“All of a sudden, I see Marvin sprinting for the end zone,” Manning said. “When something like that happens, it tells you maybe it’s going to be your day.”
Indeed it was.
The NFL’s co-MVP passed the Indianapolis Colts to a 41-10 victory over Denver on Sunday that put to rest any questions about Manning’s ability to win a big game.
“Every ball he threw was perfect,” said Brandon Stokley, who caught two of Manning’s five touchdown passes.
No kidding. And when things weren’t perfect, the Broncos were helping the Colts out.
That was most apparent late in the first quarter when Harrison caught a pass at the Broncos 30, lay on the turf untouched as two Denver players argued over who missed the assignment. He got up and ran to the end zone to give Indianapolis a 14-3 lead, and help send the Colts to Kansas City for a second-round game next Sunday.
Manning threw for touchdowns on each of the Colts’ first four possessions and finished 22-of-26 for 377 yards and five TDs, the third time in 17 games this season he had five or more TD tosses. That made Manning the first ever to do that. His four TD passes in the first half tied a playoff record held by 10 others, most recently Kerry Collins of the Giants in the NFC title game three years ago.
When he left game in the fourth quarter he had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the second time this season, the fourth perfect playoff game in NFL history.
“It was awesome to see from the sidelines,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said of his quarterback’s first postseason win in four starts.
Manning might have had five TDs in the first half had time not run out and forced Mike Vanderjagt to kick a field goal. No problem: Manning threw his fifth on the first series of the second half.
Denver’s day was defined by that one 46-yard TD pass from Manning to Harrison.
No whistle. Touchdown.
“We were yelling, we both lost our poise because he caught the ball,” said Walls, who said he and Kennedy were arguing about who blew the coverage instead of going after Harrison. “It was just a bad play. You can’t let that happen in the playoffs.”
“Coach always tells us to keep going until someone blows the whistle,” Harrison said. “I tried to get up slowly so I wouldn’t get knocked in the head, so I got up and ran.”
It probably wouldn’t have mattered the way Manning was playing.
On the first drive, Manning threw a 23-yard TD pass to Stokley. Manning also hit Stokley for an 87-yard TD just inside the 2-minute warning.
In between came two TDs to Harrison, the no-touch score and a 23-yarder. Manning’s fifth was to Reggie Wayne from 7 yards out on the first possession of the second half.
In fact, Indianapolis scored on every possession until Edgerrin James fumbled 1:38 into the final period. And the Colts never punted.
Could Manning have caught the Broncos napping?
You wouldn’t think so, considering that he threw for six TDs against New Orleans this season and five against Atlanta, becoming just the fifth QB to throw for five or more touchdowns in the regular season.
But Denver could have been overconfident after coming into the RCA Dome just two weeks ago and beating the Colts 31-17. The Broncos rushed for 227 yards in that game, held the ball for nearly 45 minutes and limited Manning to 146 yards and no TDs.
This time, he was 16-of-18 for 327 yards by halftime. Harrison finished with seven catches for 133 yards, and Stokley four for 144.
But Manning was the show, dispelling the perception that he somehow choked in “big games.”
“I hope people think this was a big game,” Dungy said. “We kept hearing about Peyton’s failure to win big games. I guess this was a big one.”
As for Denver, the defenders who stared at Walls weren’t the only Broncos dozing on the job. Left guard Dan Neil was called for three holding penalties and a chop block in the first half alone—45 yards of penalties in all.
“We did absolutely nothing today,” said tight end Shannon Sharpe, who is considering retirement.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever in 14 years of play felt the way I’ve felt today. I was looking at what was happening and I kept thinking ‘you’ve got tobe kidding me. You’ve got to be kidding me.’ “
The Broncos have not won a playoff game since the 1999 Super Bowl after which John Elway retired. They are 0-2 since then. … This was the first home playoff win for the Colts in Indianapolis. Their last home win was in Baltimorein January 1971.