James ran for 204 yards on 23 carries and Manning riddled Chicago’s defense with four TD passes, pacing the Indianapolis Colts to a 41-10 romp Sunday at Soldier Field.
“We dictated the flow of the game,” James said. “We were moving the ball up and down. We were just playing football.
“Today was the day you could have easily broken the NFL record,” James added. “But we’ve got a game in a couple of days and right now my (priority) is being ready for it.”
James, whose career best is 219 yards set in 2000 against Seattle, scored on an 11-yard TD run with 42 seconds to go in the third quarter to make it 41-3.
The NFL single-game rushing record is 295 yards set last season by Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis. Any chance for a record ended when James and Manning got the fourth quarter off—the Colts have to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit.
“It seemed like all week the Bears were talking about pass rush and trying to stop the passing game. Everyone on the Colts team knows the importance of Edgerrin and what No. 32 is capable of doing,” Manning said.
“We thought it was important to come out and establish Edgerrin by running the ball early. Once we started running it well, we were able to take advantage of some one-on-one coverages and hit some passes downfield.”
The Colts (7-3) feasted on five Chicago turnovers, four by shaky rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel, who lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions as the Bears’ three-game winning streak ended with a thud.
Chicago’s offense couldn’t sustain drives and made it even more difficult for the defense, especially with James and Manning on top of their games.
“The running back bounced off tackles like it was nothing today. We didn’t play well in any phase of the game,” said Bears defensive end Alex Brown. “We didn’t tackle, we didn’t get after the passer, we didn’t cover, we didn’t do anything right.”
Manning had lots of time to throw in the first half—the Bears didn’t come close to a sack—and he spread the offense around as he has all season. He hit TD passes of 14 yards to Marcus Pollard, 35 yards to Reggie Wayne and then a 10-yarder to Marvin Harrison as the Colts surged to a 27-3 halftime lead.
Indianapolis, now with a three-game winning streak, didn’t miss a beat with starting guards Tupe Peko and Rick DeMulling sidelined by injuries. Rookies Ryan Lilja and Jake Scott were more than adequate as the Colts shoved the Bears (4-6), who were without injured star linebacker Brian Urlacher, all over Soldier Field.
Manning went 17-of-28 for 211 yards.
“Edgerrin ran crazy today and his receivers got open and they caught the ball,” Brown said. “His offensive line blocked as long as they needed to.”
The Bears’ moribund offense had three first-half turnovers. Krenzel fumbled and threw an interception, and Bobby Wade also fumbled after a pass reception. The three mistakes led to a Colts touchdown and two field goals by Mike Vanderjagt.
Manning’s first two TD passes gave him 200 for his career and made him the second quickest QB (106 games) to reach that mark, behind Marino (89).
Indianapolis’ first possession set the tone. James ran five times for 33 yards and Manning was 4-of-5 for 40 yards in a 73-yard drive, capped by the TD pass to Pollard.
The Bears had a big chance on the Colts’ next series when Manning threw a flat pass right into the hands of Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, who had clear sailing 30 yards to the end zone. But Briggs juggled the ball several times before dropping it, and the Bears’ chances of staying close were over.
Manning was intercepted on Indianapolis’ first possession of the second half, after James’ 40-yard run helped the Colts reach the Bears 7. Manning’s pass to the end zone was picked off by rookie Nathan Vasher.
But it didn’t take long for the Colts to rebound. With a 22-yard run by James, they moved 71 yards in four plays and capped the drive with the 27-yard TD pass to Wayne.
Chicago finally got into the end zone with 1:37 left in the game on Krenzel’s 2-yard pass to Dustin Lyman. ^Notes: Manning’s 35 TD passes are an Indianapolis record, breaking his old mark of 33 sat in 2000. … James is the only runner in Colts history to rush for 200 yards twice. … James went over 1,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. … The Colts had a 486-224 edge in total offense. … It was the Bears’ first loss in Krenzel’s four starts.