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(Sunday, November 21st)
Final Score: New England 31, Indianapolis 28
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Peyton Manning and the Colts were in Patriots territory in the final minute, threatening to pull out another comeback after another late rally.
History seemed sure to repeat itself, but James Sanders pulled down Manning's third interception of the game to seal the New England Patriots' 31-28 victory over Indianapolis.
Tom Brady completed 19-of-25 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots (8-2), who kept pace with the Jets atop the AFC East. New York pulled out a win over Houston earlier Sunday.
Brady also won his 25th consecutive regular season home game as the starter, equaling the NFL record set by Brett Favre from 1995-98.
"It was great," Brady said. "It would have been a lot sweeter if we had done something there in the fourth quarter to help our defense. But you play these guys, you knew it was going to come down to the end, as always."
In last season's matchup between the AFC powerhouses, Manning led the Colts to two late scores, including the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, in a 35-34 victory.
But he couldn't replicate the feat Sunday, despite throwing for 396 yards and four scores on 38-of-52 efficiency. The Colts (6-4) fell into a tie with Jacksonville at the top of the AFC South, as the Jaguars beat Cleveland.
Indianapolis won last season's matchup after the Patriots failed to convert a fourth down in their own territory and Indianapolis got the ball back with 2:08 on the clock.
Sunday, Manning threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Blair White to make a comeback possible. The Colts defense then forced a punt to give Manning and the offense the ball at the Indianapolis 26 with 2:25 to play.
The Colts needed only a field goal to force overtime and still had all three timeouts, spending their first with 57 seconds left and the ball at the New England 39.
Manning then found Wayne for a 15-yard gain, making another win almost imminent. But on the following play, Manning threw an inaccurate pass to the right side that the safety Sanders caught as he fell backward, preventing the Patriots' first regular season home loss since November 30, 2008, against Pittsburgh.
"I'm just sick about not extending the game, there's just no excuse," Manning said. "Just not to extend the game, give Adam Vinatieri a chance for the field goal. Certainly we were going for the win, had some time, had some timeouts. Felt like we had a good play called, just a poor throw."
New England was coming off a 39-26 victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and maintained that form early on.
Brandon Meriweather intercepted Manning on the game's opening drive and returned the ball 39 yards to the Indianapolis 32.
It took New England only four plays to score. After a one-yard Sammy Morris run gave the Patriots a first down at the 22, Brady fired a high pass over the middle for Wes Welker, who had found a seam above linebacker Pat Angerer and jumped to make the catch. Welker turned toward the end zone and bulled over defensive back Antoine Bethea to get across the goal line.
The Patriots got the ball back with six minutes left in the quarter and put together a drive that lasted 15 plays and stretched into the second period. A fumble on 2nd-and-goal from the three nearly spoiled the drive, but Welker recovered at the eight.
On the next play, Brady threw a sharp pass over the middle for tight end Aaron Hernandez, who made the catch in front of Bethea before stretching across the goal line.
The score made it a 14-0 game not two minutes into the quarter, but the Colts responded with a touchdown to stay close. Manning capped an 11-play, 69-yard drive with a one-yard screen pass to tight end Gijon Robinson.
On New England's next drive, BenJarvus Green-Ellis found a hole up the middle and ran into the end zone from five yards out.
But the Colts posted one more score before the half was through. Indianapolis advanced from its own 15 to the New England 11 before Manning found Wayne for a touchdown. Manning placed the pass perfectly for Wayne to make the catch in the left side of the end zone with four seconds on the clock, making it a 21-14 game at halftime.
New England restored a two-touchdown lead on its second drive after the break, on a 36-yard touchdown run by Danny Woodhead. He found no space at the line and instead shifted to his right into open space, continuing to make shifts to his right until he got into the end zone for a 28-14 lead.
Devin McCourty intercepted Manning on the second play of the ensuing Colts drive, leading to Shayne Graham's 25-yard field goal 4 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter.
That's when the Colts started to rally in earnest. With Indianapolis running its no-huddle offense, Donald Brown ran for 36 yards to the New England 20, and three plays later Manning found White for a five-yard score. White was wide open and reeled in the ball with his right hand in the middle of the end zone.
The Indianapolis defense forced the Patriots into their only three-and-out of the game, giving the offense the ball back with seven minutes left.
The Colts faced only one third down, which Manning converted with a 17-yard pass to Pierre Garcon. New England linebacker Tully Banta-Cain earned an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play, moving the ball to the Patriots 18.
On the next play, Manning found White again, this time on a slant from the left side. Manning's sharp throw sliced through the defense, and White caught the ball as he dove in the end zone, getting the Colts within 31-28 with 4:46 remaining.
The Patriots snapped a two-game losing streak to the Colts...Brady's two touchdown passes moved him into a tie with John Hadl for 15th place in NFL history with 244...Green-Ellis totaled 96 yards on 21 carries, while Woodhead ran for 69 yards on seven touches...Brown led the Colts with 68 yards rushing...Wayne finished with eight catches for 107 yards to lead all receivers...Colts wide receiver Austin Collie was back on the field after suffering a concussion last week against Cincinnati. He caught five passes for 60 yards, but appeared to aggravate the injury in the second quarter.
11/21 21:54:29 ET
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