OAKLAND, Calif. -- Peyton Manning put Indianapolis in the lead with his arm and sealed the game with his legs. No matter what happened against the Oakland Raiders, Manning knew he'd need one more big game to get the Colts back into the postseason.
Manning threw three touchdown passes and iced the game with a 27-yard keeper to help the Colts beat the Oakland Raiders 31-26 Sunday in a game that turned out to have little playoff meaning.
"All we did was win today," Manning said. "We have to find a way to win again next week."
The Colts (9-6) allowed Jacoby Ford to return the opening kick for a touchdown, overcame a pair of interceptions by Manning in the second half and survived four field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, including two from more than 50 yards, to move within a win of clinching the AFC South title for their ninth straight playoff berth.
But when Jacksonville lost 20-17 in overtime to Washington in the early game Sunday, the Colts knew that no matter what happened in this game they could clinch the division with a win at home next week against the Titans or a Jaguars loss at Houston.
"I don't know what the coaches do or what everybody else does, but I didn't know who won the morning games," Manning said. "All we knew was the time of our kickoff and the defenses and offensive plays that Oakland was going to run. That's really where our focus was."
The results in the early games also robbed this game of any real meaning for the Raiders (7-8), who were eliminated from playoff contention when Kansas City wrapped up a 34-14 win against Tennessee early in the first quarter of this game.
The Chiefs had long been in control of that game so any Oakland player who had caught wind of the score in pregame warmups knew there was only pride on the line.
"The guys were trying not to pay attention to it," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "We were just really trying to focus on our game. That's the situation you're in when you have to count on other teams. It's a tough situation to be in."
The Raiders hung close with the Colts for much of this game but were unable to score an offensive touchdown until Campbell's 6-yard pass to Zach Miller with 1:51 to play.
Manning took advantage of a 31-yard pass interference call against Stanford Routt to throw a 4-yard TD pass to Blair White to give the Colts a 24-16 lead late in the third quarter. But little came easy for Manning against Oakland's defense. He threw a pair of interceptions in the second half, giving him 17 for the season, which is his most since 2002.
He responded from the second interception by leading the Colts on a 68-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard TD pass to Pierre Garcon on third down to give Indianapolis a 31-19 lead.
After the Colts recovered a late onside kick, Manning ran out the clock with a 27-yard keeper on third-and-2. He faked the ball to Dominic Rhodes and then ran around the left side before sliding down at the 4, instead of scoring, to allow the Colts to run out the clock.
"That was just a great call by him," Rhodes said. "They had been biting, they were trying to stop me from running the football. Even I thought I had the football, along with everybody else. The whole defense converged on me. It was just a great play all around, he made it happen and we pulled out a great victory."
Manning completed 16 of 30 passes for 179 yards as he struggled at times against Oakland's aggressive cornerbacks. But the Colts managed to gain 191 yards on the ground, including 98 from Rhodes, who returned to Indianapolis earlier this month.
Joseph Addai added a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter in his first game since hurting a nerve in his left shoulder Oct. 17.
"We went out and out-physicaled a physical team," Rhodes said. "For the last few weeks, we've done that. We're gearing up for playoff football. And this is what you have to do in the playoffs."
Indianapolis' much-maligned run defense once again stepped up to the challenge a week after holding Maurice Jones-Drew and Jacksonville to 67 yards in last week's key win. Oakland's second-ranked rushing attack was held to 80 yards.
"There's no magic to it," coach Jim Caldwell said. "We're running the same plays, running the same defense. We were just playing what we do, and doing it a little better."
Ford's team-record third kickoff return for a TD got the Raiders started. Oakland went ahead 13-10 after Janikowski made field goals of 59 and 38 yards. The 59-yarder was the second longest in team history.
But Manning led a late touchdown drive helped by a personal foul on Lamarr Houston for poking Kyle DeVan in the eye and a 25-yard pass interference call on Chris Johnson. Manning found Jacob Tamme on a 14-yard pass on the next play to make it 17-13 at the break.
"There's not a quarterback that I've played against that controls the game the way that he does, and handles every situation and is basically the coordinator on the fly," Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said.
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