ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—Edgerrin James had a scary thought after carrying the banged-up Colts to a comeback victory.
“What if we did have all our players?” James asked.
Indianapolis didn’t need them because James was the difference. He scored twice, including the winner on a fourth-down plunge from inside the 1 with 1:38 remaining, sparking Indianapolis to a 17-14 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Colts (9-2) overcame a 14-3 fourth-quarter deficit with leading receiver Marvin Harrison—back in the lineup after missing one game—limited because a hamstring injury.
They were missing two offensive starters, left tackle Tarik Glenn and tight end Marcus Pollard, both out with knee injuries. And they also were missing backup receivers Troy Walters (hamstring) and Brandon Stokley (concussion).
“That’s what makes this team special,” James said. “We don’t have all of our players, but the players we do have, everybody comes together and makes it happen. … That means we can only get better.”
The Colts were good enough to beat the reeling Bills (4-7), who lost their fourth straight and for the fifth time in seven games.
Buffalo, limited to a combined 21 points in its last three games, squandered its best offensive performance in more than a month.
Drew Bledsoe’s 1-yard TD plunge, with 2:07 left in the first half, was the Bills’ first touchdown since Travis Henry’s 14-yarder in the fourth quarter of a 24-7 win over Washington on Oct. 19—a span of 218 minutes, 24 seconds of game time.
“We came out and played great, but we didn’t play well enough to win,” Henry said. “This is a tough pill to swallow. The offense put up some points today, but not enough to win.”
The game was determined when the Colts scored on consecutive drives in the final quarter.
James capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive with 10:40 remaining, cutting the Bills lead to 14-9 after Dominic Rhodes failed on a 2-point conversion attempt.
On the drive, the Colts got some help on a strange play in which rookie receiver Aaron Moore
fumbled after a 6-yard gain. Colts guard Rick DeMuling picked up the loose ball and ran for another 16 yards to the Bills 24.
The winning drive came on a 16-play, 83-yard march that culminated with first-and-goal from the Bills 3. James got all four cracks at running it in, finally breaking through from about 2 inches out. Peyton Manning then hit James Mungro to compete a 2-point conversion.
Manning was credited with his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback, and second of the season. He finished 26-of-42 for 229 yards, 70 of them coming in the final 15 minutes.
An 11-point deficit was nothing for Manning, considering he rallied the Colts back from being down 28 points in a 38-35 overtime win against Tampa Bay on Oct. 6.
“Some guys tighten up, but we’ve been around the block enough, and I have to know to be patient,” Manning said.
Having 7:38 left when the final drive began helped.
“One thing I said before we went out there was, ‘Let’s use the run game,” Manning said. “We weren’t in a panic situation.”
The Bills didn’t have the same luxury, and their last gasp drive ended when Bledsoe was hit by a blitzing Chad Bratzke. Bledsoe got off a weak pass, which was intercepted by David Thornton at the Colts 47.
Buffalo’s defenders blamed themselves.
“It was there for the taking. We just couldn’t grasp it,” linebacker Takeo Spikes said.
Henry led the Bills with 77 yards rushing, despite playing with a hairline fracture above his right ankle.
Sammy Morris had a 7-yard TD run for the Bills.
Bills linebacker Jeff Posey sprained his right knee when he slipped while trying to tackle Moorehead in the fourth quarter. Posey is scheduled to undergotests on Monday.
Bledsoe was 15-of-28 for 135 yards, the fourth straight game in which he’s had 184 yards or less. … Manning has 3,105 yards passing this season, marking the sixth consecutive 3,000-yard campaign in his six NFL years. That moved Manning into a tie with Len Dawson for third most in league history. … Colts PK Mike Vanderjagt hit a 24-yard field goal, and hasn’t missed in 30 attempts, tying Jeff Wilkins for the third longest streak in NFL history. It’s one short of matching Fuad Reveiz and 10 behind record-holder Gary Anderson, who hit 40 in a row for Minnesota in 1997-98. … The game-time temperature was70 degrees, the warmest ever for a November game in Buffalo.