Game-by-game look at Colts’ winning streak
A game-by-game look at the Indianapolis Colts’ record 23-game regular-season winning streak, which ended with Sunday’s 29-15 loss to the Jets:
INDIANAPOLIS – With Tom Brady out, Peyton Manning still trying to get in sync and the Colts off to an uncharacteristic 3-4 start, Indy desperately needed a win. Manning delivered by throwing for 254 yards and two TDs, and the Colts forced two turnovers. Kicker Adam Vinatieri, the ex-Patriot who is still the franchise’s career scoring leader, made a 52-yard field goal with 6:55 left to beat his former team. It was Vinatieri’s longest field goal since Nov. 10, 2002.
PITTSBURGH – Indy’s winning streak never would have started if the Colts hadn’t ended a 12-game losing streak, including the preseason, at Pittsburgh. Manning capitalized on Tim Jennings’ interception by throwing a 17-yard TD pass to Dominic Rhodes with 3:04 left. It was the only lead Indy had all day, and when Melvin Bullitt picked off Ben Roethlisberger’s throw in the end zone as time expired, the Colts had their first win in Pittsburgh since 1968.
INDIANAPOLIS – The masterful Manning was at his efficient best. Indy scored on five consecutive possessions, wiping out Houston’s early 13-6 lead and adding to the Texans’ frustration in this series. Manning took the Colts on drives of 66, 81, 80, 73 and 69 yards, rekindling memories of Indianapolis’ 17-point comeback at Houston a month earlier. And Houston wasted a team-record 156-yard rushing day from Steve Slaton. For the second straight week, Bullitt sealed it with a late interception.
SAN DIEGO – After losing Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday on the third series of the game, Manning and Vinatieri lifted the Colts again. One year after throwing six interceptions in San Diego, Manning helped the Colts score 17 straight points to take a 20-10 lead. But the Colts needed another long field, 51 yards from Vinatieri as time expired, to win No. 4.
CLEVELAND – For only the 10th time in 172 starts, Manning threw for less than 150 yards and had no touchdowns. So the defense saved the day. Robert Mathis scooped up a fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 5:15 left, giving the Colts their fifth straight victory and keeping them in the wild-card hunt. Indy extended its November winning streak to seven, dating to 2007, and won the five games by a combined total of 20 points.
INDIANAPOLIS – New month, new script. Kelvin Hayden picked off two Bengals passes, returning one for a TD and setting up another TD as the Colts produced their most lopsided win of the season. Indy had five sacks and four takeaways, and Manning threw for three TDs, becoming the first player in league history to start his career with 11 straight 3,000-yard seasons. But Tennessee’s victory officially clinched the AFC South title, ending the Colts’ five-year reign atop the division.
INDIANAPOLIS – In a game that pitted the league’s hottest team against the NFL’s only winless team, this one almost got away. Daunte Culpepper and Calvin Johnson had a field day against the Colts, hooking up nine times for 110 yards and one TD and throwing a major scare into the Colts’ playoffs hopes. Manning responded by leading Indianapolis on drives of 88 and 67 yards to break a 21-21 tie in the fourth quarter. Rhodes scored on a 1-yard plunge and Vinatieri’s 31-yard field goal in the final minute kept The Streak alive.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On an emotional night in Jacksonville, Manning was back in his old form. He completed his first 17 passes, led the Colts on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, and Keiwan Ratliff returned an interception 35 yards with 4:48 left for the winning score. The Colts scored the final 17 points after trailing 24-14, ruining the excitement of Richard Collier’s appearance at the game. The Jaguars’ offensive lineman was paralyzed from the waist down in a September shooting.
INDIANAPOLIS – OK, maybe the least impressive of the bunch. With playoff spots already locked up and seeding locked in, both teams rested most of the starters. Indy played Manning just long enough to top 4,000 yards passing, Marvin Harrison hung around long enough to pass Cris Carter for second on the career receptions list, and Indianapolis produced its first shutout of the Manning era. It gave the Colts a sixth straight 12-win season, the NFL’s longest string. It also turned out to be the home finale for Harrison (released in February) and coach Tony Dungy (retired in January).
