INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A stunning gamble by Bill Belichick set up a stunning win for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
After the New England Patriots were stopped short on fourth down deep in their own territory, Manning took advantage by throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that rallied the unbeaten Colts to a 35-34 win Sunday night.
Manning's toss to Reggie Wayne completed the Colts' comeback from a 17-point deficit. A decision by the Patriots coach put them in position for their 18th straight regular-season win.
Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 28 with 2:08 to go. Tom Brady threw to Kevin Faulk, who made a juggling catch but was pushed backward and came up just short.
Manning needed just four plays before hooking up with Wayne for the winning score.
"We were preparing to go 60, 70 yards," Manning said. "It was a great play by the defense, shortened our field."
It was the most improbable victory for the Colts (9-0) in their winning streak, tied for the second-longest in NFL history with New England. It was the first time Belichick's Patriots had lost when leading by at least 13 in the fourth quarter.
Belichick had a dazed look as he ran across the field for a lightning-quick, postgame handshake with Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell.
The Colts trailed 34-21 with four minutes left and seemed all but written off — just as they have in several other prime-time games this decade.
Manning threw four touchdown passes and Brady had three in the matchup of AFC division leaders, and longtime rivals for the conference title.
While it was another magical comeback for Manning, this one was set up by Belichick's play-calling.
Belichick called two timeouts on that key series, the second to set up the fourth-down play. Faulk came up about a half-yard short of the first-down marker, giving Manning the ball at the New England 29 with 1:57 left and all three timeouts - an eternity for the three-time MVP.
Manning ran three plays before finding Wayne for the winning score and left New England with virtually no chance to rally.
New England (6-3) has now lost five of the last six in this series.
This wasn't the first time this season that Belichick gambled. In late September against Atlanta, he went for it on fourth-and-1 on his own 24 with the Patriots up by six midway through the third quarter. New England made it, and wound up winning 26-10.
Manning passed Fran Tarkenton on the career victory list with No. 126, a win that Manning certainly will remember for a long time and many reasons.
"Well, it's a great win. It's just one win. We're still in the regular season. It tells us about our team. As much adversity as we've faced in a couple years," Manning said. "Defense finally made some stops. Offense finally got some touchdowns."
Belichick's decision dampened a strong performance from Brady and the Patriots offense.
Brady was 29 of 42 for 375 yards with one interception against a young, depleted Colts secondary. Randy Moss finished with nine catches for a season-high 179 yards and two TDs, while Wes Welker had nine receptions for 94 yards.
It wasn't quite enough.
Manning was 28 of 44 for 327 yards with two interceptions. Wayne caught 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
In what will go down as another classic in this rivalry, Brady was more efficient early, Manning took over at the end.
After trading jabs in the first quarter, Brady took control in the second. He led the Pats to a tiebreaking field goal, hooked up with Moss on a 63-yard TD pass that floated perfectly over the hands of safety Antoine Bethea and then threw a 9-yard TD pass to Julian Edelman to give New England a 24-7 lead with 7:19 left in the half.
That was more points than Indy had allowed in any game this season.
Manning refused to be outdone.
He answered with a 20-yard TD pass to Wayne to make it 24-14 at the half and after Brady connected with Moss for a 5-yard TD early in the fourth, Manning delivered.
He took the Colts 79 yards in five plays, finding Pierre Garcon for a 29-yard score to get within 10. After Stephen Gostkowski booted a 36-yard field goal, Manning gave the ball to Joseph Addai for a 4-yard TD run with 2:23 to go. That made it 34-28.
Indy then elected to kick the ball deep instead of trying an onside kick, prompting Belichick to make his unusual decision and giving Manning a chance to win it, which he did.