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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Peyton Manning has won so many games for Indianapolis with his powerful right arm that it was only fitting that he was the one who sealed the victory with his legs in the Colts' best rushing game in three years.
Manning threw three touchdown passes to put Indianapolis in the lead and then iced the game with a 27-yard naked bootleg that gave the Colts a 31-26 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in a game that turned out to have little playoff meaning.
With the Colts facing a third-and-2 with 1:39 to go, Manning called a run to Dominic Rhodes in the huddle, but kept the ball himself and ran around the left side for the second longest run of his career.
"I've always thought it does work when you don't tell anybody," Manning said. "My dad taught me that a long time ago."
To complete the heady play, Manning slid down at the 4, instead of scoring, to ensure that the Colts (9-6) could run out the clock.
"If I wanted to score I would have scored," he said. "I chose not to."
The Colts 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 a 59-yarder, 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.
"This game did mean a lot to our guys," coach Jim Caldwell said. "We have to play well, and play well defensively. Regardless of circumstances, we wanted to come out of this game, a road game, a tough team, we needed to get a victory."
Indianapolis finished with 191 yards rushing, its most since 2007. Dominic Rhodes led the way with 98 yards just weeks after he rejoined the Colts following the UFL season.
"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."
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.
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.
"We hit a couple of runs, but never had any consistency," Cable said.