Patriots
Colts
34 - 38 Final
  for this game

Manning directs best comeback in conference championship history

Jan 22, 2007 - 5:37 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The face of the NFL is headed to the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning orchestrated the greatest comeback in conference championship game history, directing the Indianapolis Colts to 32 second-half points in a thrilling 38-34 victory over the New England Patriots.

Indianapolis (15-4) will face the Chicago Bears (15-3) in Super Bowl XLI in Miami on February 4. It marks the first time two black coaches - Tony Dungy of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears - have reached the Super Bowl.

Manning had to wait for the ninth year of his NFL career to get to a Super Bowl. Often criticized for not leading his team to a championship despite his prolific passing numbers and his portfolio of commercial endorsements, Manning showed the heart of a champion in rallying the Colts from an 18-point deficit.

A seven-time Pro Bowler and two-time MVP, Manning capped the comeback with a seven-play, 80-yard drive which rookie Joseph Addai capped with a three-yard touchdown run with exactly one minute left.

"When we got the ball back there at the end, we just knew that Peyton was going to drive us," Dungy said. "I'm so happy for him and rest of the players on this team who kept their poise and battled all the way through."

The Colts trailed 34-31 when they took over at the 20 with 2:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. Manning fired an 11-yard pass to Reggie Wayne, who quickly stepped out of bounds. Two plays later, Manning lofted a 32-yard pass to tight end Bryan Fletcher, who beat linebacker Eric Alexander.

Just before the two-minute warning, Manning threw a 14-yard pass over the middle to Wayne. Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain hit Manning on the play and was called for roughing the passer, giving the Colts the ball at the New England 11.

Addai took over from there. He gained eight yards on two plays before Patriots coach Bill Belichick called a timeout to stop the clock with 1:02 left.

On 3rd-and-2, Addai ran up the middle for a three-yard touchdown, giving the Colts their first lead of the game.

But there was still some time for Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who entered with a 12-1 record in the playoffs and a 10-0 record in domed stadiums, to bail out the Patriots. He completed a 19-yard pass over the middle to tight end Ben Watson and a 15-yard pass to fullback Heath Evans.

The Patriots called their second timeout with 24 seconds left and the ball at the Indianapolis 45. But Brady's next pass was intercepted by safety Marlin Jackson, who cut in front of Watson and returned it six yards before falling down to seal the win.

"Time was an issue for us at the end," Brady said. "It's not like we had two minutes to work with."

For the victory to come against Belichick, Brady and the Patriots had to make the comeback especially sweet for Manning. New England has won three of the last five Super Bowls, beating Manning and the Colts twice in the playoffs in that span, including the AFC championship game in 2003.

But for the first time in the postseason, Manning got a chance to face Brady and the Patriots in his backyard at the RCA Dome and threw for 349 yards and one touchdown while also rushing for a score.

"Winning here to get to the Super Bowl makes it all the more special," Manning said.

"We had to go through a great champion to get to the Super Bowl and we did with a lot of persistence," Dungy said.

Manning directed seven scoring drives, including four of more than 76 yards against Belichick's complex defensive schemes. New England was the league's second-best defensive team in the regular season, yielding 14.8 points per game.

"You've got to give the Colts credit, they made more plays than we did and they deserved to win," Belichick said. "It was about as competitive a game as you can get. They just made a couple more plays than we did."

It appeared that Manning was on his way to another heartbreaking defeat when rookie Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 43-yard field goal with 3:49 left to give the Patriots a 34-31 lead.

Manning threw three straight incomplete passes on Indianapolis' next drive, forcing the Colts to punt with 3:35 remaining.

But Indianapolis' defense forced a three-and-out by the Patriots, giving Manning another chance.

The Colts are in the Super Bowl for the first time since they relocated to Indianapolis 23 years ago. The franchise last won a Super Bowl in Baltimore in 1970.

Dungy played for the Steelers in one Super Bowl, but in 15 years as an assistant and 10 as a coach he never made it back. He was 0-2 in conference championship games before Sunday. Now he will face his good friend Smith, who was the linebackers coach under Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That didn't seem likely when the Patriots built a 21-3 lead in the first half.

The first touchdown was scored by an offensive lineman when guard Logan Mankins recovered a fumble in the end zone with 8:24 left in the first quarter after rookie Laurence Maroney was unable to handle a handoff by Brady.

The Colts got on the board when former Patriot Adam Vinatieri kicked a 42-yard field goal with 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The Patriots scored two touchdowns in a span of 53 seconds in the second quarter to increase their advantage to 21-3.

Corey Dillon scored on a seven-yard run with 10:18 left in the quarter.

