Instant classic: Colts pull off stunning comeback

Yeah, there’s going to be a few things to discuss in the wake of Indianapolis’ miraculous 35-34 victory over the Patriots Sunday night.

And Mike Florio will break the game down fully, Morning Aftermath style, on Monday.

For now, we’ll write in amazement that the Colts scored two touchdowns in the final two and a half minutes to complete a 17-point fourth quarter comeback victory.

The focus will be on Bill Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-two from the New England 28-yard line with just over two minutes left to set up Peyton Manning’s game-winning drive. 

Brady completed a pass to Kevin Faulk, but he bobbled the catch and was marked short of the first down. We’d call the decision stunning, but Belichick has gone for some crazy fourth downs this year on his side of the field, such as against Atlanta.  That one worked; this one didn’t.

Belichick’s reasoning, right or wrong, was seemingly that he’d rather put the ball in Tom Brady’s hands with two yards to go for a win than give it to Peyton Manning — wherever the ball was on the field.  (And yes, the result will guarantee the call is universally called wrong.  Would the same be true if they converted?)

The Colts had two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter before the game-winning score by Reggie Wayne. One drive went 79 yards in two minutes and four seconds.  The other drive went 79 yards in one minute and forty nine seconds. 

Belichick’s decision shouldn’t distract from Indianapolis’ superlative performance.  They forced a fumble by Laurence Maroney on the goal line that kept them alive. Defensive end Robert Mathis was a terror.  The Colts were continuously almost down for the count, and found a way to stay alive, and ultimately make the plays to win.

Perhaps Manning wouldn’t have completed a longer drive; maybe he would have.

What he did was complete the three fourth quarter drives necessary to complete a remarkable comeback, and nearly guarantee a bye in the AFC playoffs.

68 responses to “Instant classic: Colts pull off stunning comeback

  1. “Belichick’s decision shouldn’t distract from Indianapolis’ superlative performance.”
    Shouldn’t distract from the Patriots superlative performance either in fairness. Credit where it’s due, the Colts’ comeback was fantastic, but the Patriots’ display in building the 17 point lead shouldn’t be ignored either.

  2. Belichick outsmarted himself.
    Got this from the chat with Florios response:
    11:26pm ET – That pass interference was a horrible call.
    How was it interference there when it wasn’t interference when the 49ers defender knocked the Bears receiver out of the way on Thursday night to pick off the ball?

  3. “And yes, the result will guarantee the call is universally called wrong. Would the same be true if they converted?”
    Yea, people wouldve said that was a dumb move but they got lucky to convert it..
    All in all, it was a dumb move to go for it..

  4. Belichick is amazing. he lost that game with the worst call I have ever seen and still managed to come off as an arrogant ass in the press conference. amazing.

  5. I’m not sure if Manning and his offense should view this as an insult or a show of respect.
    A rookie head coach would be roasted if they made the same call.

  6. Belichick is going to get tons of grief for that call, but if it had worked, he’d be hailed as a genius.
    Personally, I liked it. His offense had been doing well and his defense had just been blown off the field by the Colts. In that moment, I read it as a statement: “we’re not going to leave this to chance; we’re going to win this game right now.” That’s gutsy. And it’s not even that risky–is there anyone in the NFL you’d rather count on to get 2 yards than Brady and his offense?
    It’s no-compromise, bold football. Fun to watch and easy to respect. These are guys that play to win, not just play not to lose.

  7. He’s the smartest man in football, so obviously he had no intention of winning that game. For some reason.

  8. To all those people who said on Sat. that the Pitt/Cincy game was THE game to watch, THIS was a real football game! Makes your game today look like a pee-wee scrimmage!
    I was real sick when Belichick opted for the fourth down play, but who am I to question him. Felt real confident when they were up by what, 17 I think, but I know what Peyton Manning can do, and sure as hell, he did it.
    Brady had incredible numbers tonight (hell, they both did) but in the end it just wasn’t enough. Those other AFC teams that think they have a shot at the title, dream on. The only team in the conference that can run with Indy is New England, and even then it’s a dogfight.

  9. Big Pats fan here but in regards to this call I will have to agree with all the Belichick haters…. flat out dumb call.
    Could it be the dumbest call in profootball in years?? What decision was worse? (Oh, perhaps going for 4th and 13 instead of kicking a fg in SB42.)
    Give you defense the benefit of the doubt and let Manning earn the winning td over a long field. Why give it to him at the 28 yard line?
    Seriously Bill, I know you make more $$ than me, you have property in Nantucket, you have numerous SB rings… but come on Dude, chill with the ego. Your insanity is costing your team games that they could win.
    WTF? Do Rich Kotite or Herm Edwards go for it on 4th and 2 on their own 28?