INDIANAPOLIS – After an eventful offseason, the Colts unveiled their new look: Jim Caldwell as coach, Reggie Wayne in Harrison’s old spot, and a revamped defense that now blitzed. Other things didn’t change. Longtime offensive coordinator Tom Moore and offensive line coach Howard Mudd were both back on the sideline after briefly retiring in May. On the field, the results looked familiar. Manning threw for 301 yards, Wayne caught 10 passes for 162 yards and Indy’s defense snuffed out Jacksonville’s last-minute chance to rally.
COLTS 27, DOLPHINS 23
MIAMI – Call it The Wild(cat) Game. Miami used its favorite formation to keep the ball for more than 45 minutes. Perfect ploy, right? Nope. Manning hooked up with Dallas Clark for an 80-yard TD to open the game, led the Colts to five scores in eight possessions, and rallied the Colts with a 48-yard TD pass to little-known Pierre Garcon in the fourth quarter. Indy had the lowest possession time of any winning team since 1977, when the stat was first kept, and Manning tied John Unitas’ franchise record for career wins (119).
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Billed as The Duel in the Desert between multiple MVP winners, Manning and Kurt Warner, the game turned into a lopsided contest. Manning topped 300 yards for the third straight game, threw four TD passes and the Cardinals’ offense got stuck in neutral. Indy rushed for 126 yards in Manning’s first career appearance in Arizona, where his brother, Eli, upset New England in the Super Bowl.
INDIANAPOLIS – Edgerrin James made his first return to Indianapolis since leaving as a free agent following the 2005 season. Things looked awfully familiar. Manning threw for 353 yards and two TDs, tying Fran Tarkenton for No. 3 on the career TD chart. Seattle scored two touchdowns late after trailing 34-3, but Caldwell joined Lindy Infante as the only coaches in franchise history to open 4-0.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Colts went to Tennessee trying to re-establish their dominance in the AFC South. They left with a host of records. Manning passed Tarkenton on the TD list, the Colts set a franchise record with 14 straight wins, and Manning’s fifth straight 300-yard game put him on the verge of matching that NFL record, too. Oh, by the way, Caldwell became the sixth rookie coach since the 1970 merger to start 5-0.
ST. LOUIS – No rust here. After a bye week, Indy built a 21-3 halftime lead, Manning threw three more TDs and passed Warren Moon for fourth on the career completions list. Cornerback Jacob Lacey scored his first career TD on an interception return. Indy became the 10th team in league history to win 16 in a row, but Manning’s streak of 300-yard games ended because the Colts ran the ball late rather than running up the numbers.
INDIANAPOLIS – Running back Joseph Addai threw a 22-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne on the first play of the fourth quarter, rallying the Colts from a 14-9 halftime deficit. It was Indy’s only touchdown of the game as it extended the NFL record of consecutive seasons with a seven-game winning streak to six. Caldwell became the first rookie coach in the Super Bowl era to start 7-0, and Dwight Freeney tied the franchise record with a sack in his eighth straight game.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indy maintained its dominance over Houston, taking control of the AFC South when Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the game. Indy jumped to a 13-0 lead, then watched Houston score 17 straight points. But for the second straight week, Manning answered with a fourth-quarter comeback, capped by Addai’s 2-yard run. Caldwell became the first rookie coach to start 8-0 since Potsy Clark in 1931 and Freeney recorded a sack in his ninth straight game, one short of the NFL record.
INDIANAPOLIS – The game will be remembered for Bill Belichick’s blunder on fourth-and-2 from his 28. But the Patriots failed to put the game away when it had chances. Twice, New England built 17-point leads, the last coming early in the fourth quarter. That’s when Manning again reverted to Captain Comeback. He took the Colts on two 79-yard TD drives in the fourth quarter, getting the Colts within 31-21 and then within 34-28. So when Belichick’s gamble failed, Manning calmly ran down the clock before throwing a 1-yard TD pass to Wayne for the winner. Brady had time for only one play after the score, and Belichick spent the next week explaining his decision. Win No. 18 tied the 2003-04 Pats for second-longest streak in league history.
