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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Super Bowl Set Saints vs. Colts in Miami

Super Bowl bound: Manning rallies Colts over Jets

Peyton Manning threw two touchdown passes in the second half and the Indianapolis Colts punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV with a 30-17 win over Mark Sanchez and the upstart New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts, who rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit, are now in the Super Bowl for the second time in the past four years as the franchise is looking to win its third Super Bowl. In the 2006 season, the Colts defeated the Bears, 29-17, while the Baltimore Colts took a 16-13 decision over the Dallas Cowboys following the 1970 season.

"The guys have always been very confident and have done a great job of keeping themselves in the game," said Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell, who is the fifth rookie coach to guide his team to a Super Bowl. "We have a group of veterans here who know how to play the game and they got it done today."

Indianapolis will play New Orleans in the Super Bowl in Miami on February 7. The Saints beat Minnesota, 31-28, in overtime in the NFC title game.

The win is also revenge on two counts for Indianapolis as the team avenged a 16-7 loss to the Joe Namath and the underdog Jets in Super Bowl III and got payback for New York spoiling Indianapolis' bid for a perfect season in a Week 16, 29-15 loss in Indianapolis.

Manning finished the game 26-for-39 with 377 yards and three touchdowns while Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie all caught scores for the Colts, who defeated the Jets for the first time in the postseason as the team also dropped a 41-0 decision to New York in a 2002 AFC first-round game.

"We knew we had to be patient and play all four quarters against this team," said Manning. "We started to get a beat on them and were able to wear them down with our passing game in the later stages."

Garcon made 11 catches for 151 yards, Collie made seven receptions for 123 yards and Joseph Addai had 16 carries for 80 yards in the win. Matt Stover was 3-for-3 on field goals and also hit all three extra points.

Sanchez had a good game in his third postseason start as he went 17-for-30 with 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards each catching a score.

"What a playoff run, it's something we can build on," said Sanchez. "It's a special feeling to get this far. We fell a little short but I'm proud to be a part of this team. And I'm very appreciative that the coaches had faith in me all season long."

However, it wasn't enough for the Cinderella-story Jets as the team saw their bid for their first Super Bowl appearance since the win over Baltimore in the 1968 season fall one-game short.

"When you have Peyton Manning back there pulling the trigger, sometimes no matter what you do he'll still beat you," said New York coach Rex Ryan. "He's just that good that any little mistake you make he'll stick it to you. We had some matchup problems and they took full advantage of it."

Holding a four-point lead, the Jets started the second half with the ball and lined up for a 52-yard field goal attempt, but Jay Feely's attempt went wide right for his second missed kick of the game.

"I felt good about attempting it," said Ryan about the field goal attempt. "I know the snap was a little behind the holder and it threw the timing off a little bit. But you're kicking indoors and we had to try it."

Manning took advantage of the short field as he needed just eight plays to get the ball into the end zone. Garcon's catch at the right corner of the end zone from four yards out gave the Colts a 20-17 lead with 8:03 left in the third.

"We've been down before so we weren't panicking," said Garcon. "We knew we just needed one touchdown and that the defense would stop them so we never panicked."

The Jets had to punt on their next two possessions and the second one saw the Colts start a drive with the ball at their own 20.

On the first play Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for 13 yards. Four plays later, a 12-yard catch by Clark turned into a 27-yard play after a face mask call on James Ihedigbo. After a four-yard run by Addai, Manning found Clark over the middle and he took it into the end zone for a 15-yard score and a 27-17 lead with 8:52 to play.

New York was held to a three-and-out on the following touch and Manning took the Colts on a 12-play drive that covered 71 yards and ate up 5:33 of the clock. It was capped on a 21-yard field goal from Stover with 2:29 to play to seal the win.

Sanchez was picked off by Kelvin Hayden and the Colts ran a minute off the clock before giving the ball back, but Sanchez was barely able to move the Jets past midfield as the game ended.

The only scoring opportunity of the first quarter saw Feely hit a 44-yard field goal just to the right with 6:40 to play in the opening stanza.

However, the teams exploded for 30 points in the second quarter.

On the first play of the quarter, Stover hit a 25-yard field goal to give the Colts a 3-0 lead.

The Jets wasted no time, though, as on the first play of the ensuing touch, Sanchez pump-faked then heaved the ball down the left sideline where Edwards caught it in-stride and raced into the end zone from 80 yards out for a 7-3 lead.

Indianapolis marched down the field and had a 1st-and-goal at the four-yard line after a 22-yard catch by Collie. However, the team again came up with just three points on a Stover 19-yard field goal with 8:44 left in the half after Manning was stuffed on a QB sneak on third down at the one.

New York went to its basket of tricks on its next possession as a running back option saw Brad Smith haul the ball down-field to Jerricho Cotchery for 45 yards. Three plays later, Keller made a leaping catch just over the goal line for a nine-yard score and a 14-6 lead with 4:53 to play in the half.

On the third play of the Colts' next touch, Calvin Pace hit Addai in the backfield as the running back got the ball, causing a fumble which Jim Leonhard recovered at the Colts' 29.

The Indianapolis defense held firm and limited the Jets to a 48-yard field goal from Feely for a 17-6 lead with 2:11 left in the first half.

That was plenty of time for Manning and Collie as the three got together on three straight completions of 18, 46 and 16 yards with the last one in the back of the end zone to make it a 17-13 game heading into the break.

Game Notes

The Jets' first touchdown was their longest play of the season...Stover, who turns 42 on Wednesday, will be the oldest player to ever appear in a Super Bowl...The win puts the Colts at 19-18 all-time in the playoffs while the Jets fell to 10-12...Due to the Pro Bowl being held the week before the Super Bowl instead of the week after the Super Bowl, Clark, Manning, Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Jeff Saturday will all be excused from participating...Wayne finished the game with three catches for 55 yards and needs 87 yards to move into third place on the all-time postseason receiving yards list...Clark has 761 receiving yards in the postseason and needs just 74 to move past Keith Jackson for No. 1 all-time amongst tight ends...The Colts totaled 461 yards of offense while the Jets had 388...It was the first time this season the Jets gave up three passing touchdowns in a game...Manning became the first player in league history to have seven 300-yard postseason games, which broke a tie with Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.

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