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Peyton Manning's Greatest Games - #5



Game #5 takes us back to September 28, 2003, when the Colts traveled to New Orleans to take on the Saints.  This was Manning's first (and only so far) game in New Orleans as a professional, and he certainly made the most of it.  The Colts blew out the Saints 55-21in front of the Sunday Night Football audience.  The Colts were without Edgerrin James and Brandon Stokley, making this game that much more impressive for Manning.

Manning and the offense started off quickly, aided by an interception by Jim Nelson (I had to look him up) deep in Saints territory.  Three plays later, Manning found Ricky Williams (not that Ricky Williams) for a 17 yard TD.  The Saints go 3 and out, and 8 plays later Manning finds Harrison for a 14 yard TD, making the game 14-0, and the rout was on.  The Saints had run 5 offensive plays, and were already in a deep hole.

The Saints finally put a decent drive together, only to send their again kicker John Carney on a fake field goal end around, which did not work, giving the Colts the ball back.  The Colts probably would have made it 3 TDs in 3 drives if not for a holding penalty on Adam Meadows, negating a 17 yard play on 3rd and 7.  Hunter Smith punted (he hasn't played much in any of these games), and the Saints also punted, giving the ball back to Manning.  He wasn't happy with the last drive, so he decided to get in the end zone on 1 play, a 79 yard pass to Harrison, making it 21-0.

The Colts added a FG, and the Saints got on the board before halftime, with the score 24-10.  Manning was "perfect" at halftime, with these numbers:

Comp Att Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
12 14 206

He picked up right where he left off, leading scoring drives on the first 4 possessions of the second half; two long, sustained drives, and 2 short drives set up by turnovers inside the Saints 20 (Again, and INT from Jim Nelson.  That is half his career INTs in one game.  If there was a list of Nelson's greatest games, this would definitely be #1).  Manning found Dominic Rhodes for a 12 yard TD, Harrison for a 32 yard beauty (that's 3 TDs for Marvin:  one of the 8 mentioned here), and Dallas Clark for an 11 yard TD.  

That makes 6 TD passes for Manning, a career high.  Did I mention that Clark scored with 0:10 left in the 3rd quarter.  Manning's day was through after 3 quarters (bonus points if you know who played QB in the 4th quarter, without looking), and, had the Saints had any semblance of an offense, could have tied the NFL record with a 7th TD pass.  Dwight Freeney capped off the Colts scoring with the only TD of his career, rumbling 19 yards after a fumble recovery for the score.  Here are his final stats, staying "perfect" for the 3rd time in his career, an NFL record at the time (he has 4 now):

Comp Att Yds Y/A TD INT Rating
20 25
12.6 6

Manning was emotional charged coming into the game, and he certainly put on a show for the fans that loved his dad.  He made it look so easy too.

Here is the Gamebook:

In Game #4, Manning leads a great 4th quarter comeback, and goes record-breaking at the same time...