The Indianapolis Colts had the biggest comeback in AFC Championship history and beat the Patriots, 38-34. Peyton Manning threw for 349 yards, scored on a run and a pass, and led a last minute drive that shed his image of a bad postseason quarterback.
The Patriots had a monster first half, jumping to a lead of 21-3 thanks to touchdowns by Logan Mankins, a lineman who recovered a fumble and smashed into the endzone; Corey Dillon on a seven-yard run; and Asante Samuel who returned an interception 39 yards.
However, the Colts rallied back, with Adam Vinatieri kicking two field goals and one yard touchdowns by Peyton Manning and Dan Klecko. Manning passed to Marvin Harrison for a two point conversion to tie the game at 21 with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
Ellis Hobbs got the Patriots back in the game with an 80-yard sideline sprint on the kick return, setting up a Brady TD pass to Jabar Gaffney to take the lead. The touchdown was replayed several times to determine weather Gaffney had run out of bounds before the catch, but the call stood and New England was up 28-21.
Just 1:26 minutes into the fourth quarter, the Colts’ Dominic Rhodes fumbled the ball at the goal line for the Colts, but a quick move by lineman Jeff Saturday recovered the football in the endzone and tied the game at 28.
With 7:45 left in the game, Stephen Gostkowski booted a 28-yarder to put the Pats on top, but 2:11 later, Vinatieri answered with a 36-yard kick to tie the game yet again at 31.
The Patriots set up another field goal attempt, a 43-yarder, and Gostkowski delivered with a kick to put New England on top, 34-31, with 3:49 left in the game.
After Manning threw three straight incomplete passes and was forced to punt with 3:35 left on the clock, it looked like the Patriots could win it with a couple first downs. The drive started out on a bad note for New England after they had 12 men in their huddle and were given a five yard penalty. Brady completed two passes for 11 yards, but a brilliant deflection by Bob Sanders forced the Patriots to punt it to the Colts with 2:17 left to go.
Starting at the Indianapolis 20, Manning completed three of four passes for 57 yards, a penalty gave them an additional 12, and rookie running back Joseph Addai ran for 11 more. He also finished the drive with a three-yard TD scamper to take the lead for the first time, 38-34, with 1:02 left to play.
Peyton Manning held his head in his hands on the sidelines, too nervous to watch the Patriots’ attempt at dashing his Super Bowl hopes. Tom Brady made a valiant effort on the last drive, getting two first downs and taking it to the New England 40, but his fate was sealed when he was intercepted by Marlin Jackson, and the Indianapolis Colts moved on to their first Super Bowl to play the Bears in Miami.