  10. terrible decision by the hoodie. this is just a step below going for the 4th and 15 instead of kicking in the super bowl. if the play had gone the other way and the pats won it still would be a bad decision. side note the refs blew that 40yd pass interference. The refs always seem to make at least one game altering call when these teams matchup. thanks polian…douche. colts looked overmatched and still won, that is what great teams do.

  11. Rosenthal…..stop pimping for Belicheat and the Pats.
    “Belichick’s reasoning, right or wrong”…..Ummm, if anyone knows anything about football IT WAS WRONG!!!! It had to do with Billy Boy’s unwavering egotistically arrogant demeanor and that he is deluded into believing his own PR. “The Professor” MY @SS!!!!….more like “The Jester”.
    I am so glad this D-bag finally had a big payback from KARMA……that’s what years of cheating & spying’ll get ya…..
    Oh….and little spoiled Billy Brat couldn’t bring himself once again to meet Caldwell at midfield to shake hands….he just waved and ran off probably to consult his “Football For Dummies” handbook and figure out why he should have punted on 4th & 2 at in that situation.

  12. I wonder how much it costs to buy the refs for a season? If you ask the colts its well worth the price.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Faulk slipped on some of that rat shit they found a few days ago.

  13. So who really wears the pants in NE? During that final time out Brady basically made the decision to go for it and you could see Bill respond “okay”. Will Brady catch any of the heat? I dont care regardless, and I am not going to lie. I enjoyed seeing the look on Bill Beeeeeelichicks face after the Colts game winning TD. Great to see that smug SOB have to eat a foot long s#*t sandwich.

  14. NickOG, remember the movie Top Gun. “No points for second place.” If you want a cookie, or a gold star next to your name then finish the deal and win. Moral victories are for losers, and I’m sure Brady isn’t taking solace in the notion that they played pretty well. (against a defense missing their entire starting secondary)
    On another note, what exactly does Jim Caldwell do during a game. I swear to god I did not see him move his mouth or talk the entire game. Does Manning run the team THAT much?

  15. give me a break…..the correct analysis of this game is……Patriots kept the Colts in it by 1) making crucial errors and 2) using the blasted prevent defense……..but, given this, they still should have one but the refs gave the game away instead.

  16. As a Patriots fan, I will say that is one of the worst coaching decisions I have ever seen, if not the worst. This is the same type of decision-making arrogance that cost us a Super Bowl win against the Giants.
    Did he have a brain fart and think he was back in Cleveland?

  17. (IF) The Colts Go Undefeated….
    This call by Bill will haunt him and the Patriots organization for ever.
    It will also haunt those Dolphin players who got together to toast champagne when Bill’s Patriots lost in there run at a perfect season.
    How fitting.. Bill’s decision sets up “Great Theatre.”

  18. You know what though. Even if that interference call wasnt called, Manning would have still came back and would have hit another big play, he had it locked in then, just like the AFC championship game. The last interception was a miscommunication, otherwise he was on fire. If anything the Pats CHOKED this one away. Look this is the deal hear me out. I’ve been watching the Colts for a long time this is what I know. What opposing teams try to do is basically set up a bunch of schemes defensively to confuse Manning for the MAJORITY of the game hoping their offense can get out to an early lead. There are several teams who give the Colts problems. Chargers, Steelers, Patriots, and I think Jacksonville does as well at times. What Jacksonvill cant do though is rely on their offense to score touchdowns consistantly like the others I mentioned above can. Meanwhile like tonight the Pats had a huge lead, Manning had their defense figured out by the start of the 3rd quarter, by then he knew exactly what they were doing. But by then it seemed like it was over, the Pats would just trade points with them at that point, but by not electing to punt the football on 4th and 2 was the game. For Christ sake, Manning said in the huddle he didnt want to score right away, sounds like a guy who doesn’t need an interference call as an excuse to win the game to me, it just didn’t matter at that point what the defence ran he knew the counter play at that point. Bellichek knew it and thats why he went for it.

  19. IMO, Belichick made the right decision.
    They make it, they win.
    They punt it, Peyton has ~60 yards to go to win with 2 minutes.
    They blow it, Peyton has 30 yards to go to win with 2 minutes.
    The only truly winnable situation was making that 4th down conversion.

