I originally wrote this a few weeks ago on my blog which is a daily top ten list of my choosing. I think it's appropriate to write it here since the day has finally come where we have to say goodbye to our beloved #18. There are so many moments to choose from and many didn't make my own personal list, but I want to honor whatever moments are your own favorite, even if they did not make my cut here. I want to also thank Brad Wells for the rec on his own top ten thread posted earlier today. I appreciated it a lot. =)
Greg’s Top Ten Favorite Peyton Manning Memories
1. January 21, 2007 vs. New England (AFC Championship Game): I’ll never forget seeing Peyton with hands folded on the sidelines just after the Colts took the lead 38-34 over the Patriots. With just over a minute to go, Manning undoubtedly knew that Tom Brady was capable of mounting a miraculous comeback. That comeback would be thwarted by a Marlin Jackson interception of Brady with seconds to go, sending Indianapolis and Manning to their first Super Bowl. Once the interception occurred, Manning got up slowly with a smile on his face, well aware that his critics were silenced…for the time being.
2. February 4, 2007 vs. Chicago (Super Bowl XLI): When Indianapolis went to the Super Bowl for the first time, the game seemed to pale in comparison to the drama that was the AFC Championship two weeks prior. After all, Indianapolis had a longstanding rivalry with the Patriots. Still, there was one more game to be played and for the AFC Title game to have real meaning, Manning had to finish the job against the Chicago Bears. Seeing Manning join his teammates atop the winner’s circle after the victory over the Bears was something Colts fans had been dreaming of for decades and when it finally happened it was a thing of beauty.
3. October 6, 2003 @ Tampa Bay (Monday Night Football): This was supposed to be former Bucs and then-current Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s homecoming – his first return to the stadium he once called home. It was also the eve of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history. Down 35-14 with less than five minutes to go the Colts mounted the most improbable of comebacks against one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses. Several deep passes to Colt receivers including a 28-yard strike to Marvin Harrison narrowed the gap and sent the Colts and Bucs to overtime knotted at 35 points apiece. Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt sealed the victory with a 29-yard field goal sending the Colts to what is still the largest comeback in an NFL game with less than 5 minutes to go in regulation.
4. November 15, 2009 vs. New England (Sunday Night Football): This is also known as the game Patriots coach Bill Belichick made one of the most questionable calls in NFL history – going for it on 4th down deep in Colts territory with 2:08 to go and a six point lead. Tom Brady threw a short pass to running back Kevin Faulk who bobbled the ball and was tackled short of the first down, turning the ball over to Manning and the Colts. Manning threw a series of passes including the eventual game winner to Reggie Wayne with just 13 seconds to go. The game was gratifying on so many levels: it kept the Colts unbeaten on the year, it was an unbelievable comeback and it was a big "F.U." to Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as watching Belichick see his well laid plans blow up in his face on cable television.
5. December 26, 2004 vs. San Diego: Although I believe that team accomplishments always trump single player accomplishments, this game holds special place in the hearts of Colts fans everywhere. For twenty seasons Dan Marino held the single-season mark for passing touchdowns in a season (48) with very few players even coming close to challenging the mark. Manning had been carving up defenses all season and seemed set to at least match Marino’s mark in a week 16 contest against the Chargers. In the third quarter Manning threw the record-tying score to the most unlikely of receivers, backup running back James Mungro. However, Manning was not finished. Late in the game Manning threw a perfect pass down the middle of the field to Brandon Stokley who ran into the end zone for the touchdown. The Colts would eventually win the game in overtime and Manning would sit for nearly their entire week 17 contest with the #1 seed in the AFC already wrapped up. So, while Tom Brady might hold the new record with 50 TD passes, keep in mind that Manning didn’t play the final game while Brady needed a full 17 weeks to get to 50.
6. November 7, 2005 @ New England (Monday Night Football): Before this game, the Patriots had made the Colts their bitch over and over again. This was the day the true rivalry began. The 40-21 victory over the Patriots in Foxboro was the event that helped fans realize that the Patriots were not in Manning’s head and that the Patriots were mortal. Peyton’s 3 touchdown performance was the catalyst for the win and the start of a streak of Colt victories over the Patriots, which brings us to…
7. November 5, 2006 @ New England (Sunday Night Football): If anyone thought the game from 2005 against the Patriots was an anomaly, this game quashed any idea that the 40-21 win was a fluke. Peyton Manning vastly outplayed Tom Brady by throwing 2 scores on 326 yards passing including a key touchdown pass to a very emotional Marvin Harrison who spiked the ball in front of Patriot defenders following the score. Tom Brady was completely ineffective throwing four interceptions and zero touchdowns en route to a 27-20 loss to the Colts.
8. August 8, 1998 @ Seattle (Preseason): Why is a preseason game on the list, you ask? This was Peyton Manning’s first appearance as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and boy did he make a good first impression. First pass of his career would be a long touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison right up the seam. One pass, one score, thank you very much for coming. It would be a sign of things to come as the two would hook up for 112 scores in their regular season careers.
9. October 17, 2005 vs. St. Louis (Monday Night Football): Speaking of Marvin Harrison, this would be the game in which Manning and Harrison would break Steve Young and Jerry Rice’s touchdown record for most score between a QB and WR in NFL history. It would happen on a textbook corner fade pass that helped the Colts beat the Rams 45-28. After catching the pass I’ll never forget watching Manning try to give the ball to Harrison who was playfully pushing the ball back to Manning. Manning’s response to Harrison’s humility: "We’ll split it! We’ll split it!"
10. January 4, 2004 vs. Denver (Wild Card Weekend): The moment I knew this game would be special happened when Manning threw a perfect pass to slot receiver Brandon Stokley who was running a seam route up the middle of the field. Stokley would eventually take that pass to the house 87 yards. It was Manning’s fourth touchdown pass of the game and it wasn’t even halftime yet. Manning finished the game 22-26 passing for 377 yards and 5 touchdowns. It was the first postseason win of Manning’s illustrious career.