INDIANAPOLIS (AP) ‚ The Colts have no problems with close games ‚ as long as they keep winning them.
Peyton Manning delivered another milestone performance, Joseph Addai produced a second straight winning score, and the Colts found another unconventional way to win when Houston's Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal as time expired, keeping Indy's winning streak intact 20-17.
"I think that's the mark of a great football team," center Jeff Saturday said, referring to the close calls. "We've won eight games so far, and we're ahead in our division, which is really our main focus and goal."
The implications of Sunday's victory are monumental.
Indy is the fourth team in league history with 17 straight regular-season wins. New England did it twice ‚ winning a record 21 straight from 2006-08 and 18 in a row from 2003-04. Chicago won 17 straight from 1933-34.
Next week, the Patriots come to town with a chance to prevent Indy from matching its original record.
There were plenty of accolades to go around for the Colts on Sunday, too.
Jim Caldwell became the NFL's first rookie coach to start 8-0 since Potsy Clark in 1931.
Manning, the three-time MVP, tied Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton for fourth in career victories (125) and became the first player in league history to throw for 40,000 yards in one decade. Tight end Dallas Clark caught 14 passes, the third-highest single-game total by an NFL tight end, and with eight receptions, Reggie Wayne moved past Hall of Famer Raymond Berry and into second on the Colts' career reception list.
A week after rallying the Colts with a fourth-quarter TD pass, Addai caught a touchdown pass, then ran 2 yards for the winning score with 7:11 to go.
The biggest impact: Indy holds a commanding 3¬Ω-game lead in the AFC South over second-place Houston (5-4) and is 3-0 against its division rivals. The Texans (5-4) dropped to 1-14 all time against the Colts, including 0-8 in Indianapolis.
But this loss was easily the most frustrating of the series.
After shrugging off the Colts early run and fighting back to take the lead, the Texans had two chances to win it or force overtime. Both failed. Matt Schaub, under pressure from Gary Brackett, was intercepted by Clint Session in Colts territory with 2:13 to go.
Then after forcing a rare three-and-out, Matt Schaub moved Houston into scoring position again only to see Brown push his field goal attempt to the left, leaving some teammates sprawled on the field in disbelief.
"I missed the kick," Brown said. "I was going through my routine, and I felt good walking on the field. I take a lot of pride in kicking, especially in these situations. To have that happen is very disappointing."
It was a strange day indeed.
Though Indy dominated early, running 37 of the game's first 44 plays, the Colts couldn't finish drives and never led by more than 13-0.
Things got really weird late in the first half.
Houston lost one scoring chance when a replay reversal ruled Ryan Moats had fumbled at the Colts 1. Further review gave the Colts a touchback instead of putting the ball at the Indy 1.
And then on the final play, Brown's 56-yard field goal attempt was blocked. One problem: the Colts called timeout to put a returner underneath the goal post, and when Brown got a second chance, he knocked it through to make it 13-3.
"Every decision that is made is mine," Caldwell said. "You want to know if I wish I had it back? That's just the way it goes sometimes."
Houston pulled a page out of the Colts' playbook in the second half.
The Texans held the ball for all but three plays in the third quarter, getting a 1-yard TD pass from Schaub to Moats, who replaced the fumble-prone Steve Slaton in the starting lineup, and a 1-yard run from Slaton to take the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Manning responded by moving the Colts 61 yards in eight plays, handing off to Addai for his 2-yard score with 7:11 to go. Manning was 34 of 50 for 318 yards ‚ his seventh 300-yard game this season.
But he still had to wait out Brown's kick before celebrating.
"Huge win, great effort," Manning said. "It was a great job kind of hanging in there. Obviously, everything wasn't perfect, but we did a good job of just kind of fighting, and came away with a big win."
NOTES: Manning threw 25 passes in the first quarter, the most in an opening quarter since 1991. Manning also had the previous high mark (22) in 2004 against Green Bay. ... Dwight Freeney extended his streak of consecutive games with a sack to nine, breaking Robert Mathis' franchise record. The NFL record is 10. ... Mario Williams' late sack of Manning marked the first time this season Manning went down in the fourth quarter.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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