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Monday night has been a source of success for Manning

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By Kevin Fishbain

It comes as no surprise that the most high-profile free agent in NFL history, Peyton Manning, opens his NFL season with back-to-back prime-time games. The cameras have been focused on Manning from his exit in Indianapolis to his free-agent tour, to every throw he made at Broncos training camp and in preseason games.

The spotlight that has followed Manning throughout his career was intensified over the last six months, and it remains that way to start the season, with Manning playing his first two games on the national stage.

He opened the new chapter of his career with Denver on Sunday night in Week One and looked as good as ever, completing 19-of-26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-19 win over Pittsburgh.

In Week Two, Manning returns to “Monday Night Football” for the first time since Nov. 1, 2010, a 30-17 win over the Texans. The Falcons will host Manning in Atlanta, and history is not in their favor.

In his career on Monday night, Manning has an  11-3 record with a 99.1 passer rating. He has thrown 29 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in those 14 games. Here’s a look at five of Manning’s memorable games on “Monday Night Football” (in chronological order).

1. Sept. 25, 2000 / Colts 43, Jaguars 14 — It wasn’t until Manning’s third season that he got to experience “Monday Night Football,” and he put on a show for the national audience. Coming off a bye week that followed a 38-31 loss to the Raiders, Manning threw for 440 yards and four touchdowns — three of those scores came in the first half.

2. Oct. 6, 2003 / Colts 38, Buccaneers 35 (OT) — Facing the defending Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers, Manning’s Colts went scoreless in the first half, falling behind 21-0. Ronde Barber seemed to seal Manning’s fate with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown with only 5:22 left in the game, giving the Bucs a 35-14 lead. Then, Manning took over. A big kickoff return set up the first score, cutting the lead to 14. The Colts recovered the onside kick and Manning threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Harrison with 2:38 left to make it 35-28. After the Bucs punted, Manning got the ball with 1:41 to go and marched the Colts downfield thanks to a 52-yard completion to Harrison, setting up a one-yard Ricky Williams TD. Mike Vanderjagt’s field goal in overtime capped the comeback win. At the time, the Colts became the first team in history to win after trailing by at least 21 points with less than four minutes to play. The game was arguably Manning’s finest performance on Monday night.

3. Nov. 8, 2004 / Colts 31, Vikings 28 — In a thriller against Minnesota, Manning set a record with his top target, Harrison. In the third quarter, Harrison caught his 664th pass from Manning, the most ever for a passer-receiver combination. Manning and Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper went back and forth, trading scores, in the fourth quarter. In the end, Manning came out on top, completing two passes to Edgerrin James to help set up a Vanderjagt field goal on the game-winning drive to break a 28-28 tie. Manning completed 23-of-29 passes for 268 yards and four TDs.

4. Nov. 7, 2005 / Colts 40, Patriots 21 — In his second Monday-nighter in three games, Manning faced a familiar foe, Tom Brady and the Patriots, the team that had ousted the Colts from the playoffs the previous season. Manning threw two TD passes in the first half, helping Indy jump out to a 21-7 lead. His 30-yard touchdown to Harrison capped off a 321-yard, three-touchdown night in the win, and the Colts remained undefeated at 8-0.

5. Sept. 21, 2009 / Colts 27, Dolphins 23 — In Week Two of the ’09 season, Manning faced a stiff test from the defending AFC East-champion Dolphins. Trailing 23-20 in the fourth quarter, it didn’t take the Colts long to retake the lead. Manning hit Reggie Wayne for 15 yards and Dallas Clark for 17 yards. With the ball at the 48-yard line, Manning then found Pierre Garcon, who ran in for the game-winning touchdown. Manning completed 14-of-23 passes for 303 yards and two scores — one to Clark for 80 yards. 

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