Patience pays off, Indy rallies to win
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INDIANAPOLIS -- This is perfect for the Indianapolis Colts: They have Peyton Manning and they're back in the Super Bowl.
The four-time MVP threw three touchdown passes and the Colts rallied from an 11-point, first-half deficit to beat the New York Jets, 30-17, Sunday in the AFC championship game.
The Colts (16-2) are now headed back to the NFL title game for the second time in four years and their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. Better yet, they're heading back to their lucky city -- Miami, where they've played all four of those games and won there twice.
"I thought we just kept our mouths shut and went to work this week," Manning said.
The big-talking Jets, and their equally big-talking coach, Rex Ryan, were all the incentive Indianapolis needed Sunday.
A month ago, when the New Yorkers last came to town, Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters in the third quarter and gave up a chance at a perfect season to focus on a Super Bowl run.
Fans booed throughout the fourth quarter and when the Colts left the field, and some spent the past month complaining publicly.
That's over now. Manning stayed on the field for every Colts play and instead of blowing a lead, the Colts rallied behind their leader.
This time, fans counted down the final seconds while streamers and confetti hung in the air, flash bulbs popped and when the official announcement was made, roars cascaded from the rafters.
"We talked about being patient against these guys," Manning said. "We knew it would be a four-quarter game."
The Colts will face New Orleans in two weeks, giving Manning a chance to play in the same venue where he beat Chicago in the rain and won the MVP award three years ago.
Players savored every precious moment. Receiver Pierre Garcon, who had 11 catches for 153 yards, both career-highs, and the go-ahead score remained on the field long after the official celebration, mingling with family, friends and fans as the Colts redeemed themselves for this season's first loss.
"We've been here before, we had seven comeback wins this year. I think the guys were a little rattled at first, I think we took their best shot, but we came back," linebacker Gary Brackett said.
"I think we did a great job of being the hunters and imposing our will today."
Manning finished 26 of 39 for 377 yards. He became the first player in league history with seven 300-yard postseason games. That broke a tie with Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.
Jim Caldwell became only the fifth rookie coach to reach the Super Bowl. Only two others -- San Francisco's George Seifert and Don McCafferty, of the Baltimore Colts -- have won it.
"Peyton had just an outstanding game. He's one of those guys that can adjust to different situations. ... A real champion," Caldwell said.
"Probably the biggest thing is when he goes up against the best, he takes his game to another level."
First Published January 25, 2010 1:10 am