INDIANAPOLIS - No running up the score this week. Against the Colts, Tom Brady was content to close out another victory for the New England Patriots by kneeling down three times.
In what was hyped as the biggest NFL regular season game ever, the Patriots stayed on course for an unbeaten season as Brady threw two of his three touchdown passes in a four-minute span of the fourth quarter Sunday to overcome a 10-point deficit and beat Super Bowl champion Indianapolis, 24-20.
The win keeps the Patriots (9-0) on course for the NFL’s first unbeaten season since Miami did it 1972 and gives them the first tiebreaker over Indianapolis (7-1) in the AFC playoffs.
“This is the first time we were in a ballgame late,” said Brady, whose team had never before trailed in the fourth quarter and had beaten its previous eight opponents by an average of 25 points a game. “There wasn’t any loss of confidence or determination.”
Added New England linebacker Junior Seau: “We were going against a hostile crowd, an undefeated team, we took our hats off to them. But we still played well enough to win.”
New England, which had been scoring more than 41 points a game, had piled points on late in several games in which they were far ahead, including last week’s 52-7 win over Washington, when they kept playing hard well into the fourth quarter.
In this contest, anticipated since the schedule came out last April, they had to work their hardest just to win against perhaps the only team in the NFL close to them.
New England trailed 20-10 after Manning, who threw for 225 yards and a touchdown, scored on a 1-yard sneak with 9 minutes and 42 seconds left in the game, and the crowd roaring.
But on a second-and-10 from the Patriots 42, Brady hit Randy Moss over the top for 55 yards to the Colts 3 on a play in which Indy lost Bob Sanders, its best defensive back to injury. That set up a 3-yard TD pass to Wes Welker.
The defense finished it out. Jarvis Green knocked the ball lose from Manning and Colvin recovered to clinch the game on the Colts’ next series.
“Some victories do mean more than others,” said linebacker Tedy Bruschi, one of a handful of Patriots who played on all three of their Super Bowl winners. “This is one we’re going to remember.”
Coach Bill Belichick was less enthusiastic.
“This was just a football game against the Colts,” the Patriots coach said. “That’s all it was.”
For three quarters “just a football game” looked like it belonged to Indy.
It seemed to have turned with 13 seconds left in the first half, when Addai took a short pass from Manning and raced 73 yards for a touchdown, at least twice faking out New England defenders who seemed as if they expected him to run out of bounds to stop the clock.
That gave the Colts a 13-7 halftime lead and seemed to be a huge momentum shift.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
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