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Published: March 6, 2012 at 06:34 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2012 at 08:05 p.m.

Peyton Manning's top moments with the Colts

Indianapolis in my rear-view mirror. I'll never forget pulling away from the JW Marriott the day after Super Bowl XLVI and seeing the huge Lombardi Trophy on the face of the hotel as a final reminder of the phenomenal week we had that culminated in Giants 21, Patriots 17. And now, shockingly, we're using that phrase for Peyton Manning. It's one thing to know the day is coming, quite another when it finally gets here. It's sort of like how you felt leaving for college for the first time. A new world to explore, your old life still a part of you but yet more in your memory as you move forward. You always have room for your old friends but as time goes on you see them more as your past than as your future. So before Peyton throws his first non-Colts pass, let's look back at the top moments of his career with Indianapolis.

9 Photos Total

  • 10) Manning goes first overall to the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft 9

    Adam Nadel/Associated Press

    10) Manning goes first overall to the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft

    Remember when there was actually a debate as to whether or not Indianapolis would take Manning or Ryan Leaf? "Manning didn't win enough in college, and look how strong Leaf's arm is." You can talk yourself out of anything as the draft approaches. Kudos to the Colts for not doing that. And apologies to the Chargers who picked second. (And who, oh by the way, also traded their 2000 first-rounder to move up and draft Mikhael Ricks in the second round of the '98 draft to be Leaf's go-to-guy. Yeeesh.)

  • 9) Manning's first game-winning drive 8

    Tom Strattman/Associated Press

    9) Manning's first game-winning drive

    The Jets were in the midst of their best regular season in team history in 1998, and Manning came along to put a nick in it with this touchdown pass to Marcus Pollard, giving the Colts a 24-23 win. Luckily for Jets fans, realignment eventually sent Manning to a different division.

  • 8) Thursday Night Football: 17 straight completions 7

    Phil Coale/Associated Press

    8) Thursday Night Football: 17 straight completions

    Needing a win to make the 2008-09 playoffs, Manning completed his first 17 passes of the night against Jacksonville to help spur the Colts to a 31-24 win. The funny thing was, as Manning was completing passes, Indianapolis fell down 14-0, which seems mathematically impossible. But watching this game, and Manning, I remember thinking I didn't care what the deficit was, the Colts were going to win. Period.

  • 7) Manning's Monday Night miracle 6

    Scott Audette/Associated Press

    7) Manning's Monday Night miracle

    A 2003 game that will mostly be remembered for Simeon Rice's "leaping" penalty that helped decide the final outcome, Manning carried the Colts back from a 35-14 deficit to win 38-35 in overtime. Indy scored 28 fourth-quarter points against the defending Super Bowl champs, including three touchdowns in the final four minutes. I've seen Manning do plenty of impressive things, but this performance was out of this world. Possibly the best I've ever seen him.

  • 6) 2009 AFC Championship Game vs. the Jets 5

    Jerry Lai/US Presswire

    6) 2009 AFC Championship Game vs. the Jets

    The Jets did everything perfectly in the first half of this game, and Peyton undid it all in the second half. He carved up New York's secondary to send the Colts to the Super Bowl. It was a testament to how good he really is, because the Jets' defense was a monster in 2009. And it showed that even if you play one perfect half of football against Manning, he can blow you away in 30 minutes or less and make it look easy.

  • 5) The first 4

    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    5) The first "Manning Bowl" in 2006

    The atmosphere of this game was like a Super Bowl. I was amazed at the attention this got. Like one of those midseason Cowboys-49ers "Super Bowl and a half" games from the 1990's. So much was made of this game that you just knew Peyton was going to win it -- and he did. Eli wasn't the same QB he is now in that game, and it was closer than expected. But Peyton won it 26-21, as well as Manning Bowl II in 2010.

  • 4) 2006 AFC Championship Game vs. the Patriots 3

    Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

    4) 2006 AFC Championship Game vs. the Patriots

    This just might be the most well-played football game I've ever seen. Manning overcame a 21-3 halftime deficit to win 38-34 by leading Indianapolis on a game-winning drive in the final minutes. What a dragon Manning slayed here -- Bill Belichick's Patriots had been Manning's own personal House of Horrors.

  • 3) Waving off the punt team; and 2) throwing his 49th touchdown pass of the season. 2

    3) Waving off the punt team; and 2) throwing his 49th touchdown pass of the season.

    These two obviously go together. Nearing the end of his greatest regular season, needing one touchdown pass to break Dan Marino's all-time record, Manning famously waved off the punt team on his own 26-yard line facing a fourth-and-4. I've seen a lot of gutsy stuff, but this might be the gutsiest. As good as any QB is right now, could any of them ever do something like this? Of course, Manning fired a 19-yard completion to Reggie Wayne. Later on in the drive, Peyton threw his 49th touchdown pass of the season to set the regular season record (a record which Tom Brady broke a few years later). The attention Manning had in this season was incredible. Everyone knew they were seeing history, and a 20-year old record was in jeopardy. The question was there every week: "Can Peyton do it?" No matter what team you rooted for, you watched this like it was the McGwire-Sosa homer chase of '98.

  • 1) Super Bowl XLI victory over the Bears 1

    David Drapkin/Associated Press

    1) Super Bowl XLI victory over the Bears

    He didn't have the greatest of games in the Miami rain, but he was good enough for 247 yards and a TD in the Colts' 29-17 win -- his only Super Bowl title. For someone who was routinely criticized for his lack of playoff prowess, winning this might have been the biggest "Now Shut Up" performance of his career. Right or wrong, Manning's legacy was going to be defined by that game. And he delivered. He didn't play for my team, but I was just so incredibly happy for him.

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