OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts took until midway through the fourth quarter before putting together their first touchdown drive of the game. Because they got that score, they won’t have another meaningful drive for four more weeks.
Manning threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez with 4:49 remaining for the Colts’ first offensive touchdown of the game, and Indianapolis rallied to beat the Oakland Raiders 21-14 Sunday and clinch a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.
“It’s one of those drives that you just do at the right time,” Manning said. “Part of it kind of makes you wish we could have done that earlier in the game and not have to rely on that, but it’s always nice to know that you’re capable of doing it—starting on our own 9, backed up, and a hostile crowd. It feels good to be able to get that touchdown.”
The win clinched Indianapolis’ fifth straight AFC South title, made the Colts (12-2) the first team ever to post five straight 12-win seasons and gave them the No. 2 seed in the playoffs because Pittsburgh lost 29-22 to Jacksonville earlier in the day.
Now the defending Super Bowl champions can take it easy for the final two weeks of the regular season and get a week off before opening the playoffs at home.
“Everybody was shooting for us,” coach Tony Dungy said. “People talk about the post-Super Bowl letdown and everything like that. We haven’t experienced that. Our guys have fought and worked and played as a unit, and today we got a lot of contributions from a lot of people. It’s really been gratifying the way we had to do it.”
The Colts trailed 14-13 after Justin Fargas’ 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter. But Manning completed all seven passes on the ensuing drive, including a key third-down conversion to Reggie Wayne, to drive Indianapolis 91 yards for the go-ahead score. Joseph Addai ran in the 2-point conversion to make it a seven-point game.
Kelvin Hayden broke up a fourth-down pass to Jerry Porter from the Indianapolis 16 with 1:50 remaining and the Colts ran out the clock to win it. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin thought Porter was interfered with on that play and an earlier one on the drive.
But the Raiders (4-10) didn’t get the calls and are now assured of their fifth straight double-digit loss season.
“We’re too far along to feel good because we played the world champs down on the 14-yard line to win the game,” Kiffin said. “Who cares? We lost. We got to start winning these games. Some day we’ll be that team that makes the plays and finishes people off like that.”
The Raiders held the high-powered Colts offense in check most of the game as Indianapolis’ first 13 points came on T.J. Rushing’s 90-yard punt return in the first quarter and two field goals by Adam Vinatieri.
Addai was held to 44 yards on 15 carries by the league’s second-worst rush defense, and Manning was just 15-for-31 until the go-ahead drive.
But Manning was sharp when it counted, finishing 22-for-39 for 276 yards and the touchdown on the perfectly thrown pass to Gonzalez’s back shoulder.
“Play after play after play they were just making plays,” Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. “We just couldn’t get one. We couldn’t get them in a situation where we had them and needed to make a play and got it done.”
Fargas had 26 carries for 89 yards, giving him 1,009 for the season, but left in the fourth quarter with what he described as a sprained MCL in his right knee. Josh McCown finished 13-for-24 for 94 yards and a touchdown for Oakland, sitting out three series in the third quarter to allow No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell to play.
Russell, making his second cameo appearance of the season, couldn’t generate a single first down on his three drives. Chris McFoy dropped a third-down pass on the first drive, Russell threw an incompletion to Porter to end the next drive and Fargas only gained 1 yard on third-and-2 to end the third drive. Russell finished 2-for-5 for 10 yards.
Leading 10-0, Indianapolis looked poised to break the game open when Manning appeared to score on a 5-yard scramble on the next drive.
McCown then engineered a 20-play, 99-yard drive that burned 11:49 off the clock. McCown converted a fourth-and-inches sneak, and connected with Porter for 8 yards on third-and-5 before hitting Ronald Curry for a 3-yard score that made it 10-7.
Howard intercepted his sixth pass of the season, the most for a LB since Baltimore’s Ray Lewis had six in 2003. … Manning has 3,426 completions, passing Joe Montana (3,409) for eighth place all-time.