Manning looks to improve to 9-0 lifetime against the Houston Texans as they meet at the RCA Dome for the Colts’ home opener Sunday.
In one of the most-hyped regular season games in NFL history, Manning helped lead Indianapolis (1-0) to a 26-21 Sunday night win over the New York Giants and little brother Eli. Dubbed “The Manning Bowl,” it featured the NFL’s first-ever matchup between brothers at quarterback.
“I know both of those guys are probably glad that it’s over,” Colts coach Tony Dungy said. “It was good. It was great for the nation to see. You saw two outstanding quarterbacks and two outstanding teams, but the build-up was something that wore on all of us. Now we can just concentrate on win No. 2.”
Indianapolis has outscored Houston (0-1) 233-109 in eight games since the Texans entered the league as an expansion franchise in 2002, and only one of them has been decided by seven points or less.
Manning has been brilliant in those games, completing 71.1 percent of his passes for 2,103 yards and 19 touchdowns with only four interceptions for a 116.0 quarterback rating. Since the 2004 season, he has thrown 12 touchdowns and 1,152 yards in the Colts’ four wins.
The two-time MVP didn’t put up his usual gaudy numbers against the Giants, finishing 25-for-41 for 276 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but the Colts still scored on five of their first seven possessions.
Without Edgerrin James, who signed with Arizona in the offseason, the running game also struggled. Dominic Rhodes rushed for 29 yards and a touchdowns on 16 carries, while rookie Joseph Addai gained 26 yards on seven carries. Rhodes backed up James the last three seasons, and rushed 40 times for 118 yards in all of 2005.
In addition to the lack of a running game, the missed tackles and blown assignments defensively have caused Dungy concern. The Colts allowed the Giants to rush for 186 yards on 28 attempts, an average of 6.6 yards. Last season, only one opponent had more than 186 rushing yards.
“We were a little hyper in doing things we don’t usually do, like taking the wrong gap on screen passes,” Dungy said.
As bad as the Colts running game was last week, the Texans were worse.
With Domanick Davis on the injured reserve, Houston running backs were limited to 55 yards in its 24-10 loss Sunday to Philadelphia.
After rookie sixth-round pick Wali Lundy had 11 carries for 32 yards, the Texans traded Vernand Morency to the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday for running back Samkon Gado. Gado rushed for 582 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Packers, replacing the injured Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport.
“There’s a lot of things that we have to do to get better,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We didn’t run the ball well at all.”
David Carr got off to a good start, going 4-of-4 and throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds on Houston’s opening drive, but things quickly went downhill. Carr was sacked five times, finished 18-for-35 for 208 yards, and the Texans didn’t score in the second half.
“I thought he took a big step forward,” Kubiak said. “By no means was he perfect. He got away with a couple mistakes, but he competed well and he bailed us out of some really, really bad situations. I was pleased with his progress and that’s the type of progress we need to see week to week.”
Carr, the former No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft, has thrown for 971 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions in his eight losses to Indianapolis.
Defensive end Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall pick of this year’s draft, had just three tackles as Houston gave up 441 yards.
While Williams failed to make much of an impact, fellow rookie DeMeco Ryans led the team with 13 tackles.
“I thought he was special in the game,” Kubiak said of Ryans, Houston’s second-round pick this year. “He’s a fine football player. He just plays hard, loves to play and is always in the right spot.”
The Texans, who were winless on the road last year, have been outscored 129-55 in four games at the RCA Dome.