Colts celebrate Manning’s return with 26-23 win over 49ers
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Adam Vinatieri brought the perfect gift to Peyton Manning’s big celebration Sunday.
Another game-winning kick.
After Indianapolis blew a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation, the last remaining Colts player from Manning’s first Super Bowl team easily made a 51-yard field goal with 1:38 left in overtime for a 26-23 victory over San Francisco.
“I obviously knew that it was our last opportunity to put points on the board,” Vinatieri said. “You know what that means if you make it, and you know what it doesn’t if you don’t. So you have to focus in.”
He and Manning used to perform that routine together. Like Manning, Vinatieri is considered one of the best to ever play the game at his position.
And, like Manning, few have performed as calmly or consistently for so long as Vinatieri, who made four more kicks Sunday.
The last one not only gave Indy (2-3) its second win in three weeks, both against winless teams, but it also moved him into second all-time on the NFL’s career list for field goals made. Vinatieri has one more than Gary Anderson (538).
San Francisco (0-5) is one of three winless teams still left in the NFL. Cleveland and the New York Giants are the others.
The day was supposed to be all about Manning, who became the first Colts player from the franchise’s Indianapolis era to have his jersey retired. It changed quickly when Vice President Mike Pence left shortly after about a dozen San Francisco players dropped to their knees — the latest salvo in the national anthem protests. The Colts locked arms, but none took a knee.
Some reports indicated Pence’s walkout was planned. 49ers safety Eric Reid, one of the more vocal protesters, called it a “stunt.”
President Donald Trump later tweeted: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”
On the field, it didn’t resemble the masterpieces Manning often created on this same field.
Vinatieri and Robbie Gould each made two field goals in the first half and Vinatieri broke the tie with a 38-yarder midway through the third quarter.
Marlon Mack finally scored the first TD on a 22-yard run late in the third and Jacoby Brissett added a 3-yard scoring run early in the fourth to give the Colts a seemingly safe 23-9 lead.
Again, the Colts couldn’t put it away.
“I thought we were able to stick with it, press through; the defense gave us a chance to stay in it,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “They gave us some time to where we could start clicking.”
The 49ers rallied behind Kyle Juszczyk’s 6-yard TD catch with eight minutes left and forced overtime when tight end George Kittle bulled his way across the goal line on a 7-yard TD catch on fourth-and-goal with 20 seconds to go.
But, naturally, Vinatieri sent Manning home with a win.
“It was awesome seeing him — not only him but all the other guys back from that dynasty and those years,” Vinatieri said. “They won so many games.”
One day after Manning’s statue was unveiled outside Lucas Oil Stadium, the only five-time league MVP in league history finally got to thank Colts fans inside the stadium he helped build. And he did it by taking a snap from long-time center Jeff Saturday and throwing a pass that Reggie Wayne caught in the end zone.
“I thank God every day that I’m an Indianapolis Colt,” Manning told the crowd at halftime.
49ers: Hoyer was 26 of 49 with 353 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Marquise Goodwin had five catches for 116 yards and former Colts receiver Pierre Garcon caught eight passes for 94 yards. San Francisco became the first team since the 1994 Houston Oilers to lose four straight games by three or fewer points.
Colts: Brissett finished 22 of 34 for 314 yards. Mack ran nine times for 91 yards, and Frank Gore had 14 carries for 48 yards in his first game against the 49ers, for whom he played 10 years. Vinatieri’s 10 winning field goals in overtime are also an NFL record. T.Y. Hilton had seven catches for 177 yards.
49ers: Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) left in the first half and cornerback Asa Jackson (hamstring) left early in the third quarter. Neither returned.
Colts: Receiver Krishnan Hogan needed help to get off the field after appearing to hurt his lower left leg on a kickoff return midway through the third quarter. He did not return. Linebacker Anthony Walker left in the second half with a hamstring injury and also did not return.
THEY SAID IT
49ers: “You got to have success to get the confidence. That was very frustrating throughout the game — we had a number of opportunities,” Shanahan said.
Colts: “You put your hands up, it’s going,” Hilton said, referring to his confidence in Vinatieri.
49ers: Visit Washington with another early start next Sunday.
Colts: Play their first division contest at Tennessee on Oct. 16.