  20. The PI call WAS bad, but the Patriots play calling was worse. Every time the Pats opened up the lead they got soft on both sides of the ball, and allowed the Colts to get back in the game.
    I think that Bill just really doesn’t care as much about winning any more. The play calling has been soft for a couple years now. The coaching cost the Pats that game, period. Not Maroney, and not even a blatantly bad PI call (which PFT isn’t mentioning). The defender was clearly turned around and going for the ball. You will notice that trend in Pats/Colts games, there is always a PI call or two that give Manning a chance to keep in the game. In fact, follow the money, and you will be able to call the officiating around the league, whether it is protecting big name QBs like Brady and Manning, or whole teams the league wants to win. Where there is revenue to be had, the officials will be there. The NFL has become more like the WWF. I am not talking about the Pats getting calls here. Watch the games. Bad officiating rarely goes both ways. It is almost always one sided, and in favor of teams that are generating revenue.

  21. It doesn’t matter whether they converted it or didn’t. It was the right call.
    Nov 16, 2009
    Belichick’s 4th Down Decision vs the Colts
    New England coach Bill Belichick is taking a lot of heat for his decision to attempt a 4th down conversion late in the game against the Colts. Indianapolis came back to win in dramatic fashion. Was the decision a good one?
    With 2:00 left and the Colts with only one timeout, a successful conversion wins the game for all practical purposes. A 4th and 2 conversion would be successful 60% of the time. Historically, in a situation with 2:00 left and needing a TD to either win or tie, teams get the TD 53% of the time from that field position. The total WP for the 4th down conversion attempt would therefore be:
    (0.60 * 1) + (0.40 * (1-0.53)) = 0.79 WP
    A punt from the 28 typically nets 38 yards, starting the Colts at their own 34. Teams historically get the TD 30% of the time in that situation. So the punt gives the Pats about a 0.70 WP.
    Statistically, the better decision would be to go for it, and by a good amount. However, these numbers are baselines for the league as a whole. You’d have to expect the Colts had a better than a 30% chance of scoring from their 34, and an accordingly higher chance to score from the Pats’ 28. But any adjustment in their likelihood of scoring from either field position increases the advantage of going for it. You can play with the numbers any way you like, but it’s pretty hard to come up with a realistic combination of numbers that make punting the better option. At best, you could make it a wash.

  22. I have seen enough to say this about my Colts …. the running game(or rather lack of it) will shoot us in the foot during the playoffs, Manning will be left throwing 45 passes or more & we will be one & done ONCE AGAIN

  23. Chilly has developed the annoying tendancy to go for two when it doesn’t make sense and fail. Maybe Billichick was following suite. ; )

  24. I wanna act like this game means something, but I don’t think it will. The Colts were getting a bye regardless, and the Patriots still have a decent chance at getting one. Sure the Colts have the advantage over the Patriots, but how many times do the #1 and #2 seeds make the postseason? I think in the long run this will benefit the Patriots as a team, they seem to have peaked too early in recent years and gotten complacent. I think this loss will keep the Patriots from getting cocky.

  25. buckifan4life says:
    November 16, 2009 12:26 AM
    “Billy’s arrogance bit him in the @ss this time. Maybe next time he’ll punt it away!
    Dumb call….”
    you are right on point buckifan4life….i was thinking the exact same thing when I saw them actually hike the ball…just a dumb dumb dumb call

  26. I’m not saying 100% Faulk had the first down, but the spot was AWFUL. He had the ball secured a good yard at least from where the spot they gave him was.

  27. I heard a rumor that the Patriots bus hit a city cop car when they were leaving the stadium, any way you can find out if there is truth to this story or not, if it is true, man, when it rains it pours!!

  28. I didn’t see the pass interference call on sunday but the one on Thursday was border line. The defensive player has the right to catch the ball but not block the WRs way. I don’t think it was pass interference on Thursday becuase he was headed to catch the ball and the offensive player knocked him down.

  29. so the Pats went for it on 4th and 2 with 2 minutes left, coming off of 2 Colts scoring drives that went 79 yards in just a matter of minutes….
    that actually kind of makes sence to me.
    clearly Manning was ripping the Pats D to shreads and Bill figured he’d rather put his chips on Tom Brady getting 2 yards instead of his defense,
    he’s paid to make the tough calls. sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt.

