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Manning, Wayne lead Colts to thrilling win over Broncos

Oct 30, 2006 - 12:40 AM DENVER (Ticker) -- Champ Bailey took care of Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison. But the Denver Broncos had no one with the ability to cover Reggie Wayne.

Peyton Manning and Wayne connected for three second-half touchdowns and a two-point conversion before Adam Vinatieri drilled a 37-yard field goal with two seconds left as the Indianapolis Colts posted a thrilling 34-31 victory over the Broncos in a battle of first-place teams.

The Colts became just the second team in NFL history to start a season 7-0 in consecutive years. They were 13-0 last season before losing to San Diego.

The Green Bay Packers were at least 7-0 three years in a row from 1929-31.

This win for the Colts could go a long way toward determining home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Denver (5-2) had won five in a row since a season-opening loss at St. Louis. The Broncos are now tied with San Diego for first place in the AFC West. The loss snapped a 13-game regular season home winning streak for Denver.

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan did not have to get past the Colts en route to the AFC championship game last season. The previous two years, Indianapolis eliminated the Broncos from the playoffs with resounding victories of 41-10 and 49-24 at the RCA Dome.

Shanahan wanted his defense to prove that it could contain the Colts this time around. Denver had allowed a league-low 44 points and just two touchdowns in its first six games.

But the Broncos couldn't stop Manning, who completed 32-of-39 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns - all to Wayne - and was not sacked or intercepted.

"This was not unusual for him," Colts coach Tony Dungy said of Manning. "You cannot overemphasize how good he is. People try to do different things against him and he just follows his reads."

"He (Manning) amazes me," Shanahan said. "Just his leadership qualities and his sense of urgency and the way he reads defenses. He did a heck of a job today."

Indianapolis scored on each of its five second-half possessions - three touchdowns and two field goals.

"We played better in the second half," Manning said. "We threw the ball well in the first half but they had more plays in the red zone. The second half was the other way around."

"We had several opportunities to make stops and we didn't," Broncos safety John Lynch said.

Denver had Bailey, a Pro Bowl cornerback, to blanket Harrison. But second-year cornerback Darrent Williams could not handle Wayne, who had 10 receptions for 138 yards.

"Reggie was able to get a lot of one-on-one coverage and made some plays for us," Dungy said.

Wayne had scoring catches of 12 and five yards in the third quarter and a 19-yard touchdown reception with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter. Wayne also caught a two-point conversion to give Indianapolis a 31-28 lead.

"My number got called and I made plays," Wayne said. "I am just going to refuse to lose no matter who is lined up on the other side of me."

Rookie Mike Bell broke off a 48-yard run after the ensuing kickoff. But the drive stalled at the Indianapolis 31 and the Broncos settled for a 49-yard field goal by Jason Elam, tying the game with 1:49 remaining.

But that was more than enough time for Manning to set up Vinatieri, who is known for making clutch field goals after helping the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls. Vinatieri made all four of his field-goal attempts in this win and is 14-for-14 this season.

"You just have to go out there, focus and put them through," Vinatieri said.

Manning completed 5-of-5 passes for 47 yards, including two to Wayne for 22 yards, in the winning drive. Both of Wayne's catches were made in front of Williams.

Shanahan selected Williams in the second round of the 2005 draft after a 49-24 playoff loss to the Colts. Manning passed for 457 yards - the second-highest single-game total in postseason history - in that game.

With Bailey shadowing Harrison, Wayne ended up hurting the Broncos with 10 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Roc Alexander was the starting cornerback then.

Williams has proven to be an upgrade at the right corner, but even he could not stop Wayne on Sunday.

Williams did not make himself available after the game, but Bailey defended his fellow corner by lavishing praise on Manning.

"When you play a guy like Peyton Manning and the guy is going to put it there on the money, what can you do?" Bailey said.

Manning praised both Bailey, who held Harrison to five catches to 38 yards, and Williams.

"They are both excellent corners," Manning said. "When you throw against Champ and Williams, that is why you practice in April, May and June. You practice like you always have Champ Bailey covering. You have to be perfect on the route and the throw."

The Colts once again had trouble stopping the run. Entering the game second-worst in the league in rushing yards allowed at 158 per game, Indianapolis yielded 227 yards on the ground to the Broncos.

Bell especially hurt the Colts with 136 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.

Operating a conservative attack due to an effective running game, Jake Plummer completed 13-of-21 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown and also scored on a one-yard run. He was not intercepted, but fumbled the ball away at his own 12 after being sacked.

"We gave it our all but we didn't win and that's all that matters in this league," Plummer said.

Before Sunday, the Broncos had failed to score more than 17 points in any game this season.

The Colts also proved that the departure of Edgerrin James has not crippled their running attack. Rookie Joseph Addai, the team's first-round pick, produced 93 yards on 17 carries and caught five passes for 37 yards.

Manning was 14-of-17 for 132 yards in the first half when the Colts managed just two field goals.

Vinatieri kicked a 42-yarder with 1:45 left in the first quarter to cap a 14-play drive which lasted more than eight minutes.

On Denver's next possession, Plummer connected with David Kircus on a 45-yard pass. Plummer also hit Rod Smith with a 16-yard pass before scoring on a one-yard run with 11:16 left in the second quarter.

The Colts responded with an 11-play, 60-yard drive and settled for a 30-yard field goal by Vinatieri with 5:10 remaining in the second quarter.

After the ensuing kickoff, Plummer connected with rookie tight end Tony Scheffler on a 27-yard play. Plummer then capped it with a 15-yard touchdown to Javon Walker with 22 seconds left in the half, giving the Broncos a 14-6 lead.

Manning directed a six-play, 56-yard scoring drive on Indianapolis' first possession of the second half. He hit Wayne with a 20-yard pass before tossing a 12-yard TD to Wayne 2:56 into the third quarter.

On Denver's next possession, Plummer fumbled after being sacked by Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett and Raheem Brock recovered for the Colts at the Denver 12.

Three plays later, Manning threw a 12-yard touchdown to Wayne, giving the Colts a 20-14 lead with 8:54 left in the third quarter.

The Broncos then put together a 14-play, 91-yard drive consumed the rest of the quarter. Bell capped it with a one-yard touchdown run to give the lead back to Denver.

Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter.

Bell scored on his second one-yard run with 6:54 remaining to increase Denver's lead to 28-23.

Manning then engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive which featured four passes to Wayne for 67 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown with 3:35 left. Wayne also caught the two-point conversion to give Indianapolis a 31-28 advantage.

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