Peyton Manning's 4 INTs give Pats 14 straight wins

Published: Monday, January 19, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 19, 2004 at 3:44 a.m.

FOXBORO, Mass - On a cold day in New England, Ty Law and the Patriots put Peyton Manning on ice.

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Rodney Harrison steals a pass intended for Marcus Pollard in the end zone in the first quarter.

The Associated Press

Law intercepted the previously flawless Colts quarterback three times, Rodney Harrison added another, and the Patriots beat Indianapolis 24-14 to advance to their second Super Bowl in three seasons. Jarvis Green had three of New England's four sacks as the constant pressure made the NFL's co-MVP look very average.

Had New England been able to score down close, it would have been no contest. The Patriots had only one TD, settled for five field goals by Adam Vinatieri and lost the ball at the Indy 5 early in the fourth quarter when Tom Brady threw his first interception in 10 home games this season.

``To go out and pick, pick, pick a guy that everybody was building up, it was huge for us,'' Harrison said, referring to Manning, who threw eight touchdowns with no interceptions in playoff wins over Denver and Kansas City.

The Colts never really got going Sunday until it was too late to do anything against a defense that held Marvin Harrison, one of the game's leading receivers, to three catches for 19 yards.

Things were so bad that when the Colts finally had to punt for the first time in the playoffs, the snap went over the punter's head and resulted in a safety.

``They did a good job defending us but we did things we haven't done. We turned the ball over, we snapped a poor snap on the punt,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said. ``We made some miscues and New England is a good enough team to take advantage of that.''

Except when he got close to the goal line, Brady was almost as good in the cold weather as Manning had been in his first two games under far more ideal conditions.

He finished 22-of-37 for 237 yards and a 7-yard TD pass to David Givens on the first drive of the game and Antowain Smith added 100 yards on 22 carries.

The Patriots improved to 16-2 by winning their 14th straight game, the best single-season streak since the perfect Miami Dolphins did it in 1972.

``To win 14 in a row is great,'' Brady said. ``But it means nothing if you don't get the 15th.''

With the victory, coach Bill Belichick is 5-0 in the postseason with the Patriots, who won the NFL championship two years ago by beating St. Louis.

New England dominated early, taking the opening possession right down the field for a touchdown on the pass from Brady to Givens. It was 15-0 at the half on two of Vinatieri's field goals plus the safety on the botched punt.

``We knew we could move the ball on them,'' said New England tight end Christian Fauria. ``We thought the mismatch was our offense against their defense.''

The Colts (14-5) cut it to 15-7 on Edgerrin James' 2-yard TD run at the start of the third quarter. But Brady led New England to two more short field goals and the defense took it from there. Indianapolis scored with 2:27 left on a 7-yard TD pass to Marcus Pollard, making it 21-14.

But Fauria recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Patriots. The Colts got the ball back on downs, but the Patriots' defense held them.

The four interceptions were the most Manning had thrown since Nov. 25, 2001, when he threw four against San Francisco.

He finished 23-of-47 for 237 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions.

The Patriots dominated the first half, forcing three early turnovers. Two of them stopped potential scores by the Colts and the third led to a field goal. Still, 15-0 wasn't much of a lead against a team known for coming back from big deficits.

How rough was Indy's outing? Examine what was supposed to be Indianapolis' first punt of the postseason. On fourth and 10 from the Indianapolis 35 in the second quarter, Justin Snow snapped the ball over the head of punter Hunter Smith, who had little choice but to kick it out of bounds for a safety.

Indy's best chance before intermission came after David Macklin recovered Bethel Johnson's fumble at the New England 41. But five plays later, Rodney Harrison knocked the ball loose from Marvin Harrison, Tyrone Poole fell on it, and the Patriots had the ball back.

``They have very good players and they are well coached, which

helps the good players play better,'' Dungy said.

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