Garcon and Collie Lead Colts to 30-17 Victory in AFC Championship
INDIANAPOLIS – Pierre Garcon's smile said it all.
The Colts' second-year wide receiver grinned from ear to ear following the team's 30-17 victory over the New York Jets in Sunday's AFC Championship game.
In wake of the devastation in Haiti, where Garcon's family originates, and faced with the most important game of his career, Garcon had 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown in leading the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV.
Even better, the site of this year's Super Bowl is Miami, Fla., Garcon's hometown.
"It's a dream come true," he said.
With Jets defensive coverage focused on tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne, it was a pair of young receivers leading the Colts to victory Sunday. Garcon and rookie wide receiver Austin Collie turned in career days, propelling their team to victory.
Garcon grabbed catch after catch to boost Indianapolis' offense – which totaled three touchdowns and three field goals – as did Collie, who totaled seven catches for 123 yards and one touchdown.
The performances mark only the fourth time in playoff history that two Colts receivers have gone over 100 yards in the same game.
"They've done a great job for us all season," said quarterback Peyton Manning, who competed 26-of-39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns. "They've gotten better. I kind of believe at this point in the season you're not really a rookie anymore. After so many games you become a veteran. They have gotten so much better through experience."
Although the Colts trailed early in Sunday's game, the two receivers scored touchdowns that would change the complexion of the game.
Collie's came with just over a minute left in the second quarter. With the Colts trailing 17-6, Collie caught a 46-yard pass over the middle and then a 16-yard touchdown pass on the next play to pull the Colts within a score before the half.
"From that point on, we really had a good beat on things," Manning said.
In the third quarter, it was Garcon's turn. Manning and Garcon connected with 8:03 left in the third quarter to give the Colts a 20-17 lead, and one they wouldn't relinquish.
"Pierre was hot, and when a guy is hot you are going to work him a little bit," Manning said.
Manning at one point met on the sidelines with Garcon, who missed the Week 16 game against New York, and told him the ball was going to come.
"Everyone has had a big game this year. That's how our offense is," Garcon said. "Someone is going to get open. And today just happened to be my day."
Garcon said he lost count of how many catches he had during the game, but kept working furiously to get open.
With the Jets possessing one of the NFL's toughest defenses, the job was not easy.
"We've been down before," he said. "We really didn't panic."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell credited his coaching staff, Wayne and Manning for the development of Garcon and Collie this season. And while Caldwell said all of his receivers played well against the Jets, Caldwell said it could not have been done without No. 18.
"They feed off one another, to be honest with you," Caldwell said of Manning and the team's receivers. "The young guys are able to adjust and adapt. It is unusual for guys that young to perform the way they have performed, and a lot of it has to do with the work they put in during the offseason with Peyton.
"He has a way of making people around him better. Like a great point guard, he can put the ball in the right place at the right time. He is so accurate that he certainly creates opportunities for people, so I think it kind of works hand-in-hand," he said.
Following the game, a sea of confetti rained down on Garcon as he waved Haiti's flag in front of thousands of fans and millions more watching at home.
"It's just bringing awareness," he said. "What is going on over there is very tough and no one should have to go through that, especially with people who are already less fortunate. I'm just trying to bring awareness and support. Everyone has been showing their help and we really appreciate it."
As Garcon stepped to the podium following the team's on-field celebration, he wore the same construction hardhat that Reggie Wayne wore when he came to training camp this past August.
Months ago, Wayne declared the Colts were "Under Construction" and amidst building a Super Bowl team.
Garcon said Wayne told him, "This is what we've been working for. We've still got one more (step) to go, and then we'll be done."
As for Garcon, he described the finishing touches of what the Colts have been building all season: a championship-caliber team.
"We are in the last stages," he said. "Just putting the doors and the locks in. We still have one step to go, and we plan on finishing it off."