Colts Rally for 18-15 Victory over Minnesota Vikings
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Tony Dungy called it one of the most satisfying games in his seven seasons as the Colts' head coach. Many players agreed.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' 11-year, eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, said he wasn't sure where he would place the Colts' improbable, memorable, heart-stopping victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
Wherever it ranked, this much was certain:
The Colts needed it.
They really, really needed it.
"This one's monumental," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said.
The Colts (1-1), after falling behind by nine points at halftime and by 15 points late in the third quarter, rallied for a dramatic, 18-15 victory over the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Sunday afternoon in front of 63,585, clinching the victory with kicker Adam Vinatieri's 47-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
"I don't believe in ugly wins," said Manning, who completed 26 of 42 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. "All wins are sweet. They're hard to come by. I know the Vikings feel just as sick as we felt last week in that locker room. A couple of plays here or there and we're feeling sick in this locker room. The game comes down to usually a few plays.
"It's hard to rank them, I guess. We've had a lot of good games around here. But it feels good to get the win."
Said Dungy, "I'm very, very proud of our effort. It was going to be one of those games where you had to play for 60 minutes. We couldn't get discouraged and we didn't. We had a lot of things go wrong for us, a lot of things we didn't do well in the first half, but I didn't detect anybody hanging their heads or giving up.
"It was a big win for us."
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions and a playoff team eight of the past nine seasons, last week lost their regular-season opener for the first time since 2004. Indianapolis had not started a season 0-2 since 1998, Manning's rookie season.
"Obviously, 0-2 wouldn't have been good," Manning said. "We've got some things we need to correct, some things we need to fix. . . .
"We did have a sense of urgency. We had to have that. . . . This was an imant game, to try to get a win."
Said Mathis, "Going 0-2, that damages your morale. That would be devastating to a team of our caliber and what we're used to.
Colts veterans compared the victory to a 38-35 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003, a Monday Night game in which the Colts rallied from a 35-14 deficit in the final four minutes to win in overtime.
"It definitely ranks up there with that Tampa Bay game back in the day," said Colts running back Dominic Rhodes, whose two-point conversion in the fourth quarter tied it at 15-15 with 5:54 remaining. "I think that's going to jumpstart us. We had a tough day today. We persevered. We did what the Colts do, which is play together as a team and hang as a family. We came back and won."
Said right tackle Ryan Diem, "Obviously, we didn't have to score as many times (as against Tampa Bay), but it was as difficult of a challenge to get in good field position and finish it off."
The difference, the veterans said, was that the Colts entered the Buccaneers game 4-0.
"When I think 0-2 – that's a very ugly number," Rhodes said. "We're not used to losing at all. Let alone going 0-2 going into the season. It would have been rough. I'm just proud of us the way we hung on and fought back and won in a tough environment against a tough team."
Said Diem, "That's not the way you want to start out the year – in a deep hole with a big division game coming up. It felt good to finally get a spark and get a little attitude on this team: 'We're not going to give up and we're going to play harder than you and win the game.' "
The Colts, trailing 15-0, cut the lead to eight points when running back Joseph Addai scored on a 1-yard run with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter.
After Vinatieri missed a 30-yard field goal, the Colts tied the game midway through the fourth quarter. First, Manning threw 32 yards to Reggie Wayne, who caught the ball in the middle of the field, broke a tackle and ran into the end zone. Rhodes' two-point conversion came on the ensuing play.
The Colts punted on their next possession, but forced a Vikings punt, after which Indianapolis drove 21 yards for the game-winning field goal. On 3rd-and-9 from the Vikings 49, Manning passed to Wayne, whose catch gave the Colts a first down at the Vikings 29.
"The guy had pretty good coverage (on Wayne)," Manning said. "It was a good route by Reggie. It's kind of a blind spot for the defender. He has good coverage, the ball's thrown and right as he looks, the ball's already past him. It's kind of hard to cover that pass."
Manning spiked the ball to stop the clock, setting up Vinatieri's kick.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who last season as a rookie set the NFL single-game rushing record, rushed for 160 yards on 29 carries, but the Vikings never scored a touchdown.
"He's an excellent runner," Dungy said. "They have a big offensive line and they got some bodies on us. He made some runs, but we hung in there."
Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell kicked field goals of 45, 27, 53, 46 and 28 yards, but missed on a 48-yard, fourth-quarter attempt.
"Because we held them to field goals, we had the chance to make a couple of plays and win it at the end," Dungy said. "That's what you have to do sometimes when things aren't going perfectly. You have to persevere. We have that type of team.
"It was great to see us win that way."
The Vikings took the early lead, 3-0, when Longwell kicked a 45-yard field goal to end a 31-yard drive. Peterson keyed the drive with a 29-yard run.
Two possessions later, Longwell's 27-yard field goal with :02 remaining in the quarter made it 6-0, Vikings. Peterson rushed for 72 yards on eight first-quarter carries.
The Vikings extended the lead just before halftime.
Taking possession at their 20 with 21 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Vikings moved 45 yards in three plays. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Bobby Wade, setting up a 53-yard field goal by Longwell on the half's final play.
The Colts, after producing one first down in the first quarter, finished the half with 85 total yards, four rushing. They moved past midfield once, a drive that ended with a punt.
Longwell connected on field goals of 46 and 28 yards in the third quarter to push a 9-0 halftime lead for the Vikings to 15-0.
The Colts then drove 80 yards on six plays, cutting the lead to eight points when Addai scored on a 1-yard run with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Addai's touchdown was set up by a 75-yard pass play on which Manning passed deep to wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who then lateraled to wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the final 17 yards.
Addai scored three plays later.
"It was nice to get going," Manning said. "It was nice to get into the end zone. As much of a struggle as it was early offensively, because our defense was doing so well, it was still a two-score game. At the end of the third quarter, we were saying that, 'Hey, it's just a two-score game here. Let's make something happen.'''
The Colts, who will play host to Jacksonville (0-2) next Sunday at 4 p.m., stayed within a game of first place in the South. First-place Tennessee beat Cincinnati, 24-7, Sunday.
"We have a big division game against Jacksonville next week," Dungy said. "We didn't want to be at 0-2, so I think the fact that it got us back to 1-1 is the biggest thing."
Said Colts defensive end Raheem Brock, "We were looking at 0-2 and then having to win an away game to get back on track . . . it was a tough win for us. We answered the call, came out and played pretty good defense and really stepped it up in the second half.
"We never think we're out of it until the game's over. We're always going to fight for 60 minutes. We showed that today."