HOUSTON -- The unbeaten Indianapolis Colts are the AFC South champions, the first team to clinch a playoff berth.
Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns and the Colts rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit Sunday for a 35-27 win over the Texans, their 20th straight regular-season victory. Indianapolis (11-0) is one win shy of the New England Patriots' NFL-record 21-game run from 2006-08. The Colts can tie the record if they beat Tennessee at home next weekend.
The Colts improved to 15-1 against Houston (5-6) in their fifth straight come-from-behind win. They gained the AFC South title Sunday evening after San Francisco beat Jacksonville 20-3.
"We don't get overexcited certainly when things aren't going the way we want them to," Manning said. "We don't panic, we don't yell, we don't throw helmets. We just try to put the series behind us and move on to the next one. There was a lot of that (Sunday)."
Manning threw two first-half interceptions, but had a pair of second-half TD passes, including a 4-yarder to Dallas Clark that gave the Colts a 21-20 lead with about nine minutes left.
Clint Session stretched the lead to 28-20 when he returned an interception by Matt Schaub 26 yards for a touchdown seconds later.
"That's a good team over there, but we're the Colts," Session said. "We do things the right way and we try to get every win we can get."
Schaub fumbled on Houston's next possession and Chad Simpson's touchdown run put the game out of reach.
"If you doubt, you're done," Reggie Wayne said. "It's just like showing a bad poker face. If they see that, you're in trouble. Guys just stick with it. We knew the defense was going to pick it up. We know we have to take care of the offense and get some drives going."
The loss makes Houston's chances of earning its first playoff berth more dim.
Houston, which has lost three straight, was all but unstoppable in the first half, and the Texans scored on their first four possessions. It was a different story after halftime, with the Texans unable to get anything going offensively until Schaub hit Jacoby Jones for a touchdown with 18 seconds remaining.
"This isn't the first time this has happened to us," Andre Johnson said. "It's just real frustrating. I'm very upset with myself. It's kind of sounding like a broken record, we've just got to find a way to play for four quarters."
The Colts' first lead came on Manning's touchdown pass to Clark. In what was a theme Sunday, the drive was helped by a 17-yard pass interference penalty on Houston.
Matt Stover missed a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to keep Houston's lead at 20-14.
Houston's Jacques Reeves got a 43-yard pass interference penalty on the third play of that drive.
» Indianapolis is the first team in NFL history to win five consecutive games when trailing in the fourth quarter of each game.
» Jim Caldwell's 11th consecutive win ties Steve Mariucci's record in 1997 for the most consecutive wins by a rookie coach since 1950. Caldwell is the first rookie coach in NFL history to start 11-0.
"You can't play a half against this football team," Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We knew coming out of halftime that this game was far from over. ... (Manning) is great. He's going to find a way to not get sacked and he's going to find a way to make plays and that's what he did."
Manning finished 27 of 35 for 244 yards. Schaub was 31 of 42 for 284 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Manning was under heavy pressure when he threw an interception to Brian Cushing early in the second quarter. The Texans got to the Indianapolis 12 before Kris Brown's 35-yard field goal pushed the lead to 17-0. Brown also made a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter.
"We've been really, really good and then poor in some situations, so it's my job to find some consistency," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press