Bills vs. Colts: Reggie Wayne and Company Close in on a Playoff Spot

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 25, 2012

T.Y. Hilton's punt return for a score was the big play of the game for the Colts.
T.Y. Hilton's punt return for a score was the big play of the game for the Colts.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In his illustrious career, Reggie Wayne has grown accustomed to a certain level of excellence from his teammates.

The Indianapolis Colts have made the playoffs nine times in his previous 11 seasons, failing only in 2001 and 2011.

Thanks to another banner day from Wayne, a big play from rookie T.Y. Hilton, and some timely defense, the Colts took another step toward returning to the postseason. They downed the Buffalo Bills, 20-13, to move to 7-4 on the season.

Wayne picked up eight more catches for 104 yards and also succeeded in drawing two important pass interference flags on the defense to pace the surprising Colts.

Indianapolis survived an uneven offensive game plan that saw Vick Ballard and Donald Brown combine to carry the ball 23 times for just 67 yards.

With the run game stymied and Andrew Luck under constant pressure, the Colts labored to put points on the board. Luck was sacked four times and intercepted once when facing a heavy Bills rush.

Fortunately for the Colts, the combination of Wayne and Hilton came to the rescue. Hilton returned a first-quarter punt 75 yards for the first Indianapolis tally of the day. He later chipped in an eight-yard touchdown reception to become the first player in Colts history to score a receiving and punt-return touchdown in the same game.

The much-maligned Indianapolis defense made sure the 20 points the Colts scored held up. A week after allowing 38 points on just eight drives to New England, Indianapolis rallied with its most complete defensive effort of the season.

It held Ryan Fitzpatrick to just 180 yards passing (with 63 of those yards came on a single, long reception by Steve Johnson).

With the Bills driving for the tying score midway through the final quarter, Tom Zbikowski stepped in front of a Fitzpatrick pass and ran it back from the Indy 24 before fumbling it back to Buffalo across midfield. Though the Bills maintained possession, the Colts defense was galvanized by the play. They responded by stopping the Bills on three plays and forcing a punt with 3:32 to play.

Luck and company made sure the Buffalo offense never saw the ball again. Brown and Wayne both picked up first downs, draining the clock and forcing the Bills to burn timeouts.

With less than two minutes to play, the Colts surprised Buffalo by throwing on 3rd-and-10 instead of running the ball. Stephon Gilmore grabbed Wayne, resulting in a game-clinching penalty.

With losses by several other wild-card contenders, the Colts grabbed control of the fifth playoff seed in the AFC. With winnable games at Detroit and home against the Titans the next two weeks, Indianapolis likely only needs one or two more victories to lock down a surprising playoff berth.

Its seventh win of the season means Luck ties the NFL record for most wins in a rookie campaign by a quarterback taken with the first overall pick in the draft. Sam Bradford previously set the record with seven in 2010.

Should Luck in fact break the record, he could well be rewarded with a trip to the postseason.

That is exactly what Wayne has grown accustomed to.