Manning leads Colts past Jets in AFC title game
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.
"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 they needed.
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.
The Jets' magical run ended with their first road loss in six games.
New York (11-8) built a 17-6 lead and took advantage of trick plays. But the Jets lost running back Shonn Greene with a rib injury in the second half, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was shut out over the final two quarters.
"Today wasn't our day. There's no question," said Ryan, who declared his Jets the Super Bowl favorites before the playoffs. "You have to give credit to the Colts."
Caldwell became only the fifth rookie coach to reach the Super Bowl.
Manning kept dropping passes right over the fingertips of defenders, and the Jets couldn't stop him.
Pierre Garcon set career highs with 11 catches for 151 yards. Rookie Austin Collie had a career-best seven catches for 123 yards. And the Jets allowed three TD passes for the first time all season.
After falling behind late in the first half, Manning responded. He took the Colts 80 yards in four plays, hooking three straight times with Collie, including the 16-yard TD pass that made it 17-13 with 1:13 to go in the half.
The next time he got the ball, he took the Colts 57 yards in eight plays, connecting with Pierre Garcon in the back corner of the end zone to make it 20-17 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
Clark and Garcon each topped 100 yards receiving Sunday.
He sealed it midway through the fourth when Dallas Clark caught a 15-yard TD pass to make it 27-17.
But it didn't look like it would go this way during a scoreless first quarter.
The Colts struggled to get first downs, and settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
New York also changed philosophies, creating its big plays through the air.
Sanchez used a play-action fake to fool rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey. Lacey, who started in placed of the injured Jerraud Powers, was burned for an 80-yard TD pass by Braylon Edwards giving the Jets a 7-3 lead.
After the Colts cut it to 7-6, Jets receiver Brad Smith lined up in the Tigercat formation and connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a 45-yard pass to the Colts 12. Three plays later, Sanchez barely avoided a sack and found Dustin Keller for a 9-yard TD pass to make it 14-6 with 4:53 to go in the half.
The Jets made it 17-6 after Joseph Addai's fumble set up Jay Feely's 48-yard field goal.
That's when Manning the Colts took over.