Football 101: No. 5, Peyton Manning
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When I think about Peyton Manning, two distinct images come to mind.
The first is from a playoff game in Kansas City in January of 2004. Those 2003 Chiefs were one of the best-scoring teams I’ve ever seen. That year, Priest Holmes set a then-NFL record of 27 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Trent Green threw for 4,000 yards. Tony Gonzalez caught 106 passes. Dante Hall returned four kicks — two punts and two kickoffs — for touchdowns.
They were something to behold.
Unfortunately, their defense was also something to behold — and their playoff game against Manning’s Indianapolis Colts was a free-for -all. Neither team punted all day. Manning threw three touchdowns passes without an interception. Holmes ran for 176 yards and scored two touchdowns. Edgerrin James ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Dante Hall returned a kickoff for a touchdown. It was madness. The Colts built a lead based on two things:
In the first quarter, the Chiefs drove the ball down to the Indianapolis 3 but couldn’t punch it in.
At the start of the third quarter, Holmes fumbled for the only time all season.
The Manning image that comes to mind, though, happened in the third quarter, when the Colts led by a touchdown. This was the drive right after Dante Hall’s 92-yard kickoff return, and Arrowhead Stadium was the loudest it had been all day — maybe the loudest it had ever been — and the Chiefs defense that had been steamrolled all day seemed ready to make a stand. On first down, they stuffed James for two yards. On second down, they pressured Manning into a rare incomplete pass.
Third-and-8. Here was the moment. Everybody could sense it. The Chiefs sent in a flurry of defensive replacements to get the big stop.