fourth quarter. With it they kept their unbeaten record intact, set one NFL record, closed in on another and won the AFC South.
Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns as the Colts (11-0) won their 20th consecutive regular season game to move within one victory of tying the record by the New England Patriots (2006-08). They also became the first NFL team to win 11 games in seven consecutive seasons. Houston (5-6) dominated the first half as Manning was intercepted twice, but Indianapolis put together 28 consecutive points against the error-prone Texans after the interval.
"They literally owned that first half," the Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "Our guys showed a lot of heart and came back in the second half." The victory, coupled with the Jacksonville Jaguars' 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, enabled the Colts to claim their sixth AFC South title in seven years and become the first team to earn a play-off spot "Most of our mistakes offensively [in the first half] were self inflicted," said Manning. "Once we stopped making those mistakes and started executing, we started scoring some points.
"You don't like spotting a team 17 points and trying to test your character every single Sunday. But we have been there before, so we do know how to fight ourselves out of the hole. There is no panic." The win was the Colts' 15th in 16 games against the Texans, who lost their third in a row. The defending Super Bowl champions are in a fight to even make the play-offs after the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) 20-17 in overtime.
The Ravens' Billy Cundiff kicked the winning field goal after Paul Kruge intercepted a pass from Dennis Dixon, who was playing in place of the Steelers' injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "It was a situation where they were disguising the blitz throughout the whole game. We saw it. I basically tried to trust my instincts. The guy made a good play," said Dixon, who started because Roethlisberger was sidelined with a concussion and the No 1 back-up Charlie Batch has a broken left wrist.
He completed 12 of 26 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown, but it was the interception that proved crucial. "We will not go gently," the Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We will unleash hell here in December because we have to. We won't go into a shell. We'll go into attack mode." The Minnesota Vikings improved to 10-1 with an easy 36-10 win over the Chicago Bears (4-7), their NFC North rivals.
Brett Favre threw for 392 yards with three touchdowns, while running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Percy Harvin combined for 130 yards on the ground. "It's not like I wake up in the morning and don't have any aches and pains, because I do," said Favre, 40, who matched the former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall for the NFL non-kicker record of 282 straight games played. "I'm sure when it's all said and done, I'm going to be like, 'What did I do all this for?' But my arm feels great."
The Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) widened their lead in the AFC North with a 16-7 win over the Cleveland Browns (1-10). The running back Larry Johnson, who joined the Bengals last month after being released by the Kansas City Chiefs after a suspension, ran for 107 yards. "I'm just glad they trust me to go in there, especially with the division and the play-offs on the line. I just came here for a second chance," he said.
The Chiefs (3-8), meanwhile, were thrashed 44-13 by the San Diego Chargers (8-3). Philip Rivers threw three TDs, including two to Antonio Gates, while LaDainian Tomlinson ran in two more for the Chargers, who have won six in a row. "I think we are a pretty good team," Tomlinson said. "I think we can challenge any team and beat any team. I think it shows what kind of a team we really are when we come play like this against a team we are supposed to beat."
The Washington Redskins (3-8) came tantalisingly close to upsetting Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) before the Eagles scored 10 straight points in the fourth quarter to record a 27-24 victory. David Akers kicked the winning field goal from 32 yards with less than two minutes left. "It's definitely frustrating in a lot of ways, just the way we lose," said the Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.
"To see all the guys give a great effort, all the guys out there fighting, a lot of teams would have packed it in. But these guys fight to the end. There's no giving up." The Tennessee Titans (5-6) beat the Arizona Cardinals (7-4) 20-17 with the final play of the game as Vince Young threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt, while Chris Redman threw a five-yard TD to Roddy White with 23 seconds remaining to give the Atlanta Falcons (6-5) a 20-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-10).
* With agencies