Experienced QB was the key to game

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 15, 2008 - 12:06 AM

Peyton Manning has done many great things, while Tarvaris Jackson is still proving himself, and the difference between them showed Sunday.

For Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier -- who was the Colts defensive backs coach for two seasons, including their Super Bowl championship season of 2006 -- the great performance that Peyton Manning put on Sunday in bringing Indianapolis back for an 18-15 victory was something he had seen plenty during the time he worked for Tony Dungy.

"I've witnessed it many times sitting on that other sideline," Frazier said after Manning rallied the Colts from a 15-point deficit at the Metrodome. "So I knew what they were capable of; I told our players that when we were in there at halftime. This team [Indianapolis] is a perennial playoff team, won a Super Bowl, so I knew they would fight back."

Manning, who completed 26 of 42 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown, will be in the Hall of Fame one day.

"What happened today, he's repeated that a number of times," said Frazier, who called Manning the best quarterback in the NFL.

"He's probably the toughest in the league to defend. I mean, he does so many things so well, so it's tough luck, we've got to bounce back next week."

Manning had a poor first half, throwing for only 86 yards while getting intercepted once, but he bounced back to drop the Vikings to 0-2.

"[The Colts] had a beat-up offensive line, and it's just unfortunate that we didn't come up with a win," Frazier said. "... We end up losing the ballgame on some big plays, and not being able to hold a lead. It hurts. It's a tough, tough loss."

Frazier said he thought the Vikings had good pressure on Manning, whose quarterback ranking of 72.6 was worse than the 73.3 put up by the Vikings' Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson completed 14 of 24 passes for 130 yards.

However, let's face it: The experienced quarterback, one who is a perennial winner, was the difference in this game. Jackson might be a great quarterback someday, but Sunday the Colts had the quarterback who made the plays when it counted.

Jackson is not there yet. It might take another season before he is there. Meanwhile, the hope is that the great Vikings defense and the rushing ability of Adrian Peterson can help them post a winning record.

Frazier said he was confident the Vikings would rebound after losing their first two games.

"You've got to be able to do it, this is pro football," he said. "We've gotten off to a rough start, but we play another game next week and we've got to be able to bounce back."

Big one for Moore

For Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore, it was a happy homecoming. The 69-year-old was born in Owatonna, Minn., went to high school in Rochester and coached with the Gophers and Vikings.

"Well, we were struggling for a while, we had to put in some new players and it was taking us a while," said Moore, referring to the Colts offensive line, pieced together because of injuries to regulars. "And they're a good defense -- Leslie Frazier, he's to be commended, he's done a great job with their defense and I take my hat off to him."

Moore said the Colts didn't change their offense the second half, when they outscored the Vikings 18-6.

"We just kept doing what we do and just try to do it better. As I said, Peyton's special and Peyton did a great job," Moore said.

Slowed down Peterson

Dungy said he believed one of the keys for Indianapolis was its defense was able to hold Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to 42 yards on 15 carries in the second half after he rushed for 118 yards on 14 carries in the first 30 minutes.

"He's an excellent runner, and they've got a big offensive line and they got some bodies on us and he made some runs, but we hung in there," Dungy said. "The second half, there really were no adjustments, we just played him a little bit better, and fortunately they had to kick field goals down there, a touchdown at some point would have made it tougher on us. But we had some shots and didn't capitalize, Reggie [Wayne] had one that we could have gotten early for a touchdown that we didn't get. Adam [Vinatieri] missed a field goal. So we had our shots too, and we just kept it close enough to win."

Speaking of Jackson, Dungy said: "Well, he reminds me a lot of [Eagles quarterback] Donovan McNabb early on in his career, and he's going to be a good player for them. They've got a tough offense to defend."

Dungy said the Colts were fortunate to win because they went in without key players such as center Jeff Saturday and tight end Dallas Clark, then lost safety Bob Sanders and left tackle Tony Ugoh to injury during the game.

Dungy has a lot of respect for the Vikings.

"They're a physical team, they've got a great front four," he said. "They play our style of defense, and they're tough to move the ball on. They've got a great running attack and then you really can't chase Peterson because of the bootleg, so they've got a well-orchestrated team, and unfortunately they've played two tough games and they haven't won them."

Dungy cited Jackson's fumble near the end of the third quarter as a big play, a fumble recovered by Indianapolis at the Vikings 28-yard line. The play didn't directly result in any points because Vinatieri missed a 30-yard field goal, but Dungy said: "It really changed the field position, the ball was in our end the whole first half, we were having to make long drives, they were going on a short field and that kind of turned it around."

Reid praises Freeney

Darrell Reid, the former Gophers defensive lineman in his fourth year with Indianapolis, credited Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney with making the big play when he forced Jackson's fumble.

"Dwight Freeney is one of the best defensive ends in the league, he got the ball out, something that we've become accustomed to around here," Reid said. "So it's nothing new, we're used to him finishing games and getting sacks and forced fumbles."

Asked what Dungy told the team at halftime, Reid said: "He just said, 'We've got to come out and finish this game.' We knew we hadn't played our best ball in the first half. So we just wanted to come out and have a better second half and at least give our offense a chance to score, get them some field position and give them a chance to win the game."

Reid had praise for Peterson, saying: "Coach said if we let him get a lot of carries he's going to break one or two, because he's that good of a back. So we just tried to limit his carries, and he got a lot in the first half, but I think in the second half we did a much better job on him."

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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