INDIANAPOLIS — New England seemed to have every advantage against Indianapolis on Sunday. It ran nearly twice as many plays, held a decisive edge in time of possession and did everything right--except put the Colts away.
Somehow, Indianapolis stopped the Patriots' ball-control offense just long enough to rally for a 30-23 victory.
"I haven't been around many like that, to be honest, and I've been around a long time," Colt Coach Jim Mora said. "That was a special comeback, because we struggled all day on defense. We didn't stop them most of the game. They basically had free will."
The Colts (5-2) returned to the RCA Dome for the first time in nearly a month with a defense that appeared susceptible and an offense that barely played. Yet Indianapolis managed to put it together just when it had to.
The Colts forced punts on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, and each time they pounced on the Patriots.
After the first punt, Indianapolis marched 65 yards in eight plays, with Peyton Manning throwing a one-yard touchdown pass to Edgerrin James, bringing the Colts within 23-21 with 6:16 left.
Indianapolis then forced another punt, and on its next series, relied on James, who rushed for 58 yards, including a three-yard touchdown that gave the Colts a 27-23 lead. James finished with 124 yards rushing on 20 carries.
"We were confident the whole game. But they kept working it, working it, working it, and they finally got us. Edgerrin James got us," Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We were unable to stop him."
Until then, however, New England dominated.
The Patriots scored on all three first-half possessions and their first three second-half possessions.
J.R. Redmond, making his first start, ran for more yardage in the first half, 76, than he had all season, 64. He finished with 97 yards in 22 carries.
There were problems, though.
After Redmond's 19-yard touchdown catch on the Patriots' first series, New England settled for short field goals on their next three scoring drives, all of which consumed at least 10 plays.
Despite running 44 of the first 56 offensive plays, the Patriots only led 13-7.
"We made a lot of plays to put ourselves in position," Patriot Coach Bill Belichick said. "It's obviously disappointing when you don't convert more of those opportunities."