In a game that was supposed to provide one of their biggest tests of the season, the Indianapolis Colts made winning look pretty easy.
Following a dominant victory over Pittsburgh, the Colts look to avoid a letdown and will try to clinch their fourth consecutive playoff berth when they host the Tennessee Titans.
In the Steelers, Indianapolis faced its most physical opponent of 2005 and a team it hadn’t beaten in 21 years, but responded with a 26-7 win.
“I think we did make a statement because we played one of the most physical teams in the league,” safety Bob Sanders said.
Now the Colts can clinch a postseason berth with a victory over the Titans, and can also lock up the AFC South title for the third straight season with a win and a Jacksonville loss. Indianapolis could even earn a first-round bye with a victory and losses by the Jaguars and Cincinnati.
Manning finished 15-for-25 for 245 yards with two touchdowns and Edgerrin James became the first rusher to gain 100 yards against Pittsburgh in 23 games, running for 124 on 29 carries.
“I know when I get the ball I’ve got certain things I’ve got to do,” said James, leading the NFL with 1,465 yards from scrimmage. “It’s just a matter of how many times I get the ball.”
Harrison had four catches for 128 yards for his 51st 100-yard game, second in NFL history behind Jerry Rice’s 76.
The Colts are the first team to go 11-0 since the 1998 Denver Broncos, who won their first 13 games, and have set a team record with 10 straight home victories. The franchise also earned its 400th victory over the Steelers.
“We went to New England and beat the AFC East leaders, we beat Cincinnati and Pittsburgh,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “Knowing we can beat the good teams and defending our turf is a good feeling.”
Compared to the last four few weeks, which included all three of those victories, Indianapolis has it easier over the next two weeks. The Colts play at Jacksonville on Dec. 11 after hosting the Titans.
While the Jaguars are 8-3 and in second place in the AFC South, they lost quarterback Byron Leftwich to a broken ankle last weekend.
“Hopefully we win the next two because that means we will wrap up the division,” Dungy said. “If we win them, we know there will be a lot of talk about ‘Can you go undefeated?’ But that’s never really been our goal.”
The Titans, easily dispatched 31-10 at home by the Colts on Oct. 2, snapped a five-game losing streak with a 33-22 win over lowly San Francisco on Sunday.
Tennessee trailed 14-9 at halftime, but Steve McNair threw three touchdowns in the third quarter to lead the Titans to their first victory since a 34-20 win over Houston on Oct. 16.
Prior to Sunday, the Titans had scored a combined 45 points in the third quarter this season.
“The guys came out with a lot of enthusiasm in the third quarter,” McNair said. “It was a big quarter. I think the guys came to the point we wanted to go ahead and put those guys away once we had the chance instead of making mistakes and letting guys back in the ball game.”
McNair was 23-of-41 for 343 yards, connecting with nine receivers, and the Titans held the 49ers to 74 yards on the ground. Travis Henry gained a season-best 86 rushing yards on 13 carries for Tennessee.
The Titans swept the Colts when the two became part of the AFC South in 2002, but Indianapolis has won both meetings in each of the last two seasons and seeks its third consecutive sweep.