The Indianapolis Colts sure don’t start strong most weeks, but they finished impressively with a 24-21 road win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
The NFL’s oldest player, 42-year-old Adam Vinatieri, kicked a 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds remaining for the deciding points.
Despite trailing 14-0 in the second quarter and committing three turnovers, the Colts rallied as backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, playing for the sidelined Andrew Luck, threw a pair of touchdown passes to reserve running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
After both teams exchanged a series of punts, the Colts drove into position to give Vinatieri his opportunity to deliver with the 26th game-winning kick in the fourth quarter or overtime of his 19-year career.
A second consecutive win keeps the Colts (5-5) tied with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South Division.
Hasselbeck improved to 3-0 as a starter in place of Luck. He completed 23-of-32 passes for 213 yards with two TDs and two interceptions.
Jackson, the NFL’s leading tackler, had seven more as well as one sack in addition to the timely interception. The Falcons didn't score after opening the second half with a touchdown drive to take a 21-7 lead.
Ryan completed 25-of-46 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns, but the Colts also intercepted him three times. Safety Dwight Lowery and tight end Coby Fleener, in the game as a defender for the final Hail Mary, had the other interceptions. Atlanta also lost one fumble.
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, the NFL’s leading scorer with 11 touchdowns, exited in the first quarter after suffering a concussion administered on a nasty hit by Colts rookie safety Clayton Geathers, who was making his first pro start.
The Falcons (6-4), who opened the season with five wins, have now lost four of five games, all to teams with losing records.
The Colts return home to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.