He found all the right receivers, made all the right calls and repeatedly burned the Houston Texans’ secondary, leading Indianapolis to a 30-21 victory.
“Peyton has been outstanding,” coach Tony Dungy said. “The things and corrections we talk about at halftime he is doing.”
He didn’t wait till halftime to make changes after a sluggish start Sunday, but it was a typical Manning performance.
His short flares opened up the deep routes and play fakes opened up the middle of the field.
The Texans (2-5) had no answer for the three-time Pro Bowler as they lost their third straight and dropped to 0-3 against Indianapolis (6-1).
Manning was 22-of-30 for 269 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 133.9, the fifth-highest mark in his six-year NFL career.
“Everything worked like clockwork,” running back Edgerrin James said.
Sunday’s game illustrated just how much damage Manning can do.
He hooked up with Marvin Harrison eight times for 100 yards, his fourth straight 100-yard game. Reggie Wayne caught six passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, including a 57-yarder to open the second half.
Then Manning turned the workload over to James, who played for the first time since Sept. 21 after breaking two bones in his lower back. James ran 23 times for 104 yards—most in the fourth quarter when the Colts chewed up the clock.
“Usually we use the run to set up the pass, but these guys mix their coverages a lot, so we wanted to throw the ball,” Manning said, “then kind of work the run a little bit.”
Houston had other problems.
On its second series, David Carr was sacked by Raheem Brock and sprained his right ankle. He finished the series, left for two series, then returned and led Houston on a 79-yard touchdown drive before reinjuring the ankle and leaving for good late in the first half.
A team spokesman called the injury a high ankle sprain. Carr, who was 8-of-9 for 62 yards with a 1-yard TD pass to Billy Miller, is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.
“It felt like it got rolled on,” he said. “The X-ray looked fine, so I went back out for that next series. Then on the touchdown, I think I messed it up again. So it was about time to get out of there.”
Veteran Tony Banks replaced Carr and went 12-of-17 for 88 yards.
The bulk of the work, however, went to Domanick Davis, who followed his franchise-record day against the New York Jets by running 25 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a team-high seven passes for 27 yards.
Davis is the first rookie runner since Denver’s Mike Anderson in 2000 to produce 100-yard games in his first two NFL starts.
“I’m encouraged by the offense,” coach Dom Capers said. “Domanick gives us an added dimension.”
It took Manning and the Colts almost two full quarters to get started.
Two plays later, Davis rumbled 15 yards for Houston’s first touchdown ever against the Colts and a 7-3 lead.
Carr followed with the touchdown drive. From there, it was all Manning.
A 1-yard TD pass to Marcus Pollard, who spun off a defender and lunged across the goal line, got the Colts back in the game. Davis’ fumble late in the half gave Manning another chance.
This time, he needed four plays and 42 seconds to find Wayne for a 2-yard TD pass and a 17-14 lead.
Manning didn’t let Houston recover.
On the second play of the second half, Wayne ran past Pro Bowl cornerback Aaron Glenn and Manning hit him for the long touchdown and a 24-14 lead. Glenn blamed the mistake on a head injury that happened a play earlier.
The Colts sealed the outcome—and Manning’s 48th win—with two more field goals.
“There’s a reason the Colts won today, why they have a 6-1 record and why they’re leading our division,” Capers said. “They’re making plays.”
James passed Eric Dickerson for third place on the team’s all-time rushing list. James now has 5,276 yards. … Harrison’s four-game 100-yard streak is the fifth of his career. … Banks played for the first time since Sept. 21 when he was 7-of-11 for 51 yards with a touchdown against Kansas City. … Houston played without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Gary Walker, inactive with a toe injury.