MINNEAPOLIS Taking a beating all afternoon, Peyton Manning peeled himself off the Metrodome turf and gave it right back to the Minnesota defense.
Manning rallied Indianapolis from a 15-0 hole late in the third quarter, moving Adam Vinatieri into position for the winning field goal with 3 seconds left and leading the Colts to an 18-15 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
Avoiding his first 0-2 start since his rookie season in 1998, Manning zinged a 20-yard pass on third-and-9 to Reggie Wayne up the seam before Vinatieri who uncharacteristically missed a 30-yarder earlier for a 47-yard kick.
Minnesota (0-2) wasted yet another strong effort by a dominant defense, failing again to figure out that pesky old forward pass.
Manning definitely has it down, though he hasn't looked his usual sharp self this September following summer knee surgery. He finished 26-for-42 for 311 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but those numbers belied the story of the first three quarters.
Adrian Peterson rushed for 118 of his 160 yards in the first half, and the Vikings were in the Colts' half of the field on their first eight possessions coming away with five field goals by Ryan Longwell, three punts, and an extra dollop of frustration.
Paying a price for that repeated waste of chances to build a big lead, Minnesota was suddenly ahead by just eight with 1:24 left in the third quarter. All it took was one blown coverage, by Cedric Griffin, and Anthony Gonzalez was wide open for a 58-yard completion. He alertly lateraled to Reggie Wayne, who ran all the way to the 1. Joseph Addai barely got in on third-and-goal, but the call that he crossed the plane was upheld after a Vikings challenge.
Charles Gordon picked off a pass from Manning near midfield early in the third quarter after the ball glanced off Wayne's hand, but Minnesota ran five straight times and reached only the 31.
Longwell, his right leg perhaps tired from doing all the scoring himself, pulled a 48-yard attempt wide right.
The Vikings, who sacked Manning twice, forced a late punt but were stuck starting at their own 2-yard line. Tarvaris Jackson, who finished 14-for-24 for 130 yards and one lost fumble, tried to go deep on third down to Bernard Berrian but watched it fall incomplete as Berrian stumbled underneath tight coverage.
Indy got the ball back and, facing third down, Manning calmly stepped forward for the necessary completion for the Colts, who lost left tackle Tony Ugoh (groin) and star safety Bob Sanders (ankle) to injuries and played again without center Jeff Saturday (knee).
This came after Manning marched the Colts 61 yards for the tying score a wide-open toss to Wayne with 5:54 left. Dominic Rhodes sliced through the middle for the 2-point conversion.
If the Vikings were capable of completing more than just the occasional pass, the Colts probably would have been in the locker room at halftime pondering how to beat Jacksonville next week. Instead, they trailed only 9-0 a manageable deficit due to Minnesota's continued problems throwing the ball.
It wasn't all Jackson's fault. Peterson, with well-timed spells from Chester Taylor, was gaining so much on the ground the passing game was ignored for long stretches leaving little opportunity to develop a rhythm. Berrian, given $16 million guaranteed to upgrade a mediocre group of receivers, had his hands on three incompletions. Visanthe Shiancoe couldn't hang onto a perfectly placed ball he dived for and nearly caught at the edge of the end zone.