Peyton Manning made sure the Indianapolis Colts came out ahead in a game it turned out they didn't need to win to stay in control of the AFC South race.
Manning threw three touchdown passes and iced the game with a 27-yard keeper to help the Indianapolis Colts beat the Oakland Raiders 31-26 Sunday in a game that turned out to have little playoff meaning.
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.
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 Raiders hung close with the Colts for much of this game but were unable to score an offensive touchdown until Jason 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, which led to a field goal that cut his lead to 24-19, 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 12-point lead.
After the Colts recovered a late onside kick, Manning ran out the clock with a 27-yard keeper on third-and-2 from the Oakland 31.
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 former Raider Dominic 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.
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 attach was held to 80 yards.
The Raiders started fast with a 99-yard return for a score on the opening kick by Ford. It was his team record third kickoff return for a TD, including two to start games.
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.