Optimist's view: Colts almost pull off overtime upset

Colts push unbeaten Panthers to the brink with late comeback.

Because there’s always two factions of Indianapolis Colts fans to address, here’s an optimist’s view after Monday’s 29-26 overtime loss at Carolina.

Yes, there’s also a pessimist’s view. Just keep on clicking at ColtsBlitz.com.

* First of all, the Colts are still in first place in the AFC South Division at 3-5. They’re tied with the Houston Texans, and own the head-to-head tiebreaker for now. So while it might seem like a real stretch, at the season’s midway point, the Colts still control their own playoff destiny.

* After facing the Denver Broncos (7-0) and Atlanta Falcons (6-2), five of the Colts’ last six opponents have losing records and are a combined 12-24.

* Outside linebacker Robert Mathis had two sacks to boost his team-leading total to four. It’s fair to say the team’s decision to boost his snap count in the past two games is paying immediate dividends. He had one sack last game in his first start of the season. The franchise’s all-time leader now has 115 sacks in his 13-year career. He passed former teammate Dwight Freeney (113.5) and Sean Jones (113) for 19th in league history.

* Another 13th-year pro, wide receiver Andre Johnson, caught four passes for 81 yards with one touchdown. 

* The Colts rallied from a 23-6 deficit early in the fourth quarter to tie the game and take a 26-23 lead in overtime. It was quite a comeback, on the road in soggy conditions, against an undefeated opponent, scoring 20 consecutive points.

* The Colts have outscored opponents 74-35 in the fourth quarter. (Yeah, that’s because they’ve often trailed, but that reality belongs in the pessimist’s view.)

* Kicker Adam Vinatieri delivered what could have been the game-winning points when he drilled a 50-yard field goal in overtime. “Mr. Clutch” became No. 1 in NFL history by making his 10th career overtime field goal. He also made a game-tying kick near the end of regulation to force overtime. The NFL’s oldest player at 42 continues to amaze. In the past two seasons, he’s hit on 5-of-6 field goals from 50 yards or longer.

* Inside linebackers D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman led the team with 13 and 12 tackles, respectively. Jackson continues to lead the league with 92 tackles, 10 more than the next player.

* Cornerback Vontae Davis had an interception in the second consecutive game. The second-quarter pick was the 19th of his seven-year career.

* Defensive tackle Billy Winn and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, both reserves, each had one fumble recovery.

* Tight end Coby Fleener caught a team-high seven passes, including one for his second touchdown of the season.

* Reserve wide receiver Griff Whalen came in late and caught five passes for 48 yards. That included a clutch 12-yard catch to convert a key fourth-and-10 play that led to Vinatieri’s game-tying field goal.

* The Colts ran 35 times for 136 yards, a 3.9-yard average. Frank Gore had a team-best 70 yards on 22 carries. Backup Ahmad Bradshaw had a team-best carry of 23 yards.

* Rookie wide receiver Quan Bray made his NFL debut and returned four kickoffs for a season-high 127 yards. His 45-yard return in overtime was the longest for the Colts this season and set up Vinatieri’s 50-yard field goal.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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