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Manning was just getting started.
The next time he got the ball, he took the Colts 57 yards in eight plays, connecting with Garcon in the back corner of the end zone to make it 20-17 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
"The guys have always been a very confident bunch and they do a great job of hanging in there," Caldwell said. "Peyton had just an outstanding game. He's one of those guys that can adjust to different situations. ... A real champion."
Manning still wasn't finished. His 15-yard TD pass to Dallas Clark midway through the fourth quarter made it 27-17 and Kelvin Hayden's late interception ended the Jets' last hope.
It sure didn't look like it would end this way during a scoreless the first quarter.
The Colts uncharacteristically struggled to get first downs, and settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
New York also changed tactics, creating its big plays through the air.
Sanchez, the fourth rookie quarterback to lead his team to the conference title game and lose, used a beautiful play-action fake to fool rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey. Lacey, who started in place of the injured Jerraud Powers, was burned for an 80-yard TD pass by Braylon Edwards giving the Jets a 7-3 lead.
After the Colts cut it to 7-6, Jets receiver Brad Smith lined up in the TigerCat formation and connected with Jerricho Cotchery for a 45-yard pass to the Colts 12. It was Smith's first career completion out of an offensive formation. Three plays later, Sanchez barely avoided a sack and found Dustin Keller for a 9-yard TD pass to give the Jets a 14-6 lead with 4:53 to go in the half.
The Jets made it 17-6 after Joseph Addai's fumble set up Jay Feely's 48-yard field goal.
That's when Manning and the Colts took over -- and closed it out.
"Probably the biggest thing is when he goes up against the best, he takes his game to another level," Caldwell said. "I think that's something we've kind of grown accustomed to around here."
The game was a family affair for the Manning family with Peyton's brother Eli and their father Archie rooting on the Colts.
"I'm pulling for the Colts 100 percent, it's not even close," Archie Manning said.
NOTES: Sanchez was 17 of 30 for 257 yards with two TDs and a late interception. .... Curtis Martin, the Jets' career rushing leader, was New York's honorary captain. ... The Colts have won both AFC title games played in Indy by coming back from double-digit deficits. The Colts trailed New England by 18 points four years ago at the RCA Dome. ... Referee Tony Corrente mistakenly called the Jets the Giants on the coin toss. ... Cotchery caught five passes for 102 yards, while Edwards finished with two receptions for 100 yards.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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