INDIANAPOLIS -- Tom Brady threw two interceptions. The New England Patriots gave up a 73-yard touchdown on what appeared to be a harmless dump-off pass. They were penalized a whopping 10 times for 146 yards. And they were held to a measly 10 points midway through the fourth quarter. This after blowing out every other team they had played.
It was as poor a showing for the Patriots in what had been an otherwise mind-boggling display of football this season.
"There were a lot of things we could have done better, for sure," coach Bill Belichick said.
But in the end, they did just enough to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts on the road. The Patriots rallied for two fourth-quarter touchdowns and came back from a 10-point deficit to beat the Colts, 24-20, at the RCA Dome and keep their unbeaten season alive.
"There are some wins that are bigger than others, and this was one of them," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "That's a good football team we played, and to beat them in their building is pretty special."
The Patriots (9-0) ended a three-game losing streak to the Colts (7-1), the most recent defeat being by 38-34 in last season's AFC championship game here.
This one wasn't quite the shootout that was expected, thanks mostly to good defense by both teams. But it was the Patriots who got it together late, with Brady finally getting on track to put together two brilliant touchdown drives in the final period.
The Patriots also shut down Colts quarterback Peyton Manning late, sealing the game with a sack and forced fumble after Brady put the Patriots ahead on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Faulk with 3:15 to play. Jarvis Green knocked the ball out of Manning's hands on the sack, Rosevelt Colvin caught it in the air with 2:25 to play, and the Patriots ran out the clock.
"When you're up 10 points in the fourth quarter, you can't let them off the hook," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "They're too good a team for that."
After the Colts went up 20-10 on Manning's quarterback sneak with 9:42 to play, the Patriots came back with the first of two late scores. Brady drove the Patriots 73 yards in seven plays and capped it with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker with 7:59 left. The key play on the drive was a 55-yard bomb to Randy Moss to the Colts' 3.
"Any time you throw to Randy, it helps," Brady said of his top receiver, who finished with nine catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. "He was a big part of the game plan and made some great catches."
Dungy said: "We didn't have the answer for Randy Moss today."
But it took Brady awhile to get rolling, admittedly because the Colts were doing things defensively the Patriots were not expecting. There was pressure up the middle, with Robert Mathis breaking in for two sacks. The running game was shut down by some effective scheming by the Colts, who often played their defensive backs close to the line of scrimmage.
But down 10 points with the game on the line, the Patriots decided to change things up offensively, mostly by going to a no-huddle attack and going repeatedly to Moss. Brady threw Moss' way six consecutive times, the fourth of which was the 55-yard completion at the 3. Three plays later, Brady found Welker on a crossing route for the touchdown as the Pats pulled to within 20-17.
After the defense held Manning on the next drive, Brady needed only three plays to score the winning touchdown on successive completions to Moss (5 yards), Donte Stallworth (33 yards) and Faulk (13).
"The players played hard, and I thought the matchups at the end were the best ones of the game," Belichick said. "The Colts are tough and they make you work for everything, but I thought our guys stepped up and made big plays, especially in the second half. We scored when we needed to."
But Belichick wasn't going to attach great significance to the victory.
"This was just a football game against the Colts," he said. "That's all it was."
Colts running back Joseph Addai, the Colts' best offensive player on this day with 112 yards rushing and a 73-yard score on a short pass from Manning said: "We had an opportunity to do a lot of things. We left some points squandered and got field goals when we should have gotten touchdowns, but that's the nature of the game. Those guys are good. We'll see them again."
Bob Glauber writes for Newsday. The Associated Press contributed to this article.