Manning, Colts are serious about Jets in rematch

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INDIANAPOLIS --- Peyton Manning is on a simple mission this week: Strike fast, stay on the field and take the Colts back to Miami.

Quarterback Peyton Manning knows fans will forget about the way the Colts lost to the Jets if they can win Sunday.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Quarterback Peyton Manning knows fans will forget about the way the Colts lost to the Jets if they can win Sunday.

The four-time MVP and his teammates can't wait for the journey to begin.

Nearly a month after then- undefeated Indianapolis set off a national firestorm by yanking its starters early against the New York Jets, Manning & Co. will get another at them in this weekend's AFC Championship game -- even if nobody lets them forget what happened the first time.

"Do you expect to play all four quarters this week?" Manning was asked jokingly before he could even settle in at the podium Wednesday.

"I do, yeah," Manning deadpanned, drawing laughter.

But in Indianapolis, this is no laughing matter.

Furious fans deluged local radio talk shows after Indy's 29-15 loss in Week 16, and fans weren't the only ones upset.

After the game, four-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said he understood why Indy's home fans booed, other players seemed surprised by coach Jim Caldwell's decision to pull players early.

Manning insisted nothing should be read into his body language even though he uncharacteristically kept his helmet on for most of the final 20 minutes that day.

Since then, players and coaches have reached a consensus that they might not be playing in their third AFC title game since 2003 had they not done it this way.

"Really, we've tried to focus in on the things that we thought were in the best interest of our team to get us into the position we are right now," Caldwell said. "That was the ultimate goal."

It's taken the Colts (15-2) a little longer to convince the fans.

Three weeks ago, Manning jump-started the reconciliation process after another loss at Buffalo by explaining nothing could be changed. He said it was time to move forward and that he hoped fans would forgive the Colts and provide a united front in the playoffs.

The message resonated.

A win Sunday, and a ticket to Miami, would finally fix everything.

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