Peyton Manning came of age as a quarterback, only to be outdone by the ageless Steve Young.
The 37-year-old Young, throwing and running with the abandon of a rookie, passed for two touchdowns and scored on fourth-quarter runs of 1 and 23 yards as the San Francisco 49ers averted the Indianapolis Colts' upset bid 34-31 Sunday.
Young also led the 50-yard drive ending in Wade Richey's 24-yard field goal with five seconds remaining, giving the 49ers (5-1) their only lead of the day.
"Steve played his tail off to get us into position and all I did was kick pretty much an extra point for the win," Richey said.
Added 49ers coach Steve Mariucci: "It came down to (Young) winning it for us. ... Peyton Manning is very, very good. They have a bright future. We were happy to get out of it with a win."
Manning, the top pick in the draft who came in with a league-high 14 interceptions, tied a Colts rookie record with three touchdown passes, connecting with Marvin Harrison on scores of 61, 6 and 4 yards. He finished 18 of 30 for 231 yards.
"I see major strides in Peyton," Indianapolis coach Jim Mora said. "He's a young guy who's going to be something really special."
But Young, who also set an NFL record by throwing for more than 300 yards in a sixth consecutive game, was not to be denied.
"You fight 'em and fight 'em and fight 'em, and they're always right there at the end with a chance to win," Mora said. "That's why they're the best team of the last 15-20 years."
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| The Colts tried, but couldn't keep Steve Young under wraps Sunday. (AP) |
Young finished 33-of-51 for 331 yards for his sixth consecutive 300-yard game.
"If it's a record, hey, it's great," Young said. "It's kind of what we're going for -- not the records, but the performance."
With San Francisco trailing 31-17, Young led a 91-yard drive, finishing it with a 1-yard bootleg with 9:58 left. A pass interference call on Jeff Burris set up the first-and-goal play. A bad snap led to a missed extra point.
In a vintage scramble ending San Francisco's next possession, Young broke two tackles en route to a 23-yard touchdown run, pulling San Francisco to 31-29.
"Once you get up a head of steam and put some people on their back at the goal line, you might as well try to take it in," Young said.
It was Young's 40th career TD rushing, tying Jack Kemp's NFL record for touchdowns rushing by a quarterback.
Then, Young connected for the 2-point conversion on a pass to Jerry Rice, who earlier tied Art Monk's career record by catching a pass in his 183rd consecutive game.
The drive to the winning field goal was aided by a 27-yard pass interference on Tyrone Poole, one of a series of calls that hurt the Colts (1-6).
"We did a lot of things a lot better today. All I wanted to do was give my team a chance to win," Manning said.
Mora said the Colts, who had 10 penalties in all, were also hurt by bad calls.
"It was a horrible job, horrible job," Mora said of the officiating.
Up 21-17 at halftime, Indianapolis pulled in front 28-17 on Manning's third touchdown pass to Harrison, a short sideline route he turned into a score when cornerback Antonio Langham missed the tackle.
Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 38-yard field goal after Garrison Hearst fumbled, but San Francisco then launched its comeback.
Indianapolis bolted to a 21-0 lead, starting with its first play from scrimmage. Marshall Faulk, who finished with 103 yards on 17 carries, broke free on an off-tackle run for a 65-yard touchdown.
A freak play during a San Francisco punt led to the Colts' second touchdown. The kick bounced off Rico Clark's helmet and caromed forward past the coverage and into the arms of Jason Belser. He returned it 53 yards to the San Francisco 7, setting up Manning's first touchdown pass.
Manning also finished an 84-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring pass to Harrison.
Three calls went against Indianapolis and fueled San Francisco's 17-point second-period rally.
After Richey's 43-yard field goal, the Colts' Burris was flagged for holding Terrell Owens, negating Burris' goal-line interception and 70-yard return.
Two plays later, Young hit J.J. Stokes in the back of the end zone for a 3-yartouchdown. Stokes was pushed out of bounds by Monty Montgomery as he made the leaping catch. After conferring, officials ruled he had possession before being shoved, narrowing the deficit to 21-10.
San Francisco pulled to 21-17 when Young passed 10 yards to Owens for a touchdown with five seconds left in the second quarter. Again, a defensive holding call on the Colts nullified an interception.
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