|Peyton Manning completed his first 17 passes, finishing 29 of 34 for 364 yards. (Phil Coale/Associated Press)|
Manning saves Colts
Indy rallies past Jaguars to nail down playoff berth
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Peyton Manning asked his coaches at halftime if they had any suggestions for him. All he got was, "You haven't thrown any incompletions. Just try to keep doing what you're doing."
Manning was nearly perfect all night, exactly what the Indianapolis Colts needed to overcome whatever emotion the Jacksonville Jaguars got from Richard Collier's return.
Manning completed his first 17 passes, picked apart Jacksonville's secondary, and led the Colts to their eighth consecutive win and seventh straight playoff berth. He finished 29 for 34 and threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns, and the Colts secured the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a 31-24 victory over the Jaguars last night.
"Peyton Manning is unbelievable," coach Tony Dungy said. "He put a lot of it on his shoulders and kept us in it. He played unbelievably under the circumstances.
"All in all, with everything that was riding on it . . . it was a great performance. It was an MVP performance for sure."
Manning led the Colts back from deficits of 14-0 and 24-14, and Adam Vinatieri's 45-yard field goal tied the game at 24 late in the fourth.
Indianapolis (11-4) took the lead for good when Keiwan Ratliff intercepted a pass from David Garrard and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with 4:48 remaining.
The Jaguars had two chances to tie it, but both drives ended with sacks. Garrard drove Jacksonville to the 7-yard line with 29 seconds remaining, but Maurice Jones-Drew sprained his knee on a reception, and since the Jaguars had no timeouts, there was a 10-second runoff.
Garrard misfired on first down, then got sacked by Dwight Freeney to end the game.
"Just can't take a sack right there," Garrard said. "I really didn't see it and have an opportunity to elude that guy. I thought I had guys coming open."
The Colts won without receiver Marvin Harrison (hamstring), running back Joseph Addai (shoulder), and linebacker Gary Brackett (leg).
The Jaguars (5-10) lost for the seventh time in the last nine games and fell to 2-6 at home this season. This one may have been more emotionally draining than any of the others.
Collier, a 6-foot-7-inch offensive linemen paralyzed from the waist down following a shooting in early September, returned to the field for the first time and was recognized during pregame ceremonies. He drove onto the field, sat next to his teammates during the national anthem, then headed to midfield as an honorary team captain for the coin toss.
But Manning spoiled it for Jacksonville. He hurt the Jaguars on nearly every drive, spreading the ball around and throwing pinpoint passes all over the field.
"It's a funny game," Manning said. "We were completing some passes, but we were down, 14-0. That dominated our thoughts. We knew it would be tough, but we didn't think we'd be down, 14-0, out of the gate."