This post is brought to you by Blue Blood: Tales of Glory of the Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning has had an unfair rap of being bad in the clutch. In fact, in a recent NFL network show, he wasn’t even listed as one of the top 10 most clutch QBs ever, despite more comeback wins than either Tom Brady or Joe Montana Because of that, we bring you:
The 18 Best 4th Quarter Wins by Peyton Manning (in Chronological order) *Many details of these games came from wire services, AP reports, and my own occasionally hazy memory.
1. 1998 vs Jets 24-23
During the rough 1998 rookie season, things started to turn the corner as the line improved. In mid-November, the Jets game to town. Up 23-10 at half time, the Jets seemed to have everything under control. Manning led the team back in the 3rd quarter throwing his 2nd of three touchdowns. The recap from the ticker: “With the Colts trailing by six points, Manning engineered a 15-play, 80-yard drive in only 2:40. His biggest test came at his own 38 on 4th-and-15, when he found running back Faulk for 18 yards. Managing the clock like a veteran, Manning hit Marvin Harrison for a first down at the Jet 14 with 52 seconds left. After an incompletion to tight end Ken Dilger, Pollard caught the ball in the middle of the field at the 3 and stretched over the goal line. “Peyton made a great throw and I was thankful to get into the end zone to win it, it was a team effort,” Pollard said.” Though just a rookie, this gave us all an inkling of what was to come. Pollard battling over the goal line will be an image mentioned during his future induction into the Classic Colts.
2. 1999 @ Miami 37-34
After the debacle that was the first Dolphins/Colts game of the season, the Colts were hungry for revenge and their first division title since 1987. The Colts jumped out to an early 17-3 lead thanks in part to an insane run by Edgerrin James. The Dolphins battled back and the game was largely back and forth all day with the Colts staying just a step ahead. With just seconds to go, Marino put the Fins in position for a Mare field goal to tie the game. Manning got the ball with 29 seconds to play and two time outs. After a couple of quick strikes and timeouts, Vanderjagt banged home a massive 53 yarder at the gun to win the game. This game featured a young Manning out dueling an aging Marino and was an instant classic.
3. 1999 @ Cleveland 29-28
With a first ever first round bye in Indianapolis on the line, the Colts started slow on a snowy, windy day in Cleveland. Trailing 28-19 heading into the 4th quarter, Manning led the Colts on a bruising 11 play drive, converting a key 3rd and 4 with a completion to Marvin Harrison. The ensuing touchdown only brought the Colts to within 2 however. The defense held Cleveland scoreless in the 4th and Manning got the ball back with 4:12 to play. Another 11 play drive that featured a huge 3rd down catch by Edge to put the Colts into field goal range. Manning kept right on pushing, and moved the team down near the goal where Vanderjagt knocked home a chippy in the snow. This was the team’s 13th win and ensured at least a 2 seed in the AFC.
4. 2000 @ Buffalo 18-16
Against the best defense in the AFC, Manning was facing a 16-15 deficit after the defense allowed a horrible 40 yard touchdown pass with just 1:06 on the clock. Having already led one scoring drive that quarter, #18 took the team from 31 and drove it into field goal range. He hit Edge for a key pass and efficiently moved the team to the 28. Vandy knocked home the 45 yarder for the win. After the game he said, “I’m just happy to be along for Peyton Manning’s ride because he’s one of the best. As soon as they scored, I knew we’d be able to get into field-goal range.” No word on whether he was liquored up at the time.
5. 2002 vs Baltimore 22-20
Baltimore games are always emotionally charged, and this one in Dungy’s first year was no exception. The typically tough Ravens defense had forced the Colts into 4 field goals and held a 20-19 lead with 2 ½ minutes left. Manning had only 2 time outs to take the ball from his own 20 and move it into field goal range. The Ravens defense made it difficult, sacking Peyton for a 13 yard loss. A huge completion to Marvin made it 4th and 5 before a penalty pushed things back. Then, on a pass to Quadray Ishmael (remember him?) the Ravens interfered. The 22 yard penalty on 4th down extended the drive. Peyton then hit #88 for 15 more yards before a pair of Edge runs set up the winning figgie as time expired.