BALTIMORE – The Colts went back to their old hometown with plenty on the line. Dallas Clark broke John Mackey’s franchise record for receptions by a tight end with a nifty one-handed TD grab. But the defense forced the Ravens to settle for field goals all day, something that eventually came back to haunt the Ravens almost as much as their offseason decision to let kicker Matt Stover go. Stover, replacing the injured Vinatieri, made a 25-yard field goal with 7:02 to go, giving Indy the lead and the game. Indy became the first team since 1950 to win four straight games with fourth-quarter comebacks.
HOUSTON – The Colts got off to another slow start in Houston, trailing 17-0 early in the second quarter before Manning rallied his team again. Indy scored 21 points in a span of about six minutes to turn the game. Manning started the flurry with a 4-yard TD pass to Clark, giving Indy its first lead, 21-20. Clint Session followed that with a 26-yard interception return and Chad Simpson sealed it with a TD run following Matt Schaub’s fumble, an eerie resemblance to the 2008 comeback in Houston. Indy’s 20th straight win overall, 12th straight in November, gave it the AFC South title for the sixth time in seven years. Only three other teams since 1990 clinched a division by Game 11. Manning also passed John Elway for third on the career completions list.
INDIANAPOLIS – Addai scored twice, Manning threw one TD pass, the defense kept Chris Johnson under 125 yards rushing and the Colts ended their string of fourth-quarter comebacks with a record-tying win over Tennessee. Not only did the Colts tie New England’s mark for consecutive regular-season wins (21), but they also equaled San Francisco’s record for most wins in a decade. The 49ers won 113 games during the 1990s. Manning extended his own NFL record of consecutive seasons with 25 or more TD passes to 12.
INDIANAPOLIS – In the strangest game during the streak, Manning threw four TDs and three interceptions, losing his touch for more than two quarters before finally sealing the win with a late drive. Manning led the Colts to scores on three of their first four drives, then went 6 of 20 with three picks over the next two-plus quarters. The defense held Denver’s running game in check. But Brandon Marshall set an NFL single-game record with 21 receptions – still not enough to derail the Colts. Indy also broke San Francisco’s record for most wins in a decade with 114 and clinched the AFC’s top playoff seed.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Manning threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns, ending the shootout with a 65-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne for the winner. It gave the Colts a seventh fourth-quarter comeback, the most in a season since the 1970 merger. The Colts and Jags traded the lead 10 times and Indy had only two first-half possessions, thanks in part to Jacksonville’s ball-control offense and Chad Simpson’s 93-yard kickoff return. Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis asked to play on the final series and forced a game-sealing interception. Manning extended his own NFL records for 4,000-yard seasons to 10, consecutive 4,000-yard seasons to six. Caldwell became the second rookie coach in a 16-game season to win 14 games, joining San Francisco’s George Seifert. Kicker Matt Stover became the fifth player in league history to top 2,000 points. Indy won its 11th straight road game, the third-longest mark in league history.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indy’s record streak ended when coach Jim Caldwell yanked Manning and three other key offensive starters with 5:36 left in the third quarter. At the time, the Colts had a 15-10 lead. But Manning’s replacement, Curtis Painter, fumbled on his second series and Jets defensive end Marques Douglas returned it 1 yard for the go-ahead score. The Jets sealed it with two fourth-quarter scores – Jay Feely’s 43-yard field goal and Thomas Jones’ 1-yard TD run. Brad Smith opened the second half with a 106-yard kickoff return, the longest in Jets history and tied for second-longest in league history. Manning became the fourth player in NFL history to top 50,000 yards passing. The Colts’ franchise record 13-game home winning streak also ended.