Colts become first team to post consecutive 9-0 startsNov 12, 2006 - 9:04 PM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts stand alone in NFL history. They needed an assist from the opposing kicker.
Rian Lindell missed a 41-yard field goal attempt with 6:22 left in the fourth quarter and the Colts consumed the rest of the clock and held on for a 17-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The lone unbeaten team left in the NFL, the Colts became the first team to start 9-0 in consecutive seasons. In 2005, they were 13-0 before losing here to San Diego.
"There are no easy games in this league," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "Every week is tough, so this (record) says a lot about our team. I wish we could have put it together a little bit better, but we got our ninth win."
The Bills (3-6) nearly prevented the Colts from making history. Lindell made field goals of 22, 43 and 30 yards, but was wide right on his potential game-winning attempt.
Before the miss, three-time Pro Bowl end Dwight Freeney sacked J.P. Losman for a six-yard loss. Freeney had just one-half sack in Indianapolis' first eight games.
"A very painful loss, to come in here and be that close and not to take it at the end," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "But the guys played awfully hard. We did not turn the ball over, and that's always huge. That gave us a chance to win in the end."
Cornerback Terrence McGee had a big game for Buffalo, returning a fumble by tight end Ben Utecht 68 yards for a touchdown with 31 seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 10-10. McGee also returned a kickoff 88 yards to set up a field goal by Lindell.
Jauron succeeded in devising a game plan that limited Manning's star receiver Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Wayne caught just four passes for 42 yards, although one went for a one-yard touchdown on a fade pattern in the corner of the end zone, and Harrison had only two receptions for 21 yards.
"We played close to the kind of game that we needed to play, I thought, to win it," Jauron said. "We just didn't play right up to where we needed to be in all areas."
Manning took what the defense gave him and repeatedly threw underneath, completing 27-of-39 passes for 236 yards. Utecht and rookie running back Joseph Addai each had seven catches.
Buffalo's plan to take the deep pass away also made it easier for the Colts to run the ball. Addai and Dominic Rhodes combined for 150 yards on 27 carries.
"We had to run at them and that's what we did," Addai said.
Addai scored on a five-yard run with 10:30 left in the third quarter to snap a 10-10 tie.
Buffalo's defensive strategy was complemented by an offensive game plan which focused on taking time off the clock by frequently running the ball. Stepping in for injured Willis McGahee (ribs), Anthony Thomas made the plan work by rushing for 109 yards on 28 carries against the league's worst run defense.
Losman attempted just 13 passes and completed nine for 83 yards. Lee Evans caught five of them for 70 yards.
"We were in this game all the way, so to lose it like that makes it tough," Losman said.
The Bills started the game with a 14-play, 61-yard drive which resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Lindell. Thomas rushed for 37 yards on eight carries and Losman completed three passes for 38 yards - all to Evans.
Manning completed 5-of-6 passes for 50 yards on the Colts' touchdown drive in the first half, capping it with a one-yard toss to Wayne with 11:09 left in the second quarter.
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 31-yard field goal with 2:44 remaining in the second quarter to increase the advantage to 10-3.
The Colts appeared prepared to add to their lead when Utecht caught a pass over the middle at the Buffalo 32, but had the ball stripped away by linebacker Angelo Crowell. McGee recovered the fumble and raced 68 yards down the right sideline with 31 seconds left in the half.
"The turnover before the half is at least a 10-point swing, probably a 14-point swing because we were kind of in a rhythm, we had them on their heels," Manning said. "Next thing you know the game is tied at halftime."
Manning was 4-of-5 for 48 yards, including a 19-yard completion to Wayne, on the opening drive of the third quarter which resulted in Addai's go-ahead touchdown.
McGee returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards to set up a 30-yard field goal by Lindell with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
Lindell kicked a 43-yard field goal with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter to pull the Bills within a point.
"We felt very comfortable coming into this game," Bills linebacker London Fletcher-Baker. "We thought we had an excellent game plan. Unfortunately, we were unable to close it out in the end."
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