After falling behind by 21 points, the Indianapolis Colts needed the biggest regular-season comeback in franchise history. Philip Rivers was up to the task.
After trailing 21-0, Rivers rallied the Colts with three touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter, for a 31-27 victory over Cincinnati.
It equaled the largest comeback in the franchise's regular-season history. None of the previous four came at home, and the last time Indianapolis (4-2) achieved the feat came in 2003 at Tampa Bay. Only a 28-point comeback in the 2013 playoffs against Kansas City was a larger margin.
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It's the fifth time the Bengals (1-4-1) have blown a 21-point lead in franchise history, their second-worst all time.
Rivers was sensational. He wound up 29 of 44 with 371 yards, one interception, and threw the go-ahead 14-yard score to Jack Doyle on the first play of the fourth quarter. Rodrigo Sanchez added a 40-yard field goal and Julian Blackmon picked off Joe Burrow with 39 seconds left to seal it.
Cincinnati, down 28-27, could have taken the lead with a 48-yard field goal with 8:02 to play, but Randy Bullock hit the right upright.
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Things sure didn't start well for the Colts.
The Bengals converted Doyle's fumble on the second play of the game into a 2-yard touchdown run from Giovanni Bernard. After forcing a punt, Burrow plunged in for a 2-yard score on fourth down to make it 14-0. And when Joe Mixon added a 7-yard TD run on the first play of the second quarter, the Bengals led 21-0.
Indy began its comeback when tight end Trey Burton took a direct snap and scored on a 1-yard run. And after Cincinnati added a 47-yard field goal, Philip Rivers cut the halftime deficit to 24-21 with a 10-yard TD pass to Burton and a 17-yarder to Zach Pascal with 15 seconds left.
Bullock's 55-yard field goal late in the third quarter extended Cincinnati's lead to 27-21. But Rivers answered with the scoring play to Doyle and the Bengals never receovered.
WHAT A RELIEF
The on-time kickoff came as a relief in Indianapolis after Friday morning's scare.
Four people inside the Colts' facility initially tested positive for COVID-19. Second tests performed on the four proved to be false positives.
But for a few uncertain hours, coach Frank Reich, his staff and players scrambled to concoct backup plans in case league officials needed to move the game. The Bengals changed nothing Friday, going about business as usual.
Bengals: Carl Lawson and Christian Covington both started Sunday, replacing DE Sam Hubbard and DT D.J. Reader. Both went on injured reserve this week. ... Mixon left in the first half with a right foot injury but returned at the start of the second half. ... DT Christian Covington and CB William Jackson III both got hurt in the second half and returned later.
Colts: Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) missed his second straight game. ... CB Xavier Rhodes and WR Marcus Johnson also were shaken up in the second half but returned.
Bengals: Burrow was 25 of 39 with 313 yards and one interception. ... Bernard extended his league-high streak of consecutive carries without a fumble to 764, dating to 2013. ... A.J. Green had five catches for 54 yards after being shut out last week at Baltimore. ... Rookie receiver Tee Higgins had six receptions for a season-high 125 yards. ... Mixon rushed 18 times for 54 yards and one score.
Colts: Rivers started his 230th consecutive game, breaking a tie with Bruce Matthews for No. 4 in league history. ... Marcus Johnson caught five passes for a career-high 125 yards. It's the second 100-yard game of his career. ... Jonathan Taylor had 12 carries for 60 yards and four receptions for 55 yards. ... Burton had four receptions for 58 yards.
Bengals: look for a season split when they host Cleveland next Sunday.
Colts: take next week off before visiting Detroit, their third NFC North opponent, Nov. 1.