REGULAR-SEASON SERIES RECORD: Bills lead 34-30-1, but the Colts have won the last six meetings. (The last Buffalo quarterback to beat Peyton Manning and company? Rob Johnson, in the 1999 season finale.) After going 7-12 in the Hoosier/RCA Dome, the Bills will help christen Indy’s brand new, $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium.
Facing the 8-0 Colts on their own turf and playing without Willis McGahee, who missed the game with a rib injury, Buffalo’s struggling offense couldn’t manage a single touchdown. Guaranteed blowout, right? Think again. The defense held the league’s top attack in check for most of the afternoon, forcing Peyton Manning to dump the ball off time after time and never allowing them to pull more than seven points ahead. When Angelo Crowell drilled Ben Utecht and forced a fumble just before halftime, Terrence McGee scooped up the loose ball and sprinted down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown to tie the game.
McGee struck again after Joseph Addai’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Indy a 17-10 lead, returning the kickoff 88 yards to the Colts 12 and setting up Rian Lindell’s second field goal of the afternoon. Another three-pointer early in the fourth quarter cut the margin to one, and when Aaron Schobel stripped Dominic Rhodes and Nate Clements returned the fumble to the Indianapolis 41-yard line, the Bills were suddenly in position to walk out of the RCA Dome with an unlikely win. Three consecutive Anthony Thomas runs brought the ball to the 17, but Dwight Freeney broke through to sack J.P. Losman on 3rd-and-5, and Lindell came in to attempt the go-ahead 41-yarder.
But for only the second (and final) time all season, he missed. Manning ran the final 6:22 off the clock, and the Colts escaped with their undefeated record intact.
“Well as you can see there are no easy games in this league,” a relieved Tony Dungy said afterward. “Every week is tough. We found that out today, if you’re not on your game it doesn’t matter who you play, where you play, you are going to have trouble.”
The loss came in just the second game since the Bills made wholesale changes on the offensive line, moving Jason Peters from right to left tackle, shifting Mike Gandy inside to guard, and inserting rookie Terrance Pennington into the starting lineup in Peters’ former spot. Even though offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild called a run-heavy, ultra-conservative game, Losman faced heavy pressure all afternoon, absorbing four sacks in just 16 dropbacks.
“It’s tough with the whole protection thing,” the frustrated quarterback said. “It seems like it’s a missed assignment here, a missed assignment there. It’s not anybody getting beat, we’re not physically overmanned, it’s these little idiosyncrasies at the last second ... They’ve got to know how to react.”
“We tried to reduce the time they had the ball and when they had the ball, we tried to bleed them for everything we could,” coach Dick Jauron said. “We just didn’t do it well enough.”
NOTES: McGee’s sixth career return touchdown tied Nate Clements’ franchise record ... The score was also the second-longest fumble-return TD by a Bills player, behind Dave Kilson’s 87-yarder against the Houston Oilers in 1983 ... The 88-yard runback on the kickoff was the longest non-scoring return in team history ... Losman finished the game 8-of-12 for 83 yards ... Anthony Thomas led all rushers with 109 yards on 28 carries, his first 100-yard game since November 2004 ... The Colts managed to convert just 3-of-8 third-down plays, far below their 57.3 percent average ... The Bills fell to 3-6 with the loss.