6. 2002 @ Denver 23-20 (OT)
This game was always ignored by those who questioned the Colts ability to win on the road in bad weather. On a snowy Sunday night in November, the Colts and Broncos played a classic back and forth game that marked one of the last times that Mike Vanderjagt was clutch. Denver jumped to 13-3 lead in the 3rd quarter, but the Colts responded with a pair of lightning quick touchdown drives. After another Denver score midway through the fourth put the Colts down three, they failed on a couple of attempts to even up the game. When Manning and the offense took over at the 20 with 1:40 to play, they still needed a field goal. Manning worked the ball down field, to put the team in range for a 54 yard try with just seconds on the clock. Vandy came out onto the snow covered field and buried the tying kick. The Colts won the toss in OT and marched down field stalling out around the 34. Vanderjagt came on again and 51 yards later, he delivered the Colts an incredible OT win.
7. 2002 @ Cleveland 28-23
These days we are all used to Manning running the no-huddle and calling all the plays. On this day late in 2002, it was a half-time adjustment by Tom Moore that gave Peyton the power. The Colts trailed 16-0 at the half of a game they had to win in order to make the playoffs. Then, they lit up the score board in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Manning and Harrison hooked up for two 2nd half scores as Marvin broke the single season receptions mark. On the final drive, 18 to 88 worked for a 46 yard completion down to the Cleveland 10. James Mungro eventually banged home the game winning touchdown with just minutes remaining.
8. 2003 @ Tampa 38-35 (OT)
I suppose almost everyone at least threatened to turn this one off at some point during the night. The Colts trailed 21-0 at the half and by 21 at 35-14 with just 5:09 left to go in the game. Then something weird started to happen. Brad Pyatt ripped off a long kickoff return. The Colts pounded it in for a quick score. An onside kick actually worked. Manning hit Harrison on 4th down for another score. Tampa ran an offensive possession as if they were on crack, garnering a bizarre personal foul call to stop the clock before the two minute warning. Then, with the game on the line, Manning and Harrison hooked up yet again for 52 yards to set up a short TD run. The Horse survived an OT possession by the Bucs, and then Manning went to work carving them up on 3rd down, moving the ball into Vanderjagt field goal range. Like most big kicks he had with the Colts, Vandy shanked it. However, the officials stepped in with a ‘leaping’ penalty on the Bucs to give Vandy a second try. This time he slammed it off the upright and home for one of the most improbable comebacks of all time.
9. 2003 @ Houston 20-17 Trailing 17-3 in the final week of the season, entering the 4th quarter with the division title and MVP award at stake, Manning relentlessly drove the Colts back into the game. The Colts rammed the ball down the field on an 11 play drive to cut the deficit to 7. Manning later converted a David Carr int deep in his own territory into a short TD throw to Stokley to tie the game. After a defensive stop, the Colts took the ball and drove into field goal range thanks in large part to a 16 yard third down conversion pass from Manning to Harrison, and a key 9 yard scramble by Manning to take the ball down to the Texans 36 and into eventual field goal range. Manning would go on to share the MVP award with Steve McNair and the Colts would go to the AFC Championship game after two amazing playoff performances by #18.
10. 2004 vs Minnesota 31-28
With the season hanging precariously in the balance and a 4-3 record, Manning picked up the pace of his play and accelerated down the road to 49 touchdown passes. In a back and forth game that feature Manning and Harrison against Culpepper and Moss, Manning drove the Colts down to the goal line with time expiring. On the final 55 yard drive, Manning scrambled for 15 yards and key first down. He also made an amazing left handed flip to Edge while under duress that helped to seal the game. The Colts made it to the goal line and ran the clock out, allowing Vanderjagt to nail the gimme game winner with 2 seconds to play. Manning and Culpepper locked up for a great Monday night showdown featuring perhaps the two greatest statistical seasons by a QB in NFL history.
11. 2004 vs Chargers 34-31 (OT)
Played the day after Christmas in 2004, this game had plenty of significance and drama. The Colts and Chargers were playing to settle the 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, and Peyton Manning was stuck on 47 touchdown passes, one short of the single season mark held by Dan Marino. The Chargers started strong and Manning threw a pick near the goal line. When LT scored to put the Chargers up 15 early in the fourth, things looked bleak. Dom Rhodes answered the bell and ran back the ensuing kickoff for an 88 yard touchdown. The teams traded empty possessions (including a missed FG by Vandy), and Indy took over with 3:42 to play and three timeouts. Faced with a 4 and 4 almost immediately, Manning then took off his blue and white jersey to reveal that he is in fact Superman. He waved the punt unit off the field and promptly converted the 4th down with a pass to Reggie Wayne. He marched the team down field finally hitting Brandon Stokely for the record breaking pass on a post route the two made up at the line of scrimmage. Still down two, the Colts tied the game on a conversion by Edge, and when they won the toss in OT, everyone in the building knew the Chargers would never see the ball. A scant four plays later, Vanderjagt converted the game winner.
