December 26, 2004

Colts Win As Manning Sets TD Pass Record

INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning wanted the win more than the record. He got both. Manning rallied his Indianapolis Colts (news) from a 15-point deficit in the final quarter, throwing his record-breaking 49th touchdown of the season to help tie the game in the last minute of regulation, and then led the winning drive in overtime as the Colts defeated San Diego 34-31 Sunday.

The victory was the eighth straight for the Colts (12-3) and gave Indianapolis at least the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. The Colts still have an outside shot at a first-round bye, but New England would have to lose its final two games.

"It's a great win for us," Manning said. "It's great to get the win and the TD record all at the same time."

San Diego's winning streak ended at eight games. The Chargers (11-4) will still host a first-round game as the No. 4 seed.

It was an atypical day for Manning and the Colts, though. Manning, who had been sacked just nine times all season, was sacked four times by the Chargers. Manning fumbled twice, threw an interception and seemed out of sync for much of the day. He still finished 27-of-44 for 383 yards with two TDs to give him 49 this year. Dan Marino threw 48 in 1984 to set the record.

When the Colts needed Manning to play his best, he did.

Manning threw a 21-yard TD pass to a wide open Brandon Stokley with 56 seconds left in regulation to break the record. Then he called a draw for Edgerrin James, who ran it in for two points to tie the score at 31.

In overtime, Manning needed just four plays to set up the winning field goal. He hooked up with Stokley on a 23-yard gain, then found Reggie Wayne on a 35-yard catch-and-run, and James ran once to the middle of the field, setting up Mike Vanderjagt's winner from 30 yards with 12:13 to go.

Manning was not the only one to break records in Indianapolis.

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson ran 16 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, giving him 12 straight games with a rushing TD to break the NFL's single-season record. And teammate Antonio Gates caught his 13th touchdown of the season, breaking the NFL's season record for a tight end.

Every time Manning got near the end zone, flashes went off. He only wished it could have been that easy against the NFL's No. 26 pass defense.

Instead, Drew Brees and the Chargers defense made things tough. Brees finished 21-of-31 for 290 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and San Diego led for almost the entire game.

The Chargers appeared to have control when Gates caught a shovel pass and ran four yards for a TD to make it 24-9 early in the second half.

On the Colts' next series, Harrison caught a 29-yard pass on third-and-12, giving the Colts just the fourth trio of 1,000-yard receivers. The play also set up Manning's record-tying throw, a 3-yard shovel pass to James Mungro. With flash bulbs going off again, Manning clapped his hands and walked to the sidelines as fans gave him a standing ovation.

San Diego answered 11 plays later when Tomlinson scored.

Dominic Rhodes countered with an 88-yard kickoff return to cut the lead to 31-23, setting the stage for Manning's late heroics.

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