It was late in the first half, and the Jets' top-ranked defense was taking the league's MVP to the woodshed.
The score was 17-6. The Jets had the momentum, but with 2:07 to play in the half, Peyton Manning had the football. The next two plays would be the turning point in the game and an example of how Manning combines the physical and mental aspects of his position like no one else in the NFL.
Facing second-and-10 at their own 20, the Colts lined up in a three-receiver set. The Jets showed two-man coverage: Three cornerbacks playing each receiver man-to-man with two safeties supporting deep. After the snap, the Jets corners turned their back on Manning to head downfield. Manning knew immediately that rookie Austin Collie would be open on an out pattern. With time to throw, Manning hit Collie for an 18-yard gain.
The next play shows the true genius of Peyton Manning. With the ball at the Colts' 38, the Jets showed the exact same coverage as Manning called the play at the line. The Jets anticipated that Manning would read the coverage and throw another out pattern. Instead of two-man coverage, they called "Cover 2 trap" to the slot side of the Colts' formation.
This time, instead of turning and running with Pierre Garcon, Dwight Lowery looked back inside at Collie, anticipating another out route. The corollary was that the deep safety then played over the top of Garcon, with no deep resonsibility on Collie in the slot. If Manning threw an out against this defense, it would land into the arms of the waiting Lowery. The objective was to bait Manning into throwing into the teeth of the coverage.
But as the Jets anticipated Manning, Manning anticipated the Jets. He called for the slot receiver, Collie, to run a seam route. With the safety rolling over to the outside receiver, Jets cornerback Drew Coleman would have no safety help on Collie.
Indianapolis would score on the next play to make it 17-13 at the half. But the key to the drive was Manning's ability to exploit the Jets' two-man coverage and anticipate the two-man trap on the following play, combined with incredible accuracy on both throws.
The sequence of events sparked the Colts to a 30-17 victory and demonstrated why Manning is the true master of his game.