12. 2006 @ NY Jets 31-28
This was a game that Peyton refused to let the Colts lose. In one of the most entertaining 4th quarters in recent history, the Colts and Jets traded body blows, until the Jets finally collapsed after lateraling the ball all over the field. Manning originally put the Colts in position to take the lead early in the 4th as Gramatica hit a short FG to take a 17-14 lead. The Jets responded with a touchdown, which forced a classic Manning drive. A Peyton TD pass to Brian Fletcher with just 2:34 seemed to put the Colts in the driver’s seat with a 24-21 lead. The Colts special teams collapsed, however, as the Jets ran back the kickoff for a 28-24 lead with just 2 minutes and change remaining, but no timeouts. Manning refused to panic, and drove the Colts right back down field going 6-8 on the final drive that ended with him quick count QB sneaking into the end zone with just 50 seconds left. He then victoriously spiked the football and the Jets hopes. This drive featured a huge 19 yard completion to #88 on 3rd and 6 from the Jets 35. In what may be one of the single most incredible athletic plays in his life, Manning started to scramble under pressure, pulled up short of the line of scrimmage, gathered his feet in a split second with a Jet hanging off his jersey, and hit Marvin streaking toward the sideline. First down, clock stopped. The Jets were crestfallen, and they knew a touchdown was imminent. 3 plays later, Manning took it in for the win.
13. 2006 @ Denver 34-31
Last team with the ball wins sounds like a cliche, but it summed up so many games the 2006 Colts played. This late afternoon classic was no exception. The Broncos had the lead at the half, 14-6. The Colts went on a long drive to start the second half, and then converted a short field after recovering a Jake Plummer fumble for a 20-14 lead. The infamous run defense then almost took over for the Colts. They gave up a rushing score at the end of the 3rd quarter and trailed again 21-20. Vinatieri nailed a long FG, but the Broncos rammed the ball down the field for a 28-23 lead with less than 7 to play. Manning and Wayne responded by completely abusing a young Denver corner and with 3:56 to play, the Colts took a 31-28 lead after a 2 point conversion. Gilbert Gardner struck back by abandoning his hole and letting Denver rip off a 48 yard run. Fortunately, the defense stiffened, and Denver settled for a long field goal and a tie with just 1:49 to play. 1:49 is waaaay to long to give #18 however, and unfortunately for the Denver, Darrent Williams was still on the field. Manning calmly moved the Colts down field to set up a game winning field goal try from Adam Vinatieri with just two seconds on the clock. By the time the dust had settled, the Colts were 7-0 for the second straight season.
14. 2006 vs Patriots (AFC Championship) 38-34
In the single biggest and greatest game in Indianapolis history, Manning was huge. Having already overcome a 21-3 deficit to tie the game in the 3rd quarter, the Colts had to overcome shaky special teams play which left them facing a 28-21 hole in the fourth. Manning led the Colts on 3 scoring drives for a total of 17 points. On the final drive, Manning took the Colts 80 yards in just 1:17 and didn’t even need to use a time out. Manning racked up 349 yards and a score to propel the Colts on to Super Bowl XLI. It was one of the most clutch performances in a career that has been filled with them.
15. 2008 @ Minnesota 18-15
Fighting a battered psyche following an opening game home lose to the Bears and a rash of injuries on both sides of the ball, Indy found itself down 15-0 late in the third quarter on the road to Minnesota. At this point, Peyton Manning connected with Anthony Gonzalez on third and six. Gonzo scampered 58 yards before leaving Colts fans with their hearts in their throats as he lateraled to Reggie Wayne, who took it to the one yard line. The short TD run and a Manning to Wayne TD followed by a two point conversion by Dominic Rhodes tied the game. With time winding down, Indy’s D for only the second time all day, forced the Vikings into a three and out. When the Colts got the ball, Manning literally drilled a pass by a Viking defender’s ear to Wayne on third and eight. This play set up Adam Vinatieri’s game winning 47 yard FG with 3 seconds left (made all the more nerve wracking for Colts fans, because he had missed earlier from 30 yds). Peyton Manning was every bit the hero. This is the kind of game that Manning haters never seem to notice or appreciate. The Colts couldn’t rush the ball at all (19 carries for 25 yards) making them totally one dimensional. Playing virtually on one leg after missing all of the pre-season with a knee injury, and with Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark and Tony Ugoh not available, Manning stood up to a relentless Vikings pass rush to help deliver this win. It is an overused cliché, but 18 really did will this victory.
