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November 17, 2009

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Colts extend run as Pats gamble fails

THE Indianapolis Colts capitalized on a failed gamble by the New England Patriots to retain their unbeaten record with a stunning 35-34 comeback victory in the dying seconds on Sunday.

Clinging to a 34-28 lead with the ball on their own 28 and just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Patriots coach Bill Belichick opted for a fourth-down play instead of a punt but came up short, turning the ball over to the Colts.

Peyton Manning made the Patriots pay for their miscalculation by firing his fourth touchdown pass of the game, hitting Reggie Wayne with a one-yard strike to clinch an improbable win and send a record crowd at the Lucas Oil Stadium into a frenzy.

"I thought we could win the game, I thought we could get that yard, that's why I made the call," Belichick told reporters. "We had a good play, if we had made it we win.

"We did a lot of things well and in the end just came up a little short, by a few inches or whatever it was."

It was the 18th straight regular season win for the Colts (9-0), who remain on course for the Patriots record of 21 consecutive victories as well as joining New England as the only teams to complete a 16-game regular season unbeaten.

The Patriots spectacular fourth quarter collapse took the shine off a brilliant performance from New England quarterback Tom Brady, who completed 29-of-42 attempts for 375 yards and three touchdowns.

The game produced the type of offensive fireworks expected from a pair of quarterbacks that have spent their careers at the helm of the NFL's most dominant franchises and walked away with the most valuable player honors the last two seasons.

The teams combined for nearly 900 yards in offense in a riveting battle that delivered on all the hype.

"It's a great win but it is just one win," Manning said. "But it certainly does tell us a lot about our team.

"Certainly it was as much adversity as we've faced all year. It was so back and forth. We knew it was going to be a 60 minute game."

Played out in front of a charged atmosphere generated by a Colts record crowd of 67,476, the fans sensed they were in for a treat as the dominant teams of the last decade prepared to go toe-to-toe.

The Colts drew first blood, Manning engineering an eight-play, 90-yard scoring drive capped off by a 15-yard touchdown strike to Joseph Addai. However, the Patriots dominated the rest of the opening half, scoring on their next four possessions as Brady tossed for 237 yards, including scoring passes to Julian Edelman and favorite target Randy Moss, who finished with nine catches for 179 yards.

Laurence Maroney piled over from the one for another touchdown and Stephen Gostkowski booted a 31-yard field goal to put the visitors up 24-7 halfway through the second quarter, silencing the capacity crowd.

But Manning refused to be overshadowed by Brady and got the crowd back on its feet by rifling a 20-yard laser to Wayne for his second touchdown of the half in trimming New England's advantage to 10 points.

In other NFL action on Sunday, it was: Bengals 18, Steelers 12; Dolphins 25, Bucs 23; Saints 28, Rams 23; Panthers 28, Falcons 19; Vikings 27, Lions 10; Redskins 27, Broncos 17; Titans 41, Bills 17; Jaguars 24, Jets 22; Chargers 31, Eagles 23; Chiefs 16, Raiders 10; Cardinals 31, Seahawks 20; and Packers 17, Cowboys 7.


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