Scoreboard Tells the Story of Manning-Leaf Matchup
The only way to judge Sunday’s Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf matchup is in conventional terms--Manning won, Leaf lost.
The first regular-season meeting between the quarterbacks taken one-two in last April’s draft ended up a 17-12 victory for Manning’s Indianapolis Colts over Leaf’s San Diego Chargers.
Otherwise, it was a wash.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable,” said Manning, who threw a 19-yard pass to Marshall Faulk for the game’s only touchdown and finished 12 for 23 for 137 yards. “The plays are going to come.”
Leaf’s statistics were similar. He also was 12 for 23 and had 150 passing yards, including a 56-yard pass to Charlie Jones that set up San Diego’s only touchdown. The score came on a one-yard run by Natrone Means with 1:48 left in the game.
Leaf also had a second-quarter touchdown pass to Jones called back by an illegal procedure penalty--an offensive tackle was lined up off the offensive line.
And while it was his interception that set up the Colts’ touchdown, that was Leaf’s only turnover--a major improvement over two straight losses in which he turned over the ball nine times. So his feelings were mixed after the Chargers (2-3) lost their third straight game.
“It feels pretty terrible. I don’t feel good about anything right now,” he said. “But it will come. I’m going to be fine.”
Elijah Alexander had the Colts’ interception that set up the touchdown and a fumble recovery that led to a 48-yard field goal. Another star was Ken Dilger, who scored a surprise two-point conversion after the Colts’ touchdown, taking a direct snap from center and running the ball in.
That forced San Diego to go for two points after it scored late in the game, and Leaf’s pass for Webster Slaughter was wide.
Dilger also recovered the onside kick that followed the Chargers’ late touchdown.
Mike Vanderjagt finished off the Chargers with his third field goal of the game, this one from 40 yards. He also had field goals of 51 and 48 yards.
San Diego controlled the middle part of the game, but Means, who ran for 130 yards in 31 carries, fumbled to set up Vanderjagt’s second field goal.
“They had to travel just 50 yards to get all their scores,” Charger Coach Kevin Gilbride said. “You can’t beat many people that way.”
The game started like it might be a big one for Manning. On the Colts’ first play, he threw a perfect pass to Marvin Harrison over the middle for what might have been a 77-yard touchdown had Harrison not dropped the ball.
From then on, it became a defensive contest.
The Colts led, 11-0, after the first quarter, it was 11-6 at halftime and remained 11-6 after three quarters as the San Diego defense held Marshall Faulk to 50 yards in 25 carries.
Then came the exciting final moments and the post-mortem.
Leaf, taken after Manning in the draft, downplayed the comparison.
“He doesn’t play against me. He doesn’t line up at linebacker or anything like that.”
But Manning said: “It’s always going to be there, the comparison. You kind of get to accept it.”
On the other hand, it’s always easy to accept when you get the win.