He wanted his 49th touchdown pass to happen in the normal flow of business to help his Indianapolis Colts win. He wanted nothing to tarnish the mark of 48 set in 1984 by one of his idols, Dan Marino. The Colts had been accused of running up scores this year and were booed at home last week for taking a knee against the Ravens.
"That was more than the flow," an elated Manning said after his 21-yard strike to Brandon Stokley with 56 seconds left enabled the Colts to take the San Diego Chargers into overtime, where Indianapolis won, 34-31, on Mike Vanderjagt's 30-yard field goal.
The comeback and the play were the stuff of legends, and Manning knew it.
"I think Johnny Unitas would have been proud of that drive," Manning said after taking his team 80 yards in nine plays.
Sandlot quarterbacks everywhere would have been proud of the play because the Colts (12-3) had never run it in a game.
"Don't ask me why he called it," Stokley said. "We ran it in one-on-one drills in practice four or five times. It says something about Peyton that with everything on the line, he calls a play we've never run before."
Manning had been outplayed all day by San Diego's Drew Brees, who threw three touchdown passes. The Colts had looked oddly flat in a matchup between two division winners with at least the third AFC seed at stake.
"We might have been pressing a little bit trying to get those scoring passes," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "Everybody. Not just Peyton."
Manning's earlier touchdown pass, the one that tied Marino, came on one of those "shovel passes" that Manning later joked still counts. Manning had been sacked four times after being sacked just nine times all year. The Chargers (11-4) had forced Manning to settle for two field goals while leading throughout.
So the play had "no real name," Stokley said.
"You think the NFL is real complex," Manning said. "I was whispering to him, 'Hey, run a post.' It turns into street ball real quick."
From the slot where Stokley lined up, the receiver usually runs a corner route.
"He gave me a dummy audible," Stokley said.
Said Manning: "I gave the same signal I had before. They were all thinking he was going to run a corner."
Safety Jerry Wilson left Stokley to cover the flat. Safety Terrence Kiel then picked up Stokley, who faked to the corner and left Kiel stumbling. Before Stokley turned inside, Manning threw.
"I was afraid I threw too early," Manning said, "but it hit him right in stride. Pretty special play. One I'll always remember."
There was no time to celebrate.
"If we don't get the two-point conversion, it's kind of a downer," Manning said.
Running back Edgerrin James took care of that detail on the Colts' first two-point attempt of the season.
Manning had maintained he would have been content to forever share the record with Marino. Dominic Rhodes had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after LaDainian Tomlinson's 16-yard run had given the Chargers a 31-16 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Overtime seemed like a formality. After the Chargers lost the toss, Manning hit Stokley for 23 yards and Reggie Wayne for 35 to set up Vanderjagt.
Stokley, Wayne and Marvin Harrison all have reached 1,000 yards receiving this season, and Stokley's touchdown marked the first time three receivers on one team had at least 10 touchdown catches.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
San Diego 7 10 7 7 0 -- 31
Indianapolis 0 9 7 15 3 -- 34
First quarter SD--Tomlinson 74 pass from Brees (Kaeding kick), 4:48. Second quarter Ind--FG Vanderjagt 36, 14:18. SD--FG Kaeding 50, 12:46. SD--Parker 19 pass from Brees (Kaeding kick), 7:09. Ind--FG Vanderjagt 26, 4:33. Third quarter SD--Gates 4 pass from Brees (Kaeding kick), 9:24. Ind--Mungro 3 pass from Manning (Vanderjagt kick), 6:11. Fourth quarter SD--Tomlinson 16 run (Kaeding kick), 14:55. Ind--Rhodes 88 kickoff return (Vanderjagt kick), 14:42. Ind--Stokley 21 pass from Manning (James run), :56. Overtime Ind--FG Vanderjagt 30, 12:13. A--57,330.
First downs 22 30
Total Net Yards 374 464
Rushes-yards 29-93 25-104
Passing 281 360
Punt Returns 2-26 1-7
Kickoff Returns 6-122 7-252
Interceptions Ret. 1-4 1-17
Comp-Att-Int 21-31-1 27-44-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-9 4-23
Punts 4-49.8 2-49.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 3-0
Penalties-Yards 7-63 10-70
Time of Possession 31:13 31:34 Rushing--San Diego, Tomlinson 21-81, Brees 6-12, Chatman 2-0. Indianapolis, James 22-86, Rhodes 2-19, Manning 1-(minus 1). Passing--San Diego, Brees 21-31-1-290. Indianapolis, Manning 27-44-1-383. Receiving--San Diego, Parker 7-103, Gates 7-49, Tomlinson 5-95, Osgood 2-43. Indianapolis, Stokley 7-123, Harrison 6-111, James 5-41, Wayne 3-61, Clark 3-23, Hartsock 2-21, Mungro 1-3. Missed field goals--Ind., Vanderjagt 47 (WL).
Manning hits 49
Peyton Manning's two touchdown passes yesterday sent him past Dan Marino's record of 48 set in 1984. A game-by-game look:
Date Opp. Result TD
9-9 at Patriots L, 27-24 2
9-19 at Titans W, 31-17 2
9-26 Packers W, 45-31 5
10-3 at Jaguars W, 24-17 2