Colts, Vanderjagt save best for last
Late field goal decides shootout with Vikings
INDIANAPOLIS -- Even with Peyton Manning's usual heroics and an unusually decent effort from their defense, the Colts still needed Mike Vanderjagt's leg.
Manning threw four touchdown passes, and Vanderjagt kicked a 35-yard field goal with two seconds left, giving the Colts a 31-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings last night. The kick capped a late duel between Manning and Daunte Culpepper -- the teams combined to score on five consecutive possessions after an unexpectedly low-scoring start between two offense-minded but relatively defenseless teams.
Still, it was the Colts' special teams as much as the defense that allowed the Vikings to stay in the game, giving up a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown to Nate Burleson and a 51-yard kickoff return that set up a field goal. The defense, which allowed 45 points and 590 yards in Kansas City last week, surrendered only 20 points and 292 yards.
"Our defense did an excellent job slowing them down at times," said Manning, who has 26 TD passes this season, three short of his output all of last year.
Added coach Tony Dungy: "We were better. They're an explosive offense and we held the running game till the very end. Overall, I thought we played faster and smarter."
Manning also used his legs on the nine-play, 55-yard drive for the winning score, scrambling for 15 yards and getting 15 more when Lance Johnstone was penalized for landing on him after he slid to the ground. And Manning, who finished 23 of 29 for 268 yards, even had a lefthanded shovel pass to Edgerrin James to pick up a first down on the winning series.
Then the outcome was left to Vanderjagt's foot. "I've only had eight field goal attempts this year, so you kind of lose your rhythm," said Vanderjagt, who made all 37 attempts last year but missed a game-tying try on opening night in a loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. "You've just got to prepare yourself for it because it's not as easy as everyone thinks. It's not as much physical as it is mental."
The win ended a two-game skid for the Colts (5-3) and put them in a tie with Jacksonville for the lead in the AFC South. The Vikings (5-3) lost their second straight.
James rushed 26 times for 123 yards for the Colts. With the game tied, 21-21, Manning threw a 19-yard TD pass to Marcus Pollard with 7:24 left.
Culpepper was 16 of 19 for 169 yards and one touchdown despite playing without injured star receiver Randy Moss. He took the Vikings 65 yards on seven plays, with Onterrio Smith scoring on a 24-yard run with 2:54 left. Culpepper set it up by rolling out for 9 yards on fourth and 1 from the Indianapolis 43, then scrambling another 10 yards on the next play.
"Randy is a factor," Smith said. "It hurts, but at the same time other guys have got to step it up. Some guys did."
Manning finished with two TD passes to Pollard and one each to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Marvin Harrison got to 800 catches quicker than any receiver in NFL history and set another record when he caught his 664th pass from Manning early in the third quarter -- the most ever by any passer-receiver combination.
The game started with decent defense from teams that rarely play any, especially from the Colts.
The Vikings had only one first down until less than four minutes remained in the first half, but trailed only 14-6 at intermission.