HOUSTON (AP)—The Indianapolis Colts want their fast start to pave the way to a big finish.
Peyton Manning was uncharacteristically sloppy at times, fumbled for the first time this season and was intercepted on a poorly thrown pass but he did enough to lead Indianapolis to a 38-20 victory Sunday over the winless Houston Texans that gave the Colts their first 7-0 record.
The Colts, who gave coach Tony Dungy his 100th NFL victory, will have a bye next week before a showdown with New England on Nov. 7.
“It’s a good start, but that’s all it is,” Manning said. “It doesn’t guarantee anything. I’m just glad we’ve taken care of business these first seven weeks. It was important to have some momentum heading into the bye week.”
The Colts remained perfect despite two first-half turnovers. They broke a 14-14 halftime tie with 24 straight second-half points and held the hapless Texans to minus-4 yards after the break.
“I’m so proud of them for being able to get in that situation, pick up the tempo and make things happen and pull away,” Dungy said. “But the disappointing thing is that we allow ourselves to get in there.”
It was the Colts’ second straight slow start after coming back from a 17-0 deficit for a 45-28 win on Monday against St. Louis.
The Texans (0-6) are off to the worst start in their four-season history and dropped to 0-7 against the Colts.
“There is nothing you can say to describe this,” said Texans receiver Jabar Gaffney, who caught a touchdown pass in the first half. “It’s terrible. This is the lowest point of my career. It was just really depressing out there.”
Manning rebounded from his first-half interception that allowed Houston to be tied at the break and finished 21-of-27 for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
Edgerrin James scored on a 9-yard run on the Colts’ first possession of the second half that put them ahead 21-14. The AFC rushing leader finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns.
The Colts scored on their next two possessions to stretch the lead to 31-14, and defensive end Montae Reagor—a Texas native—scooped up a fumble and ran 37 yards for their final score.
“We haven’t always played our best, but we’ve stayed the course and continued to fight throughout all 60 minutes of every game,” Reagor said.
Houston used a steady dose of running back Domanick Davis in the first half to eat up the clock. He had 85 of his 98 yards and a touchdown before halftime.
Players seemed much more excited about Dungy’s milestone than the team’s record mark.
“Every player on every team would like to have a coach like Coach Dungy,” James said. “It’s hard to describe. But if every player around the league got to work for Coach Dungy, they’d probably enjoy it a lot more.”
Dungy is the 34th coach to reach 100 wins.
“It gives you a sense of consistency,” Dungy said. “That’s the biggest thing it means to me.”
The Texans attempted five passes in the first half and David Carr was sacked just once. With Davis bottled up in the second half, Houston tried to pass more but found little success.
At one stretch, Carr was sacked three times in a row and fumbled twice, but the Texans recovered both times. On the next drive, Robert Mathis got to Carr and forced the fumble that Reagor returned all the way.
With that sack, Mathis—the NFL leader—set a franchise record by recording one in his seventh straight game.
That touchdown prompted a small group of Texans fans to don paper bags with eye holes, and it elicited streams of boos from the restless crowd.
Carr was 6-of-9 for 48 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He lost 42 yards on five sacks to bring his season total to 35 and called the outing “embarrassing.”
Houston, last in the league in offense, had 143 yards at halftime and finished with a miserable 139—compared to 437 by Indianapolis.
The Texans got their only points of the second half in the fourth quarter when rookie Jerome Mathis, a former track star, returned a kickoff 89 yards for the TD. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Texans history.
Colts TE Dallas Clark had a season-high 51 yards receiving and his first touchdown of the year. … Mathis’ kickoff return TD was the first against Indianapolis since November 2003 when New England’s Bethel Johnson scored on a 92-yard return. … LB DaShon Polk, who started his first game of the season in place of injured Kailee Wong, led Houston with 10 tackles.