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"There's no way we would be in the playoffs right here, could have bounced back from a 3-4 season and won some of those fourth-quarter close games without those three people (Dungy, Polian and Irsay) and their staff creating a winning environment and atmosphere," Manning said. "I know it's an individual award, but I truly accept it as a team award."
Teammates deflected the credit back to the QB.
Running back Dominic Rhodes, who played with Manning during all three MVP seasons, said Manning was at his best when the Colts needed him most this season. Manning finished with 27 TD passes, a completion percentage of 66.8 and a quarterback rating of 95.0.
Safety Bob Sanders, the 2007 defensive player of the year, acknowledged Manning faced big challenges after sustaining the first serious injury of his career. It took two surgeries to fix the infected bursa sac in Manning's left knee, procedures that threw off his balance and made it tougher to finish throws when the season began.
Yet during the stretch run, Manning was nearly flawless. He completed 209 of 290 passes for 2,248 yards in the last nine games and had a completion percentage of nearly 82 percent in the last four.
"It doesn't seem like he's missed a beat in the last however many weeks," receiver Anthony Gonzalez said. "We're thrilled to have him, we're lucky to have him."
Manning has left little to chance, though.
He dedicates countless hours to film study, logs his throws to keep that right arm fresh and has made 176 consecutive regular-season starts, second only to Favre's 269 among quarterbacks.
And when he returned from knee surgery, Manning played through the pain and produced another MVP second half.
"It's been the most rewarding regular season that I've been a part of in my 11 years," Manning said. "We have had a lot of pressure on us. We put pressure on ourselves these past eight weeks, and it's nice to know that you can answer the bell."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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