  30. I actually think that going for the 4th down conversion had the greatest +EV. The more I think about the decision, the better I think it was.

  31. NickOGS20 says:
    November 16, 2009 12:26 AM
    “Shouldn’t distract from the Patriots superlative performance either in fairness. Credit where it’s due, the Colts’ comeback was fantastic, but the Patriots’ display in building the 17 point lead shouldn’t be ignored either.”
    Sure it should. As a Denver homer, it lookid great seeing Orton (finally) show that we could get vertical with it. In the end, Denver lost it’s third straight game, to Washington, with a hungry Chargers team waiting for us next week.
    Which would you overlook, Ortons two bombs to Marshall, or the loss to Washington?

  32. bwahahahahahahah! Belicheat trying to overcompensate now that he can no longer cheat.
    The mangenius has been exposed as a fraud and
    Belicheat is now just an idiot in a hooded sweatshirt. I love it!

  33. I still can’t believe they actually snapped the ball, thought for sure it was an attempt to draw the D offsides.
    The funniest thing about this is the Fox pregame guys during their picks. They all said Pats, and the reason was coaching. They said this game would come down to a huge coaching decision, advantage Belichick. I guess Billy’s boys misread those defensive signals he had taped, it’s hard to find good help these days. Where’s Matt Walsh when you need him?

  34. I wouldn’t have gone for it but respect Bill for doing so. Thing is, when you need 2 yards it’s probably better to run a 3 yard route just to be safe.

  35. I can’t invest emotionally in a team/coach that makes such a stupid decision. It’s not worth it. That was a winnable game. You don’t go for it on 4th and 2 from your own 28 yard line with no timeouts and it’s outside of 2 minutes, which means the booth can’t review. It’s an indefensible call. That coach lost the game for those players. The entire team now knows that Belichick poops his pants over Peyton Manning and has no trust in the defense’s ability to stop Manning.

  36. “…Belichick’s decision shouldn’t distract from Indianapolis’ superlative performance.”
    Did you actually watch the game? Superlative performance? The Patriots dominated Indy the entire game, and the refs handed Indy the win in the last moments of play. That’s a “superlative performance”? Bad call or not (yes, it was a bad call by Belichick), it succeeded. The Patriots made the first down. At the VERY least, it should have been reviewed in the booth. But no, hurry on now, they’ll be no side of fairness with the home cooked meal. We must preserve Peyton as the football deity.

  37. You can dissect it all you want. When it’s all said and done the Colts are better than the Pats. Deal with it….

  38. Nickgos20-
    Oh yeah, Pats fans will proudly reflect on the 17 point lead in their building a bunch! Fool. The Pats BLEW IT!!!!!
    Hoodie looks a Loser!

  39. Everyone has their opinion on Bill’s decision to go for it, but what really killed the Pats was Maroney’s fumble. He scores there, game over…..

  40. Like I said earlier this season year, Bellichick has apparently checked out mentally this year. He just doesn’t seem to care as much. He’s getting sloppy.

  41. Tyler
    This Colts team arent even the best in AFC. Eked out just another fluke win. Gave up 34 points with a fumble and a TD lost by Pats in red zone. Colts arent as good as Cinci, Pitts and SD and wont even beat Houston next time.

  42. Gross. Here come the blind Pats fans saying they respect Bellicheck’s decision or throwing up some game-theory model to explain a bad decision.
    1) Rodney Harrison, ex Patriots, said it best. What does this say to your defense? I don’t care if, on average, 70% of the time Manning scores if you punt. You punt and let your defense play defense. Bellicheck just pissed in his defense’s face last night
    2) Not punting flies in the face of all conventional football logic. What was John Madden thinking as he watched last night? Me must have been shaking his head, and if he wasn’t still walking the earth, he’d be turning in his grave.
    Just punt the ball and stop outsmarting yourself.
    AND if you’re gonna go for it on 4th and 2, it should be in Wes Welker or Randy Moss’ hands. NOT Kevin Faulk. Trying to be too tricky.
    And to the Pats fans trying to blame the Zebras, get a life. You had the game won and your coach lost it.
    Rodney Harrison actually said it best, you tell players they gotta play a full 60 minutes. Well, you gotta coach for a full 60 minutes and Bellicheck didn’t. Period.

  43. Bob S. says:
    November 16, 2009 8:19 AM
    This Colts team arent even the best in AFC. Eked out just another fluke win. Gave up 34 points with a fumble and a TD lost by Pats in red zone. Colts arent as good as Cinci, Pitts and SD and wont even beat Houston next time.

