Colts 31, Vikings 28
Two minutes 50 seconds on the clock. Tie game. The ball in Peyton Manning's hands.
"That's the situation you want to be in," the Colts quarterback said. "That's what Coach [Tony] Dungy talks about, being able to play at a high level when the pressure's the highest."
After Minnesota tied the Colts with 2:54 to play, Manning took over at his 27-yard line. He led Indianapolis 55 yards, converting a third down with a left-handed pass, and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 35-yard field goal with two seconds left, lifting Indianapolis to a 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
In a game pitting two of the top five scoring offenses in the NFL, it came down to the team with the last possession in front of 57,307 at the RCA Dome. Manning teamed with running back Edgerrin James for a nearly seamless game-winning drive.
Manning completed a screen pass that James turned into a 17-yard gain. Manning then scrambled for a first down, sliding feet first at the end of the play. Minnesota defensive end Lance Johnstone came in with a forearm to the head, adding another 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.
That put the ball at the Vikings 26. The Colts later faced a third down, but Manning avoided the rush, switched the ball to his left hand and shoveled a pass to James for a first down at the Minnesota 15.
"A high school coach used to tell me you had to be amphibious when you're sprinting to the left," the right-handed Manning said. "I said, 'You mean ambidextrous?' He said, 'No, amphibious.' I guess that was his expression for it."
The Colts ran down the clock, and Vanderjagt hit the winner.
Manning completed 23 of 29 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns, improving his NFL-best passer rating to 121.2 for the season. James ran for 123 yards on 26 carries. The Colts improved to 30-6 when James rushes for 100 yards or more.
"We felt they'd do something to take our passing game away," Dungy said. "Edgerrin had a great day, got us going."
The Colts won in their first Monday night game at home since a 44-20 win over Buffalo on Dec. 11, 2000. The Colts' previous Monday night appearance was even more dramatic as they rallied from a 35-14 deficit in the final four minutes to win, 38-35 in overtime, at Tampa Bay last season.
The Vikings dropped to 5-3; the Colts improved to 5-3, snapping their first two-game losing streak since 2002.
"When you lose two in a row, you do start watching, start pulling for some NFC teams to beat the AFC teams," Manning said. "You're checking on Jacksonville and Houston and Tennessee.
"This was a huge game for us to win and hopefully get some momentum."
On the possession before the winning drive, Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper took his turn taking his team down the field, going 65 yards to tie the game at 28. He converted a fourth and one from the Colts 43 with a nine-yard scramble that led to Onterrio Smith's 24-yard touchdown run.
All five of the Colts' scoring drives were 51 yards or longer.
Indianapolis took a 28-21 lead with 7:24 left to play when tight end Marcus Pollard slipped behind the linebackers and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Manning just inside the end zone. The pass completed a seven-play, 65-yard drive.
James carried the load on the drive, rushing for 27 yards and turning two short receptions into gains of 12 and six yards.
Indianapolis, which had the highest-scoring offense in the NFL at 31.1 points per game, needed no warmup.
The Colts' first four plays from scrimmage were runs by James that gained 9, 15, 8 and 5 yards, respectively. On fourth and one from the 5, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne for a 7-0 Indianapolis lead.
After the Colts forced a Minnesota punt, Manning and company went back to work from their 22. Eleven plays later, Manning hit Pollard on a short pass, and the tight end bulled over cornerback Brian Williams to put the Colts up 14-0.
During the drive, Marvin Harrison caught his 800th career pass. He became the fastest in NFL history to the milestone, reaching it in his 131st career game. Jerry Rice did it in 154 games. When Manning connected with Harrison for an eight-yard pass late in the third quarter, it was the 664th career completion for the duo, breaking the NFL record for most completions by a quarterback-receiver tandem. Buffalo's Jim Kelly and Andre Reed set the previous record from 1986 to '96.
The Vikings, averaging 26.1 points per game, managed only field goals of 42 and 23 yards by Morten Andersen in the first half and trailed 14-6.
The Vikings played without wide receiver Randy Moss, out for the first time in his career (hamstring injury) after playing in 103 straight games.