With a stifling defense and an offense that keeps finding ways to put up points, the Indianapolis Colts have gotten off to their best start in seven years.
Reggie Wayne became the latest Colts player to have a big impact on offense last week. He caught 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns—nearly all in the second half—in a career game as Indianapolis beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-13.
Indianapolis trailed 3-0 at halftime, but Wayne turned in the type of performance the Colts have expected from him since they made him their first-round draft pick in 2001.
“They rolled the coverage to Marvin (Harrison) and Peyton (Manning) did a good job with his reads,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “Reggie came through. These are the kinds of games we expect him to have. If they do that, he’s got to make them pay.”
Wayne’s standout effort showed that the Colts have at least one more weapon in their arsenal besides All-Pro receiver Harrison and James.
Wayne may be an even bigger part of the offense this week because James remained doubtful Friday, missing practice again with a back injury. He missed practice all four days this week after hurting his back last week against Jacksonville.
Dungy said he wouldn’t decide on James until Sunday, but was pessimistic.
The Colts allowed more than 10 points for the first time this season, and gave up just their second touchdown in three games late in the fourth quarter.
Indianapolis’ 26 points allowed are the fewest in the AFC and the second-fewest in franchise history through three games. In 1971, the Baltimore Colts allowed 17 points in the first three contests before going on to win Super Bowl V.
The Colts have the fifth-best defense in the NFL at 260.7 yards per game, which doesn’t bode well for the Saints as they come off a poor performance in a 27-12 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
New Orleans, which had the highest-scoring offense in the NFC last season, held the ball for just one-third of the game and gained only 188 yards against the Titans.
Deuce McAllister, who led the NFC with 1,388 rushing yards last season, had only five carries in the first half for minus-9 yards and finished with 11 carries for 8 yards. He ran for 195 yards in his first two games.
“They took away our primary threat, which is Deuce running the football,” quarterback Aaron Brooks said. “Deuce had no daylight, no daylight at all.”
Wide receiver Joe Horn struggled as well, with only one catch for five yards after getting 17 receptions and 194 yards in the first two games.
STANDINGS: Colts - 1st place, AFC South. Saints - 3rd place (tied), NFC South.
COLTS LEADERS: Offense - Manning, 600 passing yards and 3 passing TDs; James, 263 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD; Harrison, 16 receptions; Wayne, 202 receiving yards and 2 receiving TDs. Defense - Chad Bratzke and Robert Mathis, 2 sacks; Nicholas Harper, 3 interceptions.
SAINTS LEADERS: Offense - Brooks, 648 passing yards and 4 passing TDs; McAllister, 203 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD; Horn, 18 receptions and 199 receiving yards; four with 1 receiving TD. Defense - Charles Grant, 3 sacks; Derrick Rodgers and Darrin Smith, 1 interception.
COLTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 89.0 yards per game (21st in NFL); Passing Offense - 194.7 ypg (20th); Total Offense - 283.7 ypg (23rd). Rushing Defense - 101.0 ypg (T-18th); Passing Defense - 159.7 ypg (7th); Total Defense - 260.7 ypg (5th).
SAINTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 76.3 yards per game (24th); Passing Offense - 203.3 ypg (18th); Total Offense - 279.6 ypg (25th). Rushing Defense - 110.3 ypg (21st); Passing Defense - 194.0 ypg (13th); Total Defense - 304.3 ypg (15th).
LAST MEETING: Nov. 18, 2001; Saints, 34-20. At New Orleans, Brooks passed for two TDs and ran for another as the Saints overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Colts - In 19 games under Dungy, the Colts have limited opponents to 13 points or fewer eight times. … RB James needs 19 rushing yards to pass Eric Dickerson (5,194) for third on the Colts’ all-time list. … The Colts lost a streak of 15 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher Sunday, as Jacksonville RB Fred Taylor gained 126 yards. Saints - QB Brooks has 19 career 250-yard passing games and needs one to tie Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert for the team record. … WR Horn has 25 TD receptions with New Orleans and needs one to pass Quinn Early for fourth in club history. … Saints are 14-2 when WR Horn gets 100 yards receiving. … WR Pathon, who spent 1998-01 with Indianapolis, faces his former team for the first time.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Colts - 1-0 on the road; Saints - 1-0 at home.
INJURIES: Colts - OUT: T Ryan Diem (ankle); CB Joseph Jefferson (pelvis). DOUBTFUL: WR Brandon Stokley (hamstring); CB Donald Strickland (groin). QUESTIONABLE: DE Dwight Freeney (ankle/abdomen); RB James (back); RB Dominic Rhodes (knee). PROBABLE: S Cory Bird (hamstring); S Jason Doering (finger); CB Walt Harris (knee); DT Brandon Hicks (knee); T Adam Meadows (knee); TE Marcus Pollard (illness); DT Montae Reagor (back); C Jeff Saturday (back); G Steve Sciullo (foot). Saints - OUT: CB Dale Carter (eye); LB Sedrick Hodge (knee); DE Darren Howard (wrist); DT Johnathan Sullivan (knee). DOUBTFUL: LB Cie Grant (knee). PROBABLE: DT Henry Ford (ankle); LB Roger Knight (ankle); LB Rodgers (neck); RB Terrelle Smith (knee).
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