After the ensuing kickoff, Manning threw a pass to his right for Marvin Harrison, but cornerback Asante Samuel intercepted it and raced 39 yards for a touchdown with 9:25 remaining in the first half.

It was the third interception return for a touchdown in the playoffs for Samuel, tying Willie Brown's record.

"That's certainly not the position we wanted to be in, down 18 points, but all you can do is keep battling and we did," Manning said.

Manning directed a 15-play, 80-yard drive to end the half. Vinatieri capped it with a 26-yard field goal with seven seconds left.

"It was a tale of two halves really," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We had a key defensive score by Asante and we had a little bit of momentum going into halftime. They made some great adjustments and were able to do a lot of things on us in the second half."

Manning opened the second half with a 14-play, 76-yard drive, capping it with a one-yard touchdown run 6:47 into the third quarter.

On Indianapolis' second possession of the second half, Manning engineered a six-play, 76-yard drive. It featured a 25-yard pass to tight end Dallas Clark, a 19-yard pass to running back Dominic Rhodes and an 18-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Ellis Hobbs.

Former Patriot Dan Klecko, who is a backup defensive tackle, lined up a tackle eligible and caught a one-yard touchdown pass with 4:00 left in the third quarter. Manning then connected with Harrison for the two-point conversion, tying the game, 21-21.

Hobbs returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the Indianapolis 21. Five plays later, Jabar Gaffney made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone for a six-yard touchdown with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter, giving the Patriots a 28-21 advantage.

Manning responded with a seven-play, 67-yard drive, including a 23-yard pass to Clark. The Colts then had one of their offensive lineman - Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday - recover a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, tying the game with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter. Rhodes fumbled at the New England 1 after being tackled by Alexander, but Saturday rescued the Colts.

Gostkowski kicked a 28-yard field goal with 7:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the Patriots a 31-28 lead.

Vinatieri, who kicked two Super Bowl-winning field goals for the Patriots, tied the game again with a 36-yard field goal with 5:31 left.






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  • AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
    NFL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    NEW ENGLAND 7 14 7 6 34
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 3 15 17 38 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NWE - TD, LOGAN MANKINS RECOVERED FUMBLE IN
    END ZONE (STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI KICK),
    7:36. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards in
    3:36. Key plays: Brady 18-yard pass
    to Cal

    Jan 21 10:18 PM


  • AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
    NFL AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
    TD IND
    JOSEPH ADDAI 3 YD RUN
    (ADAM VINATIERI KICK)
    NEW ENGLAND 34
    INDIANAPOLIS 38 1:00 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Patriots vs. ColtsJan 21 10:12 PM
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    FG NWE
    STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI 43 YD
    NEW ENGLAND 34
    INDIANAPOLIS 31 3:49 LEFT, 4TH QTR

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    FG IND
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    INDIANAPOLIS 31 5:31 LEFT, 4TH QTR

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    END, 3RD QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
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    NEW ENGLAND 7 14 7 28
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 3 15 21 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NWE - TD, LOGAN MANKINS RECOVERED FUMBLE IN
    END ZONE (STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI KICK),
    7:36. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards in
    3:36. Key plays: Brady 18-yard pass

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    TD NWE
    RECHE CALDWELL 6 YD PASS FROM TOM BRADY
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    NEW ENGLAND 28
    INDIANAPOLIS 21 1:25 LEFT, 3RD QTR

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    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NWE - TD, LOGAN MANKINS RECOVERED FUMBLE IN
    END ZONE (STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI KICK),
    7:36. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards in
    3:36. Key plays: Brady 18-yard pass
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  • AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
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    FG IND
    ADAM VINATIERI 26 YD
    NEW ENGLAND 21
    INDIANAPOLIS 6 0:07 LEFT, 2ND QTR

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  • AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
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    ASANTE SAMUEL 39 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN
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    NEW ENGLAND 21
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 9:25 LEFT, 2ND QTR

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    NEW ENGLAND 14
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 10:18 LEFT, 2ND QTR

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    NEW ENGLAND 7 7
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 3 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NWE - TD, LOGAN MANKINS RECOVERED FUMBLE IN
    END ZONE (STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI KICK),
    7:36. Drive: 8 plays, 75 yards in
    3:36. Key plays: Brady 18-yard pass

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    NEW ENGLAND 7
    INDIANAPOLIS 3 0:48 LEFT, 1ST QTR

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    TD NWE
    LOGAN MANKINS RECOVERED FUMBLE IN END ZONE
    (STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI KICK)
    NEW ENGLAND 7
    INDIANAPOLIS 0 7:24 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Patriots vs. ColtsJan 21 7:08 PM
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