INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—The Indianapolis Colts passed two dynasties with one win.
The New England Patriots, winners of three Super Bowls since 2001, won their 21st in a row just last year, while the San Francisco 49ers had 113 wins in the 1990s, when they won the most recent of their five Super Bowl titles.
Things couldn’t have turned out better for the Colts.
“When you go 22 in a row, that’s difficult to do,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “It’s built on the shoulders of several guys who aren’t even in that locker room, Tony (Dungy) included. Then we look at 114 victories, now in a decade, that’s a lot of wins and a lot of guys took part in that. You have to look at the ownership, Bill Polian and a lot of people who have been involved in that. Right now, we are really going to celebrate and enjoy this moment.”
Why not, after a remarkable journey ended with milestones falling at a breakneck pace?
Indy also established a new franchise mark with its 13th consecutive home win. Tight end Dallas Clark(notes) caught three of Manning’s four TD passes, breaking his own single-season franchise marks for receptions (82) and yards (902) by a tight end, and Manning passed Warren Moon for fourth on the league list for yards passing with 49,533.
Heck, even Denver got in on the act.
Marshall had a premonition Sunday would be a good day.
“I went to my receiving coach before the game and I told him, ‘I think this is going to be the best game I’ve ever played.’ Just because of the environment, the situation of playing the Colts,” Marshall said. “I believe big players step up in big games, and this was a big game for us.”
But Marshall’s numbers and Manning’s atypical day still couldn’t derail Indy, which became the seventh team in league history to go 13-0. Also on the list: This year’s New Orleans Saints, the 2007 perfect Patriots and the 2005 Colts who lost a divisional-round game to Pittsburgh.
So with playoff seeding locked up, and no losses since Oct. 27, 2008, the Colts, finally took a few moments to ponder the accomplishments.
Owner Jim Irsay “kind of encouraged the team to reflect,” Manning said. “There is no question that is a lot of wins in a decade. You do think about all the players that have been here, a lot of them, a majority of them aren’t here anymore.”
The constant, of course, has been Manning though the record-setting game was actually one of his strangest in 12 NFL seasons.
He led the Colts to touchdowns on three of their first four drives, building a 21-0 lead, then suddenly lost his magic. After going 10 of 16 in the first quarter, he completed just 6 of his next 22 passes and had three picked off— two of them off bounces. That was Manning’s highest single-game total since a forgettable night in San Diego in November 2007 when he threw six interceptions.
On Sunday, it was the Colts’ stout run defense and a suddenly rejuvenated Manning in the closing minutes that proved the difference.
After falling behind 21-0, Denver (8-5) ditched the running game and put the ball in the hands of Orton and Marshall. The two hooked up on six of the next 12 plays, finally producing a 4-yard score to make it 21-7 at the half.
But when Denver’s 2-point conversion run failed, Manning took the Colts 80 yards and found Clark for his third TD of the game and put the Colts in the NFL record books again. Twice.
NOTES: Orton was 29 of 41 with two TDs and one interception. … Denver RB Correll Buckhalter(notes) and safety Renaldo Hill(notes) both injured ankles and linebacker-fullback Spencer Larsen(notes) hurt his back on the opening kickoff. … Joseph Addai(notes) ran 16 times for 67 yards. … Manning has had 20 four-TD games, trailing only Dan Marino (21) and Brett Favre(notes) (22).