Submitted by: Doug England
16. 2008 @ Pittsburgh 24-20
The Colts were in real danger of not making the playoffs in 2008 thanks to injuries at almost every key position. Entering at just 4-4, the Colts trailed by a 17-7 score before rallying thanks to gritty play by Manning and a pair of timely picks from Ratliff and Tim Jennings. With 3:04 to play, Manning hit Dom Rhodes out of the backfield for the go ahead score. The Colts had come from behind to win in Pittsburgh for the first time in 40 years. The Steelers would later go on to win the Super Bowl. Manning threw for 3 TDs and no picks against the best passing defense in the league.
17. 2009 @ Miami 27-23
This game stuck a knife in ‘time of possession’ forever. Manning hit Dallas Clark for an 80 yard touchdown pass to open Monday Night Football, and the rest of the game was a blur. The Dolphins held the ball for more than 45 minutes of game time, but the Colts managed touchdown drives that lasted :12, 3:17, and :32. Miami took a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, as the Colts were incapable of stopping the run. Manning responded with with a 49 yard pass to Clark (who had 183 yards receiving on the day) to set up the tying touchdown. The Dolphins ground out a long field goal drive, but Manning responded by hitting Pierre Garcon on a flanker screen that he busted for a 48 yard touchdown to give the Colts the lead. Miami’s final drive ended as Bethea picked a ball off in the endzone to preserve the win.
18. 2009 New England 35-34
One of the many iconic games in the series of the decade, the Patriots jumped all over the Colts early. Randy Moss had an incredible first half, hauling in multiple long passes, including a 63 yard touchdown. The Patriots built a 24-7 first half lead on the undefeated Colts. The Colts answered with a touchdown before half time, but still trailed the Pats by 10 heading to the fourth quarter. After another New England score gave the Patriots a 17 point lead, the Colts came roaring back. Two quick Peyton Manning lead touchdown drives cut the Pats lead to just 34-28 with 2:23 to go in the game. Indy needed one more stop to get the ball back. On third down, rookie corner Jerraud Powers knifed in front of a Tom Brady pass, knocking it down. On fourth and two with 2:08 to play, Bill Belichick decided the Patriots should go for it from their own 28 yard line, rather than risk punting the ball back to a red hot Peyton Manning. Brady fired a pass to Kevin Faulk at the 31, but he bobbled the ball and was hit immediately by Melvin Bullitt. The contact drove him back inside the 30, and the ball was awarded to the Colts. Suddenly facing a chance to win the game, Manning went into a slow down. He hit Reggie Wayne in bounds and ran the ball with Addai down to the one. On second and goal with :16 left, Manning threw a seed to Wayne on a slant. He caught the back half of the ball for the game winning touchdown, completing one of the most unlikely and gratifying comebacks in Colts history.
2000 Vs Patriots 30-23
Bill Belichick always beats Peyton Manning right? That’s true unless you look at the facts. In this 2000 contest, Manning posted the first perfect passer rating of his career and the boys in blue racked up 16 4th quarter points to overcome a 23-14 deficit. Helped by a big day from Edge, Manning posted 268 yards passing on 16-20 with 3 TDs. The Colts went on the game winning drive with just over 4 minutes to play, going 66 yards in 6 plays with Edge scoring the game winner with just over 2 minutes left. Manning has posted more perfect passing games than any man in history, and the Colts needed everything he had to give in his very first one.
2003 @ Cleveland 9-6
Despite the off-season tension between Vanderjagt and Manning, Peyton used him well in the first game of 2003. Despite a sloppy opener, the Colts found themselves tied 6-6 with 2:39 to go, pinned down at their own 8. Instead of running out the clock or playing it safe, Manning drove the team downfield for the win. Manning went 8 for 10, hitting 5 different receivers on the final drive. The key passes were a quick strike to Harrison to pull the team out of the shadow of the end zone and a huge hook up with a young Reggie Wayne on 3rd and 10 from their own 34. The 15 yard pass moved the Colts to midfield. Four completions later and the Colts were in FG range. Vandy nailed a 45 yarder and the 2003 season was off and running.
