Cool, calm and ever the leader, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback just jogged back on the field with a little more than 2 minutes left and took charge.
“There truly never was any panic,” Manning said. “When they ran the kickoff back, we were just getting back on the bench. We didn’t have time to get mad or to panic.”
They certainly had plenty of time to ruin the Jets’ victory plans.
After Justin Miller’s 103-yard dash gave New York the lead with 2:20 left, Manning led Indianapolis on the type of efficient drive that has defined his career—capping it with a 1-yard run that gave the Colts a wild 31-28 victory Sunday.
“It can be deflating to see Miller run that kickoff back, but it only is if it’s the last play of the game,” Manning said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of talk. We said, `Here are the plays we’re thinking about. Let’s go down and get it in the end zone.”’
Manning was 6-of-8 for 60 yards on the drive, including a 19-yard pass to Marvin Harrison and a 15-yarder to Reggie Wayne that put the ball at the 1. Running the no-huddle offense, Manning then took the ball and pushed himself into the end zone.
“I was pumped,” Manning said. “You practice those two-minute drills all the time. Everybody’s played that backyard game where you envision the last play of the game. Anytime you can do it in New York, it adds a little something to it.”
But it wasn’t over just yet.
With 8 seconds left, the Jets got off one last, desperate circus play: a never-ending lateral-fest that almost worked. Chad Pennington threw a short pass to Leon Washington, who ran for an 8-yard gain and lateraled the ball to Brad Smith.
That was just the beginning.
A series of four laterals—including one back to Pennington, who then threw a crosswise pass to Justin McCareins to keep the chaos rolling—and two fumbles recovered by the Jets followed, with center Nick Mangold finally losing the ball at the Colts 35 and Jason Davis recovering for Indianapolis (4-0) to end the game.
“Once we crossed the 50 and with the pass I tossed to Justin, I thought, `Uh-oh … something good’s going to happen,”’ Pennington said, adding that the team has practiced the play before.
“You never know when it might come down to that,” Washington said. “It’s important for us to just stay alive, keep fighting.”
For a few moments, it appeared Miller’s kickoff return was going to be the winning play. He took the ball out of the end zone shortly after he was called for a costly pass interference penalty that helped set up the Colts’ go-ahead touchdown by Bryan Fletcher with 2:34 left.
“That play was behind me right after they made that call,” Miller said.
Defensive end Ryan LaCasse and kicker Martin Gramatica each had a chance to tackle him at about the Colts 40, but Miller shook off the attempts and sped into the end zone. It had the Giants Stadium crowd in a frenzy and the Jets (2-2) sensing a victory.
But with Manning on the other side, they should’ve known better.
“It’s difficult to be fazed by anything when you have guys like Peyton Manning in the huddle,” Fletcher said.
Manning finished 21-of-30 for 217 yards and a touchdown. With the scoring pass to Fletcher, he became the second-fastest quarterback to throw 250 touchdown passes in his career, doing it in 132 games; only Dan Marino (128) reached that number faster.
On their first possession of the third quarter, the Jets got the ball at their 21 and marched down the field on a nearly 8 1/2 -minute drive to the 2-yard line. Cedric Houston ran the ball twice, but failed to gain a yard—and injured his left knee on the second run. He was carted off the field, and his status wasn’t immediately known.
The Jets decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal rather than try a field goal, but Pennington threw an interception—his first in the red zone in his career—caught by Rocky Boiman in the back of the right corner of the end zone.
“It’s fourth down,” said Pennington, who was 17-of-23 for 207 yards. “Once the guy got around my waist, I knew I had to put the ball up in the air. I can’t think about stats, interceptions and all of that.”
The Colts then went on a 15-play drive to regain the lead, 17-14, on Gramatica’s 20-yard field goal.
New York came right back and regained the lead on Kevan Barlow’s second touchdown run of the game, a 5-yard scamper to give the Jets a 21-17 lead.
New York caught the Colts off guard again on fourth-and-1 from the Indianapolis 30, lining Brad Smith at quarterback and putting Pennington as a wide receiver on a play that resulted in a first down. Barlow barreled through the right side seven plays later to give the Jets a 14-7 lead.
Joseph Addai’s 2-yard run capped an 11-play drive with 16 seconds left before halftime.
Colts TE Ben Utecht bruised his back while making a catch in the third quarter and didn’t return. … Harrison, who had seven catches for 79 yards, moved past Andre Reed for fourth on the NFL’s career list. He has 956, trailing only Tim Brown (1,094), Cris Carter (1,101) and Jerry Rice (1,549). Harrison also tied Marshall Faulk’s NFL record for most consecutive games with a reception to start a career, catching a pass in his 158th straight game. … Miller’s kickoff return for a TD was the second of his career.