INDIANAPOLIS -- With a game on the line, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the player most coaches would want calling plays and Adam Vinatieri the man they would have lining up to take a game-winning kick.
But in an AFC wildcard thriller on Saturday, Manning and Vinatieri conceded the spotlight to New York Jets sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez and kicker Nick Folk, who booted a 32-yard field goal as time expired to clinch a 17-16 win and a spot in the divisional playoffs.
Until Manning and Vinatieri were upstaged, the first round playoff clash had appeared to be following a familiar script.
Manning, the master of the game winning drive, had moved the ball into Vinatieri's range.
Vinatieri, known as Mr. Clutch for booting game winning field goals for the New England Patriots in the final seconds of two Super Bowls, calmly lined up a 50-yarder and drove it through the uprights to give Indianapolis a 16-14 lead with less than a minute to play.
"Anytime Adam is kicking you feel you have a great chance of winning," said Colts running back Joseph Addai. "We felt good, that was a boost of energy we needed.
"But they had enough time on the clock to get some points. They did a great job of putting up points and getting the win.
Manning and Vinatieri had been a bit too efficient and with 53 seconds still on the clock, Sanchez and Folk took a page from the Colts playbook, helped by 47-yard kickoff return by Antonio Cromartie.
Sanchez then hit Braylon Edwards with an 18-yard pass and Folk did the rest, driving a stake through the Colts' season with one kick.
"Gave them a little too much time," lamented Manning. "We still played well enough to win at the end.
"You're trying to score a touchdown. You are trying to work the clock (down) too.
"It's just disappointing we ended up giving them more time to have a shot at the end."
With Indianapolis offence able to generate only one touchdown, Vinatieri handled most of the scoring connecting for three field goals from 32, 47 and 50 yards.
"He (Vinatieri) is the Iceman," said defensive end Robert Mathis. "That's what he does and he does it well.
"We just had to stop them and we weren't able to get that stop at the end.
"We had to fight to get into the playoffs and the ultimate goal was to take it all the way. We weren't able to do that."
(Editing by Alastair Himmer)