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Manning sets TD record, rallies Colts past Chargers

INDIANAPOLIS -- All Peyton Manning wanted was a victory. The record was a bonus.

Manning rallied the Indianapolis Colts from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter, throwing his NFL-record 49th touchdown pass of the season to force overtime. Then he led the Colts on a 61-yard drive to beat the San Diego Chargers 34-31.

Peyton Manning's record-breaking 49th touchdown pass of the season came in dramatic fashion.

"The way it happened on that drive, I think Johnny Unitas would have been proud," Manning said.

The Colts (12-3), winners of eight straight, wrapped up the No. 3 seed in the AFC. San Diego (11-4), the AFC West champs, had its eight-game winning streak broken but also will be home for a first-round playoff game.

It was an atypical day for the Colts, especially Manning.

After being sacked only nine times all season, the Chargers got to Manning four times, forced two fumbles and intercepted Manning once on a day when he appeared to be tense and out of sync.

Manning overthrew receivers, missed timing routes and was forced to run. Still, he finished 27-for-44 for 383 yards with two TDs to give him one more than Dan Marino had in 1984, and he could still break Steve Young's NFL record for top passer rating in a season.

Young's record was 112.8 in 1994. Manning's rating stands now at 121.4.

As usual, Manning delivered his best plays when the Colts needed him most.

"That's what he's all about," said Brandon Stokley, who caught the record-breaking touchdown with 56 seconds left in regulation. "He stayed calm, kept chucking and made a great throw on that last play."

Manning didn't have time to celebrate.

He quickly got the Colts to the line and called a draw play for Edgerrin James, who ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the score at 31.

After Indianapolis won the coin toss in overtime, San Diego didn't have a chance. Manning hooked up with Stokley on a 23-yard pass, then hit Reggie Wayne for a 35-yard catch-and-run. James then ran to the middle of the field and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 30-yard field goal to win it.

While the Colts set several records -- becoming the first team in league history to have three receivers catch 10 TDs in a season and only the fourth team in league history with three 1,000 yard receivers -- the focus was not on Manning or the records.

"We are happy about the regular-season records," head coach Tony Dungy said. "But we are looking for the big prize once the playoffs start."

San Diego had its own record breakers.

When Drew Brees threw a 4-yard shovel pass to Antonio Gates for a 24-9 lead early in the second half, it was Gates' 13th of the season. That gave Gates the NFL mark for TD receptions by a tight end, breaking a tie with four other players.

Brees was 21-for-31 for 290 yards with three touchdowns, and Eric Parker caught seven passes for 103 yards.

LaDainian Tomlinson scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, running 16 yards for a 31-16 lead. It was his 12th consecutive game with a rushing TD, breaking the single-season record he shared with Dallas' Emmitt Smith and Kansas City's Priest Holmes. Washington's John Riggins and George Rogers both ran for touchdowns in 13 straight, but they needed two seasons to do it.

And the Chargers defense confused Manning for 3½ quarters with blitzes and extra defensive backs, but it wasn't enough.

"We came in here to win," San Diego head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "And with that one exception, we played toe-to-toe with a terrific team."

The Chargers appeared to take control on Tomlinson's TD run, but Indianapolis answered with an 88-yard kickoff return from Dominic Rhodes to make it 31-23.

Then, with 4:47 to go, Manning got the chance he needed.

On fourth-and-4 from his own 25, Manning waved the punt team off the field and hooked up with Wayne on a 19-yard completion. He threw back-to-back completions to Dallas Clark and an 18-yarder to Marvin Harrison before Stokley broke free in the end zone for the record-breaking catch that set off a flurry of flash bulbs.

"It was right on me, which is probably a good thing because if I had too much time to think about it, I probably would have dropped it," Stokley said.

Throughout the game, Manning showed little emotion.

After the victory, though, he pumped his fist, gave teammates high fives, hugged Harrison and smiled -- something he has rarely done as the intensity over his quest mounted during the past three weeks.

Manning seemed more relieved by the victory than the touchdown.

"At the time I threw it, there wasn't a lot of emotion for me, because if we don't get the two-point conversion, this is a down locker room right now," he said. "The fact that it happened, we won the game. ... it sure made for an exciting day."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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