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An Underappreciated Iron Man Proves His Mettle

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who has never missed a start, lays on the turf in the second quarter after having his helmet ripped off by the Redskins' Phillip Daniels.
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who has never missed a start, lays on the turf in the second quarter after having his helmet ripped off by the Redskins' Phillip Daniels. "I looked into my helmet to see if my head was in there," Manning said of the play after the game. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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But Daniels's hit might have been about the toughest he has absorbed, especially combined with the blow Andre Carter landed toward his ankles. For a moment, Manning seemed unsure what to do. He rolled around and pulled up from the turf with little flecks of the crushed rubber undersurface stuck to his forehead. The official told him he would have to come out of the game if an injury timeout was needed. Through the fog, Manning knew he did not want that. He has missed only one snap to injury in his career and that was in 2001. He would not come out. So he called the timeout.

Many years ago, in his first season, he did the same thing after the other biggest hit he ever took -- one by Baltimore that knocked the wind from him -- he called timeout and his coach, Jim Mora, screamed at him for wasting such a valuable chit. Yesterday, Dungy did not do this; rather, they set a play (a running play) and let Manning clear his head.

Later, after he had showered and dressed, Manning seemed most irritated at the taking of the timeout.

He did not attack the Redskins; neither did Dungy. The coach said he did not think Daniels's shot was malicious, though the team's defensive tackle, Raheem Brock, later scrunched his face at the question and said, "Yeah, it was a dirty hit." The Colts were stunned it didn't draw a personal foul penalty, especially after one had been called on Indianapolis's Dwight Freeney earlier in the game.

Manning said an official -- he didn't identify which one -- apologized and said he should have thrown a flag but he had been watching the pass Manning threw, not the shot that came afterward.

After it was all over, Manning grew coy when questioned about his mental state in the moments after the blow. He smiled and said, "I come from the Bill Belichick school of injuries," implying his thoughts then would remain a secret. "You're not going to get much out of me on that."

This was a joke. And the famous face smiled a little at his humor. But there was no reason to take a low road, to deliver ultimatums to a team the Colts won't see again this year. Yes, he took a hit, a big hit, but why belabor the obvious. The shot had only made him better, tightening the spirals on his passes, making him believe he could heave a pass 51 yards down the field and place it in exactly the perfect spot, just over wide receiver Reggie Wayne's left shoulder, out of the reach of two pursuing Redskins, and maybe the most beautiful touchdown pass anyone has thrown all year.

Yesterday he took the hardest hit Washington had to give him, and then he made the Redskins pay.

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