INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- All Peyton Manning wanted was a victory. The
record was a bonus.
Manning rallied the Colts from a 15-point deficit in the fourth
quarter, throwing his NFL-record 49th touchdown pass of the season
to force overtime. Then he led the Colts on a 61-yard drive to beat
San Diego 34-31.
"The way it happened on that drive, I think Johnny Unitas would
have been proud," Manning said.
The Colts (12-3), winners of eight straight, wrapped up the No.
3 seed in the AFC. San Diego (11-4), the AFC West champs, had its
eight-game winning streak broken but also will host a first-round
It was an atypical day for the Colts, especially Manning.
After being sacked just nine times all season, the Chargers got
to Manning four times, forced two fumbles and intercepted Manning
once on a day when he appeared to be tense and out of sync.
Manning overthrew receivers, missed timing routes and was forced
to run. Still, he finished 27-of-44 for 383 yards with two TDs to
give him one more than Dan Marino had in 1984, and he could still
break Steve Young's NFL record for top passer rating in a season.
Young's record was 112.8 in 1994. Manning's rating stands now at
As usual, Manning delivered his best plays when the Colts needed
"That's what he's all about," said Brandon Stokley, who caught
the record-breaking touchdown with 56 seconds left in regulation.
"He stayed calm, kept chucking and made a great throw on that last
Manning didn't have time to celebrate.
He quickly got the Colts to the line and called a draw play for
Edgerrin James, who ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the score
After winning the coin toss to start overtime, San Diego didn't
have a chance. Manning hooked up with Stokley on a 23-yard pass,
then hit Reggie Wayne for a 35-yard catch and run. James then ran
to the middle of the field and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 30-yard
field goal to win it.
While the Colts set several records -- becoming the first team in
league history to have three receivers catch 10 TDs in a season and
only the fourth team in league history with three 1,000 yard
receivers -- the focus was not on Manning or the records.
"We are happy about the regular-season records," coach Tony
Dungy said. "But we are looking for the big prize once the
San Diego had its own record breakers.
When Drew Brees threw a 4-yard shovel pass to Antonio Gates for
a 24-9 lead early in the second half, it was Gates' 13th of the
season. That gave Gates the NFL mark for TD receptions by a tight
end, breaking a tie with four other players.
Brees was 21-of-31 for 290 yards with three touchdowns, and Eric
Parker caught seven passes for 103 yards.
LaDainian Tomlinson scored on the first play of the fourth
quarter, running 16 yards for a 31-16 lead. It was his 12th
straight game with a rushing TD, breaking the single-season record
he shared with Dallas' Emmitt Smith and Kansas City's Priest
Holmes. Washington's John Riggins and George Rogers both ran for
touchdowns in 13 straight games, but they needed two seasons to do
And the Chargers defense confused Manning for 3½ quarters with
blitzes and extra defensive backs, but it wasn't enough.
"We came in here to win," San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer
said. "And with that one exception, we played toe-to-toe with a
The Chargers appeared to take control on Tomlinson's TD run, but
Indianapolis answered with an 88-yard kickoff return from Dominic
Rhodes to make it 31-23.
Then, with 4:47 to go, Manning got the chance he needed.
On fourth-and-4 from his own 25, Manning waved the punt team off
the field and hooked up with Reggie Wayne on a 19-yard completion.
He threw back-to-back completions to Dallas Clark and an 18-yarder
to Marvin Harrison before Stokley broke free in the end zone for
the record-breaking catch that set off a flurry of flash bulbs.
"It was right on me, which is probably a good thing because if
I had too much time to think about it, I probably would have
dropped it," Stokley said.
Throughout the game, Manning showed little emotion.
After the win, though, he pumped his fist, gave teammates high
fives, hugged Harrison and smiled -- something he has rarely done as
the intensity over his quest mounted during the past three weeks.
Manning seemed more relieved by the victory than the touchdown.
"At the time I threw it, there wasn't a lot of emotion for me,
because if we don't get the 2-point conversion, this is a down
locker room right now," he said. "The fact that it happened, we
won the game. ... it sure made for an exciting day."
The Colts had a moment of silence before Sunday's game
for Reggie White, who died Sunday. ... Indianapolis did not score
in the first quarter for the first time in 11 games. ... Colts
backup linebacker Jim Nelson fractured his collar bone and likely
will be lost for the season.
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