The League

Mike Wise
Sports Columnist

Mike Wise

Washington Post staff writer

Manning shows precision

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At some point before your town grows too frightened of an incomprehensible upset loss to a rookie quarterback and a mouthy, first-year head coach, it comes down to this: NFL MVPs have to act like NFL MVPs.

Peyton Manning had endured a ruthless first half, two quarters of missed opportunities and watching an inexperienced kid, whom Pete Carroll said should have stayed in college, outgun a man with everything but a bronze bust.

Mark Sanchez, a 23-year-old clock manager for Rex Ryan and these playing-with-house-money Jets, began zinging darts to Jerricho Cotchery and lead-core lines to Braylon Edwards. And Manning was hurrying throws, collapsing under an avalanche of defensive pressure, reliving those eight playoff losses. Then, down two scores with two minutes left before intermission, he moved the Colts downfield with precision and purpose, finding Austin Collie for a 47-yard gain that helped lead to a momentum-building touchdown.

From there the clinic began, and by the fourth quarter Manning and the Colts were readying for the confetti and the speeches and the celebration of heading back to Miami for their second Super Bowl in four seasons.

"I don't want to say who said it, but one coach and a veteran player said it was the best half they'd seen him play," Archie Manning said after he had hugged his son in the tunnel of Lucas Oil Stadium leading to the Colts' jubilant locker room Sunday. "I just told him I was proud of him."

There's not a lot of thanks and appreciation in the legacy-building business. Peyton Manning almost had to win Sunday against the underdog Jets -- or there is a good chance the Top-Five Ever to Play the Position conversation starts to wane when No. 18 is brought up.

Just when it seemed time to tote out his 8-8 playoff mark before the AFC championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium, how his postseason completion percentage and quarterback rating dived below his gaudy regular season numbers, he figured out Ryan's team and found his range and rhythm for one of his most satisfying days as a pro.

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By Mike Wise  |  January 25, 2010; 6:01 AM ET  | Category:  Indianapolis Colts Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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