    Really? Not the best in the AFC? Half their defense was hurt and they still beat the greatest team on Earth (allegedly)…

  44. misterj, really? That was a GOOD decision? Belichick’s decision said to his team and everyone else for that matter, “I’m a cocky SOB, we’re going for it. My defense sucks and couldn’t stop Manning anyway.” Why not make the Colts EARN a win? Really, no coach in his right mind (obviously BB was not in his right mind) would go for it on 4th down from your own 28. Insane, ridiculous…hahaha! Go Colts!

  45. Of course it was the wrong decision. If the Pats had made the first down it would have been the right decision. End of story. Only fools will continue to guess what a decision “should have been”.

  46. tdse says:
    November 16, 2009 7:22 AM
    … At the VERY least, it should have been reviewed in the booth….
    Couldn’t be reviewed in the booth. The play started before the 2 minute warning, so challenge must be initiated by the team. Since they had just spent their last timeout, no review possible.

  47. To all those people who said on Sat. that the Pitt/Cincy game was THE game to watch, THIS was a real football game! Makes your game today look like a pee-wee scrimmage!
    Yea, Colts Pats was a much more entertaining game. But don’t seriously compare (arguably) the two best defenses in the league to a pee wee game? Really? Ignorant, Sunday night was more entertaining because it was a ridiculously rare type comback and there was a lack of D, sure turnovers, but we’re talking about apples and oranges dude, let it go.

  48. Too funny. Right on Colts. Pats should put up a street sign in Boston – Manning Ave. Peyton whoops you again. Hilarious.

  49. Btw, did anyone catch one of Belichicks goons shove a cameraman to the ground as Belichick exited the field? It was BLATANT and if I were that camera guy, I’d sue the Pats for all they had.
    Belichick’s lack of class must rub off on his minions.

  50. I think most people are overlooking the significance of this game beyond it being the Colts vs. Patriots. It was very unlikely that the Patriots would have caught the Colts for home field advantage and the #1 seed. The real significance is that the Bengals are now set for the #2 seed in the playoffs meaning that the Patriots would have to play in round one of the playoffs and would possibly host the Steelers, Broncos, Chargers, Jaguars or Texans. What if it is the Steelers? Ouch!!
    By winning the game last night the Patriots could have stayed on track for the #2 seed and would have had a week off to heal up and rest. Now it looks like the Bengals may get the week off and the Patriots will be playing an extra game and still may have to go to Cincinnati and Indianapolis to get to the Super Bowl.

  51. The funniest part about this was the 4th down call. It wasnt going for it on their own 30 or any of that, it was the misuse of timeouts. Bill Belichicks wasted timeouts cost him the game. If you check out the replay, Faulk definately bobbled the ball, but i believe he had firm control of the ball before hitting the ground, and that was almost a yard ahead of the spot. And that would have been a first down, bam game over. Since the play occured before the 2 minute warning, it has to be a coaches challenge, but the Patriots used all their timeouts. I can not blame the ref for his angle explains his call, and it was really close regardless, but this could easily have been a Pats victory, and everyone would say the gutsy arrogant coach does it again.

  52. Fourth down and 2 to go. Two minutes left in the game, up by 6 points, on your own 28 yard line…but Bill Belichick has a plan.
    Belichick tells Brady to give it to Touchdown Tommy Vardell!

  53. You guys are crazy. If the Pats had made that 4th down, you’d be talking about how brave Belichick was to take the risk and do that and how smart it was. Get real. No one calls a play stupid when it works. It’s only stupid when it doesn’t work.

  54. The Pats played very well and looked like the more veteran offense last night. The Colts offense has some young players and it showed with the penalties and dropped passes. Manning showed why he is the real deal and is respected. As far as the refs, I have never seen a game where somebody doesn’t blame them for something…give me a break…are these real Pat fans or are the Charger fans in disguise? Bottom line is that the BB made THE WRONG DECISION. Rodney Harrison said so, Dungy said so, so did ever other NFL analyst. The percentages are in your favor to punt…BB just sent a message to his D that they aren’t to be trusted….had to say to those that thought this rivalry was in decline….think again.

  55. Geez. One bad break (and clearly a very debatable call) and the anti-Patriot dweebs and Boston-hating ignoramuses nearly pee their pants in glee.
    Enjoy the moment, kiddies. It’s NFL football and the season’s far from done yet.

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