Manning threw four touchdown passes and Vanderjagt kicked a 35-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to give the Colts a 31-28 win over Minnesota on Monday night. The kick capped a late duel between Manning and Daunte Culpepper -- the teams combined to score on five straight possessions after an unexpectedly low-scoring start between two offense-minded but relatively defenseless teams.
Still, it was the Colts' special teams as much as the defense that allowed the Vikings to stay in the game, giving up a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown to Nate Burleson and a 51-yard kickoff return that set up a field goal. The defense, which allowed 45
points and 590 yards in Kansas City last week, surrendered only 17 points and 292 yards.
"Our defense did an excellent job slowing them down at times," said Manning, who has 26 TD passes this season, three short of his output all last year.
Added coach Tony Dungy: "We were better. They're an explosive offense and we held the running game till the very end. Overall, I thought we played faster and smarter."
Manning, last year's co-MVP, also used his legs on the nine-play, 55-yard drive for the winning score, scrambling for 15 yards and getting 15 more when Lance Johnstone was penalized for landing on him after he slid to the ground. And Manning, who
finished 23-of-29 for 268 yards, even had a left-handed shovel pass to Edgerrin James to pick up a first down on the winning series.
"My high school coach used to tell me you have to be amphibious when you're sprinting to your left. I said, 'Don't you mean ambidextrous?' He said, 'No, amphibious.' So I guess I was amphibious on that play. High school is probably the last time I've done anything left-handed," Manning said.
Then the outcome was left to Vanderjagt's foot.
"I've only had eight field-goal attempts this year, so you kind of lose your rhythm," said Vanderjagt, who made all 37 attempts last year but missed a game-tying try on opening night. "You've just got to prepare yourself for it because it's not as easy as everyone thinks. It's not as much physical as it is mental."
The win ended a two-game skid for the Colts (5-3) and put them in a tie with Jacksonville for the lead in the AFC South. The Vikings (5-3) lost their second straight.
Minnesota coach Mike Tice called the left-handed pass "an outstanding play."
"I love watching him," he said of Manning. "Unfortunately, I was not watching him on TV."
James rushed 26 times for 123 yards for the Colts.
With the game tied 21-21, Manning threw a 19-yard TD pass to
Marcus Pollard with 7:24 left.
Culpepper was 16-of-19 for 169 yards and two touchdowns despite playing without injured star receiver Randy Moss. He took the Vikings 65 yards on seven plays, with Onterrio Smith scoring on a 32-yard run with 2:54 left. Culpepper set it up by rolling out for 9 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Indianapolis 43 and then scrambling another 10 yards on the next play.
"Randy is a factor," Smith said. "It hurts, but at the same time other guys have got to step it up. Some guys did."
Manning finished with two TD passes to Pollard and one each to
Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Marvin Harrison got to 800 catches quicker than any receiver in NFL history and set another record when he caught his 664th pass from Manning early in the third quarter -- the most ever by any passer-receiver combination.
The game started with decent defense from teams that rarely play any, especially from the Colts.
The Vikings had only one first down until less than 4 minutes remained in the first half but trailed only 14-6 at intermission.
The Colts took a a 14-0 lead on touchdown passes by Manning of 5 yards to Wayne on their first possession and 10 yards to Pollard on the first play of the second quarter.
But Kelly Campbell's 51-yard kickoff return, plus a 15-yard, late-hit penalty on kicker Hunter Smith set up a 42-yard field goal by Morten Andersen. Then Andersen kicked a 23-yarder on the final play of the half after Minnesota's only decent drive before intermission, 87 yards on 13 plays.
Burleson's return and Culpepper's 2-point conversion run tied it at 14 early in the third quarter.
The Colts went ahead late in the third quarter on Manning's 4-yard TD pass to Clark at the end of an 87-yard drive. He had completions of 41 yards to Harrison and 26 to Clark on the march.
But Minnesota tied it at 21 early in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard pass from Culpepper to Burleson at the end of a 71-yard, 10-play drive.
Manning topped the 25-touchdown mark for the seventh straight year. ... Vanderjagt's game-winning field goal was the 10th of his career. ... The Vikings are at their best in November, with a record of 100-79-4. But they are now 2-5 against the Colts in November. ... Minnesota has rushed for at least 4 yards per carry in 18 straight games, extending its NFL record. The Vikings averaged 5.8 yards on 24 plays Monday night.