- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts have perfected the formula of being both undefeated and heart-stopping.

Sunday’s rally from a 17-0 deficit at Houston to win 35-27 made the Colts the first team to win five games in a row in which they trailed in the fourth quarter. As good as cinch Hall of Famer Manning has been during the first 45 minutes (99.0 rating), he has been brilliant in the fourth quarter (116.4). His 27 completions against the Texans moved him into third place all-time in that category.

The Colts, who had won a lone division title during the 20 seasons before they drafted Manning first overall in 1998, clinched their seventh AFC South crown Sunday as they moved to 11-0 and the Jaguars lost to the 49ers. Since the playoffs were expanded in 1990, only three other teams have wrapped up a division so early.

If the Colts top Tennessee this week to tie the New England Patriots’ record of 21 straight regular-season victories and then beat Denver and Jacksonville the next three weeks, they’ll seal home-field advantage by Christmas.

Rookie coach Jim Caldwell would then have to decide whether to try to match the 2007 Patriots’ 16-0 mark or rest Manning (who has never missed a game) and the rest of the regulars against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

TENNESSEE TITANS

Jeff Fisher didn’t want to bench struggling veteran quarterback Kerry Collins for Vince Young when Tennessee was 0-6 in October. After all, Collins had guided the Titans to a 13-3 record in 2008. But a 59-0 whipping by New England finally forced the switch, and the Titans haven’t lost since. On Sunday, Young drove Tennessee 99 yards — converting three fourth downs on the way — and hit rookie Kenny Britt for the 10-yard touchdown as time expired to beat NFC West-leading Arizona 20-17. At 5-6, Tennessee is amazingly a game out of a playoff spot, and Young seems set as the quarterback for the long-term, playoffs or not.

FIVE TRENDS FROM WEEK 12

UP: On a day ace runner Adrian Peterson was ailing, Minnesota led Chicago 24-7 at halftime and cruised to a 36-10 victory to move to 10-1. The defense recorded four sacks and three turnovers. Quarterback Brett Favre, having his best year at 40, became the first player with 500 touchdowns (he has 488 passing).

DOWN: John Fox took over a 1-15 Carolina team in 2002 and went 7-9. The next year, the Panthers lost the Super Bowl in the final seconds. But Fox is .500 since and 4-7 this year. Sunday’s 17-6 loss to the Jets was Carolina’s third straight to a losing team. A brutal schedule in Week 14-17 could cost Fox his job.

UP: Sure, the visiting Steelers were down to their untested third-string quarterback, but Sunday night’s 20-17 overtime victory was still huge for Baltimore (6-5), which had lost five of seven and was minus Pro Bowl pass-rusher Terrell Suggs. His replacement, rookie Paul Kruger, made the game-changing interception in overtime.

DOWN: After crushing Oakland 44-7 on Oct. 11, the Giants were 5-0. Now, they’re 6-5 only because they managed to beat visiting Atlanta in overtime on Nov. 22. Outscored by an average of 32-17 in those defeats, New York faces three straight NFC East foes, perhaps without its offensive and defensive leaders.

UP: He’s still a shadow of his old MVP self, but LaDainian Tomlinson scored twice in Sunday’s rout of Kansas City to help San Diego (8-3) win its sixth straight game and keep pace with Cincinnati for a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. With 35 multiple rushing-touchdown games, Tomlinson trails only Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (36).

Story Continues →