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Manning's 2 TDs to Gonzalez lift Colts past Pats

Monday, November 3, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The New England Patriots dared Anthony Gonzalez to beat them, and the Indianapolis Colts' receiver made them pay.

Gonzalez caught both of Peyton Manning's touchdown passes, and the Colts beat the Patriots 18-15 on Sunday night.

Gonzalez's touchdown catches covered 12 and 9 yards. Adam Vinatieri took it from there, making a 52-yard go-ahead field goal with 8:05 to play.

Gonzalez was an unlikely red-zone target with teammates, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark combining for 204 career touchdown catches. Gonzalez entered the game with just three TD catches in 1 1/2 seasons. The Patriots (5-3) were willing to let Manning throw to Gonzalez, and the two took advantage with perfectly timed TD strikes.

"It just kind of depends on where the defense is and what they give you," Manning said. "Both times, we got into man-to-man, press situations. The receiver's back is turned, so it's kind of a good route to go for. It was the fade route on the first one and really kind of the same route on the second one."

Gonzalez finished with four catches for 55 yards. Wayne caught five passes for 65 yards, Clark had four catches for 63 yards and Harrison had four catches for 50 yards for the Colts (4-4).

Gonzalez's catches hurt the most with Patriots focused on stopping other players.

"Big plays," Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "If anybody was going to touch the ball, we wanted him (Gonzalez) to touch it. We've just got to make the plays when they present themselves."

Gonzalez' first scoring catch, the 12-yarder with 2:22 left in the first quarter, capped a 15-play, 91-yard drive that took 9:02 off the clock. Manning completed 7 of 8 passes for 69 yards on the Colts' longest possession of the season -- in plays, yardage and time consumed.

The 9-yard connection came on a third-and-goal in the third quarter. The Colts then went for a 2-point conversion, and Wayne held onto the ball after a hard hit by Brandon Meriweather to give Indianapolis a 15-12 lead with 3:18 left in the period.

The Colts led 7-6 at halftime, but the Patriots opened the second half with their third time-consuming scoring drive of the game. New England went 72 yards in 15 plays, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis capped the possession with a 6-yard touchdown run that gave the Patriots a 12-7 lead. Kevin Faulk was stopped short on the 2-point conversion try. Gonzalez's second touchdown came on the following possession.

New England's Stephen Gostkowski made his third field goal, a 25-yarder, to tie the game at 15 with 11:33 left, and Vinatieri responded by making his longest regular-season field goal since 2002.

Gonzalez's big catches left Manning in a joking mood.

"The guy's got really good coverage, and you can't defend the perfect throw, what can I say?" Manning said, prompting laughter from the media at the postgame press conference. "I'm kidding. I heard Dan Marino say that one time, and I always kind of wanted to say it."

The fact that Manning could tell jokes after such a critical game was important to the Colts. The win gives Indianapolis a better chance to make a run at a playoff berth.

"It's a big win, and obviously, we're going to enjoy it for this short amount of time," Manning said. "It's important kind of what we do with this. It sure would be nice to build off of this and try to keep winning. Get some kind of streak or some kind of rhythm established."

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