Colts clinch playoff spot

Manning throws for 364 yards, 3 TDs in 31-24 win over Jags


December 19, 2008|By From Sun news services

Peyton Manning was nearly perfect, exactly what the Indianapolis Colts needed to overcome all the emotion the Jacksonville Jaguars got from Richard Collier's return.

Manning completed his first 17 passes, picked apart Jacksonville's secondary, and led the visiting Colts to their eighth consecutive win and seventh straight playoff berth.

Manning finished 29-for-34 and threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns, and the Colts secured the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a 31-24 victory over the Jaguars last night.

Indianapolis (11-4) took its first lead of the game when Keiwan Ratliff intercepted a pass from David Garrard and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown and a 31-24 lead with 4:48 remaining.

The Jaguars had two chances to tie it, but both drives ended with sacks. Garrard drove Jacksonville to the 7-yard line with 29 seconds remaining, but Maurice Jones-Drew sprained his knee on a reception, and because the Jaguars had no timeouts, there was a 10-second runoff.

Garrard misfired on first down, then got sacked by Dwight Freeney to end the game.

The Colts overcame a 14-0 deficit in the second quarter and a 24-14 hole early in the fourth. They won without receiver Marvin Harrison (hamstring), running back Joseph Addai (shoulder) and linebacker Gary Brackett (leg).

The Jaguars (5-10) lost for the seventh time in the past nine games and fell to 2-6 at home this season. This one might have been more emotionally draining than any of the others.

Collier, a 6-foot-7 offensive linemen paralyzed from the waist down after a shooting in early September, returned to the field for the first time and was recognized during pre-game ceremonies. He drove onto the field, sat next to his teammates during the national anthem, and then headed to midfield as an honorary team captain for the coin toss.

He answered a few questions afterward, then went to a luxury suite with family members to watch the game. He must have liked the Jaguars' fast start. They scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and led 14-0 early in the second quarter - possibly feeding off Collier's emotional return.

"It's a bittersweet moment," Collier said. "I'm here now, but I'm not a player anymore. But it's also great with all the love that's been shown from everybody. ... It was like I'm back at home. Everybody showed me love. It was good."

Collier's left leg was amputated below the knee after he sustained 14 gunshot wounds just days before the season opener. He returned to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the first time since the shooting Wednesday and spent time around teammates and in the locker room.

His appearance last night was even more emotional.

"It was incredible," said Collier, who left the field amid chants of his name and a standing ovation. "It was real amazing. The crowd was going. I got chills. I've still got chills. It's amazing, it really is."

So was Manning's performance.

He hurt the Jaguars on nearly every drive, spreading the ball around and throwing pinpoint passes all over the field.

Dallas Clark finished with eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Wayne had seven receptions for 108 yards and a score. Dominic Rhodes, held to 27 rushing yards, was much more dangerous out of the backfield. He caught six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Manning completed his final six passes last week against Detroit and his first 17 against Jacksonville, giving him 23 in a row - the second-longest streak in NFL history. Donovan McNabb set the record of 24 straight in 2004.

Garrard wasn't nearly as accurate, especially in the second half.

He finished 28-for-41 for 329 yards and a score. He added a rushing touchdown. Jones-Drew ran 20 times for 91 yards and caught seven passes for 71 yards.

Dennis Northcutt, starting for the second straight week in place of Jerry Porter (groin) and Matt Jones (suspension), has another strong game. He caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown - his second consecutive 100-yard game after going nearly four years without one.

Off the field

Cowboys: : Tony Romo (sore back) said he will be ready tomorrow night when Dallas plays its Texas Stadium finale against the Ravens. Romo went through most of Wednesday's practice despite being stiff and sore and said before practicing again yesterday that his back was feeling progressively better.

Et cetera: : The Vikings will start Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback Sunday against Atlanta. ... Titans Pro Bowl cornerback Cortland Finnegan has been fined $25,000 by the NFL for two hard hits on Houston quarterback Matt Schaub last weekend. ... Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin (shoulder) and running back J.J. Arrington (sore knee) could be sidelined Sunday at New England.

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