2003@ Buffalo 17-14 The Colts trailed 14-3 on the road in Buffalo in November. For #18, that was no problem. He led the team on two fourth quarter touchdown drives to steal a win from the Bills. Edge scored both touchdowns, but it was Manning who executed the offense to perfection. Trailing 14-9 the Colts went on a bruising 16 play 83 yard drive that ended with Edge banging home a TD on 4th and inches with just 2:38 left in the game. Manning added a 2 point conversion pass to Mungro to force the lead to the final margin of 3 points. Despite not throwing a TD pass, Manning showed tremendous patience and poise and keep the Colts tied for the division lead.
2006 vs. Titans 14-13
Despite trailing most of the day to a young Titans team, the Colts and Manning came through when it counted. Trailing 10-0 at the half and 13-7 after 3, Manning drove the Colts for the winning score. With just 5:10 to play, Manning hit Reggie Wayne for a score on 3rd down capping a 10 play 43 yard drive. Manning was 4-6 on the winning drive and converted two key third downs. The game sucked, but Manning averted disaster.
2007 vs Chiefs 13-10
He set up Adam Vinatieri for a last second field goal against the Chiefs for a 13-10 win, that was ugly, but huge given the physical state of the team at the time.
2007 @ Oakland 21-14 He hit rookie Anthony Gonzalez for a key fourth quarter score to beat the Raiders in a come from behind 21-14 win.
2008 @ Houston Texans Colts 31 Texans 27
This was perhaps the most unlikely of Manning’s comebacks, but because the defense played such a huge role, it only makes the honorable mentions on this list. On some very rare occasions, one game can become a microcosm of the larger state of the team. This was the case early in 2008. The Colts were struggling early in the season, coming off their by at 1-2. Injuries were mounting, and it was becoming clear to everyone that perhaps the 2008 weren’t going to be the juggernaut we all foresaw. Facing a backup QB in Sage Rosenfels, the Colts squandered an early 10-0 lead, and rolled over, playing dead for more than two quarters. With just over 8 minutes to go in the game, Houston’s Steve Slaton scored from a yard out (after busting a demoralizing 41 yard run a few plays earlier). The Colts were dead at 27-10 with 8 minutes to play. Then one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history began. Manning capped what seemed like a cosmetic drive with a fourth down TD to Rookie Tom Santi, but with just 4 minutes on the clock, the Colts were still down 10 and didn’t recover the onside kick. On third down, as he dove toward the sticks for the first down that would have ended the game, Sage Rosenfels was hit by Freeney and Brock. The ball came loose and Gary Brackett returned it 68 yards for a score. On the Texans next possession, Robert Mathis played the role of Superman, and executed one of the most amazing strip sacks in Colts history. The Colts quickly took the ball 20 yards for their TD in just 2:10, as Manning hit Wayne for acrobatic score just before the two minute warning. Melvin Bullitt then sealed the game with pick. The Colts had won, and the 2008 season was back on.
2008 vs New England 18-15
With the Colts actually under .500, Manning willed the team to a desperate win at home over the Pats, sealed with a 52 yard FG in the fourth quarter. Manning was 21 of 29 with 2 TDs and no picks on the day.
@ San Diego 23-20
The Colts season had already begun to turn the corner thanks to hard fought wins in the previous three weeks, but few wins in 2008 were as difficult or dramatic as the Sunday night game against the Chargers. The Colts had built a modest cushion of 20-10, but the defense flagged late and the Chargers came back. With time running out, and overtime a near certainty, Manning rallied the Colts for a final drive. Taking the ball with just 1:26 on the clock, 18 positioned the Horse at the San Diego 48 with :26 seconds left. Facing a fourth and 1, Tony Dungy went for it, and 18 hooked up with 88 who broke free down to the San Diego 34. Adam Vinatieri got redemption for missing a game winner the year before and drilled the 51 yard figgie to give Indy a huge win.
2008 @Jacksonville 31-24 Peyton plays a perfect game, and seals up the MVP award on quasi-national TV. Garrard throws a late pick 6, and the Colts complete a 14 point comeback.
2009 @Jacksonville 35-31 Manning hits Reggie Wayne on a long touchdown pass with minutes to play to help seal his fourth MVP award
Stats on these comebacks:
Just in case you think Manning only plays well in the dome or in warm weather or in ‘non big games’…
12 of the 18 came on the road
4 came on Monday or Sunday Night
6 came at Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburgh and Buffalo (2 of those in the snow)
16 came against conference foes
5 came in division games
3 came against a Bill Belichick defense
One comeback sent his team to the Super Bowl