The Indianapolis Colts were overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage, and the swarming Minnesota defense frequently pounded Peyton Manning into the Metrodome turf.
But the Colts put the Manning touch on another impressive rally, thanks to a handful of clutch completions near the end by their stalwart quarterback, and reminded the Vikings it’s just not possible to win without throwing the ball.
Manning passed for 311 yards and moved Adam Vinatieri in position for the winning field goal with three seconds left, leading Indianapolis to an 18-15 victory on Sunday in Minneapolis after Minnesota led 15-0 late in the third quarter.
The Vikings (0-2) wasted more dominant defense, done in by a handful of critical lapses and repeated failure to figure out that pesky old forward pass. Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 of his 160 yards in the first half, and Minnesota was across midfield on its first eight possessions.
The prize for that? Five field goals by Ryan Longwell and three punts.
The last of Longwell’s field goals — he later missed from 48 yards, his leg perhaps tired from scoring all the points himself — sliced through with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
On the next possession, Manning found a wide-open Anthony Gonzalez for a 58-yard completion on third-and-6 at his own 24. Gonzalez lateraled to Reggie Wayne as he went down, and the ball was eventually spotted at the 1. Joseph Addai, held to 20 yards on 15 carries, barely got in on third down after an unsuccessful challenge by Minnesota coach Brad Childress to cut the lead to 15-7.
In the fourth, Manning moved the Colts from their 39 to the end zone with passes of 17, 12 and 32 yards — the last a touchdown to Wayne. Dominic Rhodes sneaked through the pile on a 2-point conversion to tie it at 15 with 5:54 left.
To finish it in the final minute, Manning zinged a pass up the middle to Wayne on third-and-9. Vinatieri, who missed a 30-yarder earlier, made a 47-yard kick with three seconds on the clock to seal the victory.
Packers 48, Lions 25: Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in the first four drives of his second start, helping Green Bay build a big lead it needed in a win over the Lions at Detroit.
Green Bay led 21-0 midway through the second quarter, but fell behind by a point with 7:41 left. The Packers went back ahead with a field goal on the ensuing drive, then turned the game into the rout it had been for much of the day with three straight interceptions.
Giants 41, Rams 13: Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and New York sacked Marc Bulger five times while limiting the Rams to a fluke touchdown in a victory at St. Louis. The Giants won their 12th straight away game, including February’s Super Bowl victory.
Raiders 23, Chiefs 8: Rookie Darren McFadden ran for 164 yards and a touchdown and Sebastian Janikowski kicked a team-record 56-yard field goal, leading Oakland to a victory in Kansas City over an inept Chiefs team that tried three quarterbacks.
The Chiefs’ young defense gave up 300 yards rushing.
Panthers 20, Bears 17: Jonathan Stewart rushed for all but one of his 77 yards in the second half and scored two touchdowns, including the go-ahead TD late in the fourth quarter, and Carolina stopped Chicago on fourth-and-1 with under two minutes left in a win at Charlotte, N.C.
Redskins 29, Saints 24: Jason Campbell hit Santana Moss for a 67-yard touchdown pass that beat New Orleans at Landover, Md. The big play came with 3:29 left and the Redskins trailing 24-22. Campbell avoided the rush, stepped forward and hit Moss in stride, the receiver one step ahead of cornerback Tracy Porter.
Titans 24, Bengals 7: Kerry Collins threw his first touchdown pass in two years and rookie Chris Johnson ran for 109 yards to help Tennessee beat the Bengals at Cincinnati. Linebacker Keith Bulluck provided the clincher, blocking Kyle Larson’s punt in the end zone with his right arm, then snatching the ball off the ground for a touchdown.
Bills 20, Jaguars 16: Trent Edwards completed his first 10 attempts and threw a perfect touchdown pass to James Hardy late in the fourth quarter, as the Bills beat the beleaguered Jaguars at Jacksonville, Fla.
Edwards finished 20-of-25 passing for 239 yards and Marshawn Lynch ran for 59 yards and a score.
Bucs 24, Falcons 9: Two early mistakes by Matt Ryan was all it took to dig a hole Atlanta couldn’t escape against the Buccaneers at Tampa, Fla. The rookie was intercepted twice in the first half and Tampa Bay’s Brian Griese turned the miscues into a touchdown and field goal.
Ryan threw incompletions on his first nine passes before settling down to keep Atlanta in the game.
The Bucs (1-1) ended any hope for a comeback with Earnest Graham’s 68-yard TD run that put the game out of reach.
Patriots 19, Jets 10: Matt Cassel was efficient running the offense in his first NFL start, leading New England over Brett Favre and the Jets at East Rutherford, N.J.
Cassel, who hadn’t started at any level since his senior year of high school, was 16-of-23 for 165 yards, Sammy Morris ran for a touchdown and Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals.
Cardinals 31, Dolphins 10: Kurt Warner completed 19 of 24 for 361 yards and three touchdowns – all to Anquan Boldin – as the Cardinals routed the Dolphins at Glendale, Ariz.
Boldin had six receptions for 140 yards, a franchise-record 22nd time he’s passed the century mark. Larry Fitzgerald caught six for 153 yards, his 14th 100-yard game. It was the sixth time the pair had topped 100 yards in the same game.
Steelers 10, Browns 6: Ignoring his sore right shoulder and wind gusts of 60 mph, Ben Roethlisberger threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward as Pittsburgh made it 10 straight wins over its closest rival, beating the Browns at Cleveland to extend the NFL’s longest current winning streak between two teams.