PITTSBURGH (AP) -- This time, the Indianapolis Colts completed the comeback against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Peyton Manning took advantage of Ben Roethlisberger's second costly interception to find Dominic Rhodes out of the backfield on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:04 remaining for Indianapolis' only lead, and the Colts came back in a virtual must-win game to beat the Steelers 24-20 on Sunday.
Manning also hit Reggie Wayne on a 65-yard touchdown pass play on a tipped ball and Dallas Clark on a 2-yard scoring pass six seconds before halftime following an unnecessary interception by Roethlisberger to end the Colts' 40-year losing streak in Pittsburgh.
The Colts (5-4) had dropped their last 12 there, counting the postseason, dating to a 41-7 win in 1968 when the Steelers played at now-demolished Pitt Stadium.
Pittsburgh had a chance to win it at the end, but Roethlisberger's pass into the end zone on the final play -- with Nate Washington open briefly -- was intercepted by Melvin Bullitt. It was Roethlisberger's third interception of the game.
The first matchup between the AFC teams since Pittsburgh's stunning 21-18 win over the top-seeded Colts in the AFC divisional playoffs in January 2006 -- Indianapolis was a big favorite at the time to win the Super Bowl -- followed the pattern of that game.
Minus the startling fumble by Jerome Bettis that almost swung that game to the Colts, of course.
The Steelers (6-3), dropping into a tie with Baltimore for the AFC North lead, took an early double-digit lead, then tried to hold on in the fourth quarter. They couldn't do it this time as the Colts avoided going down by five games to Tennessee (9-0) in the AFC South and stayed on the fringe of the wild-card race.
Rhodes accounted for all 32 yards on Indianapolis' game-winning drive that followed Tim Jennings' interception at the Steelers' 32 with 4:44 to play. The backup running back carried three times for 15 yards ahead of his TD catch, in which Manning froze the Steelers' defense with a play-action fake.
Pittsburgh lost to a Manning-led team at home for the second time in three weeks despite leading 20-17 on Jeff Reed's 24-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter. They were beaten by Eli Manning's Giants 21-14 on Oct. 26, again after a fourth-quarter comeback.
Peyton Manning's inaccuracy and Roethlisberger's impatience helped get the Colts back into the game after Pittsburgh led 7-0 and 17-7.
After Pittsburgh drove 62 yards for Mewelde Moore's 1-yard touchdown run on its opening possession, Manning's pass intended for Wayne was too high, but deflected off Ike Taylor's hand and directly to Wayne, who put an inside-out move on Ryan Clark to score. Wayne made six catches for 114 yards.
With the Colts' last-in-the-league running game unable to get anything going against the league's top-ranked defense, Manning, who was 21-of-40 for 240 yards, frequently threw into coverage as the Steelers frequently loaded up with six defensive backs, yet repeatedly converted key throws.
Roethlisberger, playing despite the separated shoulder that kept him out of practice until Friday, came back to complete two passes on third-and-long situations on a 77-yard drive ended by Moore's second 1-yard TD run. Jeff Reed later hit a 42-yard field goal to make it 17-7.
Rather than trying to preserve the lead, Roethlisberger forced a throw into tight coverage on third-and-2 from his 16 and Keiwan Ratliff intercepted at the Pittsburgh 30 with 1:24 left in the half. Unexpectedly given good field position, Manning found Clark open in the front of the end zone to cut it to 17-14 at the half.
The Colts tied it on Adam Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal on their opening drive of the second half, but only after Marvin Harrison couldn't hold onto Manning's knee-high pass in the right front corner of the end zone on third down. Harrison sustained a concussion but returned for the next series.
|Indianapolis||7 7 3 7 -- 24|
|Pittsburgh||7 10 0 3 -- 20|
Pit--Moore 1 run (Reed kick), 9:07.
Ind--Wayne 65 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 7:41.
Pit--Moore 1 run (Reed kick), 13:21.
Pit--FG Reed 42, 4:18.
Ind--Clark 2 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), :06.
Ind--FG Vinatieri 36, 8:14.
Pit--FG Reed 24, 7:57.
Ind--Rhodes 17 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), 3:04.
|Total Net Yards||290||326|
|Time of Possession||25:55||34:05|
RUSHING--Indianapolis, Addai 12-34, Rhodes 7-28. Pittsburgh, Moore 24-57, Holmes 1-(minus 1), Roethlisberger 1-(minus 1).
PASSING--Indianapolis, Manning 21-40-0-240. Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 30-42-3-284.
RECEIVING--Indianapolis, Wayne 6-114, Gonzalez 4-26, Harrison 3-37, Clark 3-24, Rhodes 2-24, Addai 2-13, Garcon 1-2. Pittsburgh, Ward 9-116, Spaeth 6-53, Moore 6-48, Holmes 4-29, Washington 3-30, Baker 1-6, McHugh 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS--None.