INDIANAPOLIS – This is perfect for the Indianapolis Colts: They have Peyton Manning and they’re back in the Super Bowl.
The four-time MVP threw three touchdown passes and the Colts rallied from an 11-point, first-half deficit to beat the New York Jets 30-17 Sunday in the AFC championship game.
The Colts (16-2) are now headed back to the NFL title game for the second time in four years and their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. Better yet, they’re heading back to their lucky city – Miami, where they’ve played all four of those games and won there twice.
“I thought we just kept our mouths shut and went to work this week,” Manning said.
The big-talking Jets, and their equally big-talking coach, Rex Ryan, were all the incentive Indy needed Sunday.
A month ago, when the New Yorkers last came to town, Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters in the third quarter and gave up a chance at a perfect season to focus on a Super Bowl run. Fans booed throughout the fourth quarter and when the Colts left the field, and some spent the past month complaining publicly.
That’s over now.
Manning played the whole game and instead of blowing a lead, the Colts rallied behind their leader.
“We talked about being patient against these guys,” Manning said. “We knew it would be a four-quarter game.”
The Colts will face New Orleans in two weeks, giving Manning a chance to play in the same venue where he beat Chicago in the rain and won the MVP award three years ago.
Just as special was having the Colts’ career rushing leader, Edgerrin James, present the team with the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which goes to the AFC champs. He never made it to the Super Bowl with the Colts, though team owner Jim Irsay gave James a ring when the Colts beat the Bears.
“We’ve been here before, we had seven comeback wins this year. I think the guys were a little rattled at first, I think we took their best shot, but we came back,” linebacker Gary Brackett said. “I think we did a great job of being the hunters and imposing our will today.”
Manning finished 26 of 39 for 377 yards. He became the first player in league history with seven 300-yard postseason games. That broke a tie with Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.
The Jets’ magical run ended with their first road loss in six games.
New York (11-8) built a 17-6 lead and took advantage of trick plays. But the Jets lost running back Shonn Greene with a rib injury in the second half, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was shut out over the final two quarters.
“Today wasn’t our day. There’s no question,” said Ryan, who declared his Jets the Super Bowl favorites before the playoffs. “You have to give credit to the Colts. Obviously they’re the cream of the crop right now.”
Jim Caldwell became only the fifth rookie coach to reach the Super Bowl. Only two others – San Francisco’s George Seifert and Don McCafferty, of the Baltimore Colts – have won it.
But Caldwell does have Manning, who drove the Colts right through New York’s No. 1 ranked defense with his uncanny precision. He kept dropping passes right over the fingertips of defenders, and the frustrated Jets couldn’t stop him.
“You can have great man coverage, but that ball is right where it needs to be,” safety Jim Leonhard said.
Receiver Pierre Garcon, who had 11 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown, was one beneficiary. The other was rookie Austin Collie, who had a career-best seven catches for 123 yards, his first 100-yard day as a pro. And the Jets allowed three TD passes for the first time all season.
After falling behind late in the first half, Manning responded. He took the Colts 80 yards in four plays, hooking up three straight times with Collie, including the 16-yard TD pass that made it 17-13 with 1:13 to go in the half.
Manning was just getting started.
The next time he got the ball, he took the Colts 57 yards in eight plays, connecting with Garcon in the back corner of the end zone to make it 20-17 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
Manning still wasn’t finished. His 15-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark midway through the fourth quarter made it 27-17 and Kelvin Hayden’s late interception ended the Jets’ last hope.
It sure didn’t look like it would end this way during a scoreless first quarter.
The Jets used touchdown catches by Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller to take a 14-6 lead, and made it 17-6 after Joseph Addai’s fumble set up Jay Feely’s 48-yard field goal.
That’s when Manning and the Colts took over – and closed it out.
“Probably the biggest thing is when he goes up against the best, he takes his game to another level,” Caldwell said. “I think that’s something we’ve kind of grown accustomed to around here.”
Colts 30, Jets 17
Ind—FG Stover 25, 14:56.
NYJ—Edwards 80 pass from Sanchez (Feely kick), 14:45.
Ind—FG Stover 19, 8:44.
NYJ—Keller 9 pass from Sanchez (Feely kick), 4:53.
NYJ—FG Feely 48, 2:11.
Ind—Collie 16 pass from Manning (Stover kick), 1:13.
Ind—Garcon 4 pass from Manning (Stover kick), 8:03.
Ind—Clark 15 pass from Manning (Stover kick), 8:52.
Ind—FG Stover 21, 2:29.
|Total Net Yards||388||461|
|Time of Possession||28:35||31:25|
RUSHING—N.Y. Jets, Jones 16-42, Greene 10-41, Richardson 1-2, Sanchez 2-1. Indianapolis, Addai 16-80, Brown 6-18, Hart 1-3, Manning 1-0.
PASSING—N.Y. Jets, Sanchez 17-30-1-257, B.Smith 1-1-0-45. Indianapolis, Manning 26-39-0-377.
RECEIVING—N.Y. Jets, Keller 6-63, Cotchery 5-102, Edwards 2-100, Jones 2-28, B.Smith 2-7, Richardson 1-2. Indianapolis, Garcon 11-151, Collie 7-123, Clark 4-35, Wayne 3-55, Addai 1-13.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—N.Y. Jets, Feely 44 (WR), 52 (WR).