THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Manning’s valiant effort comes up a bit short

Tom Brady was a model of consistency, completing 19 of 25 and no interceptions. Tom Brady was a model of consistency, completing 19 of 25 and no interceptions. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / November 22, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — He walked off the field shaking his head, knowing that a win was so close, knowing that a little more on his pass at the end of the game to Pierre Garcon might have done it for the Colts. Because, in the mind of Peyton Manning, yesterday’s loss to the Patriots was on him, was a result of his failings, not any issues related to the Colts’ communication, not all their injuries, not poorly run routes. It was him.

“I’m just sick about not extending the game,’’ Manning said. “There’s just no excuse not to extend the game there.’’

No matter that Manning threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, the Colts came up 3 points short of the Patriots, 31-28. It was still his fault, because of the three interceptions he added to those touchdown passes. He knew, even though the Colts had fallen behind by 17 points, even though their offense had stalled in the first half, that he should be able to come through. And he almost did.

Asked about the final play of the afternoon for the Colts, a play that could have set up either the winning touchdown or tying field goal, Manning said simply, “Bad throw.’’ It appeared that on the play — a pass on first and 10 from the New England 24-yard line — Manning was bumped, that contact by the Patriots defense caused the underthrown ball, which was grabbed by James Sanders at the 6-yard line. Manning said he didn’t think that was the case.

“I certainly didn’t get everything on the throw that I wanted,’’ Manning said. “Had the matchup we wanted, wanted to take a shot at the end zone. I can’t tell the reason, I just didn’t get everything I wanted on the throw.’’

It had seemed as if the Colts were having trouble communicating throughout the game, with a couple of passing plays ending up in the hands of Patriots defenders without a Colt receiver in sight. Garcon was the intended receiver on two of the interceptions. But after the game Manning deflected blame from Garcon, calling it his poor decision-making, his mistakes, his misreads. Garcon credited the Patriots for applying great pressure, playing great defense.

That was contradicted, though, by Colts coach Jim Caldwell, who said there was at least one miscommunication between Manning and Garcon, though he said he wasn’t sure that was the case on the final play.

“We were trying to disguise the whole game and keep them guessing,’’ Sanders said. “At times our disguises worked, other times they didn’t work. [Manning] is one of the best quarterbacks to play this game and it’s tough as a defense to hold those disguises. If you’re not sound, he can hurt you.’’

Manning tried his best to do that to New England. Once the Colts were down, he led them to two quick scores in the final quarter, the first taking just 2:26, the second taking 2:18. That left the Colts down by 3 with the ball, with 2:25 to go. It’s not like Manning hadn’t done this before, including to New England. This time, though, it didn’t quite work out.

“When you make mistakes, like I made tonight, it’s usually hard to overcome and win,’’ Manning said. “We had a chance, but I put our team in a hole. That made it tough all night.’’

He had started the fourth quarter 12 for 13 passing for 111 yards and two touchdowns, and then the two-minute warning sounded. He had put his team on the brink, until the final throw to Garcon, the one that left Manning walking off the field disgusted, and he was in the same state during his postgame news conference.

“He’s a heck of a leader,’’ center Jeff Saturday said. “There’s nobody else I’d want to be behind me playing. He keeps battling, no excuses. It doesn’t matter who’s in the game or what formation, he’s the guy who wants to put it on his shoulders and play.’’

He came just shy of that yesterday, leaving him to think about what might have been, what could have happened had he not underthrown the ball to Garcon at the end. When asked whether that play might be on his mind for a while, Manning said, “If you’re asking if I’m stewing about it right now, the answer would be yes.’’

“We did a good job ’til the end, had a chance to win it,’’ Manning said. “Just sickened that we didn’t have a chance to extend the game.’’

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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