HOUSTON | The Indianapolis Colts have perfected the art of the comeback in their undefeated march toward the playoffs.
Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns, and the Colts rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit Sunday for a 35-27 win, their 20th straight regular-season victory. Indianapolis (11-0) is one win shy of the New England Patriots’ NFL-record 21-game run from 2006 to 2008. The Colts can tie the record if they beat Tennessee at home next weekend.
The Colts improved to 15-1 against Houston (5-6) in their fifth straight come-from-behind win.
“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. There was a lot of that [Sunday].”
Manning threw two first-half interceptions but had a pair of second-half TD 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 when he returned an interception by Matt Schaub 26 yards for a touchdown seconds later.
“That’s a good team over there, but we’re the Colts,” Session said. “We do things the right way, and we try to get every win we can get.”
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,” Reggie Wayne said. “It’s just like showing a bad poker face. If they see that, you’re in trouble. Guys just stick with it. We knew the defense was going to pick it up. We know we have to take care of the offense and get some drives going.”
The Colts clinched the AFC South title when the Jaguars lost to the 49ers later Sunday.
Houston, which has lost three straight, faces long odds of making the playoffs. The Texans were all but unstoppable in the first half, scoring on their first four possessions. It was a different story after halftime, with the Texans unable to get anything going offensively until Schaub hit Jacoby Jones for a touchdown with 18 seconds remaining.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened to us,” Andre Johnson said. “It’s just real frustrating. I’m very upset with myself. It’s kind of sounding like a broken record. We’ve just got to find a way to play for four quarters.”
The Colts’ first lead came on Manning’s touchdown pass to Clark. In what was a theme Sunday, the drive was helped by a 17-yard pass interference penalty on Houston.
Matt Stover’s missed a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to keep Houston’s lead at 20-14.
In the third quarter, the Texans were called for pass interference on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, giving the Colts a first down at the 1. Wayne caught a touchdown pass three plays later to make it 20-14.
Houston’s Jacques Reeves got a 43-yard pass interference penalty on the third play of that drive.
“You can’t play a half against this football team,” Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “We knew coming out of halftime that this game was far from over. … [Manning] is great. He’s going to find a way to not get sacked, and he’s going to find a way to make plays, and that’s what he did.”
Manning finished 27-for-35 for 244 yards. Schaub was 31-for-42 for 284 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
The Colts’ first score came when Manning found Pierre Garcon for a 9-yard touchdown about six minutes before halftime. That drive was helped by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Antonio Smith for hitting Manning in the face mask.
Houston scored on its first possession for the first time this season when Schaub completed an 11-play, 79-yard drive with a 7-yard pass to Vonta Leach. The Texans marched downfield again on the next drive and went up 14-0 on a 5-yard run by Chris Brown.
Manning was under heavy pressure when he threw an interception to Brian Cushing early in the second quarter. The Texans got to the Indianapolis 12 before Kris Brown’s 35-yard field goal pushed the lead to 17-0. Brown also made a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter.
“We’ve been really, really good and then poor in some situations, so it’s my job to find some consistency,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.
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