Colts perfect enough

Pierre Garcon catches a 4-yard score in the third quarter, beating Jets cornerback Dwight Lowery to give Indianapolis the lead for good at 20-17. Garcon set career highs with 11 catches and 153 yards.

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Pierre Garcon catches a 4-yard score in the third quarter, beating Jets cornerback Dwight Lowery to give Indianapolis the lead for good at 20-17. Garcon set career highs with 11 catches and 153 yards.

INDIANAPOLIS — This is perfect for the Colts: They have Peyton Manning and they're back in the Super Bowl.

The four-time MVP threw three touchdowns and the Colts erased an 11-point, first-half deficit to beat the Jets 30-17 Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

The Colts (16-2) are headed to the NFL title game for the second time in four years and fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. And they're heading back to their lucky city — Miami, where they've played all three of their previous Super Bowls and won twice.

"I thought we just kept our mouths shut and went to work this week," Manning said.

The big-talking Jets, and their equally big-talking coach, Rex Ryan, were all the incentive Indy needed Sunday.

A month ago, when New York last came to town, Indianapolis was 14-0 but Colts coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters in the third quarter, giving up a chance at a perfect season to focus on a Super Bowl run. Fans booed throughout the fourth quarter and when the Colts left the field, and some spent the past month complaining publicly.

That's over now.

Manning stayed on the field for every Colts play and instead of blowing a lead, the Colts rallied behind their leader.

This time, fans counted down the final seconds as streamers and confetti hung in the air.

"We talked about being patient against these guys," Manning said. "We knew it would be a four-quarter game."

On Feb. 7 against New Orleans — his hometown team — Manning will play another Super Bowl in the same venue where he beat the Bears in the rain and won the MVP award three years ago.

Just as special, the Colts' career rushing leader, Edgerrin James, presented the team with the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which goes to the AFC champs. He never made it to the Super Bowl with the Colts, though team owner Jim Irsay gave James a ring when the Colts beat the Bears.

Receiver Pierre Garcon, who had 11 catches for 153 yards (both career highs) and the go-ahead score, raised a Haitian flag to honor his family and friends who still live there.

"We've been here before, we had seven comeback wins this year. I think the guys were a little rattled at first, I think we took their best shot, but we came back," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. "I think we did a great job of being the hunters and imposing our will today."

Manning finished 26-of-39 for 377 yards. He became the first player in league history with seven 300-yard postseason games. That broke a tie with Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.

The Jets' magical run ended with their first road loss in six games.

New York (11-8) built a 17-6 lead and took advantage of trick plays. But the Jets lost running back Shonn Greene with a rib injury in the second half, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was shut out over the final two quarters.

"Today wasn't our day. There's no question," said Ryan, who declared his Jets the Super Bowl favorites before the playoffs. "You have to give credit to the Colts. Obviously they're the cream of the crop right now."

Colts rookie Austin Collie had a career-best seven catches for 123 yards, his first 100-yard day as a pro.

After falling behind late in the first half, Manning responded. He took the Colts 80 yards in four plays, hooking up three straight times with Collie, including the 16-yard touchdown that made it 17-13 with 1:13 to go in the half.

Manning was just getting started. The next time he got the ball, he took the Colts 57 yards in eight plays, hitting Garcon in the back corner of the end zone to make it 20-17 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.

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Colts perfect enough 01/24/10 [Last modified: Sunday, January 24, 2010 10:39pm]

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