FOXBORO, Mass. -- Peyton Manning angrily slapped his thighs
and helmet, looking down field in disbelief as another pass was
How could this be? How could such a perfect postseason end so
miserably for the league's co-MVP?
Manning had no answers for the New England Patriots' smothering
defense in a 24-14 loss in the AFC championship game.
The Indianapolis quarterback threw four interceptions, nearly
had a fifth, and was sacked four times on a slippery, snowy field,
dropping him to 0-5 at New England.
"I needed to do my part well today and I didn't do it,"
Manning said. "I feel personally accountable for it and
responsible for it."
He completed only 23 of 47 passes for 237 yards and one
touchdown, and his 35.5 passer rating was easily a season low. In
the waning seconds of the game, Patriots fans mockingly chanted
Manning's almost flawless play in Indianapolis' two playoff
victories helped put the Colts in their first conference title game
since the 1995 season.
He had thrown eight postseason touchdown passes, with no
interceptions and a nearly perfect 156.9 passer rating in beating
Denver 41-10 and Kansas City 38-31.
But he wasn't the same Sunday, throwing four interceptions for
the first time since Nov. 25, 2001. He showed his disgust by
slapping his head at times and stomping off the field as if he were
a little kid.
Afterward, Manning was subdued.
"I made some bad throws and made some bad decisions," he said.
New England's defense helped cause the problems.
The Patriots shifted while Manning tried to read the defenses.
Indianapolis never figured it out.
The Colts, who had scored on all but four possessions in their
two playoff victories, managed only two scoring drives -- one at the
start of the second half, the other in the waning minutes when
Manning threw for his only touchdown of the day.
Initially, it looked as if Manning and the Colts would continue
their high-scoring ways when he led them on a 68-yard march on
their opening possession. But Manning's day suddenly turned bad
when Rodney Harrison picked off a third-down pass intended for
Marcus Pollard in the end zone.
Then things got even worse.
On the Colts' next play, Manning tried to force the ball to
Marvin Harrison. Ty Law made the first of his three interceptions
with a leaping, almost one-handed grab, and New England capitalized
with a field goal to make it 13-0.
"We all played bad," center Jeff Saturday said. "You can look
around the offense and all of us played a poor game."
Not all the mistakes were Manning's fault. He tried to get the
Colts back in the game just before halftime, but Marvin Harrison
fumbled it away.
"That's football," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said.
"Sometimes you play great, sometimes you don't. It's not all on